Mountains, Fireworks, & Beaches for Buddha’s Birthday – Seoraksan National Park with Seoul Hiking Group – A sneak peek

Thank you Buddha for being awesome, oh and happy birthday! This weekend I jumped on another night bus with Seoul Hiking Group and took a 15 hour, 25km trek into the mountains before some R&R on the beach. It was another incredible adventure watching the sun rise & fall over the ocean, a Korean mountain rescue, spotting a rattle snake, stunning views and an all around great time. Enjoy this sneak peek, more photos & a video coming “soon.”

Sunrise over the East Sea enroute to Seoraksan's toughest trail - Dinosaur Ridge.

Sunrise over the East Sea enroute to Seoraksan’s toughest trail – Dinosaur Ridge.

A new hiking buddy, Eric, enjoying the stunning views along Dinosaur Ridge, Seoraksan National Park

A new hiking buddy, Erik, enjoying the stunning views along Dinosaur Ridge, Seoraksan National Park

Mountain Rangers descend from a helicopter to help an old Korean man succumbed to heat exhaustion & dehydration along Dinosaur Ridge, the toughest trail in Seoraksan and possibly all of South Korea.

Mountain Rangers descend from a helicopter to help an old Korean man succumbed to heat exhaustion & dehydration along Dinosaur Ridge, the toughest trail in Seoraksan and possibly all of South Korea.

Hapojae Beach in Yangyang, South Korea.  Famous for the "finest sand" in all of Korea

Hajodae Beach in Yangyang, South Korea. Famous for the “finest sand” in all of Korea

Playing with long exposures & fireworks at hajodae beach, Yangyang South Korea

Playing with long exposures & fireworks at Hajodae beach, Yangyang South Korea

Top 10 Travel Photos of 2014 #5

2014 was my most traveled year yet.  I had the good fortune to bring in the New Year in the Philippines before returning to my job in South Korea.  Summer vacation was spent backpacking Vietnam and Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving) brought me to Japan.  I ventured to Shanghai before heading back to America for the end of the year holidays and all along these crazy adventures my camera followed me.  Tens of thousands of pictures were narrowed down to roughly 30 finalists before I selected my top 10 travel photos of 2014!

#5 brings us back to Korea with my favorite hike of 2014.  Dinosaur Ridge is a grueling trek through Seoraksan National Park.  We began at 3am with a steep climb to Daecheongbong’s 1708m peak before hiking along a cascade of peaks shaped like a stegosaurus’ back.  My legs were like jelly after 15 hours on the trail covering roughly 25km and nearly 3000m of elevation change.  I’ve never felt so accomplished and drained at the same time as the final hundred meters of decent into the valley and can’t wait to go back again in 2015!
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Check out #4 here!
Check out #6 here!

Seoraksan – Dinosaur Ridge

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Hiking, okay fine, climbing Dinosaur Ridge in Seoraksan National Park

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Hiking Dinosaur Ridge in Seoraksan National Park

Hiking Dinosaur Ridge in Seoraksan National Park

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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! Continue reading

Seoraksan: getting to Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur Ridge, the name alone tells me that Seoraksan’s main ridge will likely be my favorite hike in Korea.  After a 3 am start I found myself at the first of MANY peaks just before lunchtime and suddenly wasn’t so sure.  But there I go, getting ahead of myself again.

A few weeks ago I hopped another midnight bus with Seoul Hiking Group (Thanks Warren, Breanne, Tom, Ashley and the other helpers!).  A few short hours later we awoke at 2:30 in Seoraksan National Park; gates opened at 3:00am sharp so we got in the line with 100’s of Koreans.

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Yes, you read that right.  At 3am there were literally 100’s of Koreans lined up to hike this amazing trail.  The moon shone nearly full above and when the figurative bell tolled we “sprinted” up the steps.  Okay, so maybe 100’s of people clamoring along rocky steps with an absurd incline isn’t exactly sprinting.  It wasn’t too bad in the pitch black outside of the occasional ajusshi”forgetting” that their headlamp was on when they blinded you.

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3am start in Seoraksan

After a few hours of darkness we found ourselves on what we could only assume was the first ridge.  The view below eerily brought images of the River Styx with dark clouds floating through shadowy valleys to my mind.  Suddenly the moon came out from hiding behind the clouds.  A little illumination was all we needed to begin making out the stunning greenery below.  The muted colors pushed us onward promising a better view in the coming hours._DSC2949 _DSC2924

Stars and a magnificent moon provided enough light that we began switching off our headlamps.  Or was that the sun creeping over the ridge ahead?  Either way the scene kept growing around us as the climb settled down.   The first push upward was rough but along the ridgeline the elevation changes were minimal.

 

 

 

 

Reds, and oranges crept over the Eastern horizon mixing with the deep blue above Donghae (동해.)  The sun began illuminating what Koreans refer to it as Donghae (East Sea) while most maps label the beautiful body of water as the Sea of Japan.

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Dusk in Seoraksan

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1 ajusshi, 2 ajusshi, red ajusshi, blue ajusshi

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We continued our trek as that orange glow spread through the mountains and trees before us.  The trail shone wonderfully as a few small climbs created a small bottleneck.  We welcomed the respite happy for a water break and a moment to enjoy the growing scene beneath us.

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Sunrise in Seoraksan

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Dusk in Seoraksan

The sun now climbing above its first hand we soon found ourselves at the first rest stop.  This lodge lay just beneath Daecheongbong, the tallest peak in Seoraksan.  Gauging our time my group decided to save Daecheongbong for another day, we took a quick pit stop to refill our water before taking the fork back towards Dinosaur Ridge.

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Korean Sunrise over Donghae 동해, the East Sea (or the Sea of Japan) in Seoraksan National Park

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Hiking one of Seoraksan’s ridgelines

Back on the trail we caught our first glimpe of Dinosaur Ridge!  Well, we thought it must be Dinosaur Ridge anyway.  Now well into the morning hours the true beauty of Seoraksan presented itself for us to take in.  Breathtaking views were all around us with endless mountains to the west, spectacular ridges, the East Sea and Ulsanbawi in the distance!

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Our first glimpse at Dinosaur Ridge!

Continue reading

Seoraksan National Park: a sneak peak of Dinosaur Ridge

This weekend’s trip to Seoraksan National Park was so fantastic I had to share a Dinosaur Ridge panorama from the peak! Well, we just got back to Seoul and I can’t thank Warren, Breanne, Tom & Ashley enough for organizing such a phenomenal adventure.  Dino Ridge may have just become my favorite in Korea thus far and I know I’ll be back in Seoraksan.  Enjoy this sneak peak of our 3am hike covering roughly 22km and hundreds of vertical meters along Dinosaur Ridge before a crazy beach bonfire!

 

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