On Sunday, J. and I set off on a morning journey to climb one of the tallest mountains in Seoul. Instead of eating a filling breakfast, we had coffee and a pastry. We hopped on the orange line, heading straight and true past Bulgwang Station towards the Gupabal stop. The whole train was full of middle-aged people in climbing gear. All of the clothes looked brand new. We disembarked a few stops early because everyone else seemed to be. At a nearby supermarket, we bought a few items for the hike, including two massive and individually wrapped apples. Instead of carrying the provisions in a durable backpack, we decided to haul them in a large plastic bag. This is known as “hobo style.”
The bus that took us to Mt. Bukhansan was packed. It dropped us off at the base of the hill and we began our hike amongst a large group of over-prepared hikers. Literally everyone hiking that day was wearing an excessive amount of gear: sleek mountaineering pants, lightweight reinforced jackets, hats, bandanas, gloves, hiking poles, heavy-duty climbing boots, packs full of pouches and water bottles. I stuck out in my slacks, button down shirt, and leather clogs. J. was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers. Neither of us had any gear.
The trail to Baegundae Peak was only a few miles, but it was all uphill and very steep near the end. It took us about three hours to ascend. The trail started out along a nearly dry creek full of boulders, before heading into the forest. It felt good to smell nature again, that dusty mix of soil, leaves, and stone odor. Despite all the hikers, most of the trail wasn’t packed. However, the final stretch was crowded as rails were necessary for getting up the last steep slopes. My shoes had little traction, so I relied heavily on the ropes. To free both my hands, the plastic bag of provisions was hooked to the straps of my camera bag. As I climbed, the sack whacked against the mountain like I was some potent god tea-bagging mother earth.
Looking up into the mountains from the road.
The beginning of the hike.
Walking along a stream full of boulders.
Shed with chair covered in ivy.
Rocky stairs through the woods.
Looking downhill through the trees.
A group of hikers.
Getting crowded near the top, especially along the slow going steep sections that needed rope.
A man forges his own route.
The people look like ants on the side of the mountain.
Hikers eating lunch and looking at the wonderful view.
Don’t mess with bandana man.
Hikers on a rock with the city in the background.
Seoul Tower in the distance.
J. and I stare into the sun.
In marketing jargon, the peak offered a 360° integrated view of the whole Seoul experience!
At the apex, hikers sunned themselves and ate their lunches overlooking the wonderful views of the world below. Large pears were cut. Sushi was unpacked. Little containers of fermented vegetables were popped open. J. and I sat on a sunny rock and ate our granola bars, delicious apples, bananas, peanuts, and water. In the distance, rock climbers explored the neighboring apex twin called Insubong.
J. and I descended before sunset. The trip down was hard on the knees. By the time we made it to the base, we were hungry. One of the bustling outdoor restaurants was preparing an expensive but large Korean seafood pancake. We accepted.
The rails on the steep parts of the trail.
Autumn is in the air.
The base of the trail had bustling restaurants near dinner time. They were full of hungry hikers.
Bacon for grilling.
J. at the table.
Our massive seafood pancake. Pretty good except the mussels and octopus inside.
Abandoned table and chairs.
The fixings for vegetarian sushi rolls to take on the hike.
An old stone gate.
The road back to the bus.
The hill in the setting sun.
Sunday was memorable. My legs would remember it for days to come. My heart, forever.