Fall Foliage!

For several years now, I’ve wanted to get out into the mountains to see the fall foliage. My husband thought Korea’s mountains weren’t big enough to be worth the effort, so we only went hiking a couple of times– when his friends invited us. Once I was free to do what I wanted with my weekends, I was spending my October weekends with the KOTESOL conference, so I haven’t been able to make it. Last year, Craig and I hike the Bukhansan Dullegil at the tail end of the foliage, but most of the leaves had started falling our first weekend.

On the Dullegil, 2010.

This year, the conference was earlier than usual. So, Craig and I went to Songnisan National Park to see the leaves and hike up to Cheonghwabong. On the way there, we stopped in Cheongju to see their third division soccer team take on Cheonan’s team. Despite both teams being at the bottom of the league, it was not a contest so much as total annihilation. You can read about it on Craig’s blog, if you’re interested. Once he gets through his backlog of posts, that is. I believe the current count is four that he has in mind that he has not put to paper keyboard.

After the game Saturday evening, we caught the bus to Songnisan. We expected there to be some people there, but we were blown away by numbers. There were cars parked on the curb all the way out of town. It turns out that they have a music festival when it’s time for the leaves to change.

The view from town

No problem, as long as there is an inn with a room. Preferably one with a bed, and a private bath. We chose a likely looking place and the desk clerk started off with, “There’s an event on, so all of the rooms are very expensive. Why don’t you check around and come back if there is nothing cheaper. Everyone has raised their rates.”

Um… thanks for your honesty??? It turned out the special event price was 100k, which did seem a bit much for a sleepy little town, but we were there, so we took it. We had planned to get a room for two nights, so we could leave our bags there while we went hiking. We decided that that would be a bit excessive, though.

Buddha with leaves!

So, just before 8:00 the next morning, we headed out with all of our gear. We got stopped along the way by a guy that wanted us to sign up and get free water and join their walking event. We didn’t fancy walking with 1,000 of our newest friends, so we declined. When we got to the gates of the National Park, we realized they weren’t walking together, they just got the 4,000 won entrance fee waived. Oh, well, live and learn.

This line goes as far as the eye can see in both directions. Good times.

The hike started out nicely with about 45 minutes to an hour on the flat from the park entrance to the foot of the mountain. Then it got progressively steeper. There were several sets of stairs and several rails, but there should have been ropes in a couple of places. Fortunately, Craig was there to give me a hand. Too bad nobody was there to give him a hand.

I'm not breaking into the cabbage patch, really.

It took about three hours to get to the top, including several rest breaks. Also, the last 600 m or so were quite steep and covered in wet, muddy leaves. The path was only about 1.5 people wide there, too, so you had to step aside every few seconds. That last bit probably took us more time than the 1.5 km before it. About 300m from the top is a helo pad and if I climb it again, I’ll probably stop there, because this is what the helopad looked like:
 

Miles of mountains and space for a circus tent.

 
This is what the peak looked like:
 
 

Plenty of room for everyone.

Overall, it was a nice hike. We hadn’t gone hiking in about three weeks, and we were definitely feeling it by the end, but the scenery was beautiful and except for the crowds at the peak, it was a peaceful day out.

Leaves! Colorful, beautiful leaves!

 
 

The waterfall, minus the 35th elementary school reunion going on around it. 🙂

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