We can't believe it. This last post brings our year in Korea to a close (well a little over a year, but who really is counting). It was amazing and an experience we will never forget. We are going to do another two or three posts on what it's like to teach, day to day stuff in Korea, and finally travel back to the US with cats.
The last few parks and places we visited during our last few weeks in Korea were AWESOME! The fall season in Korea is amazing as you will witness from the many, MANY photos below.
Geumosan Provincial Park
We woke up early Saturday morning to meet our friend Chris (who I went to elementary school with!) at the Cheonan train station. He was coming in from Osan, and Cheonan station was where we all converged to get onto the high-speed train to Gumi. The train ride from Cheonan to Gumi wasn’t bad at all. It was somewhere between 2-2.5 hours. Once we made it to Gumi, it was a short 20-minute walk straight to a large reservoir where the boundary of Geumosan Provincial Park began. We quickly found the trailhead and started our hike.
We started up the mountain and found ourselves passing through what was called Daehye Gate. After going through the gate, we came acrossasmall but gorgeous temple called Haeunsa temple. We ended up taking an absurd amount of pictures and finally decided it was time to press on. Maybe five minutes into our continued hike we stumbled upon Toson (or Daehyul) Cave. We actual game across an English sign for this cave, and found out the cave was named after a Zen priest who achieved spiritual awakening at this cave.
After a quick out and back from the cave, we passed a rather well flowing waterfall called Daehye Falls. We waited our turn to take pictures and then started our biggest stretch up to the summit of the mountain. The leaves were just starting to change colors, and it was a challenge to NOT take pictures of every single view the entire time.
We were approaching the summit when we came across the Maae Bosal Insang, which is a 5.5 meter tall Bodhisattva carved into a rock around the 10th century. It was a stunning site surrounded by gorgeous flowers and little bits of wildlife. After just a bit more climbing we finally made it to Yaksaam Temple. This tiny temple was nestled among large rocks. Yaksaam Temple wasn’t open when we got there, but it was still worth the climb.
We started our decent down the mountain where we were greeted with amazing views the entire time. There were some parts that got super steep and we had to use a rope that had been set up to get down some rocky parts, but it added a little excitement and got our adrenaline going.
Down, down, down we went until we made it to the reservoir. The sun was just starting to set in the sky. We took some pictures of the perfect sunset and started our walk back to the train station (of course stopping at a coffee shop along the way for a well earned green tea latte) and started our short journey back to Cheonan and Osan.
Daedunsan Provincial Park
Because we were coming onto our last few weekends in Korea, we decided we couldn’t waste a day. So the next day we decided to head to the nearby town of Daejeon (by train) to concur Daedunsan Provincial Park. We all but too quickly (25 minutes) reached Daejeon station to find we just missed the bus that went straight to the provincial park. If I remember right, the buses left every 45 minutes, so we decided to just take a taxi so we could get started! After a 40 minute taxi ride (costing about 25 USD) we were at the entrance of the park. It was actually a really warm day, so there were plenty of people out and about enjoying the glorious outdoor weather.
This park is well known for some of its amazing bridges. But, in order to get to these bridges, it’s literally a straight climb up (not like anything in Korea isn’t a straight climb up). Well, actually there is a cable car that goes up but that’s beside the point. Anyway, we kept climbing and climbing and climbing and finally came across the amazing bridge crossings! The bridges were packed but so cool to see. There was a bridge that was literally closer to being a ladder. It was one of the coolest “bridges” EVER.
This is a pretty small park, so we quickly made it to the main summit where there were numerous networks of small trails. We did a quick loop on one of the networks and came across the rock-carved Buddha of Surak-Ri. We actually had to look for a while to find it, but eventually we did.
The views on the way down were amazing, and before we knew it, we were at the bottom. We waited for the bus patiently (which never came) and literally couldn’t find a taxi. After trying to call a taxi company (and failing since our Korean is horrible) we went to talk with a fruit vendor who had happily said hello to us when we passed. He spoke a pretty good amount of English and after we asked him to call a taxi for us, he offered to take us to the train station. We told him we would pay him what we would pay a taxi, and before we knew it, he had packed up and we were heading to the train station with him. We are now friends with him on Instagram :).
