Sunday, December 12, 2010

Daedunsan Hiking

Today is my 9 month anniversary in Korea. Now that I'm 3/4 of the way done with my contract, I'm feeling like the rest of my time here will go really fast. Time is slipping away and there are still a few key things I want to do before I go. One of those things was to hike in Daedunsan Provincial Park, a day hike from Gunsan, before it closed from a big snowfall.

Weekends have been busy, but I finally had a free weekend, and Saturday was a surprisingly warm and beautiful day for December. I took a bus with 2 of my main hiking buddies (though one friend I always hike with is in Thailand-missed you Greg!) and was happy that the bus went directly to the trail head. Most hiking I've done here requires at least one if not two bus changes to get to the park. We were instantly met with stunning views of craggy rocks coming out of the mountainside, along with a suspension bridge and cable cars in the distance. Like all Korean hiking trails, there were NO switchbacks- just stone and metal staircases straight up the mountain. So it was a great workout even though the park is not that large.

To get to the highest peak, you have to go up this insanely steep cable staircase. I don't have a fear of heights, but being on this thing swaying in the wind was a bit disconcerting. Toward the very top we got into a little snow, luckily with railings and ropes on the side of the trail.
We made it to the top, where you can see the surrounding hills as well as the other outcroppings on the mountain. It's a really cool hike, with many viewpoints and different perspectives. We sat to rest for a moment, and a nice group of middle-aged Koreans took us under their wing. Though they spoke almost no English, they were quite convivial and offered us Korean rice wine, tangerines, and dried squid. Some of my best experiences I've had with Korean strangers have been while hiking, when people seem genuinely gleeful to see foreigners outside enjoying the mountains. And they can't fathom us only snacking on granola bars and apples when we should be drinking soju and eating squid. (Photo by Cherie)
Then we wandered on to another outcropping and found our own serene spot in the sun overlooking the layers upon layers of distant mountains. It was the clearest view I've had in Korea, and the quietest. It was a little side trail, and such a treat to have the rock to ourselves. We watched birds swoop and people far below cross the cable bridge. Then we descended partway down to check out the cable bridge for ourselves.
From there you could either continue walking down the stone stairs another hour to the bottom, or you could take the cable car! Many parks in Korea have cable cars, and I've been wanting to take one, so today was my day. While we waited in the long line, I tried some traditional tea of boiled jujube called Daechucha. It has a good fruity taste at the beginning which leaps into a bitter, medicinal finish. Overall I like it, and it's supposed to be good for muscle aches. Finally they packed us into the cable car in a fit so tight I'm sure it was over-capacity, but sped down the hillside without incident.At the bottom we ate hot noodles, dried persimmons, and a really delicious seafood pajeon (savory green onion rice-flour pancake). Then we did some stretches and drank sweet Korean coffee before catching the bus back to Gunsan. It was an awesome day and I'm really happy I was able to get one more hike in.

On Sunday I was determined to be as lazy as possible. The weeks have been so busy, and usually on Saturday morning I do long runs and/or go out of town, so by Sunday I really need to decompress. I had a big brunch, read, then watched the latest Glee episode. It was Christmas-themed, and made me want to decorate. I was getting antsy being in the house, so even though it was FREEZING, I took a bike ride downtown to get some Christmas decorations. I now have a mini-tree that is trimmed, plus a poinsettia a friend gave me. All in all, a good weekend! I'm going to bed early, actually ready for Monday.

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