Sunrise hike to Hwangmaesan’s Royal Azalea Festival – Seoul Hiking Group

Waking up at 4am is never easy, even when the bed calling your name is Seoul Hiking Group’s big purple bus.  We arrived at Hwangmaesan in the middle of the night as half the group snored away.  Most of us decided to let the cool mountain air wake us up and strolled through the undergrowth.  The sun began peaking out from behind the nearby mountains as our trail took us upward.

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Halfway up the mountain we got our first glimpse of azaleas.  Hwangmaesan was famous for them and a “pink mountain” was advertised but we were wary since azaleas back in Seoul were already starting to fade.  We held out hope but I didn’t think it would be as glamorous as Goeje Island’s pink mountain.

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Lucky for us it was stunningly beautiful!  The mountain was indeed covered with azaleas, unfortunately many of the pink flowes had already fallen from their bushes.  We still enjoyed a stroll among the flowers and a welcome change from the typical hungover mornings that Seoul hands you on a normal weekend.

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Korea Burn ’14 – Part 1

Korea Burn was my first Burning Man festival.  In fact it was my first hippie festival of any kind and it was phenomenal!   It was a weekend full of free-spirited art and emotion as people bonded through music and dance.  Body paint and unique sculptures were just accents to the costumes flaunted everywhere.

One of the key components to Burning Man is a distinct lack of currency.  Many people bring gifts ranging from handmade bracelets to food, booze or even t-shirts.  Others developed games with prizes and challenges that had us all laughing and loving each other.  I brought my camera and a notepad that I filled with fortunes; anyone who’s photo I took I gave a personalized fortune.

Enjoy the first half of the photos!  Part 2 will be out shortly…

Early morning Ashley

Early morning Ashley

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Napping after an early swim

Napping after an early swim

Tent City!

Tent City!

Natasha Rocking it!

Natasha Rocking it!

Kady!

Kady’s ready to get her groove on!

Natasha Warren & I were stopped by another photographer

Natasha Warren & I were stopped by another photographer

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The first of many games

The first of many games

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I got orange, red & yellow "hair chalk"

I got orange, red & yellow “hair chalk”

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Wow! Much Art!

Wow! Much Art!

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The "men" that will later be burned!

The “men” that will later be burned!

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The Sangria was delicious!

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beach trampolines!

beach trampolines!

Mr. & Mrs. America!  Happy July 4th!

Mr. & Mrs. America! Happy July 4th!

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Free hotdogs if you pose for a mugshot!

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Refs napping before what would be an intense dodgeball tournament

Refs napping before what would be an intense dodgeball tournament

Happy July 4th!

Happy July 4th!

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There were so many people grilling & giving away food & drink!

There were so many people grilling & giving away food & drink!

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Martin!

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Our Dodgeball Team!

Our Dodgeball Team!

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Spring biking through Gyeongju – Seoul Hiking Group

After a wonderful morning on Namsan mountain we picked up our bikes and rode around the historic South Korean capitol, Gyeongju.  I decided to follow Warren’s group rather than explore on my own.  After a quick ride down the bustling streets we found ourselves at festival.

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Throughout Gyeongju we saw horse drawn carriages.  They weren’t your ordinary horse and buggy though.  Apparently here carriages come equipped with sound effects, including an electronic “neigh” and some k-pop.  Some were even decked out with Christmas lights and bedazzled sides!  As awesome as these were we all opted to keep our bikes as we rode through the blossom-less cherry trees.

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Before long we took a break at a magnificent flower field.  There were vast yellow expanses of yellow and well groomed gardens of tulips.  We broke here and wandered between the spring flowers and traditional Korean games with the occasional Korean couple  in hanbok (traditional formal dress).

 

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Hiking Namsan in Gyeongju – Seoul Hiking Group

A few weekends ago I took my second trip with Seoul Hiking Group to Gyeongju.  Our first night we stayed in a Yangdong, a lovely hanok village before moving on to the southern city famous for its ancient history and modern beauty.  A shoutout to Warren, Diana and Breanne for organizing another great event! Gyeongju is a former capital in South Korea and holds a wonderful heritage.  Exploring Yangdong was a great way to get started before heading to Namsan mountain.  (yeah its different from the Namsan in Seoul I saw with my students).  Gyeongju’s Namsan is a great hike boasting wooded pathways, ancient Buddhas and royal tombs. _DSC1150 _DSC1153 _DSC0966 We started out strolling along a path and quickly came to a series 3 royal tombs.  Korean tradition is to build these massive mounds for their ancient rulers and they can be found all over Gwangju. _DSC0970 Back on the trail we walked past ancient sculptures as the path became less obvious.  Flowers were in bloom throughout the mountain providing a colorful spritz to each scene.

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_DSC0988 _DSC0990 After crossing a stream we found the first fork and followed Warren’s advice taking a left quickly discovering an intricate carving.  The Three Buddha carving is famous in the area and hundreds of years old! _DSC0998 _DSC0999 _DSC1007 _DSC1014

 

The path continued and Spring grew ever more evident.  Before long we found our first view of the valley so of course I climbed a boulder and struck a pose!

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4th grade field trip to Namsan, Chyeonggyecheon & Gyeongbokgung

Friday I had the pleasure of going on my first field trip at my new school.  The 4th grade had a great time on our Seoul tour stopping at 3 famous places.  Namsan is a mountain in the middle of the city, Chyeonggyecheon is a stream running through Seoul near city hall and Gyeongbokgung is one of the royal palaces.  I’ve been to all 3 before but it was a unique experience taking 150 kids with us and I loved seeing all of them during the day in full Spring bloom!

Our tour guide chatted away in Korean the whole day and I’m sure my students learned a lot but I was glad I had my camera to keep me busy.  I hope you enjoy these pictures from an awesome field trip with the cutest and best 4th grade ever!

 

Even though the pollution has been pretty bad the last few days we got some great views at the top of the North Seoul Tower!

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