Ttangkkeut Village AND Duryunsan Provincial Park
We were closing in on three weeks left in Korea and we still had so so so much we wanted to do. Sadly, we had to start choosing, so on this particular Saturday we decided to do two things. We decided to go see Duryunsan Provincial Park AND stop by the furthest point south on the Korean peninsula. Both attractions happened to be in Haenam county. It was a long drive, (and a long day) but these were two places we really wanted to see.
Our first stop was the most southern point of the Korean peninsula. It was a solid four-hour drive, but with a coffee in hand and optimistic minds, we headed out bright and early to make the long but gorgeous drive down south. We arrived at the Ttangkkeut Village where we parked and had a short walk up to an observatory. We paid our 2,000 won and went up into the observatory to enjoy the views of the sea. Around 15 minutes later, we made our way down and headed to a small trail which would lead us straight to the most southern point of the Korean peninsula. It was a good 10-15 minute walk, and when we reached the most southern point, there was only one other couple there! After many many photos, we finished the walk along the trail and headed back to the car so we could go check out the nearby provincial park.
We started our hike at Duryunsan Provincial Park at Daeheungsa Temple. We decided we would take a closer look at the temple when we finished our hike since we were on a time crunch. We started hiking around noon or 1 PM, so we had to make good time. We quickly started up the mountain which, surprise surprise , was a steep climb up some massive boulders. But it was so worth the climb. Once we made it to the ridgeline we realized we had a magnificent view of the ocean (and rice paddies) the entire time. I mean come on, how much better could that get!?
We continued along the ridge stopping numerous times to take photos. Somewhere along the ridge we came across a field filled with silver grass stalks. It was amazing. We took picture after picture and finally had to stop ourselves and get a move on!
We finally made it to the bottom and did a quick tour of the temple. Another provincial park (and a visit to the southern most point of the peninsula) DONE!
Seonunsan Provincial Park
Since we had such an awesome day on Saturday (October 20, 2018) we decided to hit up another provincial park. After much deliberation we decided we wanted to go check out Seonunsan Provincial Park. (Shout out to Peaks and Penguins who write an amazing blog about trail running everywhere in Korea and even outside of Korea! You guys helped us out on logistics for soooooo many of our hikes! Cheers!)
We started at Seonunsa Temple and after getting turned around a bit, finally found the trail we wanted to go up (actually it wasn’t the exact trail, but close enough). We were pleasantly surprised how smooth the trails were. This is like an anomaly in Korea, and after the previous days hike and car ride, we gladly welcomed it.
Up we went until we reached the ridgeline where we enjoyed some rolling terrain. Up and down we went, enjoying the views and taking in the fall like colors.
Before long, we hit a “loop” which is what most people come to this provincial park to hike and enjoy. The first part of the loop led us through a cave and to what was labeled as “The Buddha Image on a Cliff of Dosolam in Seonun Temple.” It ended up being a huge 15.6 meter tall Buddha carved into a rock. There also was a little temple with steps nearby where we decided to unwrapped (and in my case drop) our granola bars and eat lunch. So here is where we sat, splitting a granola bar, and enjoy the view over lunch.
We continued on and finished the loop enjoying all the fall colors and looking forward to the remainder of the ridgeline, which continued to get surprisingly harder and a little bit sketchier. But this was all ok, because there was a guy selling ice cream along the trail, which of course, made everything better.
We continued on our way, taking in the views of the valley, shapes of all the rocks (we found on that looked like a sitting gorilla), and climbing ropes that we didn’t know we would be climbing.We were on the last 2-3 miles of our hike and some of the climbs along rocks and down rocks (and I guess up at some points) were insane! It was some of the coolest stuff we had seen. There were some points where I was certain if we fell, we would walk away pretty scratched up. But onward we pressed, joking about the climbs and happy we were able to experience this crazy yet AMAZING hike!
