Last summer I made the responsible (albeit disappointing) choice to skip mudfest in lieu of staying healthy and climbing Bukhansan National Park’s highest peak, Baegundae. Leaving the following Thursday for an extreme trip through Vietnam I knew that I didn’t want to fight a multi-day hangover or any bruised limbs from the alcohol supported escapades at one of the dirtiest festivals in the world. As a result I offered to lead a hike up Baegundae with Seoul Hiking Group. That’s how Brian and I came to meet some new hiking buddies, Heidi & Jason!
The Korean language barrier presented some difficulties finding the right entrance. At first we ended up at the same entrance Brian & I had taken a few months back which was a 4 hour trek to the base of Baegundae. This time we were searching for the 1.5 hour route! Luckily my Korean was capable enough to buy a map and ask for directions so we quikcly found a cab and arrived at the Baegundae-Sogwicheon Information Center.
When first stepping on the trail we had roughly 500m of vertical remaining in the 835m climb up Baegundae. It began as rough cut stone steps and boulders surrounded by the natural beauty of Bukhansan in the summer. Green trees with the occasional flower flanked our path as the sweat rolled down our faces. Jason, a first time hiker was soon converted to a naturalist and took regular breaks to get a full feel for mother nature’s splendor.
A few minutes in we found ourselves at a “temple.” It had none of the usual pizazz with a bland roof instead of the typical painted parapet. We were greeted by two “mountain dogs” as a Korean woman approached. There was a small antechamber for prayer with a spectacular buddha but otherwise this locale appeared to be the simple residence of these pleasant folk. We played with the dogs for a few moments and said our thanks before continuing the trek.