It has been another wonderful day. I just a had a bite to eat and returned to the hostel for a cup of tea after a fine time exploring Seoraksan National Park. I am sore and I stink, but it feels good.
Yes, I ended up mountain climbing today rather than lazing around the beach. That is because the weather was better for hiking. It rained over night, leaving the sand wet, and it was quite cloudy all day. Anyway, it worked out well. I took the local bus into the park where traffic was slow because lots of families were there. There are a lot of attractions at the base of the mountain just inside the park gates, such as the temple, waterfalls, cable car, the river and streams. I opted for a four-hike beyond the temple along one of the streams and up to a limestone peak.
A lot of families took that route though few went all the way because you can go part way and enjoy the scenery. The temple is quite old and it features a gigantic black Buddha, perhaps iron cast. It must be about 50 meters in height. The trail is wide and well-groomed. It starts out fairly gently, then there are stone steps up to the Buddhist hermitage. The hermitage is a shrine built inside a cave with rock engravings on the outer walls. After that, the trail gets tougher because it is really steep with numerous series of steps, so not many families go that far, though I saw a few with older children at the top.
The trail leads to Ulsan Rock. It is a huge cluster of limestone protrusions, the face of which is renown as the face of Seorak Mountain. It is just one of numerous rocky peaks, but this one is different because the rocks are round and smooth and also very wide with a circumference of around four kilometers. The other peaks are sharp and jagged. Park teams have constructed metal rails and frames that support metal steps for many sections in the last kilometer of the trail, forming very steep stairways. It must have been quite a job to construct all that, for which I commend the builders. It was hard going, and I had to stop occasionally but I made the trip in less than four hours. By the time I got to the top, a mist had shrouded the peaks, so that the view of the surroundings was concealed. It was still fabulous, nevertheless, because it was a heady experience stepping up and down those uppermost stairways, and the huge stone formations in the mist made for dramatic and eery vistas. On the way back, I stopped to wade in a cool rushing brook.
I cannot upload any photos of the trip I did today because I do not have the connecting cord. I will have to do it later once I have returned home.
I thought about L, the Slovenian guy I met yesterday on the bus. I wondered if I might run into him. Amazingly, I did! He was making his way to the bus stop around five o'clock at the same time I was. I spotted him among the throngs returning to the parking lot. I was behind him, and I soon found an opportunity to sidle up to him and ask how his day went. He wanted a beer so we stopped at a restaurant where he treated me to a brew. I introduced him to pajeon, the traditional snack food that hikers eat at the end of the hike. Over the pajeon and beer, e exchanged accounts of our respective journeys.
He went on a different route and climbed for seven hours but he never made it up to a peak. He was lucky enough to have been up there while during a break in the clouds when he could see the surrounding mountains. The view is supposed to be spectacular. He said he swam in the river on the way back, though Koreans did not. He was satisfied with his adventure and plans to go back for more tomorrow.
I hope to spend a day at the beach tomorrow. I need to rest my legs before hiking again. However, I told L that I would go back to the park and just walk up to the waterfalls if the weather was not suitable enough for the beach. In any event, we agreed to see each other tomorrow in the late afternoon. He is staying near the park in a mountain hostel, but he is lonely because it is nearly empty. He will therefore drop by my hostel between five and six. I'll be ready and waiting! Wink, wink.
I wanted to sample the famed snow crab for dinner. I chose to just have a single whole crab, as meals with snow crab can be very expensive, and I was already full of beer and pajeon. The waitress had to show me the usual technique for eating it. You clip the legs in sections, and take use thin section to insert into a larger one and push out the flesh. It is delicate and tasty meat, well worth the effort.
When I got back to the hostel, there was freshly made sampion for guests. That is the traditional rice cake served at Chuseok. Today is the the day before the main Chuseok day, the day when ceremonies take place. Yesterday and today were preparation days, generally speaking. Anyway, the rice cake topped off my meal. I ate it with green tea in the hostel kitchen, and added a cookie to the dessert.