Out of nowhere an unassuming stone gate appeared at the top of a mountain road. It was only upon exiting my truck that I noticed a rough stone staircase rising into the morning mist. The damp stone stairs were treacherous, but I pressed on with the slowly building feeling that I was onto something.
I suddenly noticed a more elaborate gate in the distance. I cannot stress enough that the stairs are not to be taken lightly. The morning mist can make them slick, and their rough condition adds to the potential danger to even the most seasoned hiker.
Eventually, I arrived at a small but attractive shrine after about 500 steps. What struck me at first was the age and size of the majestic cedars surrounding the shrine. These trees are obviously hundreds of years old.
I kept walking to the rear of the shrine and noticed a tree that had a protective barrier surrounding it. The sign says the tree is over 1200 years old! This tree has been standing in this very spot since before any Japanese had ever drunk a cup of tea, before Italy had its first bank, and for almost the entire 800 year history of Al Andalus (Islamic Spain). I can only guess at the tree’s diameter, but its base was at least as big as my truck. I was speechless in the presence of this sacred living treasure.
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