Brian and I woke Christmas morning ready to hike Bukhansan National Park! We met in the subway and half slept through our 70 minute ride to Dobongsan station. The plan was to hike up the same path I took in my first excursion to Bukhansan National Park and then head over to Jubong and come down the path my brother and I took. We hoped that the recent snows were still blanketing the forest floor in the mountains.
Our dreams of snow were quickly diminished as we started up the crowded street. It looked just like Omok-ro, our street at home with a little ice and snow on the fringes of the sidewalk. The route looked the same as my last hike except no one was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We weren’t expecting it to be completely snow covered but were longing for a few traces of that wonderful white fluff!
Stopping at the ranger station to check on our trail our hopes grew a little. The ranger’s English wasn’t that great but she highlighted the main path up. When I showed her that I wanted to hike across the ridgeline from Juanbong to Jubong peak she glanced at our shoes. Spouting something in Korean I shook my head; I knew she was asking if we had crampons (spikes that you can attach for extra traction). That meant it must be icy up there which means SNOW!
Maybe we were acting like our kindergarteners playing in the snow, we really were two grown men excited for the glory of this winter treasure. When we got on the trail we were quickly rewarded with a semi frozen stream flanked by a snowy forest.
The occasional snow-covered staircase was replaced with a bouldering path that led us to the first Buddhist temple. Juanbong silhouetted the many buddhas in front of this vibrant shrine.
While inside the temple we appreciated the storytelling artwork and adroitly designed meditation rooms. A passerby invited us to join them for a light meal in an antechamber but we politely declined.
“감사합니다 gamsahabnida (thank you) we have 김밥 gimbap. 먹어요에 주안방 Mogoyoe juanbong (We eat at juanbong).”
Well, my Korean is getting better but I guess half of what I said was in English. I think the only thing she actually understood was that we didn’t want to eat with her. We didn’t dwell on our lack of communication skills and got back on the trail!
Continuing upward the path crept back and forth between a beautiful white carpet and crunchy brown leaves. At one point there was a clear divide showing where the looming mountain kept half the trail perpetually engulfed in shadow while the other side still shone with the days’ sun. Continue reading