Deokyusan National Park

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January 30th 2016
Published: March 3rd 2016
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We left Seoul around 7:45 am and drove for about three hours to reach Deokyusan National Park. The drive wasn't too bad as the traffic was pretty light, and I caught up on my missed sleep. My ears did begin to pop as we drove higher up the mountain. The car park was a short walk from the start of the trail. We walked through the small village between the car park and the entrance to the national park. We were shown the restaurant that we should go to after the hike to have dinner. When we reached the entrance, we put on our crampons as the trail would be snowy and possibly slippery. We consulted the map, which would show the route were very taking today. The first part would be an easy slope, then it would change to intermediate for a little while, and then finally advanced grade leading up to the peak. Deokyusan became the tenth national park of Korea in 1975.

The first part of the trail towards Baengnyeonsa Temple was pretty easy. It was very flat, so easy to walk along. The ground was covered in snow, but it was quite slushy in places, making it more difficult to walk on. The trees were covered in snow, and since the sun was shining a bit, the snow was melting off the trees. This meant that it felt like it was raining and I ended up getting pretty wet. The views were pretty, a good coat of snow can make anywhere look pretty. We were walking through the valley area, and there were lots of signboards. They had pictures of what the view would look like in autumn. It looked stunning. I really wish I could have visited here in another season to compare, even though Deokyusan is most famous for its winter hiking. It took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half to reach the temple, where we took a quick lunch break.

I didn't really look around the temple as I wanted to head up to the peak, and figured I could have a look around on the way back down as I would be hiking the same trail. The steps up to the temple looked pretty slippery as they were covered in snow, there was a nice wide, gentle slope to the left, which I took up to the temple. The trail then continued on to the right. The stairs soon started. The trail started to get more difficult and I slowed down a lot. I think it took me about an hour and a half to reach the peak. The trail was quite tough, but I took it slow and steady. It was pretty busy, lots of people enjoying some winter hiking. The higher I climbed, the foggier it got. It was a tough 2.5 kilometre trek.

The peak was very busy and pretty foggy. After all the effort getting up there, it felt pretty anti-climatic to actually be there. I knew that Deokyusan was a very popular winter hike, but I didn't realise that there would be so many people there. I took a couple of snaps of a rather new looking peak marker to say that I had reached Hyangjeokbong, which is 1,614 metres high. It only stayed for a short while, before I was itching to get moving again. I took the same route back down. Some of the others took a different route, which was a lot quieter. Since I had rushed (by my slow standards, not stopping to take pictures) to get to the peak, I took my time heading back down. I was able to take photos of all the frozen and snow covered tree branches. I also saw some really tiny, cute birds. On my way up, I had been thinking the trail would be really tough on the way back down. It was steep and in parts the snow had turned to slush making it pretty slippery.

While the peak was shrouded in fog, the views from a little below it were great. The clouds had lifted and I could see across the snow covered valley. It looked so pretty. I continued back down the slope to the temple. I don't know how other people can walk so fast, I have no sense of balance whatsoever and if I tried to walk that fast I would have ended up rolling down the mountain. I was happy to get back to the temple as the next part of the trail would be so much easier. I also had a little look around the temple. It dates back to the Silla Dynasty and is named after a white lotus flower that bloomed there. It did look pretty in the snow, but it was a bit too cold to stop moving. It took me about another hour to reach the restaurant, I ended up hiking with a bloke that was going at quite a pace, which was good for me as it forced me to keep up, which is definitely easier on flat ground. It even started to hail a bit, which I hadn't expected, but the stones were pretty small.

We headed to the chosen restaurant for dinner. There were already a couple of tables with hikers from our group. The banchan was already spread out on the table, that was a good sign as it meant we could dig straight in. I ordered a dwenjangjjigae (soybean stew), I have to say I was really disappoibted with it. The bowl contained pretty watery stew, four small cubes of tofu, a few slices of courgette and onion, not very appetising at all. I need to stop ordering this in mountain restaurants as it always crap and overpriced. Guess, I'm gonna have to start liking bibimbap more. I did partake in a couple of cups of makgeolli, but I need to stop drinking it, as I get a headache afterwards. When we came out of the restaurant, the bus was parked up outside. That was a lovely surprise, no walking to the carpark in the cold.

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