Friday night; might as well hop a midnight bus to Juwangsan with Seoul Hiking Group! In the wee hours of the morning we arrived at Lake Jusanji to find a nearly full moon illuminating our path before us. A short 30 minute hike brought us to the lakeshore where we found a light mist gliding over the surface of the lake. A few of us broke out sleeping bags and napped as the chilly morning air combined with a slowly moving morning sun. We lingered a few moments after the sun rose capturing the serenity of this picturesque lake featured in Korea’s famous film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. If you get to the bottom you’ll even find a fun video of the whole excursion!
Next up was a short bus ride to the “long hike” through the waterways beneath Gamebong, one of Juwangsan’s sister peaks. The flat path switched back and forth along the river as we splashed our way along. Despite the pristine beauty surrounding us Juwangsan proved to be the emptiest Korean National Park I’ve been to yet.
I ran across the other side to snap photos of everyone crossing when suddenly I heard a scream! Turns out a member of our party happened upon a swimming snake; Warren warned us that they were likely venomous so we kept our distance. Sort of. A go pro on a selfie pole kept scaring it towards the rest of our cameras and it seemed particularly keen on heading in my direction. Luckily we were able to keep our distance in spite of its speedy swimming and snapped some splendid shots!
Continuing along our trek we quickly came across another baby snake scooting along above the water. He was much more timid and just hid in the brush as we passed. The chilly river water flowed freely down the rocks creating a beautiful series of waterfalls. It was tempting to take a dip but we continued onward eager to reach the summit and break for a snack.
The simple hike’s biggest obstacle thus far was a few slithering friends and wet feet from the babbling brook. Around the next bend we found a number of fallen trees, some blocked our path while others provided temporary bridges. Scrambling over or under each hurdle we slowly realized the increasing elevation meant the summit was near. Along the first half of our climb we passed 2 Korean graves as we wound our way between the waving trees.
Slowly the hike grew steeper when suddenly all that was left was an intense incline. A few hundred meters of vertical remained in our last 800 meters of hiking and insured that our legs would be quite sore the next day. Finally reaching the top at around 9:00AM we broke for brunch and a photo shoot at the peak. From here you could see the clouds rolling over green hills far in the distance; wild daisies scattered about our rocky summit while everyone shared a morning feast filled with everything from cheese and salami to tuna, Pringles, trail mix and gimbap.
Soon it was time to depart our perch in search of another series of waterfalls along the river below. At the first fork we found Warren taking a nature nap to make sure we all took the right turn. Laughing and jealous of his shuteye we finished our descent. The steep hike down reminded everyone of old knee injuries but before we knew it the river joined us for an easy stroll. Crossing back and forth again and again over algae laden boulders and slippery stones the river’s waters began to gather into larger pools. Our group debated stopping for a dip but the thought of pajeon and makkeoli reinforced the decision to trek onward.
Following the river downward each pool continued to tempt us but we pushed forward. The natural beauty of Juwangsan was enhanced by the serenity of this peaceful stream. It slowly grew larger and louder singing a beautiful symphony that was noticeably empty of Korean music and language. The solitude we found made us all realize how much the crowded national parks we are used in Korea take away from the essence of hiking in the woods.
The waterfalls swelled with more force farther down we went culminating in even larger pools as our path turned form stones to a series of steps and bridges. Suddenly a few of our group appeared before us. They just climbed out of the river below and had a giant group of Korean spectators. Moments later I was recording a few others as they took a refreshing jump into the chilly mountain waters.
Walking around the final bend of Juwangsan I finally looked up to realize we had entered a massive granite canyon. Stoic natural sculptures stood guard above as a local Korean man painted the stunning landscape filled with waterfalls and nature’s stunning beauty. A few hundred meters more brought us to a restaurant where we met the rest of our group already enjoying the local apple makkeoli.
After eating we jumped on the bus and quickly found ourselves at Whale Beach, set up some tents, a tee-pee and a few pension rooms, made dinner and had a great night under the stars. I broke out my tripod after the bonfire was lit and we did some photography tricks with the local fireworks.
The next day brought another short trip to the crab road with a gorgeous hour-long ocean side hike and some delicious lunch!
And now the
The video you’ve all been waiting for!