October 17, 2011

Songnisan National Park

My friend Johnny and I wandered over to Songnisan this past weekend and it was an absolutely beautiful place.

Getting there: first, go to Daejeon (buses and trains are frequent). Next, go to Dongbu Intercity Bus Terminal (pictured below). If you're coming from the train station, leave exit 1, go under to cross the street, and the local 201 or 501 will take you there in about 10 minutes.

Here is the schedule for buses from Dongbu Bus Terminal to Songnisan. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes.

To get home, take a bus back to Daejeon. Here is a schedule of departures from Songnisan:

As for the trail itself... there are several routes suggested on Korea's National Park Service website and Korea in the Clouds blog. I was excited to do a longer loop course - 17.9 km! And was surprised it would only take 4.5 hours! Of course, this was foolish. In actuality the course is significantly longer. Walking on flat ground at a brisk pace is about 6 km an hour, so hiking this quickly was entirely ridiculous.

From where the buses drop you off, walk straight down the crowded street full of street vendors. Its about 1 km to the park entrance. Then, its a short walk to the temple- Beopjusa. The trail to Cheonhwangbong is smooth and flat the first 4 km. After that, its climbing up moss covered stairs and hiking up steep gradients.

This is one of the main reasons I had to see Songnisan next. This is a 33 m tall Buddha that is plated in actual gold. Its quite impressive.

Under the giant Buddha is a circular walkway with hundreds of smaller gold Buddhas, wrapping around to a big room with another large gold Buddha. That is the main one though, so it cannot be photographed.

Another reason to make the trip? This fantastic five story pagoda. Most pagodas in Korea are statues, things to look at but not functioning. This is one of the only ones here done in this style. I've always loved these, and know they are more common in other countries, like China, so it was fantastic to see this one in person.

Unlike most parks I've ventured to, this one had moss everywhere. The buildings, rocks, steps, fencing.. I loved it. Probably the most memorable part of the trail here.

Johnny is very enthusiastic about these cute little pagodas. Visitors can gather nearby rocks and build their own. Be careful though! Its bad luck to knock over someone else's pagoda, even if it is an accident.

At about 3:30, Johnny and I realized we would never make it to the peak and down by dark. We decided to play it safe and head back. I was pretty disappointed, but the combination of a late start in the morning, getting lost, dealing with soreness in my knees still, and the wrong trail time estimates, it was not surprising that we didn't finish.

October 16, 2011

Gyeryongsan National Park

Remember those awesome pictures of the green tea fields, Jirisan, and Gayasan? I was wearing these cool shoes - Converse. They were quite comfortable at the time, but retrospectively, provided no arch support or protection from the jagged rock trails Korea seems to fancy. I have been miserable. It was a short work week - Wednesday to Friday, and I could tell my knees were sore at the gym.

I decided to spend last Saturday hiking regardless. It wasn't the wisest choice. I ended up hiking to the first peak, but not continuing along the ridge walk because my legs were so unsteady and knees were locking constantly.

A lesson was learned though, and I took Sunday to Friday off from everything - no running, no gym, no hiking. I went out and bought an overpriced pair of good, sturdy hiking boots and am being much more aware of my joints while hiking.

Here is a belated post from last Saturday:

Gyeryongsan is right outside of Daejeon, which is great because lots of trains and buses go in and out of the city. From Daejeon, you can take a local bus to the park; the 107 will get you there in about an hour for 1,100 won. If you are coming from Daejeon train station, leave exit 2, go underground to cross the street and go straight. If you're facing with your back to the station, you want to get on the bus on the right side of the street. (As a side note, the 107 runs by the Daejeon National Cemetery as well, if you'd like to get up extra early and try to see both!)

The trail goes in a loop, so it is possible to see both main peaks in one trip. I was feeling shaky to begin with, though, and heard the ridge walk between Gwaneumbong and Sambulbong was rather dangerous. I elected to go down the way I went up, starting at Donghaksa (temple) and going up about 3 km to Gwaneumbong (peak).

A note on the trail, although my pictures show a deserted mountain and a serene environment, the reality was anything but that. The park was crawling with hikers, pushing and shoving their way up and down the trail. The problem with having a national park close to the city and easy to get to is the over crowding. It is a beautiful place, and I recommend going - just don't expect an intimate experience with nature.

The guy walking down on the left is a hiking buddy I met on a trail. He's a Korean college student taking a semester off to live in a temple on the mountain. It seems like it would be an awesome experience, and I'm a little jealous.

October 13, 2011

Gayasan National Park

I got an extra day off work from the holiday last week, so I decided to finally wander over to see Haeinsa. This temple has been on my list since I first arrived to Korea, because of the Tripitaka Koreana - oringinal Buddhist texts on wooden printing blocks. The monks still sell prints from these blocks, and they are stunning. Even better, this famous temple is in Gayasan National Park. What could top off an enlightening morning than an exhilarating afternoon?

Currently, I'm working on an article for Daegu Compass. When that is published, I will include a link, as it will go into more detail than my blog entry will.

Getting there from Daegu is incredibly easy. Take the subway to Seongdangmot (on the red line). Leave exit 3, and go to Seokbu Bus Terminal (you really can't miss it). The buses take about 1.5 hours to get there. Here is their bus schedule:

When you see this sign, hop off the bus, and follow the crowds to the temple. Getting home to Daegu, head back to the stop, look across the street, there's a cute little stand with a man selling return tickets. Here is their schedule:

This is where the texts are stored, and there were no pictures allowed. Of course, I did buy several prints as souvenirs.

The trail is 4 km from the bus station, you walk towards Yongtapseonwon, and then follow the trail. There is only one main path from this area, and it takes about 2.5 hours up, another hour down. Sanwangbong and Chilbulbong are two peaks .2 km away from each other, so make sure to see both!

View from Bongcheondae (a big rock with a good view):

On the right, this is the sketchy rock path that starts with .2 km from the peak. Several Korean hikers tried to talk me out of going, but I decided I had to attempt it. I suggest wearing good hiking boots and bringing a friend with you, for safety reasons at the very least.

Video from the summit of Sangwangbong: