Sunday, October 17, 2004

New Hiking Route in Seorak National Park

I posted earlier about a trail being reopened after 20 years closure for recovery from overuse. On Friday I made the hike and here are the details. I apologize for the quality of the photos; my wife is using our digital so these are film photos that have been scanned.

Entrance to Heul-lim Gol

I learned about the new trail in the Joongang Daily. I will refer to the article a few times.

The trail is a little inconvenient to reach as it is between Hangyeryoung and Osaek. The article describes the trailhead as 2 km below Hangyeryoung when it is actually three and a half. My friend and I took the bus to Hangyeryoung (pass or or highest point of the road) and walked down to the trailhead. It was a fast walk and not too scary although the bus drivers sure lean on their horns a lot. There were a lot of switchbacks and if you were a good longjumper, you could probably reach the trailhead in one jump; the landing would be messy though.

The trail has been closed for twenty years and only recently reopened. This is a good thing as the soil is a very fine powdery dirt that will erode quickly. As yet the trail is not very wide but there are several points where the trail splits and rejoins. I have heard that along the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern US, hikers are strongly requested to stick to the one path even if it is under water to reduce erosion around the trail. There is no such education here and some Seorak trails are 10 meters wide. The Heullim trail is not but could soon be.

Do not expect a solitary experience in Seorak in the Fall. I hoped to avoid crowds by hiking on a weekday. If the weekend is more crowded, Seoul would have to be empty. The first half of the hike was relatively private but at the top, there was a group of perhaps 50 shuffling and clambering over each other to enjoy the view. To get to the top, one had to climb 3 or 4 metres almost vertically and the top was a rounded knob of rough rock so people literally did clamber over each other.

The views were great and would be even when the fall colors are gone.

Hangyeryeong Posted by Hello

Above is our starting point. We walked downhill for 40 minutes before climbing above it. Clicking on the picture will enlarge it and you will see how many vehicles are parked there.

Japanese Maple Posted by Hello

The Maple of Japan or, as it's known here, the East Maple, was the brightest in the forest. It's shocking red was wonderful and many people collected leaves to take home.

As I've said before though, it's the wildlife that I really want to see while hiking. I wasn't disappointed:

Snake -(poisonous?) Posted by Hello

We saw two snakes. I took a stick and encouraged this one to vacate the trail because the next Korean coming down either would not come down or would encourage the snake to vacate this world with a stick. A man beside me kept warning me, saying 'Dok-sa' which I am sure means poisonous.
I don't know if the snake is poisonous. I know that many people in my part of Canada talk about the cottonmouth snakes and copperhead snakes they've seen, unaware that there are none such in Canada. A lot of harmless foxsnakes and milksnakes are beaten to death for no good reason. I have no reason to believe Koreans are any better educated about their snakes. On the other hand, it's the only kind of snake I've seen in Korea, and I've seen it in four provinces so it is common enough to be well-known. If any readers know, please tell me.
After reaching the peak, we continued down to Osaek valley. The trail got progressively busier but I saw only a little garbage. (I always plan to bring a bag and collect garbage and never do.)

At O-saek, we caught a bus home to Yangyang. The buses from Yangyang to Hangyeryoung from O-saek to Yangyang are regular but the schedule has recently changed. Greenyard Hotel, which houses the hot springs, has a bus of it's own to and from Yangyang and the airport.

I had planned to make the trip a two day affair, going to Daechungbong- the highest peak, and spending the night, then going down to Hangyeryoung and Heullim. I learned online that the Daechungbong sleeping hut is booked up for more than a week in advance. Actually, a Korean friend found out for me. The English site gives a phone number to call but the Korean site allows you to reserve online and check for vacancies.

The hike took about four hours from Hangye to O-saek and maybe five and a half to and from Yangyang.


Anonymous said...

It's my understandig that there is only one type of poisonous snake in Korea, but I'm not sure which one.

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Dean said...

It's a asian tiger keelback. It's rear-fanged and it is venomous.