This past weekend I took the bus to Seoul, the subway across Seoul, and a second bus into Bukhansan National Park. I thought I would share a few crucial Korean hiking lessons and a few photographs. For more photographs, you can click on the photo to the left and see the Bhukansan set on flickr. For more lessons, you have to hike yourself.
1) When almost every person you see has hiking boots, a full pack, and a hiking stick, it is fine to think “Wow, Koreans take their hiking so much more seriously than most Americans. These are my kind of people, prepared for the worst on the mountain.” It is good however to have the follow up thought - I wonder how serious a mountain this is?
2) When maps do not have contour lines, it is helpful to ask “how high” as well as “how far” when asking directions. It also helps to have studied HOW to ask these questions prior to arriving at the mountain.
3) Do not accept hiking suggestions from rock climbers - their concepts of “flat” and “downhill” are seriously problematic.
4) Counting steps is a serious mistake, even if you are trying to practice your Korean numbers. The hike goes much better if you don’t realize you just passed your 2000th step and it has only been 20 minutes.
5) When you start seeing steel cables lining the path to keep people from falling off the mountain or sliding down it, it is time to think about turning around - even if the grandmother and three year old who just passed you are doing fine.
6) Being seriously tired is no excuse for not remembering how to translate a typical Korean accent. When a Buddhist monk has kindly answered your questions in English and asks “Do you like play?” do not answer “Yes I do like plays - are you putting on a play?” Instead translate the accent into American English: “Would you like to pray?” Otherwise you find yourself in the middle of a Buddhist Temple prayer service trying to keep up.
7) Although it is good to have brought food, it is ok not to eat your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This mountain had two noodle houses just on my one trail. I did not envy the poor guys who were hauling boxes of food up the mountain - they reminded me of AMC hut workers in the NH White Mountains. But I did envy the people downing noodle soup, spiced tofu and iced lemon tea.
8) Despite giving up on the peak itself (it involved holding onto steel cables and climbing straight up!), the views were amazing. As you enjoy them, send up a prayer for my hamstrings. My next hiking trip is in less than two weeks - and the mountain is higher.
Add comment October 8, 2007