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The Perfect Korean Hike

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Hiking Gear

We’ve done a lot of hiking and hill-walking during our time in Busan, but until our trip out to Hoedong Lake, we hadn’t actually experienced a truly Korean day of hiking. This was the last big excursion we’d be undertaking in Busan, and we couldn’t have hoped for a more authentic day out.

Korea-Hike-Tour

When our friend Seong Yeop invited us to check out the Hoedong Lake with his father, we immediately said “yes”. But within seconds of beginning the hike, I knew we were in trouble. This wasn’t going to be the lackadaisical, relaxed stroll we normally indulge in, frequently interrupted by photo stops and water breaks. Nope, Sean’s dad had darted out in front, and was setting an insane pace which Jürgen and I had a hard time matching. He was completely geared up and taking no prisoners.

Through the woods we marched, and along the beautiful lake. Used for drinking water, it’s off limits to swimmers and fishermen, and colored a dark green which reflects the woods. Halfway through the hike, we came upon a small restaurant and sat down for a break. Plates of pajeon and dotori muk muchim (acorn jelly salad) were set in front of us, along with two bottles of makgeolli. After the strenuous hiking, the makgeolli hit hard, and I was visibly wobbly when I stood up, much to the amusement of Mr. Lee.

But we felt replenished after the break and, as Seong Yeop promised, the makgeolli buzz wore off quickly. Soon enough we were hiking up a seemingly endless hill for a view over the lake. Gorgeous, and by this point I was starting to get into the rhythm of the speed-walking. The rest of the trip went by in a flash, but I think we must have done about ten kilometers, all told.

After getting back into the car, we drove to a restaurant where we were treated to ginseng wine out of little cups the size of thimbles, and delicious bowls of chicken soup. The chicken was incredibly tender and fell off the bone at the slightest touch from our chopsticks. Wonderfully nourishing and strangely refreshing on a hot summer day, this is apparently a popular thing to eat after a day of hiking. I was completely full upon finishing, but had to make room for dessert at the final stop of the day: an awesome cafe specializing in patbingsu, or ice shavings topped with red beans.

Our day out with Seong Yeop and his dad was one of the highlights of our entire three months in Busan. I guess you haven’t gone hiking in Korea until you’ve gone hiking with Koreans! We had a blast, and it’s a perfect final memory from our time in the city. Thanks guys!

Location of Hoedong Lake on our Map

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July 30, 2012 at 9:53 am Comments (6)

Return to Mt. Geumjeongsan

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On our first visit to the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan, we had ascended in a cable car and hiked from the South to East Gate. It was an all-day excursion, but we were only able to see a fraction of the gigantic mountain fortress which extends across the summit, and so vowed to return. Our second trip would start at the Northern Gate, bring us to Godangbong Peak and end with a well-deserved feast in the village of Sanseong.

Geumjeongsan-Hike

A trail found on the side of Beomeosa Temple leads through a bizarre rock field in the forest, before turning uphill. We climbed for nearly an hour until arriving at the fortress’ North Gate. Our legs were already rubbery and the day of hiking hadn’t yet begun! Before setting off, we took a break at the ancient gate, which is topped by a gazebo and had recently been renovated.

From the North Gate, the walk to Godangbong Peak took about 90 minutes. Halfway there, we took a detour to the Geumsem “Golden Well”, a rock formation in the shape of a bowl which collects rain water. This is where the golden fish who gave Beomeosa Temple its name descended from heaven. We had to use a set of knotted ropes to get up and over the rock. On the way down the other side, my foot slipped and I came crashing down. Luckily, I escaped with just a skinned elbow and bruised ego, but have made a mental note to remove “Mountain Climbing” from my list of future activities.

Natural Climber
Looking good, 3.54 seconds before slipping

At 801.5 meters above sea level, Godangbong Peak is the highest point on the mountain, and the views over Busan were stunning, even though the day was somewhat hazy. From here, you can see the walls of the fortress and gain a good sense of its immense size.

After returning to the North Gate, we continued on to the Fourth Watchtower, passing Wonhyobong Peak along the way, which is a hill most notable for its amazing view of the curving fortress wall. The path connecting the North to the East Gate is extremely popular — there were a ton of other hikers, and this was on a Tuesday; it must be awful on summer weekends. But at the Fourth Watchtower, we took a detour to the south and the crowds disappeared. The path to Jangdae led us softly downhill through some beautiful forest areas. Jangdae is found roughly in the middle of the fortress and served as its command post. Today, it’s a secluded and comfortable place to take a rest, which is exactly what we did.

From Jangdae, we found the road which brought us to Sanseong Village, famous for its cuisine. Black goat, duck bulgogi and a rice liquor are the local specialties. We grabbed a bottle of the liquor, ordered a heaping portion of duck bulgogi and sat down outside at a great restaurant overlooking the river valley, to eat our richly deserved meal. We had combined this hike with our visit to Beomeosa, making this an unforgettable, but very, very long day.

Location of the North Gate | Godangbong Peak | Jangdae

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June 8, 2012 at 5:52 am Comments (2)
The Perfect Korean Hike We've done a lot of hiking and hill-walking during our time in Busan, but until our trip out to Hoedong Lake, we hadn't actually experienced a truly Korean day of hiking. This was the last big excursion we'd be undertaking in Busan, and we couldn't have hoped for a more authentic day out.
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