Korea, Mountains
Comments 16

Sokcho the Sane Way

The balmy weather continues and I hope it hangs in there a while yet, for reasons you’ll learn soon.

Also going strong is my streak of UNMITIGATED IDLENESS at work: in four days this week I have done absolutely nothing related to teaching, except to back up my co-teachers in a telephone dispute with a disgruntled parent who insisted that The bike looks well was perfectly acceptable English and that his son therefore deserved one more valuable point in the midterm test.

First blush of Autumn in a local street tree

Man, that was quite a sentence. I’ll just take a deep breath before proceeding…

A recent sunrise from my kitchen window

Yesterday as usual I wandered off at lunchtime and rambled over half of Jangyu. I went to a famed clothing outlet complex, entered and exited three or four outdoor-clothing stores in approximately 45 seconds, and concluded that I didn’t need a thing, especially in purple, orange, pink or red.

Nearby love hotel strip, Jangyu, last night

I’d had three lattes yesterday, my limit if I am to enjoy some sleep and a lack of heart attacks; suddenly the youngster at 7 Gram Cafe appeared at my side with a fresh cup, announcing that it was “service” (Konglish for on the house). I drank half out of politeness (there was a perfect heart engraved in milk froth; I suspect he likes me)…

..and ran queasily halfway up the forested flank of Pointyhead, the nearby mountain…

..until a cold sweat and rabies-like jitters overwhelmed me and I retreated to the supermarket for a shrimp burger, a strawberry Tornado and supplies for my forthcoming adventure.

I’m good now, but to quote Warren Zevon, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Chillies drying near my second school

So…adventure, you ask? Well, as you might have guessed from my title, I’m going back to Sokcho, this time by bus. It’s almost Chuseok, the traditional Korean mid-Autumn festival, and counting this weekend I’ll have five days of freedom. Honestly, the paid holidays that come with this job are sensational. But I have been working hard.

Koreans often describe Chuseok as “Korean Thanksgiving” but I think that’s a stretch given the very specific historical context of the American version. It’s more like the harvest festivals found in numerous cultures. Over here it takes the form of a return to home towns that apparently reduces the entire nation to gridlock, ceremonies to honour ancestors, visits to graves, special food, dances and so on.

Lately I’ve encountered lots of maintenance parties in the hills and forests, wielding weed-trimmers and scythes at ancient grave mounds. Here’a a freshly mown one on Pointyhead yesterday:

It’s going to be a great trip, if the crowds don’t kill too much of the fun. I’m spending Saturday in Sokcho, the town in which, you’ll remember from my Goat Killer Trail saga, I lingered for 20 long minutes after spending a dozen gruelling days walking there.

Next morning I’m getting another bus the short distance inland to…Soerak-San National Park. Yes! At last! Biggest national park in the land, setting for the third-highest mountain, and famed for, among other things, its rugged outcrops…

Juliana Ng, Wikipedia Commons

..as well as remote temples, waterfalls, and gorgeous Autumn colour.

The trees won’t be peaking when I’m there, but should be well underway. I’ll be spending two nights in the park, probably stealthing, since the one campground would have been booked out long ago. There are hotel clusters in the area but I’ll try my luck in the woods. There are also two or three shelters used on a first-come basis; we’ll see.

Flowerguy, Wikipedia Commons

My goal is to explore both Inner and Outer Soerak-San on Sunday and Monday, and get a bus back to town on Tuesday afternoon, stay the night there and head homeward on Wednesday, giving myself a long day to allow for traffic. It should be an outdoor-photographer’s dream up there — it should also be quite chilly, so I’ll be taking bag, tarp, etc this time.

I don’t know if there’ll be phone reception, but if so I aim to send a couple of short iPhone posts from the hills. I’m really excited about heading back up the coast I know so intimately and seeing at last this fabled part of the country.

Here’s part of my rations:

The Laughing Cow & the smoked-apple cheese are the closest things to real cheese I’ve seen in Korea

Fresh bread, bakery items and more fruit will complete the larder. There’s no cooking allowed in the park, and anyway I’m increasingly enjoying no-cook camping.

I know what you’re thinking: yes, I will definitely need more Snickers…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



    • Yes, multi-Grain Pringles! They should be in every schoolkid’s lunchbox!

      This trip is going to be so cool. I already feel strangely nostalgic and affectionate towards the whole east coast. And I’m looking forward to wandering around Sokcho as well.

  1. The new project sounds well, Mr Goat! Really looking forward to reading about your mountain adventures. How you can eat Pringles is quite beyond me, but you brought back many memories with the photo of that French cheese (La Vache Qui Rit).

    • Yes, they’re quite disgusting, aren’t they (Pringles)? I just see them as a source of fat and salt! I tend to drink too little when I’m walking. The weird thing about them is how unsatisfying they are — you can’t stop putting them in your mouth but they never register as food! Maybe I’ll feed them to the crows…

      But yes, thank God for the French (again).

  2. a strawberry patch says

    Hope you have a great trip, looking forward to some majestic mountain photos! I love your rations, the only reason I exercise is so I can keep up my Snickers habit!

    • Thank you, had a great time last night getting some sunset & full moon shots from Sokcho. The mountains look amazing from here.

      I know what you mean about the Snickers – or should that be Snickerses?

  3. I love your comments about not needing anything from the outdoor clothing stores, especially in bright colors. Enjoy the trip. Those mountains look great.

    • Thanks, Josh. Yeah, I’m more into subtler shades myself. Blue is about as crazy as I like to get. I’m up at 4:00am thanks to some drunken bozo in the hallway of the hotel – down to the beach for sunrise and early start on those lovely mountains.

  4. Balmy weather here, too. The best time of year to go to the mountains. I’m looking forward to your mountain photos. Thanks for the link to all the information on 庵 and the story about the calligraphy for “Ian.”

    The bike looks 井 as well (-:

  5. Another Goat adventure in the offing! Can’t wait. I couldn’t help noticing that you have a tube of Pringles multigrain. This morning I am feeling fat and generally manky after consuming most of one of those yesterday evening while watching The Thomas Crown Affair for the umpteenth time. But, seriously, Pringles “multigrain”? What is the point? Is it supposed to be the health food equivalent of regular Pringles? It tasted the same. And I feel just as unhealthy as I would have done if I had eaten regular Pringles. What is the point? Do you know?
    Clearly I need to go cold Turkey on the things. Then I might make a sensible comment, or at least one that makes sense.

    • Don’t sweat it, Rachael, these are the questions that consume us all in the dark nights of the soul. My Pringles experience was even worse as they were practically crushed to powder when I ate them in the middle of the night on a cold mountaintop – out of boredom as I couldn’t sleep!

  6. That’s some stunning looking scenery from the Wikipedia picture. I take it you’ve snagged some photos of that terrain on your trip?

    I’m interested in your hiking food. Surely that stuff doesn’t fill you up? That looks like one days food for me! Then again, I didn’t see how many bakery items you took with you…

    • Greg, that picture doesn’t do the place justice. It’s phenomenally beautiful and rugged! See next post.

      I do miss having a few Lipton’s instant meals in the larder. I get sick of chocolate and stuff made of flour. But the cheese and crackers were a success – and I wolfed down a bowl of rice when I got out of the hills…

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