Monday, 8 November 2010


A refuge.

We made it to the park early evening on Saturday. Louisa and me. We saw mountains. Dah, kind of usual sight in Korea, one may think.

Seoroksan is not an usual sight. It's sharp white peaks arising straight from the sea level leaving just a minor space for Sokcho city to hug in between leave a newcomer with a sight curved into the head forever.

The National Park is said to be a very center of Korean hiking tourism, is also said to have crowds of people on every trail. Apparently we were lucky.

As we went uphill along a V shaped rocky valley with a creek in it's bed we gradually avoided human beings. Those who we met were of it's special kind, the kind which makes it to the mountains for a prayer, for a reunion with Creator, reunion with Mother Nature. Buddist monks with their bells and catholic nuns with their rosaries, and middle aged Korean hikers, families, friends in groups by 2, 3 or 4.

The sky was blue and the air seemed chilly and sharp with it's touch of mountain freshness. Wind blew steadily and leaves were falling down the trees in all sorts of autumn colors. Despite the wind there was also this silence, this point on the way which forces naughty human being to stop, to slow down, to reflect.

A range itself is an amazing example of precambrian - paleozoic geological structure. Rocks forming the penninsula are very old of all sorts: ingenous and sedimentary as well marbles and other methamorphic ones. Grey paleozoic limestone has been eroded away by water giving space to steepy walls of more resistant gneisses which especially in Seoroksan have their stripe structure visible everywhere. Apart from gneisses, also porphyry and ryolites, limestones and slates are everywhere.

Huge stones in river beds may surprise a visitor. Does water really have that much power? It has, during sudden downpours it can move huge rocks on it's way.

A hiker goes and cherishes his eyes with these wonders of nature, so old and majestic. The average altitude is not bigger than 1700 m above sea level but the bottom of the mountains is at sea level so it gives altogether 1700 m of relative altitude difference.

People bewitched with it's beauty will become calm and friendly. Silently help eachother or show their enthusiasm by wholeheartedly greeting a stranger. Just as we did with Darren and Jo. Sudden hiker you meet on the way and start talking and spend nice time with connected by common challenges and spirits is the best part of mountain hiking.

The only thing which may spoil the taste of nature is unfriendliness of hut managers. Korean extreme capitalism had reached even here. Everything is traded for high price everywhere. Maybe their unfriendliness is also a part of the social spirit and structure? As mountain rescue officers they are the bosses and they are on top of the hierarchy which may excuse their unapprochable attitude. It is seen in front of the hut when Korean hikers are using their own gas to boil the water instead of having it done by the rescue man if he is around in his hut. He eventually gave us a bit of hot water to our thermal bottle - but - as a result of huge quarrel which really spoiled our moods for a while. We have experience with hot water given for free everywhere in every mountain shelter. Because it is just hot water and because it may save your life.

But this small bitter taste did not spoil our overall impression, which we still have. We still see the stones, hear the mountain creek and feel the silence of nature.

Good morning or good evening wherever you are

Practical information:
To Seoroksan: Take a bus to Sokcho City and decide which park gate you wanna take later
There are two bus terminals, one directly on the way to the main gate another one more away from it.
Bus ride from Seoul is 25000 KRW approximately.
Motel stay is 50000KRW for a room approximately.
To the gates of the park there are buses leaving from the other terminal close to the Fish Market.
Important: get some reasonable maps from somewhere else than the information center. All what you get there is oversimplified idiot's version. The times given are for really sportive hikers who just run. If you want leisure time, reasonable pleasure with views and some photoshooting multiply the times by 1.5 at least. If you want to have a hot dinner, better take field cooking device with you. Ok, that's all of my preeching for this time lol :)

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