It's only a mountain away.......

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October 24th 2011
Published: November 1st 2011
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Clutched by a small boy on the cablecar, holding them as if they were a treasure, these vibrant leaves against the soft hands of a child reveal the beauty of the natural things in life.
Do something everyday that scares you. That’s the motto of my 18 year old daughter, Jessica. Luckily for me, as an American living in Asia, accomplishing that is no problem! There’s the little things, like riding a subway throughout a new city without being able to speak or read the language. Or perhaps it’s simply getting lost in the markets – again with no language skills. Then there’s the biggies. The ones you look back on and say, hmmm, now that was a little crazy, but now that I’ve done it, I feel like I can handle traveling the world. For me, that’s just a handful of things. Included in that list would be using a squatty potty – over troughs, mountains of s*#t, or open air behind a rock. Also included would be the art of bargaining with emotion in a Chinese market (“Really, my husband won’t let me come home if I pay your price!”), the thrills of cliff jumping (thanks to northern Michigan and the encouragement of my son-see photo) and now, after visiting Seoraksan, 2 more. One entails summoning the courage, as a conservative American, to walk naked with a hundred strangers, enjoying the pleasure of same sex bathing in a Korean bath house (no photos). The other is seeking the peak while trekking up a steep Korean mountain (alas, lots of photos!).

Seorak-san National Park is located in the northeast portion of South Korea. There’s numerous peaks to be scaled, trails meandering through hardwood and pine forests, lovely valley views, clear streams, huge granite boulders, waterfalls, and of course, lots of tourists. And don’t underestimate the willingness of the Korean tourist to hike! When they say that a trail “is pretty steep”, that means you’re going to be sweating bullets while pondering how all those Korean city dwellers are able to make it look so easy! Must be something in all that ginseng they consume. Much of the terrain is hard packed earthen and rocky trails. Much of the steep mountain climbing is on the confines of a relatively safe stairway. However, the scary part is at the peak, when you have to use hands, knees, and strong thighs to climb up over smoothed rock with nary a handrail or rope to prevent you from tumbling off the edge. Then, when you think you’ve truly accomplished something only the gutsy, fit can claim, up comes

Many moutain peaks are contained in this national park, but this view with the yellow leaves, dragon bridge railing, and moutains in fog, to me, encompasses the feel of the park.
a child, pushed and pulled by experienced adult caregivers. And then down trots a wisened older climber as if standing on a smoothed boulder at 900 meters with a 60 degree decline is like a stroll on a city street. But the views, the fresh air, and the sense of accomplishment make it worth it.

Check out the photo narrative and enjoy some autumn views from South Korea.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 23


Rolling fogRolling fog
Rolling fog

Views here are lovely whether sunny or cloudy.
Uneven but invitingUneven but inviting
Uneven but inviting

More trail views.
Stone vasesStone vases
Stone vases

Random vases set in the wooded trailside.
Make a wishMake a wish
Make a wish

Similar to China, small rocks are piled high one by one and wishes made after each successful placement of a rock.
Clear streamClear stream
Clear stream

Much of the trails went alongide and over the streams throughout this park.
Water carvingWater carving
Water carving

Fast moving, unstoppable streams over the years can cut granite.
Enduring and fleetingEnduring and fleeting
Enduring and fleeting

Granite, smoothed by years of rushing water, contrasts with the sharpness of autumn leaves.

Nearing sunset after a rainy day, the relative quiet along this trail made for an enjoyable return to dinner.
Seoraksan Tourist HotelSeoraksan Tourist Hotel
Seoraksan Tourist Hotel

Clean and convenient, this basic hotel was a comfy spot to rest for the night.

67, the organizer of Royal Asiatic Society Korea (RASK) activites for more than 30 years, 7 days a week, our trip manager had everything perfectly timed and coordinated. She had many interesting stories to tell of past adventures with RAS,
Breakfast viewBreakfast view
Breakfast view

Morning in the coffee shop. Fruit, danish, coffee, eggs, good conversation, warmth, and a view enticing me to hurry up and get outside.
Just a few guestsJust a few guests
Just a few guests

Morning at the hotel parking lot. Situated in the middle of the park, our hotel was convenient, albeit a bit too popular to be considered a "hideaway".
Big BuddahBig Buddah
Big Buddah

Is bigger better?
From mountain top to mountain topFrom mountain top to mountain top
From mountain top to mountain top

Having mistakenly trekked too far, we were rewarded nonetheless with some lovely views and needed to walk a brisk pace to return in time for dinner.
Stairway to a peakStairway to a peak
Stairway to a peak

I started too late in the day to climb to this peak with all these crowds.
Korean hikersKorean hikers
Korean hikers

Donning vibrant high tech climbing attire and accompanied by friends and hiking companions, many Koreans prioritize hiking as one of their weekly activities.
Gingko settingGingko setting
Gingko setting

The flaming yellow of gingko trees can be seen all over Korea this time of year.
Mountain topMountain top
Mountain top

Yep, the edge behind me is a sheer drop. Great climb!
Hey Andrew and Charlotte!Hey Andrew and Charlotte!
Hey Andrew and Charlotte!

Friends from the hiking group catch me taking a photo of them.
Hey Sheri!Hey Sheri!
Hey Sheri!

Andrew snaps a shot of me at the "near" top. Note the guy behind me selling medals and ropes for climbers who've succeeded thus far.
Cliff jumpingCliff jumping
Cliff jumping

As promised, 1 photo of one of those crazy things in life that are both bragging "rights" as well as "rites" of passage into risky joys.

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