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Alive?! YES WE CAN! Uhh, I mean, yes we are! Hwansangul Mountain

A couple of weekends ago Chad and I decided to hike this trail that we saw when we visited Hwasnagul Cave in September. This post is jammed with pictures! Woot!

Our climb ended up being a little more difficult that we anticipated. Basically this mountain proved to us that our previous thought that Korean hiking is wimpy was wrong – the ropes and stairs are needed. Instead of nice little switch backs everywhere the climb went all the way up and then all the way down.

At the beginning of our hike. Happy little climbers in Korea! Oh, and due to the Kimchi, Chad has grown to be 6″ taller than me.

Cheese!! I mean, Kimchi!!! (Try it, cheese and kimchi do the same thing to your mouth. . .haha but not your taste buds or your tummy!)

This little cave caused us to take about 20 minutes out of our climb to take pictures. Above is a sample of those pictures. They will be in another post. Yes, I plan to post again.

Steep stairs to help us down. I have to confess, I thought we were close to the summit. Nope.

Tampoon – pretty fall leaves in Korean

Crazy Mountain Man! That is what our coworkers like to call Chad. He shared some of his summer hiking pictures with them a few weeks ago. With good reason they were in shock of how intense some of his climbs were. Yikes, me too!

Okay, this picture is an image of the “uh-oh” on our hike. We realized the sun was going down and we had NO clue when we were going to hit the middle point. Sadly we turned around so that we would make the last bus and not die of hypothermia.

Graceful climbing.

Break in the leaves. I think that we would have been OK if we had chosen to stay the night on top of the mountain. The leaves were very cozy!

I know this doesn’t look that tough. I was tired, recovering from a cold and the rocks were very slippery! Thank goodness for those ropes!

I love these persimmon (kam) trees. The are like big hovering skeletons trimmed with bright orange balls that look like they are just floating in the atmosphere surrounding the trees.

Overall Update:

We are doing really well. The cooler weather is definitely rolling in. School is still going really well. We are in the midst of planning a trip to Thailand and Malaysia for our break in January. Exciting! We miss everyone a lot and I wish there was more time in the day and less of a time difference so that staying in touch weren’t so tricky. Though, I am not complaining, we would be lost without all of this technology.

We miss and love you all and I hope that everyone is doing well! Thank you for keeping track of us!


November 15, 2008   1 Comment

“Odaesucks” a tale of misadventure…

Last weekend, Kate and I decided to go hiking. We talked about it earlier in the week and decided to go back to Hwanson-gul (the massive cave about an hour from our city) to hike the mountain trail that we saw leading from the paved path up to the caves. The leaves are changing now and it’s a great time to do the hike before it gets too cold. Friday night we were out with a friend, Mark, who suggested that we join Ben and him to go to Odaesan instead. We thought, why not – it’s a bigger park with more hiking and more adventures to be had with more people. Little did we know… :)

We all decided to get an earlier than normal start because had an hour and half bus ride and wanted to get some good hiking in so we all met at the bus terminal at 9am. None of us had a clue how to get to odaesan (bad idea #1) so we called 1330, the local tourism phone line which usually has an English speaker, to find out which buses to take. We got the advice, and tried to get tickets but the ticket lady had different ideas on how to get there and after some time got the tickets we needed (we hoped) and hopped on the bus which arrive a half hour later. Usually buses cost about 2-4,000 won- – not much and is dependant on the destination/frequency/and distance. It should have tipped us off that the tickets were 9,000 won each. We sat on the bus to Jin-bu, half unaware and half asleep, wondering where we were being taken. Eventually we saw Gangneun – the other big coastal city about an hour north of Samcheok. We then learned that we had merely bypassed getting off the bus and transferring by getting the more expensive, less frequent trip. So, 10 minutes later with a new set of passengers we took off again, expecting to arrive in Jinbu in about 30-40 minutes. An hour later we finally arrive at a dark and cold bus station. Most are this way, but it ads to the dramatic effect of the story. There, we learn that we need to take another bus to Odaesan and we had just missed the once hourly trip by about 5 minutes. Perturbed the longer than anticipated trip, cost of the tickets, lack of adequate breakfast, and an increasingly frustrating trip we decided to just take a taxi and deal with the extra cost. 10,000 won later we arrived in the park.
Here’s where the story gets even more exciting.
We arrived to a busy temple at the base of the mountains with beautiful statues and perfectly restored buildings.
After trying to avoid getting in the way of peoples pictures, and taking a few of our own, we left and went down the path that we thought would lead us to the trails and other areas of the park. This ended up not being the right path so we headed back up to the temple and out the other side to see if we could find our way to something that resembled a hike.

