Top 10 Travel Photos of 2014 #8

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!

#8 is 2014’s best shot of Bukhansan National Park’s stunning view of Seoul.  Oddly enough I just went back there yesterday and put together a similar panorama.  Bukhansan National Park boasts the most visitors per square mile of any National Park worldwide with a half dozen subway stops that lead to trails!

Seoul, my new favorite city

Seoul, my new favorite city

Check out # 9 here!

Check out # 7 here!

A wintery stroll through Bukhansan

With an extra day before school started again I decided on an impromtu trip to Bukhansan National Park.  I grabbed my hiking buddy (and future roommate) Brian and we repeated our 2013 Xmas hike to the top of Juanbong on Dobongsan.  I’ve been up this trail 4 or 5 times and its easily one of my favorites but this time brought an excitingly empty park.  Between it being a snowy Tuesday and getting a late start we only saw a handful of other hikers and were lucky enough to have the entire peak to ourselves!  Enjoy the photos and don’ forget to click on the panoramas for a chance to zoom around.

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Mountain Kitty!

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Mike Panorama 2 (best)

Spot the human #1

Brian Panorama 1 (best)

Hi Brian’s Mom!

Seoul & Bukhansan (for FB)

Panorama with Seoul in the background

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Hi Mom!

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Sunset? Guess we should hike down before dark.

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The peak was empty so I photoshopped myself in a few times :)

The peak was empty so I photoshopped myself in a few times 🙂

Lunar New Year on a mountain in Bukhansan

When Seoul shuts down for a national holiday the first thing I think of is “where should I hike?”  Lunar New Year followed my Chuseok and Christmas traditions and brought me to an empty Bukhansan National Park.   My plan was to hike up Juanbong like my first hike and then cross the ridgeline into “uncharted territory” to arrive at Jubong, a peak I discovered with my brother.

As you scroll through these pictures, don’t forget to click away; I promise they are better in high resolution! (especially the panoramic shots)

I started out at a steady pace up the trail as the paved road gave way to a rocky path.  Pausing, I periodically snapped photos of my journey on this warm January day.  On this solo hike I enjoyed taking my time and venturing off the path into the trees and took a moment beneath a few for a photoshoot trying to catch Juanbong behind the nearby leafless beasts.

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Moments later I was back on and then quickly off of the path again trekking through the leaves to a small ice formation.  This subtle reminder that it was in fact winter prompted me to lean in the small cave and capture these frozen sculptures before walking along a riverbed.

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After drying up, the flow had been replaced by leaves now crunching beneath my feet.  Suddenly I happened upon the water source for the nearby Buddhist temple.  A small still pond reflected the frozen waterfall along the rock face nearby.  I sat and pondered my next move, should I go back down to the path or keep trekking through the leaves?

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I opted to climb the next ledge and hop over another leaf-laden riverbed.  A few moments later I was back on the trail and found an icy welcome before coming upon the Buddhist temple.  Every time I get here I try to snap a shot of the metallic Buddhas with Juanbong as a backdrop.  The lighting is difficult with dark figures in foreground and a bright a blue sky above when I really want to capture that white mountain!

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The temple was eerily quiet on this Lunar New Year; I found it peaceful and cherished the refreshing mountain air with a dazzling view of Seoul below the trees.  The scene from up here always stuns me for a second but then I remember how much better it gets as I climb.

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Sneak peek from my latest photo shoot

Lunar New Year  brought me back to Bukhansan National Park.  I took my usual path up to Juanbong but found a new trail along the ridgeline and down the backside of the mountain.  It was a great hike and I got to shoot sunset in the mountains!  Enjoy this sneak peek from Juanbong peak, the full post just came out!_DSC9356

A mildly snowy Christmas in Bukhansan

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.  _DSC7802

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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.

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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!

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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