Seoul Trail #8: Bukhansan Course

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April 10th 2016
Published: June 1st 2016
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The final stage of the Seoul Trail! The last section is 34.5 kilometres and is of a medium level of difficulty. The trail covers the neighbourhoods of Gangbuk-gu, Dobong-gu, Seongbuk-gu, Eunpyeong-gu, and Jongro-gu. It is estimated that it will 17 hours to complete. The trail is divided into five sections, but I didn't follow these designated stages. Since this stage is so long, I thought it would take me two days to complete this, but since I wasn't feeling too good, when I first started it, I cut short one of my days and it took me three days to complete. On my first day I hiked for about 4 hours, the second day roughly four and a half hours, and the third day five and a half hours, so a grand total of 14 hours.

10th Apr: I came out of Gupabal Station at exit 3. I was a bit confused as I seemed to be heading back the way I had came. One way would lead me back the way I had come last time, or I could take the crossing towards the subway entrance/exit I had took last time. I took the crossing as this seemed to be the most logical thing to do. After crossing the street, I could see that the trail branched away from the main road and continued down a path next to a small stream. The area around Gupabal Station is undergoing a lot of construction and as I walked along the stream, I walked past many, many new high rise apartment buildings. I think that this would be a nice neighbourhood to live in as there is a lot of hiking around. Spring has definitely arrived as the trees were in full bloom. All the colours were so beautiful. As I got nearer to the start of the trail through the forest, there were more and more cherry blossoms. The trees were lining the road. I love all the cherry blossoms. They are just so beautiful. I came to the first stamp box, got my stamp and then started on the trail proper.

The trail is a bit confusing as the signposts are different to the other ones I have seen. This part of the Seoul Trail is part of the Bukhansan Trail, which circles the edge of Bukhansan National Park, so the signs were originally for that. I took the path to the right and started climbing the stairs that took me higher. I came to a kind of crossroads and the trail signs pointed that I should go right, so I did, a few metres later there was fork in the path and no indication of which way I should go. I really think this part of the trail needs to be better marked. I took the fork to the right as the other one lead down hill. This was the right choice. I followed a nice trail through the woods. I came to a small road and crossed that before continuing on through the trees. There were so many beautiful cherry blossom trees. This part of the trail came to an end and I came out at the bottom of the slope at a small old style villa neighbourhood.

I saw that the sign was pointing to the left so set off walking along the road past some farmland. It looked really pretty and I was enjoying the lovely sunny day, despite having a bit of a headache. I kept walking and saw some signs for the Seoul Trail, they were pointing in both directions, so I decided to keep going left. I walked along the trail and came to a signpost which looked very familiar, I came come round in a great big bloody circle. I was so annoyed with myself that I had took the wrong way on the trail. I walked back the way I had come originally, not the way I had just come. When I got back to the neighbourhood, I looked around and still didn't really know which way to go. I took the path to the right, but that didn't seem to be right, so I came back and headed left, but then took the path down to the main road. I saw a trail sign and knew I was going in the right direction. I walked through the neighbourhood and a small park before climbing some steps again. I got some lovely views of Seoul from here. Also the mountain looked impressive, too, I love all the rock that you can see. I came to another small park and found the second stamp box, I was happy to see it. I got my stamp and continued down the road, I walked through another small park and crossed a busy road. I was back in national park territory and this part of the trail was really busy. There were a lot of steps and I climbed and climbed. The steps gave way to a sand coloured path, much nicer than steps. There was a nice area at the top of the trail, so I took a rest there.

By this point my headache was getting worse, and I was running low on water, so I decided to call it quits soon. One thing that has really impressed me on this trail is the signboards show a lot of bus information. They not only have the next part of the trail through the forest, but they also show where the nearest bus stops are, the buses that run from these stops and the major places they stop at, with the big stops like Seoul Station marked in red. I had decided that I would call it quits at Tangchundaeseongam Gate, as there was information that you could get buses from quite near to there. I thought I may have to hike back up here to re-join the trail, but the trail also headed down to into the neighbourhood. I passed a temple and an abandoned looking factory on the way down to the town. I came out to the main road and crossed, as the bus stop I needed was on the other side of the road. The great map along the trail had pointed this out. I took bus 7022 to Seoul Station.

24th Apr: I took the 7022 bus from Seoul Station back to, where I had finished the trail last time. The bus took about 20-25 minutes and wound its way up some hills. I couldn't remember this part of the journey from last time, I must have blanked out the whole middle section. I was also surprised at the amount of police officers that were on the street, the bus must pass some important building, maybe the President's place. I walked back the way the bus came, there is a big green line on the street marking the trail, I find it a bit confusing that the trail markings are different for this section of the trail. I walked through Gugi-dong, I think I could have gotten off the bus a stop earlier and picked up the trail from there. I walked along the main street before the trail took a turn uphill. I wasn't expecting it to get so steep so soon.

