Hiking, Korea, Mountains
Comments 18

Sunday Playtime in My Big Backyard

Hi, all. How was your Sunday? Mine rocked — fortunately, as I wasted my Saturday completely. Well, I slept a lot, and I probably needed it. But staying inside a tiny apartment for a whole day sends me a little loco. I hit the pavement with a lot of pent-up energy this morning, and after loading up on carbs and caffeine at the bakery I was ready to take on anything.

Trailhead grasses

I stayed close to home, though. It’s payday on Tuesday so the wallet’s approaching ultralight. No worries — I hadn’t climbed Bulmo-San, the lumpy sprawl of ridges a stone’s throw from home, for a while. If you’ve ever watched a gazelle bounding across the savannah on the National Geographic channel, you can visualise my approach to the base of Bulmo. It was beautiful.

You can spot Korean hikers from approx seven miles off

It wasn’t just the coffee and the need for movement. The early-autumn sunshine today, the clear skies and the balmy temperature combined to create one of the best day’s weather I’ve enjoyed in eight months in Korea. It’s a great time to be here, and knowing what’s in store in a couple of months just adds to the urge to make the most of it.

I’ve climbed Bulmo by half a dozen routes. Today was another variation. The first part was familiar, along a melodious stream and up steeply through hardwood forest still flush with the green of summer. Half an hour from home you leave the stream and step onto the first ridge. There are wildflowers here for most of the year, and inevitably a few of these superfast frogs will leap across the trail, quickly vanishing in the undergrowth.

Today was special — I got my first good look at one:

Rare stationary “lightning frog”

My variation this time was turning left when I hit the dirt road I usually cross to continue climbing. This leads to the surfaced road that winds up past Jangyu Pokpo — my laughably austere Korean vocabulary includes such essential words as the beautiful pokpo (waterfall) — to Jangyu Temple.

You tell me — a stream near the road

You’ll remember Jangyu-Sa from earlier posts; I found it on one of my first “real” hikes in Korea and it’s still among my favourites.

A drink from the spring and I climbed up behind the big gold Buddha to the main ridge-line. A nice surprise here with a hundred metres or so of trail lit up at the fringes by these fantastic flowers:

Some research tonight reveals that they are red spider lilies, Lycoris radiata, and that they’re native to China. Wikipedia states that they were introduced to Japan, where they symbolise the arrival of Autumn and are used in funerals and to repel pests — the bulbs are highly toxic. Korea isn’t mentioned, but I wonder if the Japanese, in turn, brought them here.

You can see where the “radiata” comes from

The article adds: Some other legends have it that when you see someone that you may never meet again, these flowers…would bloom along the path.

If there’s any truth in this, I envisage scarlet trails criss-crossing the nation in my wake.

We had another typhoon last Sunday/Monday, which meant no school on Monday and some impressive 50m/second winds. Reaching the ridge and turning right towards the summit, I walked a trail littered with shredded pine needles and splintered boughs — and something bigger:

The once-impressive assemblage of radio towers (I think)

Yongji-Bong, the 720m summit, was even more colourful than usual. The noodle vendor was there as always, but now he’s added beach umbrellas to his tarp set-up. And a party was in progress in the pavilion: the whole floor occupied by feasting — and drinking — hikers.

Note the crumpled spire — it was like this before the typhoon

Against my better judgment, I bought a $1 paper cup of Lucifer’s own beverage of choice, Korean instant coffee, and sipped it, wincing, beneath the tarp while the noisy drinking party toasted their epic victory.


My now-standard dragonfly-on-summit shot

I debated moving on but thought I’d save it for a day with an earlier start.

Daeam-San, along the ridge, & Changwon beyond

Instead, I backtracked, down through the Death Flowers, where a jolly fat man and his giggling girlfriend/daughter/wife asked in Korean where I was from. “Hoju” (Australia), I answered, thereby exhausting my vocabulary.

Red spiders burst from the earth as I raced onwards and downwards.

I farewelled a rather more sombre fat man…

..and aimed for home:

Home, sweet home: the ivory forests of Jangyu

This time I turned right at the temple, climbed a little, and descended a steep spur I’d only travelled once before, going up. The last leg of a delightful excursion, and even the trees seemed to smile at me as I passed…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



    • Thank you, yes, it was fantastic. Today’s looking good too and I hope I get off early (my students are having midterms this week) so I can enjoy it properly!

  1. Does Korea have a Buddhist celebration around the time of the equinox? That would explain the presence of the spider lilies.
    (Athough I do recall reading about them being a kind of desperation food sourse – the toxic bulbs could be leeched in running water, roasted and pounded to make something edible in case of famine.)

    • Yes, indeed, “we” have Chuseok — starting next weekend, in fact: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuseok .

      Although the timing is different, it seems similar to Japan’s O-Bon. Grave cleaning, re-visiting one’s hometown, special food, etc. It’s massive here, apparently. I’ll be travelling and am dreading the traffic, etc…

  2. Pity about the high voltage towers across that ridgeline, but one can’t have it all can they? Full marks for that camouflaged frog photo! I’d be hard pressed to see that one.

    It looks like a lovely day out and it’s not too bad you run into other people I guess? I rarely see anyone when walking which can feel a bit weird at times! Great colours in your pictures and that camera was a worthy investment! No chance of redoing the PCT with a new camera? Imagine your shots if you had the chance to redo something like that 🙂

    • Don’t tempt me! I really wish I could back with a functioning camera…on the other hand it would take me twice as long!

      People over here are hard to avoid. Well, walking to Sokcho was pretty solitary a lot of the time — for obvious reasons. Power lines too — hard to get away from them. But I’ll be spending a few days in their biggest national park soon, so hopefully up there it’ll be a more visually pristine landscape.

  3. A great way to spend Sunday. We did it too, for the first time in weeks. Until now harvesting our meagre haul has got in the way of such enjoyable pursuits – but now we’re relatively free again. It’s good to see how you do it in Korea.


  4. Water droplets on wings and lighting frogs–a few of my favorite things. Beats raindrops on roses any day.

    • Yes, sir, and yesterday was great as well. Finishing work early today and tomorrow so I should be able to fit in some golden afternoons/evenings.

  5. What a super walk. I was intrigued by your photo of the drowned bug. If I had to guess, I would say it was a preying mantis. Do you have those over there? I like frogs almost as much as I like bugs, by the way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s