Nature Photography from places all over South Korea likeJeju-do, Seorak-san, Mudeung-san, Busan, & Boseong using both my Canon A590 and EOS D60 digital cameras
A two minute musical mix of Gwangju set to Relief Action by Ian Pooley. The video includes a few clips of Mudeung Mountain in the Fall and my old neighborhood of Bongseon-dong.
What to do today… Oh, what to do today… How about some more hiking in Korea? Seems that’s all I’ve been doing since the weather has turned nice. Today’s adventure began with a cab ride from 봉선동 to the entrance of Mudeung Provincial Park at 증심사, where instead of the usual trek up the rabbit path towards 서석대, I veered right for a 1.9km climb up to Saeinbong (새인봉). Blessed with clear skies and perfect temperature, the trail was most crowded. Not 5 minutes into the hike, an old man slapped me on the back and said something to me in a native tongue which I could not comprehend. Shaking my head and saying to him (in Korean), “I don’t understand you”, the old man started laughing and grabbed my hand as he motioned for us to move onward. Apparently, he just wanted someone to walk with, so I held this old dude’s hand as if he was my wife for 1/3 of the way up the mountain. Awkward? Yeah at first, but he insisted, and I’d be damned if he was going to go the rest of his life telling his buddies about a rude and stupid American he met at Mudeung. So I imagined he was my grandfather and it was kind of nice. At the top I came across a group of hikers in their 20’s laying out food and burning incense as they stood in silence with lowered heads. Upon further inspection, I discovered a framed picture of a young man as the centerpiece of their offerings. The nature of this memorial service lead me to believe that the circumstances of this young man’s demise were quite tragic, and I stood nearby for a moment in contemplation. Decending from Saeinbong, I came across some random burial mounds just off the trail which are actually quite common around here (pictured above). Then there was the tomb of Ullim-dong, a stone burial chamber believed to be from the Baekje Dynasty. Yeah I don’t really know what that means either, but it was one of the only things mentioned in English on the plaque. Up close it looked like a big grassy igloo, but these particular types of tombs are apparently quite rare. No idea who, when, or what, was buried there. Why do they even bother making English guides if their not going to include worth while information? From here, I ventured over to a temple which had a bunch of lanterns setup in preparation for Buddha’s Birthday celebration, which is this coming Friday. This is a big holiday over here and we will be heading to the second largest city, Busan, to witness some of the festivities.
Mt. Mudeung, one of the biggest mountains in the Jeolla province, is just under 1200 meters to the tallest peak, Cheonwang-bong (King of Heaven Peak). The two smaller peaks are Jiwang-bong (King of Earth Peak) and Inwang-bong (King of Men Peak). Progress has been deemed more important than timeless natural scenery, and you will find that massive communication towers dot various peaks and pierce the view. Hiking access is even blocked to the very top of King of Heaven Peak as a result. Getting to the top was confusing for us because we started at Jeungshim Temple. Several trails begin here and intertwine at various points along the mountain. So depending on the route you take, a 2 hour hike to the summit could easily become 4 or 5. A friend wrote down “top” on a piece of paper so we could ask for directions, but this seemed only to confuse people. One Korean, totally confused by our lack of hiking gear, laughed when we showed him the hackneyed description of where we were trying to go, and motioned for us to turn around and go back down. “Screw him,” we thought. “It’s a friggin’ mountain.. let’s just find a trail that goes up and see where it takes us.” Actually, not a bad strategy for Mudeung, although we ended up at one of the smaller peaks 2.5km from where we intended on being.
Our second attempt, one week later, we simply went right instead of going left at one of the intersections, and found an almost direct route to the top.
From Jeungshim-Sa (증심사), go to Jungmeorijae (중머리재) . This is a flat spot 2.3km up, where you’ll find someone selling ice cream (if the weather’s right). The main trails have a lot of stairs, so we veered off into the woods and hiked up to Tokkideung then looped back over. It was longer, but more scenic and less crowded.
Take Jungmeorijae to Jangbuljae (장불재): We thought this was the top because it was so hard to get here, but really there’s another 1.5km to go. For the top, look for Seoseokdae (사삭대). If you really want to push yourself, take the Jungbong path to the summit. It’s 1km of narrow trail and stairs that go straight up the mountain. We ended up taking this path down from the summit not knowing how steep it really was, which wreaked havoc on my knees.
At the top we found amass of Koreans enjoying picnics and taking pictures. We sat next to one group of about ten middle-aged Koreans who were drinking Soju and pounding beers. “Are these guys fucking serious?” I remember thinking. Better whip out the ol’ can-o-SPAM and show these suckers how America gets down after a long hike. This proved too much for the locals. “Look Jay. She’s watching you eat your fucking gross SPAM and telling the others. And now they’re looking at us and laughing…” Upon glancing up from my can of finely cured meat, I found that they were indeed looking directly at me. So I waved…. Then came more laughter. Moments later, one of them held up what looked like a huge burrito wrapped in aluminum foil and said, “Korean hamburger”. He walked over and handed it to me, along with a can of beer, 4 oranges, and a handful of Jalapeno peppers. Guess they figured I was would enjoy a flaming orange hamburger. It sure as hell was NOT hamburger, but looked more like a California roll, and at 1200 meters it tasted great. At sea level, it needed it’s own trash bag. Regardless, I couldn’t thank the Korean hikers enough for their generosity.