Monday, April 18, 2011


All right. I think it’s finally safe to come out of hibernation and acknowledge that spring in the ROK is really truly here! Assa!

So how did I celebrate my first really truly springy weekend in the ROK? Simple. I went hiking.

Now you may remember that my first attempt at hiking in Korea was, ehrm, less than successful. During Chuseok on Jeju Island, Zooms and I decided to try our hand (feet?) at hiking Mt Halla-san, the tallest peak in Korea. This was a lofty undertaking, considering a) we were out of shape, b) I was sick with the great 6-month undiagnosed respiratory whatnot of 2010, and c) I have an irrational fear of falling. Many good reasons NOT to climb a mountain, particularly a tall one. In fact, the moment I finished the traumatizing white-knuckled-rope-grabbing emotional breakdown that was my descent from that damn mountain, I vowed I would never put myself through that again…

But that would be silly. Korea is a mostly hilly and mountainous country and vowing to avoid everything involving mountains and the act of (gasp!) climbing up and down them would severely limit my view of Korea. No really. You can see a lot of things from the top of a mountain… Hiking is a national pastime here, each weekend the busses and trains fill up with everyone decked out in their matching designer hiking gear ready to conquer the city’s numerous mountains. Everyone, that is, except for me.

So what changed my mind this weekend? What made me decide to give this whole hiking thing a second chance?

Well... Every day I take Kimchi for a walk for maybe an hour, and every day I find myself wishing I could just stay outside all day walking around and taking in the beautiful spring weather. Sadly, however, I can’t really do that (something about having a job?) and much as I’d like to, teaching class outside would be a bad idea for a number of reasons. Left with no other choice, every day at 2pm, I dutifully walk into work and kiss my sunshine goodbye.

But isn’t that what these magical things called “weekends” were invented for? Having felt cooped up at work all week, I wanted to utilize this weekend to its fullest potential. And what better way to rationalize spending an entire day outside than to climb a mountain?

(And the fact I bought a new camera Saturday didn’t hurt either. What better place to start practicing with my new Canon EOS 450D than on top of a mountain?)

So, Sunday afternoon, my friend Becki and I ventured out to Mt Yongmasan (well I ventured… Becki lives 3 stops away) and went hiking. Our tour books warned us in advance that portions of the trail would be steep, but oh man... What an understatement. When I start writing tour books in the future, I promise I will be more accurate in my assessments of hiking trails. Warning: Some portions of this trail are steep. The other portions are just boulders. Vertically stacked boulders. To reduce you chance of injury, it may be advisable to crawl up such portions of the trail. Or, rethink your decision to hike this trail at all. There is no concession stand at the top anyways, so really, what’s the point.

All kidding aside, it was a really gorgeous mountain, and even though I doubt I’ll be able to walk tomorrow, it was definitely worth it!

My new favorite yellow flowers we found growing everywhere on the mountain. Forsythias I think?

The largest man-made waterfall in Korea... sans the water. For whatever reason, Korea hasn't deemed it important to put water into the waterfall yet, which just makes it look a little ridiculous. And kind of like National Treasure #1. Burned down, but still advertised as being awesome...

These pink flowers were all over the mountain too, but I have no idea what they are :(

THIS is the nonsense we were climbing most of the time. This is not "hiking." This is rock climbing. Please warn me first...

Really a mountain in the middle of the city. Kind of awesome.

Adjuma hiking in her color-coordinated designer ensemble. I didn't know it was possible to be underdressed hiking?

Becki, pretending we're enjoying this hiking thing.

Outdoor gym halfway up the mountain. Because hiking up vertical boulders isn't enough, no no, better get some extra cardio in there too...

The top! We finally made it!

Yeah, did I ever mention Seoul was huge?

Bonus. As we were leaving we found a little temple tucked into the side of the mountain.

Shoes off at the door.

Happy happy Buddha... His birthday IS coming up soon (hence the lanterns everywhere), so I guess it makes sense...

I've been on a flower kick lately, and these were kinda gorgeous!

More lanterns. I swear everyone thinks Asia is all about chopsticks and lanterns, but I've never seen this many lanterns in Korea. Ever. They're up now for Buddha's birthday, and I hope they keep them up for a while! So pretty!

Hooray for surprise mountain-side temples :)

So there you have it. I gave hiking a second chance. And it was much less awful than I remember it being. Who knows, maybe I’ll even give it a third chance someday…

- Christine -

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