Monday, November 11, 2013

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks."

Fall could not come fast enough for me! I've been eagerly awaiting the cooler temperatures, mountains painted with colors, and outstanding hiking opportunities.  Over the past month or so, I've had the chance to experience a few national parks, 2 of which I had researched prior to arriving in Korea, and had especially been saving to enjoy this fall!

The first of those parks on my list was Seoraksan National Park.  This hike was the most challenging one I've ever done, since perhaps New Zealand.  This absolutely strenuous hike began around 4 A.M.  Braced with our lights and layers, we braved the unexpected blustery and frigid winter temperatures from the trail head up to the peak.  Since this was one of the prime weekends to see the leaves, there was an actual line for hiking! Can you believe that? It was so bizarre to be waiting to move, surrounded by so many people.  As the string of lights wound up and along the curves of the mountains, it provided a preview of the rigorous trek ahead.  After sunrise, and as we progressed closer to the peak, the crowds began to disperse a bit allowing a more "normal" hiking experience.  Upon reaching the peak, all the hard work proved to be well worth it.  Even with the wintry winds literally blowing us off our feet at times, the excitement from the surrounding views trumped it all.    
Descending from the summit, after a couple hours we were finally greeted
with warmer temperatures and views of brilliant brightly multicolored leaves.  As the trail curved along the bends of the sparkling crystal clear river, I was mesmerized time after time by the countless waterfalls rushing into the most immaculate pools.
If it was summer, I would have jumped
in every irresistible one!  Pushing to complete this tough hike, the company of some new friends, as well as scenery I couldn't take my eyes off, surely helped! At last, we emerged into a grand opening and the trail came to an end.  Awaiting was a statue of a massive Buddha in addition to the undeniable sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. What a fantastic day of hiking with some great new people!
The next adventure the following weekend led me to Byeosanbando National Park.  This park is etched along Korea's western coast line.  Hiking along on this abnormally warm day, I enjoyed catching glimpses of the sea as it sparkled a dazzling blue in the sunlight, peaking from time to time between the trees.  There were sounds of crashing waves in the distance, views of jutting cliffs, and scurrying crabs across the trail.  It was a terrific day of hiking and a great chance to hang out with some cool people from around my area.

The last weekend of hiking as well as the second park on my list was Jirisan National Park.  This place was truly unbelievable! I knew before I even went that I was going to enjoy it.  From the pictures I'd seen it reminded me of the Blue Ridge Mountains, located near my old stomping ground in Boone, NC.  It was pretty much the perfect temperature and weather for hiking that day.
We began around 5 A.M. and ascended up to the peak in time to view the sunrise.  As the trail descended deep into the valley, the colors were bursting bright in every direction.  My eyes were seriously in awe; I was so captivated. I couldn't stop looking at all the stunning beauty surrounding me.

Throughout the hike I just kept thinking how it looked just like a perfect fall painting; showcasing each and every hue on the spectrum of fall colors.  Needless to say, I was loving every minute of it!   Occasionally, I would just have to "take pictures with my eyes", committing these images to memory as no camera could truly do it justice.  Later on in the hike, the trail curved adjacent to a river, allowing for views of cascading clear water, shimmering pools, and primo spots to stop and have a snack by the water.  Coming to the completion of the trek, I couldn't help but think how much I wished it could just stay fall for the remainder of my time here in Korea.

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