South Korea is a small country, about the size of Portugal, but we are blessed with high peaks and wildlife. The country is 70% mountainous area. Because of our four distinctive seasons, this land of the morning calm shows different sides different times of the year. But no doubt, the best time to visit the mountains is autumn.
Seoraksan National Park is the best place to see the autumn foliage in Korea. The color of the leaves on the rocky hills and small mountains flow amidst it. Early September of 2014, the leaves were about to change to their autumn costume. I’ve been to Seoraksan several times during my time in Korea, but I’ve never climbed here properly since my family vacation in the 1980s. I was just a little girl back then. Inspired by great weather and power food before leaving home (because my mom is a great cook), we planned to climb this picturesque and rocky mountain in two days.
Hangyeryung course is relatively short, but a tough one to hike. It allows you to hike the highest peak Daechungbong (1708m), and also provides great views the entire way. The hike starts with a straight-up 108-step staircase – not an easy start. But after just a little while, we were able to see the view of the hills and valleys. It must have inspired many ink-and-wash painting artists in the olden days. My legs were sore, my spirits were going slower, but my mind was fresh and full of pride.
Six hours in, I almost reached my limit. The trail was straight uphill for the entire way, and the paths were extremely rocky. Oh my feet. I gave up on the highest peak, and went straight to the shelter for the night. Climbing up the smaller hill (still, it was only 60m shorter than the highest peak), and bam. Oasis to my desert-like body! The sun was about to go behind the peaks, and we were standing above the clouds. Peaks peeking through, clouds glowing orange, sky blue, it was the perfect moment.
We climbed down on the Bisundae path, which took about seven hours. It was a very steep downhill for a while, then a leisurely walking path by the creeks. This course provided a totally different view than the day before. Overall, it was a great hike with a lot of views of the mountains. I couldn’t ask for a better trip.