in 2003, I hiked a lot. I could climb uphill, with a lot of panting and gasping, but steadily and strongly and pain-free. Descending was agony for my knees. So I stopped hiking about a year ago.
To get back into hiking, I chose a short trail to a scenic spot that I can see from my neighborhood (and maybe from my window: if I hang out far enough, I might see a corner of Ulsan-bowi).
Ulsan-bowi is a strange ridge of stone, rounded granite, that overlooks the city of Sokcho. Although it is part of Seorak National Park it does not seem like it belongs where it is. You hike along some mild-sloped foothills and suddenly the stone goes vertical for perhaps two hundred metres.
Ulsan-bowi as seen from the Tong-il Buddha
Although it is a short hike, it is not an easy one- at least at this time of year. Indeed, this posting is mostly a PSA warning hikers to the area to bring 'Ijen' or spikes for their shoes.
As everywhere else in Seorak Park, wood and steel bridges abound and they are pretty safe and clear of snow. There are some very steep spots and even some gently-sloping spots on the edge of cliffs that require some careful walking and scrambling though. At the top of Ulsanbowi, there is a 150 m stretch that is very slick and I found it a little scary although I made it without spikes. It was much scarier on the return, downward journey and I feel like a fool for not wearing the spikes then.
I have another sort of PSA, or a bit of nagging to do. If you eat oranges, do not think that they will just biodegrade and leave no trace on the trail.
Maybe they will degrade but not for a few months; Mainland Korea doesn't have the right bacteria in the soil to digest orange peels quickly. In the meantime, the peels are no prettier than candy wrappers. I am proud to say that I carried more trash down to the garbage cans than I went up with. I also saw two old coots with bags and tongs, collecting garbage. They looked like volunteers rather than park staff so good for them!
rare white-bellied woodpecker, I think.
A plaque in the park listed white-bellied woodpeckers as rare and I think I saw two, so I feel lucky today. No, the picture isn't upside-down, the woodpecker really was.
I also saw many other friendly birds, one sitting on a gamja-ddeok vendor's hat so I think some birdseed would help visitors find some friends quickly. I don't know about the ethics of feeding Park animals - are they really wild, are we disrupting natural rhythms or what?
Anyway, I feel pretty good about this hike. I'll probably go out at least once more in February and a few times in March and we'll see about after that.