We made it to the bottom of the mountain just as the sun was starting to set. We made it to a large reservoir, where we realized we still had a two-mile walk back to the car. It was getting pretty chilly, but all that was forgotten when we saw a man selling fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. AHHHHH…just what we needed to finish this amazing hike in Korea.
Maisan Provincial Park
After we finished hiking all 22 National Parks in Korea, we quickly started researching the 20 or so Provincial Parks. Maisan Provincial Park caught our attention because of the two beautiful peaks standing so tall and alone, which we read were suppose to look like horse ears. And guess what they really do look like horse ears! We really wanted to see this amazing view in person and the park was less than a 2 hour drive from our house. We only planned on doing a short day of hiking at this park, but there is a large network of trails that crisscross and loop all around the park if you wanted to do a much longer all-day hike.
We left our house later one morning after doing some packing and once we arrived and parked the car, we were quite close to the two peaks, so it was easy to figure out which direction we needed to go. We hiked up a well maintained path/staircase that cut right between the two peaks. There is only a trail that goes up to one of the two peaks, but it was well worth the effort to climb up. The look and feel of the stone on the mountain is totally different from any other rock formations we’d seen before. It looked like wet cement had been poured all around larger stones and boulders that glued them all together.
After enjoying the view at the summit, we headed back down to the original trail we started on. This trail was a long gradual staircase that took us down to Tapsa Temple. This temple has an impressive display of stone pagodas. This a wonderful place to take some good pictures!
We left Tapsa Temple and headed for a feeder trail that would loop us back to our parking lot along the south-west side of the peaks. It was on this trail that we saw the trail network maps and larger southern portion of the park. We were tempted to head-out into this part of the park, but it was getting late in the afternoon. We wished we had gotten an early start and could have spent the day hiking around. But we came to see the amazing and unique horse-ear peaks and Tapsa temple, so we left the parking feeling content.
Naejangsan National Park 2.0
Naejangsan was the first mountainous national park that we visited. We had an epic day of hiking, scenic views, aching legs, and running to catch our bus and train back home. So naturally, there is a special place in our hearts for this park. We had heard from any people that Naejangsan is one of the most famous places in all of Korea to see the fall foliage. We had talked for months before about how we were going to come back here in the fall to see the beauty. And that is exactly what we did. Also, our friend, Chris, was able to join us for this trip too. Just a warning to those looking to visit here during peak foliage, it is extremely popular, so be ready for long lines of traffic and people of all ages to be everywhere.
The fall foliage colors did not disappoint! Most people come to see the maple trees that grow along the valley that winds its way up to the temple. The walk from the parking lots up to the temple took us 75 minutes, so be ready for a long trek in. But there are hundreds of red and orange and yellow maple trees lining the paths the entire way up, so be ready to snap 1,000 pictures!
Most all the trees up on the mountain had already lost their leaves when we got there (Nov. 5th), but all the foliage maps had predicted Nov. 11thwas peak foliage. This timing was correct for the maple trees down in the valley, but if we could do it all over again, we would have gone 2 week earlier to see the foliage up in the mountains. Regardless, we got some amazing pictures and shared a wonderful with a good friend of ours, so we have no regrets.
Seoul, One Last Time - For Now At Least
Between all the hustle and bustle of hiking we made some time to visit Seoul for a day. We had received Dojangs from a co-teacher at work and it was one of the most meaningful gifts we had ever received. A Dojang (not to be confused with a Korean gym) is a seal or a stamp that is used to sign your name on official documents. Everybody has one, so we decided we could get our family and friends an official Dojang with their name on it in Korean. While we dropped our order off in Seoul (I think we had 15 names), we decided to go visit our favorite park one more time, which is the Olympic Park in Seoul. It is one of the prettiest places in Seoul during the fall season.
Well..that's it! It's insane to think that we actually taught English in Korea for a year (and an actual miracle we kept a blog for a year). It is an experience we will NEVER EVER forget. Now we must seek out our next adventure! Cheers! Ohh, and here is our chosen K-Pop song. It's by our beloved BTS, and it's called Magic Shop. Enjoy!