Hiking, Korea, Mountains
Comments 15

Moonlight Mountain One Golden Morning

Hope you’re handling the deluge of posts without too much trauma. Tell you what, I’ll try to lower the wordage even more as an act of Christmas charity. 

Two weeks from yesterday and I’m outta here. I’m now spending most of each school day bent over my laptop, working on these danged pitchers while my students sleep through a movie. It’s an arrangement that pleases us all. Evenings go slowly by in a hazy sprawl of rock’n’roll, German beer and a few more hours working on photos while sitting on an inadequately heated floor. 

Today I left the apartment and nearly fell on my arse — literally. Snow in the night. Just a dusting, but it prettied up the neighbourhood a bit.

Happy 70th to Keith Richards! I enjoyed a Stones marathon last night, one that’s continuing here in the staffroom as I type this up. Aptly, there’s a Stones connection with this post too…

*          *          *          *          *

Moonlight Mountain is another of my nicknames for local peaks. It’s the one where I slept on the ledge that night on my birthday last year. The place where I had one of those everything’s gonna be okay epiphanies as I listened to the Stones’ Moonlight Mile while attempting, rather ineptly, to dance in the dark.

That mountain deserved a name, and also a final visit, and this was (I thought at the time *) it. Only this time I climbed it more or less by accident.

It was early November, and I wanted a dose of Autumn. I remembered the colours on this path from last year, so back I went, past the cairns that guard the start of the trail…

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mmm

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King (Or Queen) of the Mountain

..pausing for a snack and some pictures with the jangseung, demon-repelling totem poles that let me pass without incident:

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Well, almost without incident. This pair in purple was chatting and laughing loudly — till they saw me. Then they went silent, stared at the ground, and passed without acknowledging me.

Happens all the time:

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Must be my face.

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The Stone Men

So that pissed me off, like it always pisses me off — there’s a code of behaviour when you’re in the mountains, and it oughtta be universal. But what are you gonna do? There’s a junction there, and instead of taking the right fork like I always do, I took the left, behind the Purple Demons — a long way behind:

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That path was incredible, moist and cool and ablaze with autumnal colour. I stopped repeatedly to admire the foliage and greet the locals — a gorgeous arachnid…

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..and a nonchalant chipmunk on a stream bank that let me stalk it for a while:

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This is one of the most beautiful maples I’ve ever seen:

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A couple more scowling beauties stomped by, leaves wilting and dropping from trees as they passed…

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..and soon afterwards I reached a ridge with some benches and the ubiquitous exercise equipment that mars too many forests over here.

And it looked familiar, but I was disoriented. I never hike with maps in Korea — never even seen a hiking map apart from signboards at some trailheads. Over time I’ve pieced together an understanding of how most of the ridges and peaks in my corner of Korea are linked, but there are still some grey areas.

I knew I’d walked here a year ago, from a different direction. I swung left on a whim and came out of the woods to a clifftop; paused where a couple of older ladies were sitting on the rocks. And as I was gazing at the view, trying to orient myself (Hey, maybe I should call my book about my life in Korea Orienting Myself?)…

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A crow wings it high above Jangyu

..I realised with a start that I was back on Moonlight Mountain, and the ladies were sitting on my birthday campsite.

So that felt good. And now my mental map has one more link.

It was a steep, slip-sliding descent down a familiar trail. The autumn leaves, thick on the ground, made for some uneasy walking; the leg muscles that get hammered walking in snow or on ice came back into play, and I was grabbing at branches and limbs to arrest many an unplanned skid.

The forest here was different — drier, no maples — but still a treat:

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Well, being Korea, you have to live with a certain amount of human intrusion in the hills…

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..but overall this path remains a favourite:

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I’ve photographed this trunk several times over the last two years. It was exceptionally handsome that morning:

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But all good things…

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My place is just past that first golfing monstrosity

* As it turned out, I was back there recently via a different route — almost certainly the final visit this time

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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15 Comments

  1. What a beautiful walking track. The autumn colours are astounding. Here in Tasmania our native trees are rather mostly evergreen with little colour variation. I wish our forests had colourful trees like that.

    • Thanks, Tony. A friend (Australian) commented recently that he can’t really look at Autumn leaves without thinking how fake they look. It’s true that the Australian canopy doesn’t offer much in the way of vibrant colour, but our forests make up for that in other ways, right? Birdlife, for example — lots of birds here but they’re pretty drab and no great shakes in the song department!

      • I agree, we do have many beautiful birds here in Australia with beautiful songs as well. It makes going bush a wonderful experience. How boring our world would be without birds in it.

  2. Between your series of goodbye to Korea posts and Solitary Walker’s visit to London, I’m scrambling to keep up. Finally had some time today to catch up to this point. Love the flower and insect photos, especially the dragonflies. Wonderful to visit Moonlight Mountain again. A great autumn walk! The valley filled with high rises strikes me as surreal as ever.

    • I’m sorry if I wore you out, Am — but imagine having to write them!

      I suppose I might miss aspects of the apartment complexes in time, but right now I feel glad that I’ll soon be seeing the back of them and walking nice suburban streets with interesting gardens…

  3. Strange that the pairs of hikers look away. Is it a cultural thing or do you get the same response in the west? I sympathise with your annoyance. Where we live people I have actually met are likely to look away if they pass me in the street. Like it’s too much trouble to smile or say hello? Do they think I’m going to leap in with my life story or something?
    I see you are now sporting a beard. My son has just returned from his first term at university with a goatee. I am trying to get used to it. Makes him look like a satyr. Not saying yours is remotely like that, just that it made me think of Rob’s… Oh dear, I’d better stop now. Drunk on fresh Australian air, and Margaret River wine.

    • The Margaret River wine is the closest I have come to that region. As I’m sure you’ve discovered, nicely complements a Margaret River cheese.

      The beard is my proudest achievement. Be ready for that goatee to develop and expand! I plan on not shaving mine till a certain interview I will have to endure next year. I’m also not excited about getting on a plane with it due to other people’s prejudices. But over here, honestly, it marks me as some kind of exotic wildlife (even more than before).

      I don’t get the avoidance of eye contact and greeting on a path, either. Strangely, the Japanese, known for their shyness, seldom skimp on the “konnichi-wa”s when hiking. And another thing about Korea is that if a couple are hiking together, the man is usually in front and MIGHT greet you, but even if he does, the woman behind will act like you don’t exist.

  4. I don’t know, but sometimes on walks here I’ve run into the odd person who doesn’t say hello. It’s weird and if it’s a couple, then the bloke might speak, but the woman turns away. What does that mean? Can you unlock that mystery for me?! This is on day walks though, I think in a proper hiking context everyone will stop for a chat. That would be the case in the States, wouldn’t it or are there a few freaks to go around as well?!

    Your post-to-day ratio has been brutal lately. I’ve been in a daze trying to keep up 🙂

    • I will never understand it, Greg. I’ve always found walkers in America to be TOO friendly, if anything! Sometimes you stop to chew the fat for a minute and you’re still there half an hour later!

      The blogging is weird lately. I’ve never been at the point where I have two or more posts ready to go before. I guess it’s called making profitable use of long, empty work days. I haven’t taught a class as such in weeks!

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