Passing the Temple, we found only a road, with backed up traffic on it’s way up the mountain. After talking (with motions) to a passerby we were told to start walking up the road to find the hiking.
We walked… and walked.. and walked.. and finally found a sign that said 6.2 km to the next temple (where the trails are). We decided we didn’t have time or patience to hike up the road to get there so we headed back via a small trail we saw on the other side of the stream parallel the road.
Finally something more like hiking. (then it started to sprinkle, of course…)
I snapped a few shots of the beautiful mountains and changing colors.
Mark wanted a new zen photo for his facebook :)
We walked back down the trail and then the road again when the trail ended to the temple where we started. We walked back to the parking lot area and asked the information lady, who spoke English pretty well, where to get the bus. She directed us to the bus stop. Once there, we realized.. to our dismay, that she was directing us to the bus UP the mountain.. to the top temple where all the trails start. What would have saved us an hour and a half of walking, and enabled us to do some hiking. Slightly bitter, but mostly amused at our ineptitude we had her call a taxi for us to get back to Jinbu… we didn’t have any more patience to wait the hour before the next bus back. We finally got home and had a nice night of movies and food at Eve and David’s apartment. A nice end to a frustrating day.

We ended up spending over 55,000 won for 5 hours on a bus and few hours of walking on a road. Oh well.. You win some, you lose some, and considering this was the first legitimately unsuccessful trip we’ve had while being here – we can’t complain too much. :) And we laughed a lot at ourselves – so all is well….

Well, Kate has fallen asleep reading her book, and I’m up way past my bedtime, so I must go… Enjoy this last weekend of unrelenting political ads –it’ll be a year and half before you see them again — I’m sure you’ll miss them.


November 1, 2008   3 Comments

Chuseok in Taebaek

Two weekends ago Kate and I had a long weekend (5 days) for the Korean holiday of Chuseok. We decided to do some traveling over the break so we went to Taebaek City to go hiking with two of our friends Melanie and Michael. Taebaek is about an Hour from Samcheok by bus and it’s up in the mountains so there is a lot of great hiking.

Michael and Melanie – from Colorado – so they also like hiking… Michael has done about half of the 14ers! – (I’ve done… 5…. :)We got to Taebaek on Saturday night and found a place to eat that could accomidate the herbivores :) then went bowling! (Wandering around a new unknown city that is all in Korean is kind of hard, but we entertained ourselves pretty well). We stayed in a “Love Motel” which is.. well exactly what it sounds like, but they are the “normal” hotels in Korea – with the cost being about half that of a “Marriot” or some other chain hotel, everyone uses them when they travel. It was pretty nice actually – only odd thing was the foggy glassed bathroom and red light over the bed… but eh.. for only $45 a night we couldn’t complain.
We went hiking the next day in the Taebaeksan (Taebaek Mountains)

The terrain was surprisingly difficult! Which was good, and because of the humidity and heat we were all sweaty and tired by the top. (A good hike :) On our way up we stopped at a Temple a few hundred meters from the trail –

It was very cool – but it had be renovated for the mountain winters with nice windows and other amenities. The monks were chanting in the distance celebrating their ancestors – after all this was Chuseok – the Korean Thanksgiving day. We kept hiking and got to the top in about 3 hours.
This is a monument/temple at the top where people go to pray. It was quite busy because of Chuseok – and because this is one of the holiest mountains in Korea.
On our way down we found this amazing tree.. so we went in :)
Hey look – a Cliff! I will go peer over it :) Sorry mom… IT wasn’t that bad.. I promise.
We found the Sword in the stone!!
It was a great hike and a great trip. We even bought CHEESE at the E-Mart in Taebaek. (Very exciting!) We came back on Monday and still had Tuesday and Wednesday off to clean and relax before school started again. Hooray vacations in your 3rd week of work :)

September 23, 2008   2 Comments