My family is in Korea! I’ve been bursting with pure joy for the last 6 days, and have too much to say on the topic. I’ll post about their visit in a few days.
Hiking in Korea is like eating an H&H bagel when visiting New York City – neglecting to do so would be criminal. The South Korean peninsula boasts 20 Historical, Mountainous, and Marine/Coastal national parks, and I have had the pleasure of visiting 3 during my time here so far, along with 1 “provincial park”: Seoraksan National Park in September, Gangcheonsan Provincial Park in November, Gyeongju National Park in February, and most recently, Jirisan National Park in May.
According to the Korea National Park Service‘s website, Jirisan is the oldest national park in Korea (est. 1967), the biggest (471.758㎢) and also contains the tallest peak on the Korean peninsula: Cheonwangbong at 1,915m (6,282 ft). I’m a big fan of superlatives, so I was the most excited I could’ve ever been.
I traveled to Jirisan with my friends Moon and Sarah, through an ex-pat travel group called Seoul Hiking Group. An awesome organization to go with – great people, a wonderful trip leader named Warren (Seung Il Kim), and pretty organized (too organized is no fun). We left the Seoul area at 11pm, slept on the 5-hour bus ride down south, and arrived at the base of the mountain around 4am, which was when we began hiking. We watched the sun rise, sweat like hell for 12 hours, and celebrated at the peak with picture-taking and power naps (for some).
Hiking is the best way to truly clear your head, putting every ounce of mental and physical energy into deciding which rock you’ll step on next or appreciating the beauty that surrounds you. I also love hiking with good storytellers – so many hilarious, intricate stories were shared during those 12 hours. We also broke out in song a number of times on our way down the mountain.
I really couldn’t take enough pictures, as usual. The views were simply breathtaking – literally, because I was being way more outdoorsy than any Jewish New Yorker is wired to be.
We spent the night at a minbak – a Korean-style guesthouse where 5-8 people sleep in one big room on the floor with mats, which might sound unpleasant, but anything will do when you’ve been hiking for half a day.
Green Tea Festival
The next day was spent perusing the Hadong Green Tea Festival, sampling various types of locally grown tea, making a few purchases (I got some green tea powder and green tea candy!), and watching a beautiful dance performance that took place in the middle of a valley.