Hiking, Korea, Mountains
Comments 12

My Autumn’s Done Come: Saturday

Let those I-don’t-care days begin
I’m tired of holdin’ my stomach in
No more slinky Vogue dolls for me
I’ll take Sears & Roebuck dolls gladly
Cause my autumn’s done come
My autumn’s done come… ~ Lee Hazlewood

I have one more Seorak-San post to go, but I thought I’d do something a little more contemporary today, something we EFL teachers are always trying to get our students to do: talk about my weekend.

I was a bit slothful the last couple of weekends, buying tons of winter clothes, napping, working on the music thing. I needed to stretch my legs and burn off some calories. It occurred to me I should check out the woods in the hills behind my place while the Autumn colour’s still there.

I skipped breakfast on Saturday morning — a drab-skyed, almost-chilly morning — and in a quarter of an hour was over near the base of Bulmo-San…

One of the numerous ridges of Bulmo, ahead

..but an approach I’ve only done once before, back on that hike when the group invited me to share their kimchi-laden lunch (I still have the heartburn).

I left the main road and was soon climbing gently past little farms and vegetable gardens…

Cabbages in bondage

..up past one of the numerous local sheep farms…

Persimmons and a friendly shepherd

..and into a scene of great devastation where a new road is going in, all noise and dust and brutality.

Everywhere I go in Korea there’s some of that going on. All for roads, all for cars. I find myself wanting to scream, “People, can’t you just LEAVE IT ALONE?!”

But instead I climbed above it, into the forest the earth-movers had spared for now, and up into a little zone of beautifully constructed cairns…

..and freshly carved jangseung, totem poles or village guardians that, says Wikipedia,

were traditionally placed at the edges of villages to mark village boundaries and frighten away demons. They were also worshipped as village tutelary deities.

Apparently in southern regions including this one they’re also known as beopsu or beoksu.

I’ve been consumed by music of late, even more than ordinarily (Last.fm tells me I’ve played 120,000 songs on my computer in the last five years). The album my collaborator, Carl and I recently finished (about which, more in a future post) has kept both of us on the happy side of a nervous breakdown since August and we’re working on its follow-ups already.

It’s weird: the mental contortions involved in making the songs leads to poor sleep; the poor sleep has me waking up with new songs in my head. Two in the last week. I keep working on them as I walk, the way I’ve always written songs, and — perhaps it was the benign influence of the new jangseung — found myself sitting on a rock here, scribbling out an entire song called I Wake Up Hungry in my notebook while a procession of walkers passed and moved through the cairn-corroboree .

The path was steep but beautifully bordered with shades of gold and yellow, and here and there an orangey or scarlet mountain maple. Here’s a view from not far below the ridge-top:

Reaching the ridge, I swung left, away from Yongji-Bong, my usual playground, to Gulam-San. I was in the area I’d passed through on my birthday walk, and decided to explore further. It was cooler now, with a chilled breeze buffeting the ridge.

Looking back towards Gulam-San

I found a little outcrop where crows wheeled overhead, sounding the alarm in strident cawwwws — except when I had my camera out. I’m reminded of some nonsense verse I wrote on an earlier hike:

That clever crow

How come he know?

Those crafty crows

Somehow, they knows.

And then I had this bright idea of improvising a route down the rocks here — I’d spied a figure way down in a gully. This got a bit hairy and there were a couple of spots where I was almost fear-jammed and calculating how best to fall if the situation arose. Stupidly, I had my camera dangling from my shoulder and I was hanging with one fingertip from a tiny nubbin of granite. Visions of death or a $2,000 camera replacement bill…

Which would be preferable?

I got down, but let’s never talk about that incident again.

And you know what, I’ve never thought of dead leaves as an objective hazard, but there was a thick and slippery carpet of them most of the way down. More than once I landed on my arse — nicely cushioned, though.

