Sampling Seoraksan

Trip Start Dec 02, 2011
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Gangwon,
Saturday, September 1, 2012

This weekend, a few of my friends and I booked a group tour to Seoraksan National Park (설악산국립공원). In eastern Gangwon-do province (강원도), the park had arguably Korea's most scenic mountain views. Because Gangwon-do was also Korea's most mountainous province, it didn't have as many rail links as the rest of Korea and was most accessible by bus.

Our tour bus set-off from Seoul towards Seoraksan early in the morning. We made one stop at a travel plaza. My first Korean rest stop. It was a lot like the rest stop in Japan, except without tons of local souvenirs for sale and no french fry vending machines. There were some sheets of flattened dried squid hanging around for sale. I stuck with the convenience store fare.

We had lunch when we finally got to the park. It was make your own sanche bibimbap. Not sure if make-your-own was the standard for the restaurant or was special for us because we had around 40 people. It was the first time I'd ever had to assemble my own meal in Korea, though.

After lunch, the tour split into two groups. About 2/3rds of the tour members are spending tonight on the mountain. My friends and I weren't that serious, and there seemed to be some problems with ensuring enough spots for everyone to sleep in the shelters, so we took it easy with the day hikes and pension option.

Our group only hiked til 4pm, and we started just after lunch, so there was not much hiking today. Despite this, our tour guide said our tour group made it farther than any of the groups he'd taken before, but he didn't seem to be an experienced hiker. He was wearing flip-flops and even stopped about 3/4 of the way while we all continued on without him. Fortunately for the group staying on the mountain overnight, their guide seemed to know what he was doing.

I'm not entirely sure where we hiked because we were just following where the guide pointed for us to go. It was along a river in a gorgeous gorge with lots of rocks and water. The clouds were low, and the trail was misty on the way up. The clouds kept us from seeing the mountain peaks, but like my experience in Switzerland's Lauterbrunnen, I felt the clouds and mist added to the ambiance, not to mention kept us cool. The downside was they obscured the park's iconic mountain peaks.

On the way back to the bus, it was less ambient and more rainy. In fact, the rain was pouring for the end of the journey. Luckily, I happened to have my umbrella in my pack, although it did seem a little silly to be hiking with an umbrella. But since I was spending the night dry in a hotel anyway rather than with the group on the mountain, I didn't have much hardcore cred in the first place. Also, I slipped on a rock as we approached the bus and basically fell in a puddle, so I ended up a bit wet anyway. Tonight we're planning a bunch of showers and earlyish bedtimes so we'll have plenty of energy for tomorrow.

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