Deogyusan: A Tale of Two Hikes

Deogyusan is a bit inconvenient to get to, requiring transferring trains at Daejeon, staying the night in Yeongdong (for an early start on Saturday) and then a bus to Muju followed by a bus to the park. Small town yogwans can be a bit of a gamble. On the one hand, they are generally quite cheap, but on the other hand, they frequently haven’t been remodeled, well, ever. This one, the Dubai Motel, was a surprise: 40,000 won got us a large room with a sofa, cafe table, etc, but I digress.

In the morning, the bus was to Muju fairly easy to locate just up the road from the train station. The convenience store clerks kept us headed in the right direction when we asked. In the past, you had to buy tickets from the closest convenience store, but now you can just pay the driver like every other bus. The bus took us to the Muju Bus Terminal where we caught a bus to the end of the line at Gucheondong– a parking lot at the park entrance.

There were clearly marked maps which even included elevations along the route. Craig was in heaven. 🙂 The first 6km were a gentle climb on paved, snow-free road. We sauntered along, thinking this hike was a doddle and we’d be home for lunch. Then we got to the temple (Paeknyunsa), at which point the incline steepened to a much more challenging 33% for the next 2.5km. Almost immediately, the path was snow-covered. At some parts, the snow was so deep, the stairs were completely covered and there were only bits of the railing exposed. Going was slowed down, since we didn’t have crampons with us, but the snow was soft enough that we were okay.

We made it to the peak in about four hours, just about everyone else on the peak had only needed about twenty minutes, since they rode the gondola. That didn’t stop them from taking dozens of photos commemorating their heroic climb. Eventually, we were able to get a turn.

The gondola riders decided to let us get one photo.

The gondola riders decided to let us get one photo.

Photos duly taken, we chose to take the gondola down and were rewarded with lovely views of dozens of snow machines working at full tilt. The gondola let us off at the foot of the ski slope which was roughly as crowded as the mall at Christmas. Not my idea of fun. The constant spray of fake snow meant this was actually the coldest part of the hike.

Mmmm... fake snow.

Mmmm… fake snow.

No problem, there was a coffee shop between the slope and the bus stop. Unfortunately, their menu seemed to consist of powders reconstituted in hot water. I ditched my coffee after a few sips, but Craig was more determined with his pine needle tea. I guess with a name like that, there is only so good that it could be.

We were wet from the snow machines and it was quite windy, so we only waited a few minutes for a bus before catching a cab back to the Muju Bus Terminal. We arrived just in time to miss a bus, and the next one was 45 minutes later. So, we went straight back out to the taxi rank. Our cab driver immediately got our previous driver on the phone and chewed her out for not driving us to Youngdong. Small towns. LOL