Since we arrived a little bit later on Saturday, we saved our hiking for Day 2! After a quick breakfast at Angel in us Coffee, we started our drive to nearby Odaesan National Park. We arrived at the southwest corner of the park in a place called Sogeumgang, or “little geumgang”, named after the famous mountain in North Korea. The drive from the city was a beautiful one that reminded me of home. The mountains in Korea look very similar to the Appalachian mountains of the Eastern US where I grew up, and the winding roads through the valley transported me back to NC for a moment. I was soon brought back to Korea once I saw the road turn into a narrow unmarked trail lined with buddhist lanterns and eager hiking groups. To say hiking is a national pastime here is an understatement–it’s a lifestyle! The hiking group leaders wore flags in their backs, and the group members all wore matching hiking gear. Drinking goes hand in hand with hiking (naturally), and we definitely saw cups over-flowing before, during, and after the hike. Once we parked we continued on the road lined with makgeolli and pajeon places, the official food and drink of hiking in Korea. Just past the camping sites we caught our first glimpse of the river our trail would follow to Guryong Falls, our destination for the day.
What else is a backpack for? Carrying soju!
One of the pajeon places near the entrance of the trail
The beginning of our hike
We had beautiful weather just as we did the previous day, and it was a fantastic day for a hike. It was the very beginning of Fall and the air was on the verge of being crisp and sharp, and the leaves had just started changing color.
The reds and greens and in-betweens of early Fall
Not too far along the trail we came to the first of many bridges. Below it were happy picnicers atop scattered boulders in the river. We went off the trail to climb on the rocks and get some photos, when I notice a man motioning for me to come over to him and his group of friends. Once I get closer I hear the man say “come eat some chicken! Please help yourself!” in Korean so I quickly hop on over to their rock. I was immediately handed chopsticks, a paper cup, and shot of soju. They were super friendly, especially once they learned I was conversational in Korean! They asked about where I was from, how long I’ve lived in Korea, what I do, etc. Soon Evan and Zack joined too and they encouraged us to eat and drink more. We later joked that we thought they just ordered WAY too much chicken and asked the first person they saw to help them eat it! HA!
The group that invited us to eat chicken with them!
Group photo! (Thanks Zack)
But honestly, Korean people are hospitable and giving in any situation, but especially when they’re hiking. There is such a comraderie felt when tackling a trail together, and it does feel like one big family every time I go hiking here, which is a huge reason I love it. It’s difficult I think for an American like myself to feel that sense of “oneness” that permeates the Korean psyche, and often when I’m hiking it feels like I’m “let in” on it, on that feeling. Strangers passing by often say “hello” to you, and getting offered food or drink is not uncommon at all.
Maybe halfway through the trail we climbed some stone steps up to a temple for a short rest. A lot of people had the same idea, and rested in the shade, some drinking from the fresh spring fountain. The temple was gorgeous, there’s something about Fall colors that makes the traditional temple colors really stand out. That and I think this particular temple was painted recently.
The trail was easy going throughout, without any steep hills to speak of and plenty of beautiful places to stop and rest. It’s a very leisurely trail that anyone can do. The most memorable part of the trail by far is about a kilometer from Guryong Falls. After another bridge the trail opens up onto these giant slabs of rock that are leaning down towards the water below. As you can tell in the video, I was really impressed by the uniqueness and beauty of it. There are people everywhere having picnics on the rock, some daring more than other to sit close to the edge by the water. Some took naps in crevasses of the rock, and some acted like this was their final destination and continued drinking!
Being brave! (photo by Zack)
After hanging out here for awhile, we hiked the final kilometer to the Guryong Falls. It was even more crowded here, with everyone scrambling to take group photos in front of the waterfall. The water was ice cold, and I watched as families playfully put their feet in the stream. We did manage to get some photos in before rushing back the way we came down the trail, to the car, drive to the bus station and barely make our bus! (Thanks Zack for your awesome driving! haha)
Awesome photo in front of the waterfall, by Zack
Not that we needed more convincing, but after our amazing hike we were sure wanted to return to Gangneung. We had an awesome weekend in a great city, with good company and perfect weather, and we need more of that in our future. Thanks again Zack for showing us around! Now it’s your turn to visit fair Yangsan!
See all of our photos from our weekend in Gangneung on our Flicker!
Until next time!