Bukhansan National Park

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August 30th 2015
Published: September 18th 2015
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I came out of Suyu Station on line four at exit three. I headed to the bus stops in the middle of the road and caught bus number 120 to Ui-dong. It took about 20 minutes to reach the end of the line, which is where I needed to get off. I like it when the stop I need is the last one, as it means I don't have to pay too much attention. Luckily, the bus terminates in the depot. From there it was a bit of a walk through the village to reach the entrance of the park. It was a lovely sunny day, there were lots of Taegukgis flying. I walked for about 10 minutes, then there was a signpost, which showed the way through a nice forest walk to reach the start of the trail proper. This walk was nice, it was uphill, but fairly gradual, so not too taxing. I walked through the forest enjoying the shade before it was back out on to the path and into the sun. I have done this hike before, and last time we took a taxi all the way to the start of the trail near Doseonsa Temple from Suyu station. If there are a few of you it is definitely worth it, as it saves a lot of time and was only about 10,000-12,000 won.

Bukhansan became the 15th national park in Korea in 1983, and it covers Seoul and Gyeonggi province. It's made to think that it is surrounded by 20 million people. It is also nice that people in the city have such easy access to nature too. It holds the Guinness World Record for the most visited national park. Today I was heading to Baegundae, the highest peak in the park at 836.5 metres. I reached the Baegundae information centre area. I was sweating like mad, it was so hot and sunny. I was drenched, I bet I looked vile. Doseonsa temple is only a couple of hundred metres down a road to the left, so I headed there as I hadn't been there last time. The temple was really busy, with lots of worshiper coming and going. Doseonsa was established over 1,100 years ago during the Silla Dynasty, when the renowned Buddhist priest, Doseonguksa, was travelling through the mountains in the area. After visiting this site, Doseonguksa had a prophecy that led to the temple being constructed there. I enjoyed looking around the temple. At the back, there was a garden that had a really funky looking tree in it, and lots of statues of Buddha in different positions. I did feel a bit rude walking around some parts of the temple, as lots of people were praying and I didn't want to disturb them. I loved the big wall of Buddhas, that are up the steps to the right before the buildings.

After leaving the temple I headed over to the start of the trail. I really liked liked this trail last time I did it, even though the trail was covered in snow. I certainly got a good arm work out last time hauling myself up and down on the ropes, and holding on for dear life. The trail isn't too steep, there are steep parts going up, but it isn't relentless. There are some nice flat stretches, and even a little bit of downhill. The first part of the trail is a bit rocky, but not too steep, it just gradually climbs. After a while, I came to a kind of cross roads and the path split in four directions. I continued on the one heading to Baegundae. The path feels like it veers off to the right and it has flat sections and even goes down a bit. This bit is nice as you come out from under the cover of the trees, and feel like you can see a bit more. I passed by a signboard that we had seen last time. We had or pictures taken there months ago, as you could see Insubong peak in the background. However, this time you could only just make out the peak, as the trees had grown tall over the summer. I also passed Insu shelter, where the mountain police are stationed, I really don't remember that from last time. There was also a small am (hermitage), they must have been sick of hikers, passing through and disturbing their peace, as they had put a sign up to show people the correct path.

The path started to get steeper. There were some stairs in places, and also lots of iron fences with ropes to hold on to. The trail was a little technical, but not too difficult. There was lots of very flat, smooth rock surrounding some of the staircases, I bet that would be a bugger to hike on, especially if you had no grip. It was good to get higher as I could start to see the view of the city below. I was a little tired by this point, as this part of the trail was a little tough. I think this part, the last little stretch to Baegundae Shelter is the toughest. I reached the shelter, but didn't hang about. The next part was short, but steep. Only a few hundred metres, and I reached the old city walls. The wall looked kind of new, so I'm not sue if it is a replica of the original. Here, there is a path down to the other side of the mountain. I must come back and explore that area. From here, it is only 300 metres to the peak.

The trail does get more difficult though. It is all on smooth, flat rock and the trail was packed. The views were really good from up here. I could see down over Seoul, and the second and third highest peaks in the national park, Insubong and Mangyeongdae. The views were stunning and it is definitely worth the effort to get to the top. Since the trail was pretty crowded,it was pretty slow going to reach the peak. Lots if queuing going on, also in parts there are no separate up and down routes, so you have to wait until there was a break in the traffic, to continue on your way. I had to laugh at the old bloke in front of me, who threw his toys out of the cot, and made a show of himself, as he didn't want to wait. So he turned around in a huff and headed back down the mountain, he was less than 200 metres from the top. I continued up and along to reach the peak. There is a nice flat area, just under the peak, where you can relax and last time we'd had a picnic there. There was a queue of people waiting to reach the peak. I joined the queue. It didn't take too long to get there. I snapped a couple of photos of the Taegukgi there and also the stone that marks the peak. It was packed, so I didn't stay long.

From the peak I took the same route back down. It was straightforward. Getting off the peak and back down to where the path forks was pretty easy. There seemed to be a lot less hikers for some reason, which made it a lot more enjoyable. I took in the views again. I love being so high up and being able to see the whole of Seoul sprawl out below. The views are great, even if they were marred by a little bit of smog. From the intersection the path split into two directions. I decided to err on the side of caution and go back down the same way I had come up, as I knew the route and where the bus stop is, as I had another engagement later and didn't want to get lost. I plodded on down the mountain. I stopped at the Baegundae shelter, as I was starving and there is a shop selling food and drink. When I entered the shop I saw a man with some ice creams and I knew that was what I would be having for lunch. I had a very healthy lunch of an ice cream and a can of pocari sweat.

Feeling a little revived, I continued down the mountain. I passed all the same places that I had on the way up. When I reached the start of the trail, I saw an ambulance pulling away. It reminded me of something a friend had told me just before I had hiked Bukhansan the last time, that it is more dangerous than hiking Mount Everest. Not because of the weather conditions or the state of the trail, but due to the sheer volume of people that you encounter along the trail. I can certainly believe that, especially with the way some hikers pound the trail, without a care for the people around them. I decided just to take the road back down to the bus station, as the forest trail had stairs and I didn't fancy tackling any more of those. It took me around 30 minutes maybe a bit less to get back to where the bus had dropped me off. I checked the timetable and decided to take the same bus I had taken to go back to Suyu station. There was another bus, I think that went to a different subway station, but I decided to stick to what I know.

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