A 3am Seoraksan hike warranted a long lunch break, unfortunately we were on a tight schedule and left for Dinosaur Ridge after refilling water and a few quick bites. Shortly after departing the shelter the real climb began. There was one small forested valley before we were pulling ourselves up the first of many crazy cliffs.
We had now idea how grueling our trek would be, luckily the first peak was the most difficult ascent. Even more lucky was the spectacular blue sky we had above us. Some of our companions have been on this trail 4 or 5 times but today was their first cloudless blue yonder.
By now the sun was high overhead. We had roughly 6 hours to tackle Dinosaur Ridge and Devil’s Ridge beyond. If we took too long it would be a long walk or a pricey taxi to Sokcho and our pension (like a hostel without beds). Thinking mostly of the gorgeous nature beneath us and not the pain in our legs we trekked onward. The path was mostly inclines and declines with a few level paths mixed in. These were often barely wide enough for 2-way traffic!
The second peak was a “mild” one. Well, that is to say we were already pretty high up and only descended about a hundred meters before having to climb back up. I found myself trailing our group between my regular photo stops and water breaks on this grueling endeavor.
The second peak turned into a beautiful plateau before quickly giving way to another spectacular climb. At least there wasn’t an insane downhill this time too!
Of course the flat trail didn’t last long. Ropes and poles aided our struggle before the stony “steps” came back to bring us up to the next peak. This was a tough one and we managed to find a “detour” with a spectacular view.
After taking a short trip “off trail” to snag shots of the greenery below and monstrous mountains above we were on our way again. Once we got to the top we took another quick break before heading down a slippery gravel slope. At the bottom we were rewarded with another flat trail in full Spring bloom!
Up and up we went, yet again. By now the sun was coming on strong; a few of our fairer friends lathered up with sunscreen while the rest of us took a snack break and posed in front of yet another stunning backdrop!
We had to be close right? 4, maybe 5 peaks now and we were all exhausted. Maybe that next one is the start of Devil’s Ridge? Truth was no one really knew how much further it was but we knew we had to keep going!
Wait a minute. This downhill has lasted quite a while. I don’t see another peak ahead of me, just trees. The steps became actual steps instead of grooves in the mountain. Even so it was a LONG way down. Luckily we ran into some baby pine cones to distract me. Yeah, I guess sometimes I am THAT easily amused.
Just a little further we kept telling ourselves. Those with sore legs at the top were enjoying that special “popping” sound every few steps. Those with actual knee or leg problems took regular breaks. We still had about 2 hours until the bus leaves. White blossoms weren’t enough of a distraction anymore. But wait; look, there’s the valley! We can make it!
Finally, the river was in our sights! The last moments of our hike along this marvelously flat trail were accentuated by the gorgeous mountain water flowing beside us. It could have brought tears to my eyes if we weren’t so dehydrated from that climb! What better thing to do when dehydrated after a huge hike than grab some dongdongju? Dongdongju is a traditional Korean liquor similar to Makkeoli but tastier and slightly higher proof. Don’t worry mom, we got more water, & some delicious pajeon too! All the while we spotted some even crazier climbers scaling a cliff.
Stay tuned for my adventure back to Seoraksan 3 weeks later where I skipped dinosaur ridge in lieu of the lush valley below