(Seoraksan: pronounced so-rock-san…get the title now?)
Hiking in Korea is huge – everyone takes his or her outfit very seriously, coordinating colorful tops, goofy hats, and hiking poles and jetting off to national parks throughout the country as often as possible. Everyone says hello as they pass each other on the trails, and most bring Makoli (rice wine) or Soju with them to celebrate with at the top. It’s a great time. Today I had my first Korean outdoorsy experience at Seoraksan National Park, located in the Gangwon-do Province, in the northeast. One of my Yeoju foreigner friends has a car, so we packed in at 6am this morning and set out on our adventure north. Located only 2 hours from Yeoju, the national park was huge; the 4 new friends I went with and I got a little lost, confused, and even yelled at by a park ranger lady who wouldn’t let us on a trail because we weren’t “dressed properly.” Not bright enough I guess. Whatever. But eventually we found a nice, easy-ish trail and had a lovely time. It was raining for most of the 3 hours we were walking, but it was still gorgeous. The valleys were emptied of their heavy streams of water, which are only filled during monsoon season, exposing the intensely hued rock formations. Autumn is just beginning to show its colors, and apparently the foliage is even more beautiful in Korea. (Of course.) There was a small Buddhist temple along the trail, which we stopped at to get some water and rest. So tranquil. No one was actually there praying, but it looked like people do stop to reflect. Afterwards we had a hearty meal at the bottom of the mountain: bibimbap (a hot bowl with lots of veggies, rice, raw egg, spices, seaweed…SO GOOD), some soup with tofu (forget the name! ah.) and other yummy side dishes. Listened to Louis C.K. on the drive home, he is hilarious for those of you who haven’t heard. Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure. More to come on Facebook.