Sobaeksan National Park

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May 30th 2015
Published: June 20th 2015
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Another sunrise hike! I must be mad. We left around midnight and we arrived at Sobaeksan around 2:30 am, it isn't too far away and the roads were quiet. We napped on the bus or another half an hour to an hour and then we headed off in the darkness. We started in what I think was the southern part of the park. The first part of the trail was nice, as it was on a paved road that gradually rose, so not too much huffing and puffing from me. We hiked 4.5 kilometers to reach our first peak, which is Jei 2nd Yeonhwabong Peak. It was starting to get light, so I took some photos of the peak marker with my phone, as my flash less camera wouldn't cooperate. There was some kind of observation tower, set up on the hill behind the peak. I don't know if you were meant to take photos of it, but I snapped a few anyway. Total rebel! A couple of hundred metres passed the peak, there was a nice observation deck to watch the sunrise from, however the weather wasn't cooperating, and the sky was a blanket of cloud. We weren't going to get a magnificent sunrise, like I got a couple of weeks ago in Jirisan. However the view of the surrounding mountains was beautiful.

I was getting cold standing around doing nothing, so I decided to continue on to the next peak, Yeonhwabong Peak. The path was nice and gentle and the 2.5 kilometres passed quickly. There was a bigger observation tower here, with a couple of buildings surrounding it. I had seen a few signage boards about space dotted around the park, so I presume that these observation towers must have something to do with that. I could be completely wrong, of course. There was a nice clean bathroom further up from the observation station, it's always nice to find a decent toilet. We reached the peak and took some photos here, too. This area was really pretty. I snapped some pictures of the peak marker and then continued on my way. When I came down a little way on the other side of the peak, there was a tent set up. Someone had picked a great camping spot.

The next part of the hike was under the cover of trees and there was barely another soul around, sometimes when I'm hiking and don't see anyone for ages I wonder if I am still on the correct trail, luckily most of the time I am. I came out of the trees and saw a huge flight of stairs. It was starting to rain by this point, too. Before I started to tackle the stairs I took a look at the information boards, I think the stairs were leading up to Yeonhwabong 1st peak. There were a couple pictures, showing before and after. I think the first picture was when it was just a free for all and people could just amble up the hill anyway they liked, it looked a mess, the grass was all dead. The second picture was after a designated path had been introduced and how the grass and plants around it had been allowed to grow and flourish free from human harm.

The stairs were pretty brutal, and the views were obscured by fog but I made it. The rain was starting to come down harder now, so I put my poncho on. We were hiking along the ridge line now, and since the peak there were more people about. Bless, some random man hiked pass me and gave me a couple of sweeties, I love a nice random act of kindness. We hiked another couple of kilometres in the rain to reach the fork head either to the main peak, Birobong, or down to the village at the end of the trail. It was only 600 meters to the peak, and I was determined to get there. I said bye to my hiking partner, that I had hiked the past couple of kilometres with. It may have only been 600 metres, but it was tough. It was all pretty much evil stairs, and although the gradient wasn't very steep, I was spent. Also the wind was whipping me and the rain was lashing me. It was a pretty miserable journey to the peak. I made it and of course it was even worse up there. I was freeezing, no hope of sitting at the peak for a while, enjoying some food and taking a rest. There was only me and one other soul up there. I took a couple of photos of the peak marker and then beat a hasty retreat back down the stairs.

The wind was battering me and the rain was soaking me as I made my way down from the peak to the fork. It was 6.8 kilometers to the end of the trail at Cheongdaon. I had to go pretty slow as the path was wet and I didn't want to fall over. The journey to the bottom took about two to two and a half hours, I can't remember exactly. Luckily the rain stopped after a while, meaning that I could sit down and take a rest. There were also some covered benches to sit on, on another part of the trail. I had decided to sit on them, since they were empty, but about a minute or two after I sat down, a million people turned up and sat down too. the hike down was probably a nice one, I passed a cool, old tree that looked like it had been struck by lightening or something, but I was too tired at this point to care. I just wanted to be finished. Also there were a lot of people heading in the opposite direction. I love the feeling of seeing all the people pass by and knowing that I have already accomplished what they are setting out to do. I reached the end of the trail and took a five minute power-nap on a bench there.

We hobbled the rest of the way down the hill to the village at the bottom. We were all starving, so we looked at a couple of restaurants and then of course went back to the first one. We ordered kimchi jjigae and a big pot with a gas stove underneath it appeared. It was bubbling away and we were all happy to dig in. The food was so good and the maekgeolli, we ordered helped us wash it down. After we had finished, we headed back over to check out the waterfalls. Darian Waterfall was a little lacklustre, but it was still a nice spot. We were little rebels and hopped over the barrier, so that we could sit on the rocks and dip our feet in the water. There really is nothing nicer than after completing a long hike to rip your boots and socks off and place your feet in icy cold water. We sat around chatting for a bit and we saw the others heading down to the village, having completed the hike. We joined them in a restaurant for some haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) and more maekgeolli.

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