Lake Jusanji & Juwangsan with Seoul Hiking Group

Friday night; might as well hop a midnight bus to Juwangsan with Seoul Hiking Group!  In the wee hours of the morning we arrived at Lake Jusanji to find a nearly full moon illuminating our path before us.  A short 30 minute hike brought us to the lakeshore where we found a light mist gliding over the surface of the lake.  A few of us broke out sleeping bags and napped as the chilly morning air combined with a slowly moving morning sun.  We lingered a few moments after the sun rose capturing the serenity of this picturesque lake featured in Korea’s famous film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring.  If you get to the bottom you’ll even find a fun video of the whole excursion!

_DSC0933

Lake Jusanji

_DSC0939

Lake Jusanji

_DSC0955

Lake Jusanji

Next up was a short bus ride to the “long hike” through the waterways beneath Gamebong, one of Juwangsan’s sister peaks.  The flat path switched back and forth along the river as we splashed our way along.  Despite the pristine beauty surrounding us Juwangsan proved to be the emptiest Korean National Park I’ve been to yet.

_DSC0983

Juwangsan National park

_DSC0985

Juwangsan National park

_DSC0990

Juwangsan National park

_DSC1007

Juwangsan National park

I ran across the other side to snap photos of everyone crossing when suddenly I heard a scream!  Turns out a member of our party happened upon a swimming snake; Warren warned us that they were likely venomous so we kept our distance.  Sort of.  A go pro on a selfie pole kept scaring it towards the rest of our cameras and it seemed particularly keen on heading in my direction.  Luckily we were able to keep our distance in spite of its speedy swimming and snapped some splendid shots!

_DSC1021

Juwangsan National park

_DSC1023

Juwangsan National park

_DSC1036

Juwangsan National park

_DSC1049

Juwangsan National park – river snake. Anyone know the name of this snake?

Continuing along our trek we quickly came across another baby snake scooting along above the water.  He was much more timid and just hid in the brush as we passed.  The chilly river water flowed freely down the rocks creating a beautiful series of waterfalls.   It was tempting to take a dip but we continued onward eager to reach the summit and break for a snack.

_DSC1077

Juwangsan National park

_DSC1080

Juwangsan National park

Continue reading

Hang Son Doong Itinerary – Day 2

Although listed as Day 2 this is really the day we start the excursion.  Most of today will be hiking through the jungle and getting to know my 7 other companions and our guides.  Let the roughing it begin!

Day 2 – July 26th
[A great start to the tour, with a visit to a minority village, a beautiful river valley, and Hang En, an awesome cave]
8.00 Breakfast with guide.  Quick visit to the market if you need to buy anything.  Check out and leave main luggage at the hotel.

9.00 Leave valuables at Oxalis office, collect any equipment.  Drive to start of trek

10.30 Start the trek with the porter team.
The trek is about 1 hour downhill through the forest, quite steep at times.  Then half an hour along a mall stream to the minority village.  Lunch beside the main river.  You will be in the sun all afternoon with very little shade.  About 2 hours trekking down the river, crossing and re-crossing. You will have wet feet all afternoon.  In summer the water is usually only knee deep, but goretex boots will fill and hold water, so are not recommended.  Reach the entrance to Hang En, home to thousands of swifts and put on lamp and helmet.  About 20-30 minutes to camp.  A short boulder/rock section to pass to the camp.  Anyone who is unable to complete this day comfortably will have to return to Phong Nha.

Reach camp around 3pm.  Large pools for washing/swimming.  Composting toilets.

Have dinner and camp inside Hang En.  Watch out for flying foxes.  This is a spectacular campsite in the cave with numerous photographic opportunities.

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.

Seoraksan Valley-1

Seoraksan Valley-2 Seoraksan Valley-3

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.

Seoraksan Valley-4

Contemplating our ascent up Daecheongbong’s 1708m climb



Seoraksan Valley-5Seoraksan Valley-6

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

Seoraksan Valley-22

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.

Seoraksan Valley-9 Seoraksan Valley-10 Seoraksan Valley-11 Seoraksan Valley-12

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.

Seoraksan Valley-13 Seoraksan Valley-14 Seoraksan Valley-15

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.

Seoraksan Valley-23 Seoraksan Valley-24 Seoraksan Valley-25

 

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!

Seoraksan Valley-16 Seoraksan Valley-17 Seoraksan Valley-18 Seoraksan Valley-19

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!

_DSC4482

Jirisan – The Descent

Descending Jirisan is no simple task.  After relaxing on the peak for nearly an hour and seeing a helicopter rescue we finally decided to get moving.  Before we actually climbed down we had a few kilometers of trail to cover on the ridgeline.

_DSC2677 _DSC2681 _DSC2683

Traveling among the clouds we enjoyed the youthgiving mountain air and stunning views. To the horizon and beyond all you could see were mountains and valleys.  Although Spring was blooming below it was oddly dead at this altitude.

_DSC2684 _DSC2686 _DSC2687 _DSC2688 _DSC2690 _DSC2695 _DSC2698

The ridgeline’s steady downgrade only had a few uphills thrown in.  It made for a wonderful stroll before we got to the first shelter.  While there we had a chance to refill our water, sit in the shade and enjoy a few “choco pies” from the quartermaster.  Silly me only brought a giant bag of trail-mix thinking I’d be able to pick up gimbap along the way.  I devoured a few of these snacks before beginning the real descent and seeing my first greenery of the day.

_DSC2704 _DSC2708 _DSC2718

Steps after steps; for some reason we forgot that 1900+ meters up also meant 1900+ meters down:(    At least there was a babbling brook to follow.  By now all the animals of the forest had woken up and birds and insects joined the river’s beautiful symphony!

_DSC2764

Playing with my tripod & long exposures

_DSC2788

Playing with my tripod & long exposures

_DSC2783

Playing with my tripod & long exposures

Continue reading

Son Doong, the world’s largest cave

Son Doong, the world’s largest cave located  in Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park opened to the public in 2013!  As soon as I heard about the discovery of this monstrosity that sports jungles, rivers and diverse wildlife in 2009 I knew it had to be on my bucket list.   Well, I’m ecstatic to report that I just made my first payment towards a July excursion which means its really happening!vietnamcave_13I have some smaller adventures that will come to pass in the coming months (although nothing compares to Son Doong!)  I hope to visit Japan and will be doing plenty of hiking in South Korea’s National Parks, I’m excited to photograph cherry blossom festivals wherever I can.  Not to mention the other surprises that are sure to come with my new job.  I can’t wait to share the experience through my camera and narratives with all of you!

The 8 day excursion into Son Doong will test my endurance and give me something to train for.  I’ll probably take up biking in hopes of a future Taiwanese adventure and will get back to my fencing club soon.  Any ideas on how else I could best prepare?