Bukhansan National Park’s highest peak – Baegundae

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.

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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 th_DSC6490e 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.

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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.

 

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Saryangdo with Seoul Hiking Group 3.0

This weekend Seoul Hiking Group took our usual night bus to Saryangdo was pleasantly uneventful.  Little did I know but my 3rd trip to the island would be just as stunning as the first.   A true testamant to the natural beauty Saryangdo possesses.  We arrived at Goseong Dino Park at 5am for a quick hike to fossilized dinosaur footprints and a gorgeous sunrise among the islands.

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As the mist cleared we jumped back on the bus to the ferry terminal.  Arriving early we enjoyed a breakfast of muffins and fruit while watching the calm morning water as locals got to work on their boats.

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Waiting for the ferry

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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