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September 25, 2017

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Stream of the Eagles: A hidden treasure of Hsinchu

Many beautiful scenic spots and marvelous hiking discoveries appear in none of the mushrooming number of guidebooks covering the various regions of Taiwan, but exist simply as a humble dot and place name on larger-scale maps. Still other places aren't even represented on these maps and are known solely to locals and the few outsiders they choose to share their secret treasure with.

On a recent visit I was fortunate enough to be let in on one such enchanting unknown—one that I'd motored past on several occasions, without ever noticing its existence. The local aboriginals have christened this place with the evocative name Stream of the Eagles (老鷹溪), and I first heard talk of it on a previous visit to the area, back last summer. The New Year had turned, however, before I finally found myself in the area again, with the time to return and explore it for myself.

Stream of the Eagles tumbles through a mountain glen deep in the backwoods of Hsinchu (新竹) County, into the great gorge of the Yufeng Stream (玉峰溪). This area is close enough to Taipei City to be doable as a long daytrip, but it would be a tiring expedition. There's also a lot to see here, and it would be criminal not to savor the magnificent scenery at a leisurely pace, so it's better to make a weekend of it.

Among a smattering of home stay options in the area, travelers can do no better than overnighting at Yulao (宇老), atop the high pass over which passes the road connecting the area with the cities of the "other" Hsinchu: the crowded, built-up lowland plains to the west.

Even if they don't spend the night, many travelers passing this way (including a steady trickle of remarkably fit bike riders) at least stop for a coffee at Lubi Homestay, beside the road just outside Yulao.

The terrace of the little coffee shop here commands exceptional views to the east, and as my friend David and I sat here one fine Sunday in January watching the sunrise, there was a clear view across to the great pyramidal peak of Dabajianshan (大霸尖山, the 3,489-meter-high mountain generally regarded as Taiwan's most beautiful peak), 20 kilometers to the south. It's the owners of the home stay that told us about Stream of the Eagles, and armed with directions on how to get there, we jumped in the car and set off to explore.

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