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 🙂

Hiking Seoraksan’s Spring Valley with Seoul Hiking Group

In late Spring I headed back to Seoraksan National Park with Seoul Hiking Group.  My first hike took me on a 5 hour hike up Ulsanbawi before riding the cable car to another peak.  My last trip with Seoul Hiking brought me to the awesomely adventurous Dinosaur Ridge and this one would feature Daecheongbong (Korea’s 3rd highest peak) and the lush valley below Dinosaur Ridge.

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We begun at 3am with an incredibly steep incline up Daecheongbong.  Staircases followed rocks and yet more staircases as our legs begged us to stop.  We squeezed a few breaks in and just after sunrise arrived at Daecheongbong’s 1708m peak!  While there we took a lengthy break for some breakfast and photo ops.

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Contemplating our ascent up Daecheongbong’s 1708m climb



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Today’s journey through Seorakssan would be much more leisurely than my last daring climb of Dinosaur Ridge.  An hour after climbing down the other side of Daecheongbong we stopped for another nap at the ranger station.

 

At the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

At the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

View from the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

View from the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

At the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

At the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

At the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

At the top of Daecheongbong in Seoraksan National Park

The next leg was identical to my trek towards Dinosaur Ridge; a gradual downhill with Ulsanbawi, Dino Ridge and the gorgeous East Sea flanking the panoramic view.  After a long lunch we left the next ranger station in search of Seoraksan’s valley.  We were told there would be a marvelous flowing crystal clear river intertwined with pools and waterfalls.

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

View of Dinosaur Ridge from Daechongbong

View of Dinosaur Ridge from Daechongbong

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The verdant lining of our path framed each pool; the deeper ones taking on a magnificent blue hue that created Seoraksan’s natural necklace.   Sapphires pools set in copper or silver rocks surrounded by emerald leaves.

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On our way down what better way to enjoy than napping in Spring’s afternoon sun.  Another hour passed and each time my hiking buddies rotated through Seoul Hiking Group’s finest rookies and veterans.

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Refreshed from our nap the next thing on our mind was how sweaty the day had made us.  That grueling climb coupled with a beating sun made us begin the search for a cool pool to splash about in.  Luckily the path was lined with potential ponds and it wasn’t long before we picked the perfect one.  I jumped in with my hiking pants knowing they could use a cleaning and I could swap to my shorts after I finished.

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Moon rising over Seoraksan ridgeline

Moon rising over Seoraksan ridgeline

The last leg of our hike grew steeper downhill before coming to the base of the river.  Finally we met up with the rest of Seoul Hiking Group and joined in celebrating the nature-filled day with Dongdongju (a rice/corn fermented drink) and some pajeon.  After our quick meal we settled in at our pension just north of Sokcho for an beach bonfire!

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Check back soon for the rest of the excursion through Sokcho including a one of my first practical Korean usage at the fish market!

Playing with fireworks!

Playing with fireworks!

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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