Thursday, May 3, 2012

Labor Day Hike at Bukhansan National Park

Tuesday was Labor Day in Korea (and much of the world). To celebrate the day off and amazing weather, we went with a small group of friends to Bukhansan National Park to hike to the Baekundae Peak. It was marked as a 5 hour roundtrip hike with some spectacular views. It would take us about an hour to get there from the south of the city, as this mountain is at the far north point of the city.
Hiking in Korea is quite different than in Switzerland, China and the small hikes I did on the East Coast. First, it is much more colorful. The people here take their hiking style and brands seriously. I have never seen Northface in such a rainbow of vibrant colors! Nor have I seen soo many hiking and outdoor brands in my life. The Koreans also do not leave any part uncovered. From hats, to gloves, to jackets, hiking pants, boots, bags and sticks, they were decked out! We certainly looked like the amateurs and our small group was no stranger to a good hike. Second, the trails are absolutely packed. Granted, it was a holiday, but still, we had a lot of bottlenecking all along the way. Finally, I swear I smelled soju all along the trail. Was it possible that they were drinking while doing this intense hike?

After doing the first half of the summit, we thought that hiking here was a joke. It was taking us no time, and we would have gone even faster if there weren't so many people. We figured we would be done with the whole hike in half the time it advertised...

That was until we got to the last kilometer to the peak. That took us another hour or so. It got so steep and the rocks so smooth, we had to rely on a cable wires to pull ourselves up. The hike turned into a blend of hiking and climbing. The view from the top was quite remarkable. Seoul looked like a mini-display of itself. We settled in for a lunch on the steep peak and after stretching out our sore legs, headed back to the bottom.
It was an extremely intense workout and did take us the full 5 hours to complete the hike. We were eating our words when we finished what we thought was going to be a weak hike. To reward our efforts, we settled in at a plastic table at the bottom for a couple of beers and then a pork barbeque with some live music in the background. When we finally got back home, I crashed before 8pm and slept til my alarm went off Wednesday morning. Talk about the best sleep I have had in a long time!

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