Sunrise hike to Hwangmaesan’s Royal Azalea Festival – Seoul Hiking Group

Waking up at 4am is never easy, even when the bed calling your name is Seoul Hiking Group’s big purple bus.  We arrived at Hwangmaesan in the middle of the night as half the group snored away.  Most of us decided to let the cool mountain air wake us up and strolled through the undergrowth.  The sun began peaking out from behind the nearby mountains as our trail took us upward.

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Halfway up the mountain we got our first glimpse of azaleas.  Hwangmaesan was famous for them and a “pink mountain” was advertised but we were wary since azaleas back in Seoul were already starting to fade.  We held out hope but I didn’t think it would be as glamorous as Goeje Island’s pink mountain.

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Lucky for us it was stunningly beautiful!  The mountain was indeed covered with azaleas, unfortunately many of the pink flowes had already fallen from their bushes.  We still enjoyed a stroll among the flowers and a welcome change from the typical hungover mornings that Seoul hands you on a normal weekend.

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Flash Mob Pillow Fight – Seoul Flash Mobs

Yes.  We had a pillow fight.  Yes.  It was absolutely and completely epic.  Yes.   You should have been there!

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A few weeks ago I had this stupid idea for all my friends to come and have a pillow fight at the park.  One thing led to another and I created Seoul Flash Mobs.  A few weeks ago we had our inaugural event with a onesie subway ride.  Last Saturday was the real grand opening with the best pillow fight Korea has ever seen!

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Photo by Mark Grybos

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Seoul Flash Mob’s volunteers!

 

One thing led to another and the event went from a hundred or so RSVP’s to over 2,000!  I worked with Minwoo from Seoul Gone Wild & Kiara from Explore Korea to help arrange a new location and set up a crazy after party.  With weeks of anticipation future pillowfighters questioned what the “patriotic panda” signal would be as the organizers made sure the event would remain safe.  No zippers or buttons was an easy sell as a few #sarcastaposts suggested bringing a traditional Korean wooden pillow.

 

Photo by Mohammed Sami

Photo by Mohammed Sami

This video shows the quieter side of things from Korean Videographer Hong Yoon

Check out Symon Powlison & his team of camera men’s epic first person video.  You really feel like you’re in the fight with his vidoe!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Playing with my tripod & long exposures

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Playing with my tripod & long exposures

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Playing with my tripod & long exposures

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Spring biking through Gyeongju – Seoul Hiking Group

After a wonderful morning on Namsan mountain we picked up our bikes and rode around the historic South Korean capitol, Gyeongju.  I decided to follow Warren’s group rather than explore on my own.  After a quick ride down the bustling streets we found ourselves at festival.

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Throughout Gyeongju we saw horse drawn carriages.  They weren’t your ordinary horse and buggy though.  Apparently here carriages come equipped with sound effects, including an electronic “neigh” and some k-pop.  Some were even decked out with Christmas lights and bedazzled sides!  As awesome as these were we all opted to keep our bikes as we rode through the blossom-less cherry trees.

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Before long we took a break at a magnificent flower field.  There were vast yellow expanses of yellow and well groomed gardens of tulips.  We broke here and wandered between the spring flowers and traditional Korean games with the occasional Korean couple  in hanbok (traditional formal dress).

 

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Jirisan: the ascent – Seoul Hiking Group

Getting on a bus at 10:30pm to wake up at 3:00am for a hike might not be most people’s idea of a great weekend but with Jirisan on the mind it sounded great to me!  I met Warren, Breanne (shoutout to you and the rest of the helpers cause you rule!) and the rest of the day’s crew at the bus; promptly fell asleep and woke to find myself entering Jirisan National Park with Seoul Hiking Group. The climb began in pitch black with numerous head lamps and flashlights.  I lent my extra torch to a rookie hiker after strapping my own head lamp on.  Jirisan is South Korea’s highest mainland peak (bested only by Hallasan on Jeju Island).  With my first starry sky in all too long I could quickly tell the way crazy morning would be worth it._DSC2425 The steep hike brought us higher and higher and by our second water break the birds began to sing and the black night reced, turning into deep blue as dusk showed its head.  Misty hills now visible in the distance, we kept climbing. _DSC2451 _DSC2431 Another hour and the sun began to crest with an orange glow.  The beautiful valleys below finally illuminated for a picturesque landscape.  The sun also revealed our daunting goal, Cheonwangbong, Jirisan’s illustrious highest peak! _DSC2467 _DSC2483 Stowing our headlamps and my tripod the hike kept going.  Our climb grew even more difficult as the rocky steps gave way for staircases and the occasional pole/rope series to pull ourselves up. _DSC2486 _DSC2479 _DSC2503 _DSC2504 We took regular breaks for our legs and delicious mountain water gave everyone a chance to get to know our fellow hikers.  The shining sun and light hearted spirit that nature brings out made the strain of the climb dissipate as we shared our hiking snacks and pushed upward! _DSC2507

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