This part of the trail was walking through the neighbourhoods of Gugi-dong. It is really different from most neighbourhoods in Korea that I am used to. In fact, I didn't feel like I was in Korea most of the time. It reminded me of a gated neighbourhood we had visited in Cebu City and because it was so quiet, no people and only a few cars passing by every now and again, like a sleepy Sunday in a village in continental Europe. The houses were really fancy, not the normal abodes that make up Seoul and the surrounding suburbs. The houses were all pretty unique, and I think a good few were actually art galleries, maybe it is an artists' neighbourhood. The streets were steep, I wouldn't like to live there and have to walk up and down them in winter. There are a few temples in this neighbourhood. I really liked Cheongryeongsa, which was undergoing some restoration work. It looked so beautiful, especially with a new lick of paint. Yeonhwajeongsa has gorgeous views down over the city. Both temples were really quiet. I only saw one other person at the first temple.

I continued to follow the trail and after an hour and a half, maybe a little longer, I reached the third stamp box. There is no way I could have walked this far last time, when I wasn't feeling well. There were some benches, so I took a rest and had a snack. The trail then continued on through the woods. While i was taking a break some policemen had pulled up in their car, got out, and walked into the woods. I soon came across them, they were all looking at and taking photos of a tree. I wonder what had went on, guess I will never know. I walked through the forest, parts of the trail were under the cover over trees, while other parts were in the open and I could see Seoul's gorgeous mountains. Today was meant to be really bad for air pollution, but the sky was blue and clear, such a contrast to the day before. I passed some gorgeous lanterns that a temple had put out ready for Buddha's Birthday celebrations, that would be happening soon. I also walked through a gorgeous little park, that was filled with beautiful flowers.

It didn't take me too long to reach the fourth stamp box. Since, I hadn't been on the trail for too long, I decide to keep going. I walked for about another kilometre and came across an observation platform. I climbed the stairs and was rewarded with fab views in all directions, the mountain one way and the sprawling city in the other. I decided to push on a bit further and walked about another kilometre to Hwagyesa, a big temple. I had a little look around the temple, taking some photos. It was really beautiful, but very busy, there was some kind of school group there. I decided that this would be a good point to end my hike for today. So instead of following the trail back through the forest, I took the main road away from the temple. There was a small park and a busy main road. I looked at the road signs and decided that Suyu Station would be the best option. Using my phone, I found out that I needed the bus stop across the road and on the right hand side. I took bus 1165 for a few minutes to reach Suyu Station.

8th May: I came out of Suyu Station and was going to get the little bus up to Hwagyesa Temple. Since there was quite a big queue and I didn't know how frequently the bus came, I decided just to walk to the temple instead. It didn't take too long, although it was hot, so I stopped for an iced coffee to take with me. When I got near to the temple, I found the path off to the right and headed back on the trail. I was soon greeted with the views of Seoul's mountains, beautiful. I followed the trail around the edge of Bukhansan National Park. Once again, the signs weren't too obvious to spot. I really wish that they had put the signs at forks in the road, instead of a bit further down. I took a wrong turn and ended up walking up a small hill deeper into the national park. I did come across a nice little rest area with lots of flowers, so I finished my coffee there, before turning back. There were lots of pretty flowers around to admire. I walked near to another temple, I love hat the streets are all lined with lanterns. I spent a while taking photos of them, messing with the different settings on my camera.

I came across a giant tree that had fallen over, being a bit dim, I didn't realise at first, what had happened. It took me a few minutes to twig. I wonder what caused it to topple. I also passed some some lampposts adorned with Taegukgis (the Korean national flag). I also walked past some small farming areas. The trail went through the forest, and then it came out into a housing estate. I got really lost here, I walked up and down various streets trying to find the signs for the Seoul Trail. In the end, I retraced my steps and stopped to look at every turn carefully. I finally found a small sign on a low wall, pointing the way. Seriously, they need to make the signs more prominent.

I kept walking and passed near another temple, if I had more energy I would have went over for a look, but it was just a little too far away. I also passed close to the National Cemetery for the April 19th Revolution. The cemetery looked very peaceful and beautiful. The April 19th Movement was an uprising, that occurred in 1960. It was led by student and labourers, and caused the resignation of the then president, Syngman Rhee, and the transition to the second Republic of Korea. I had been walking for a while now, and was surprised that I hadn't come across the fifth stamp box. Maybe I had missed it, I hoped I hadn't. I followed the signs and came out by the small bus station. I followed the signs down to the main road. I was really thirsty because of the heat and a bit hungry, so I had a drink and a sandwich sitting outside of one of the convenience stores. I crossed the busy main road and walked up the hill, I was passing from one neighbourhood to another. I also found the fifth stamp box. Only one more to get!

After walking through the forest for a bit, I came out the other side and came across an old graveyard/burial mound. I also passed another small farm before heading back into the forest. There was another observation deck, so I climbed the steps and took some photos of the pretty views. The next part of the trail was strange, as the path was cut deep in the earth. I also saw many of the stone statues that accompany burial mounds. I love these statues and I really like the idea that they guard and protect the occupant. Soon I came across Dobongsa Temple, which meant that I must be near the end of the trail. Once again, I was feeling too lazy to have a look around the temple. It was only a few hundred metres more and I came to the last stamp box. I was jubilant to have finished. Then it was one more kilometre or thereabouts to reach the subway station.

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