Autumn in all its lethal splendour

I was worn out — and hungry — when I reached this spring and realised where I was:

Soon I was passing through the devastators and their toys…

..farewelling the mountain that’s soon to sport a tunnel — hopefully not for the last time.

I made my way into the cafe zone of Yulha, where coffee joints outnumber westerners by 20 to one, chose a favourite and was soon enjoying some health-giving fruit with a hard-earned latte…

At last, some hearty western food

Next post: Sunday.

Kiss all the pretty ones goodbye
Give everyone a penny that cries
You can throw all my tranquil pills away
Let my blood pressure go on its way
Cause my autumn’s done come
My autumn’s done come. 

Bring me water short and scotch tall
A big long black cigar that ain’t all
Hang me a hammock between two big trees
Leave me alone, damned! Let me do as I please
Cause my autumn’s done come
My autumn’s done come.

My Autumn’s Done Come ~ Lee Hazlewood

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Great post, Goat! Just loved it.

    You have to watch those seemingly innocuous but deathtrap leaves. And angled wet grass too — in the Pyrenees this nearly caused the death of me, not the shifting stones and spiky rocks.

    Crows and their kin are the most intelligent of birds. On the highway dozy pigeons and pheasants will somnambulate into a car’s path, while the crafty crows just nonchalantly hop aside from roadkill at the very last moment, then step back as soon as the vehicle’s gone.

    • Thanks, SW. I enjoyed writing this one. I’ve felt in recent ones that I’m losing my blogging mojo, but I think I’ve just been tired and distracted by the music thing and my other various diversions.

      Yes, it’s a jungle out there! You can’t relax your guard for a minute. As for the crows, yes, among my favourite birds. They’re so damned…literary!

  2. Does anyone seem to care about what they are mowing down to build these highways? Love the fading autumn colour (and matching demountable). I often think that birds think my camera is a weapon of some sort that I’ve pulled out to ping them with… they are all nice and trusting until I make my move.

    • I don’t get the feeling there’s much of an environmental movement in Korea, Sue, although organic produce is available in the supermarket (whether their definition matches the western one, who can say?). The litter, the rivers, the beaches — and yes, the endless, relentless construction. This is a small country — do they really want it coiled and smothered in highways? It’s obviously feeding and fed by a voracious economy, but how sustainable is it?

  3. I like the social commentary along with the hiking description–and music too! Nice work. I saw an interesting speaker a few years ago who commented on the way towns in the U.S. have been built, how streets and cars have completely dictated the way towns and cities have developed in the past 100 years, to the point where garages are now the most prominent feature of some houses. Obvious but sad, I think.

    • Cheers, Josh. Yeah, the McMansions built around a garage — hideous! To blab about my band again, there’s a song that’ll be on the next album called ‘Ugly Houses’. I just want the Koreans to save the green space and hills they have. No doubt they’d talk about convenience and “growth”, but at what price?

  4. Mm… Nothing beats a vista totally ruined by high tension power lines! I guess it’s the price to pay in order to have electricity? Your whole landscape looks like it’s under assault. I wonder how it’s going to look in about 10 years?

    Those carpet of leaves must be a northern hemisphere thing? Whenever I fall down here, I seem to land on rock!

    • Well, I nearly had rock as well climbing down. Not nice. The leaves are awesome but murder on a steep slope with no traction in my running shoes.

      The power lines: yes. One day, I pray, all that junk will be underground. But it will be very, very expensive. It’s not just the big pylons either. Being in Korea has made me realise how every urban view is compromised by power lines as well — in every country. We take it for granted, but even an average streetscape is so much improved when there are no ugly dangling wires!

  5. Alice says

    I knew there was something missing recently–your posts! Blog read must be wonky or something, so I went goat hunting. Here you are!

  6. Cool post. Your mention of the totems made me remember the stone bixie statues I saw in fields in China way back when (1989).

    • Thanks again, Rachael. Sorry I’m so late getting back to comments lately. Very distracted and spacey.

      I saw some new (for me) stone sentinels yesterday that were amazing. Stay tuned…

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