One of the pleasures of hiking Beidawushan is going through the different ecological zones. All journeys start in the tropical plains of Pingdong (unless you’re coming from the Taidong side, in which case you’re starting either in a tropical basin or at a tropical seashore). Then you get into the tropical hills, and then into the mid-elevation cloud forest … but, if all goes well, you’ll eventually reach the temperate forests.
About two thousand meters above sea level, one starts to find Taiwan red cypress, which many consider to be one of the most majestic trees in Taiwan.
The most famous stand of Taiwan red cypresses is in the very touristy Alishan Forest Recreation Area … but the national Beidawushan trail has its own famous red cypress tree, about 25 meters high and 11.7 meters in diameter, and estimated to be about 2,700 years old.
Taiwan’s mountains have plenty of azaleas/rhodededrons, and Beidawushan is no exception. I was not there in May, when the rhodededrons are in bloom, so I’m borrowing this photo from the Pingdong Forestry Bureau:
Beidawushan is supposed to have a population of Swinhoe’s pheasants. While I didn’t see any there, I have seen a male while going through the Fenrui Old Trail through the Alishan mountains, and it was the most spectacular bird I have seen in Taiwan.
As one gets closer and closer to the ridge, one finds Yushan cane, a type of bamboo which excels at living in the harsh conditions of Taiwan’s high mountains. It often grows where few other plants can, and it one of the first species to come back after a forest fire.
I remember, when I was resting at the Dawu shrine, a Formosa laughing thrush came down. Formosa laughing thrushes are a very common bird in the high mountains of Taiwan. By the way it was eyeing my snack, it’s clear that many hikers feed the birds along the trail.
The highest reaches of the Dawu mountains have the largest forest of Taiwan hemlock in the entire world.
Instead of trying to describe the Taiwan hemlock forest with words, I will describe it with photos: