Seoraksan – 3 Germans, a Finn and me

11 months ago I jumped on a bus for the first time and headed to Sokcho; Seoraksan was on my mind.  I was told Seoraksan National Park was the best place to go during Korean Autumn sporting a natural medley of colorful foliage.    This time I was invited to join some European friends and happily agreed to join in.

We stayed at Smile Guesthouse for ₩20,000 ($20) a night and I highly recommend it.  The staff spoke great English and helped us plan the trails, call taxis, recommend restaurants and more.  Definitely the best hospitality I’ve seen in Korea.  After arriving Friday evening we decided to wake up early and hit the trails right away!

First stop for anyone entering Seoraksan at the main entrance is the cable car line.  Tickets were ₩9,000 ($9) and the line seemed absurdly long but only took about 15 minutes.  We left at 9:00 AM with a 2:10 PM time slot giving us enough time to hike Ulsanbawi and stop for lunch beforehand.  Of course anyone who enters at the main gate makes their first “ooo’s” and “aaah’s” at one of the world’s largest Buddhas!

Enjoy this autumn photo walk of our trip up a dreadful amount of stairs to the top of Ulsanbawi, back down towards a cable car for a ride up Gwongeumseong Fortress culminating with a riverside stroll to the magnificent Biryeong and Yukdam waterfalls in Seoraksan National Park.

 

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Big Buddha

Big Buddha

Big Buddha

Big Buddha

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Heading to Ulsanbawi

Ulsanbawi!

Ulsanbawi!

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Korean Delicacies

Who doesn’t love food?  Eating is a primary reason for many people to travel and Korean cuisine happens to be incredibly diverse with hundreds of dishes to try!  The best part is that each meal comes with a handful of 반찬 banchan (sides) that accompany whatever you order so you always get to taste a few treats.  Living in South Korea for a year I’ve sampled the lot but still have tons more to try.  Have you tried any of these, which was your favorite?

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Soy Sauce Crab Stew ( 간장게) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Actually I don’t know what this is. Its an internal organ based on what the vendor was saying and my Korean coworker insists its from a fish. You can find it at Kwangjang Market (광장시장) and let me know!

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Kimchi Baby Crabs ( 김치 아기 게) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Kimchi Banchan/Sides 김치반찬 ) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Kimchi (김치) at a North Korean style Restaurant in Sokcho (속초)

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Dried Squid (Ojingo 오징어) in Sokcho (속초)

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Dried & fermented school of jogi (조기/yellow croaker) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Fresh Crab (게장) at Sokcho’s Fish Market (속초 수산 시장)

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Fresh Crab (게장) at Sokcho’s Fish Market (속초 수산 시장)

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Sokcho with Seoul Hiking Group

Wow, what a journey in Seoraksan National Park; after coming down a 23km hike starting at 3am along the treacherous Dinosaur Ridge we were looking forward to some beach R&R in Sokcho.  Upon arriving at the pension we sorted out rooms, cleaned off the mountain grime and promptly began collecting wood for a beach bonfire.

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While some were busy getting the blaze going others headed into town to pick up fireworks and other festive party materials (aka beer).  Hanging out on the beach the red moon brought as much of a gorgeous glow as our bonfire while we reminisced over the breathtaking views from earlier in the day.

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Moments later the beer & firework crew returned with sparklers and some roman candles.  We decided to set up my tripod and see who could write their names the best!

Brian

Brian

Jordan

Jordan

Mike

Mike

Ashley

Ashley

Seoul Hiking Group!

Seoul Hiking Group!

Ashley was our clear winner and I can’t wait to break out my camera with her on the next trip but now it was time for some roman candle “fights.”  We staged the scene and carefully coordinated to make sure no one caught on fire.  But then again there was this giant body of water next to us…

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Waking up the next day we went out to explore Sokcho.  But before we departed why not enjoy the ocean a bit more!  Sure the waves were crazy and water frigid.  That just meant I wasn’t ballsy enough to go in but plenty of others did!

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Warren!

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See! I told you the water was treacherous.

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As a fishing village there are tons of fish markets, and dried sea-life hanging from every store.  We even had a chance to take an ancient ferry ride where the passengers pull a line to bring us back and forth.

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Darren & Maddie getting frisky with the wildlife.

 

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Warren working hard to get us all to the other side!

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Up next our last meal by the shore at a North Korean style restaurant.

 

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

Back to Seoraksan & Sokcho – A sneak peak

Yeah, I’m crazy enough to go back to Seoraksan only 3 weeks after my second adventure into this masterpiece of a national park. (don’t worry the rest of the pics from my first trip there with Seoul Hiking Group are coming soon!)  Thanks to Warren & Breanne for another awesome trip!  Enjoy this sneak peak of my journey up Daechongbong and skipping Dinosaur Ridge to explore the lush valley below.  After a long day of hiking we relaxed on the Sokcho beaches and perused the fish market where my Korean classes came in handy!  We ended with a trip to the DMZ border and got a glimpse into the reclusive North Korean state.

View of Dinosaur Ridge from Daechongbong

View of Dinosaur Ridge from Daechongbong

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

Seoraksan's lush valley beneath Dinosaur Ridge

Seoraksan’s lush valley beneath Dinosaur Ridge

Seoraksan's lush valley beneath Dinosaur Ridge

Seoraksan’s lush valley beneath Dinosaur Ridge

Seoraksan's lush valley beneath Dinosaur Ridge

Seoraksan’s lush valley beneath Dinosaur Ridge

Moon rising over Seoraksan ridgeline

Moon rising over Seoraksan ridgeline

Playing with fireworks!

Playing with fireworks!

Soon to be dinner at Sokcho's fish market

Soon to be dinner at Sokcho’s fish market

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peaking into North Korea along the East Sea

peaking into North Korea along the East Sea