TJE 56: Dear Friend, I Caught Autumn in Seoraksan

Audio version available 🙂

Dear Friend,

I want to tell you a story – a travel story.

11 October 2014, I visited one of the best places to experience autumn in Korea: Seoraksan (설악산). It was a trip decided on a whim.

I was on a roll; traveling almost every weekend during summer and at the start of autumn. I just had a blast at the Jarasum Jazz Festival on the weekend of October 4-5, that I was quite in a good mood at the start of the following week. Then on a Thursday, I even hiked with Toastmaster friends as it was a holiday.

October 10, 2014, Friday, at the office. I received a Kakao message. It’s from the same friend who I just hung out at the music festival. She asked if I wanted to go to Seoraksan. The autumn colors were peaking, and the weekend could just be the best time to hike, with a good weather forecast. And there were still a few seats left in the bus.

I was thrilled. I thought about it for a sec, then said, sure! I couldn’t help her with booking and stuff. I just told her to let me know the details. And we’ll settle the finances on the day. Thrilled, I was.

It was just the start of autumn in Seoul, but Seoraksan being a mountain (third highest in South Korea) obviously had a different schedule.

Weekend – time to wake up very early again. I caught the second, if not earliest train at the station nearby my apartment. I went to Express Bus Terminal – usually the gateway of trips outside Seoul. I met my friend there.

We hopped on the designated bus, and began the couple of hours of travel. Okay, time to sleep again.

Okay, I searched a bit about the ways to go to Seoraksan National Park and the hiking trails, to somehow put a label to my experience. But none of them were familiar. First, we only had 1 bus ride, as we didn’t get off the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal. It seemed liked a rest stop, that can also be a jump off point. We didn’t go to the typical entrance of Seoraksan National Park. The hiking trail we took was different from the ones I found in the internet.

Arriving at this cloudy rest stop/jump off point, we headed to the toilet first. Then we had a quick bite at the store, also drank coffee for a boost and a bit of warmth. Okay, time to hike!

There were already a number of people hiking. And this being Korea, you would see a myriad of colorful hiking outfits.

It’s still cloudy when we started. But around 9 AM, the sun was out in our location. And even past the golden hour, the sunlight on the foliage hits different.

From time to time, we had to stop not because we’re tired, but because of a few view points like Mr. Bogus rock. And sometimes it’s just the queue, as many people were hiking. One portion was specially a bottleneck for the hikers. It’s a rocky, uneven trail that slowed everybody down. “Eomma!” My friend uttered as she slipped on one of the rocks. There’s a reason to be careful in that section.

Five hours since our jump off, we arrived at a campsite. It was 1:30 PM already, and we decided to stop and have lunch. My friend took out ramyeon. I got us some garlic beef and mushroom that I cooked the night before. That’s the extra effort I did to compensate for my lack of help in the itinerary, due to my ignorance in the Korean language. The small dish went well with the noodle soup. 🙂

We stayed a bit more to rest and appreciate the view: a sea of clouds. The summit isn’t far from this location.

20 minutes after, we got to the peak: 1,708 meters above sea level, or Daechongbong Peak (대청봉)

We spent a few minutes to appreciate the view again. We were at the top of Seoraksan! We initially thought of foregoing the obligatory photo op with the rock signage, due to the queue, but it quickly cleared up after a few minutes of marveling at the view, so we grabbed the chance. We savored that moment some more, then we started our way down. We were headed off to the other side. So we did a traverse of Seoraksan. I could not quickly see that route talked about in English blogs or websites.

The way down obviously was quicker and took less energy. So with a more leisurely feel, I just quietly appreciated the surroundings in between conversations.

10 hours, that’s the total time we spent in the mountain. It was already dark at the finish line. Going out of the park, we had to hail a cab to the bus terminal. I don’t remember it exactly, but it’s probably the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal.

As the train lines for our way home both pass at Seoul Express Bus Terminal station, that’s were my friend and I parted. We had yet another great experience to treasure.

And you know what? A week after we hiked, it already started snowing in Seoraksan. So from a travel perspective, we made the best decision.

And you know what? A week after we hiked, it already started snowing in Seoraksan. So from a travel perspective, we made the best decision.

Hope you’re doing well…

Your friend,

– Jerico

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