About a year ago I made a bucket list of the places I wanted to go in Korea and Seoraksan, Korea’s most popular mountain range, had been at the top of the list. Somehow, though, time slipped by and I finally came to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen. It was too far to go for just a weekend trip, and I was out of holiday weekends.
But then an ambitious group of friends said they were going anyway, despite the time crunch, and I jumped on board! On Friday night we endured the baby-vomit filled five hour bus from Daegu to Sokcho, and stayed the night in a cool hostel with the swanky name of The James Blue.
On Saturday morning we loaded up on kimbap and took the city bus out to the main entrance to Seoraksan National Park. Despite the cold, drizzly weather, droves of Koreans flocked to the mountain to see the famous ridges draped in bright fall colors.
There are quite a few hiking trail options, ranging from a few hours to a couple of days in length. We opted for a shorter hike to Ulsanbawi, a peak that was supposed to have stunning views.
The first half of the hike was more of a stroll through the forest. This is my kind of hiking! I thought to myself. Just when I was convinced it would be a leisurely day, the steps began. They started innocently enough, a few rocky stairs embedded into the hill to create a staircase up the incline. But they quickly became taller and steeper and I realized this was no skip in the park after all.
Next, we came to the staircase from hell. This staircase zig zagged its way up the face of a giant vertical rock. Looking down was dizzying, and I definitely don’t recommend this climb to anyone with a fear of heights!
I huffed and puffed my way up. I don’t get it; I am an avid hiker, but it never seems to get any easier! As we climbed, we literally began ascending into a cloud. Gloomy fog swallowed us up and when we reached the top, all we could see was the eery outcropping of rock that was supposed to have offered up such stunning views.
We made due with the novelty of eating lunch in a cloud. Kevin set up his hammock and we goofed around a bit before making our way back down, cheering on the other struggling hikers along the way as they had for us.
Despite the chilly weather, Seoraksan was breathtaking and the long bus ride was completely worth it. We laughed and goofed off and acted like total idiots the whole time. This weekend we’re hiking Jirisan, another huge mountain, so stay tuned for the next episode of Kaleena the Fat Kid trying to waddle up a hill.