Hiking in Korea

KoreaHike4

See that? Two hiking posts in a row! Two in a row!  I’m not such a slacker after all.

Though, in fairness, these particular hikes occurred in the month of July, and I haven’t been on a single hike since then.  Not a single one.  In my defense, it has been brutally hot here.  The trade winds seem to have vanished never to return again.  I can barely stand to walk my dogs.  I might dissolve leaving nothing but a nasty pool of sweat if I tried to hike anytime in the past few weeks.

But I digress.  Korea.  The husband and I went hiking in Korea.  Not just the “walk around and be a tourist thing,” but actual hiking.  Which, it turns out, is a huge thing in Korea.  (This explains the throngs of old Korean ladies leaving me in the dust every time I hike one particular local trail.  No lie, they absolutely book it up and down.  But it’s a cultural thing… it’s not that I suck!  Koreans are awesome and taking hiking seriously, that’s all.)  It seems like hiking is the #1 pastime in the country.  And they have some serious hiking gear… lightweight clothes that still offer lots of coverage and sun protection.  Everyone is very decked out while hiking.  I felt very out of place in my cotton shorts and t-shirts.

On our one day in Seoul, we spent most of the day hiking up and around Namsan (“South mountain”).  We were also in Seoul this past winter, but it was way way way too cold for hiking.  We did go up Namsan Tower in the winter, taking the metro to the cable car and then waiting in a ridiculously long line to get up the mountain.  It probably would have been faster & warmer & possibly less tiring to walk it.  But I wanted to ride the cable car.

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This time, we not only hiked up to the tower, but all over the mountain.  It was a pretty overcast day, so it was actually a good one for the hike.  It wasn’t too sunny or too hot, but the rain never really came down very hard either.  Of course, the views were not so spectacular… in the non-HDR version of the photo above, you can’t even see the tower, juts a white background to the wall.  So we didn’t actually go up the tower this time… we probably wouldn’t have seen anything at all.  That’s ok; more time for hiking.

KoreaHike1           KoreaHike2

We saw a lot of the old fortress wall the used to circle and protect Seoul.  The construction style reminds me a lot of the rock walls here in Hawaii, though on a much grander scale than anything I’ve seen here.  Whenever I see something like this up a mountain, I just think about the human effort required to build something this enormous in the days before big construction equipment.  I can’t even imagine the number of people or the length of time this required, though probably I passed a sign written in Korean that explained it all to me.

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We also spent a day hiking Geumjeong mountain above Busan, including a trek out to Seokbulsa Temple.  Yes, it was totally spectacular and worth the extra couple of hours of hiking.  But yes, I do kind of wish my guidebook had perhaps mentioned that an alternative is to drive there.  The way the guidebook was written, it seemed like the long and strenuous hike was the only option.  We spent probably our only really nice day in Korea (there was a lot of rain!) on this hike and then at a baseball game.  I’m not sorry we missed out on beaches… we have lots of those at home, and nothing quite like what we saw up in the mountains.

We actually don’t know what exactly we saw, a lot of the time.  Can anyone tell me what the very first picture says?  We went to it.  Was it the Buddhist Temple that we seemed to be intruding on and quickly left?  Or something else?  The sign made it seem so exciting, but…

Our last hike in Korea was in Wolmido park in Incheon.  I don’t really have any pictures of this hike for one simple reason: Incheon is not a photogenic city.  Not at all.  We were up on this hill / mountain / whatever you want to call it.  But there was absolutely nothing pretty to see from up there.  The hiking itself was lovely, though.

The hiking in Korea, at least what we did of it, is extensive but pretty tame.  The paths are mostly paved, or at least very well maintained.  You can get a good workout, for sure.  I had sore calves after the hike out to Seokbulsa Temple, and even the Wolmido hike had some good uphill stretches (much of which we did on stairs).  But there are none of these super muddy paths with tree roots popping up all over to make you fall.  What they call “hikes” in Korea are kind of “long walks” here, but probably wouldn’t really qualify as a hike.  In other words: my kind of hiking!

Another thing that I liked about hiking in Korea was the outdoor gyms.  As you walk along on these well-maintained paths up in the hills, you often just stumble upon exercise equipment out there for anyone to use.  This could never happen in America!  There would be lawsuits because some asshole hurt himself doing something stupid but for which there was no sign saying “don’t do this, asshole!”  And the equipment would get all damaged, vandalized, and stolen way too quickly.  Not only do they have these gyms everywhere, but people are constantly using them.  We did try out some of the equipment, though every time we found a gym with one of the inversion benches, I was wearing a dress.  Dammit!

So, three decent hikes in two weeks was pretty good, especially considering we did a lot of other general “walking around,” and a solid week was spent at a conference.  But like I said, yeah not a single hike since then.  I’ll have to get back on that soon…

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