Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hike at Sognisan

Munjangdae at Sognisan
Today, I had the day off from school while my students were taking national exams...ALL DAY.  I was seriously considering sleeping in and watching How I Met Your Mother online, but I decided to put my day to better use by going to Sognisan, a mountain in my province of Chungcheongbuk-do.  I'd just returned from Seoul after having Thanksgiving dinner at the U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens' residence, and I felt the pumpkin pie pounds tacking on.  Not only did I need to exercise, I desperately needed a reprieve from the noisiness and sensory overload of urban life.  I haven't been on a hike in five months because of my knee, and I'm so excited to report that I made it to the top of the mountain! 

At times, the solo hike was peaceful but passing the many groups of middle-aged hikers gave me an insight of hiking culture in Korea.  First off, hikers are almost always over the age of 40 here.  Hiking is very much a social activity, and what you wear is almost as important as who you're with.  Both men and women alike outfit themselves in very flashy, expensive gear and are decked out in top-of-the-line day packs, trekking poles, down jackets, hiking boots, dry-fit layers, etc.  The women, or ajummas, just love the fluorescent jackets.  While they look impressive, that amount of gear is not necessary for a 15 km intermediate day hike.  

  I was shocked that some people brought all of their electronics with them on the trail.  People were talking on their cellphones, conducting business, while another pair were listening to their MP3 player.  An elderly couple had brought a radio with them, and they were singing songs all the way down the mountain.  Music is wonderful to hear, but it's pretty inconsiderate to blast the music so that other hikers on the trail HAVE to hear everything.  I did find the bottle of soju in the side pocket of their backpack amusing.  Just as some people eat to live or live to eat, it seems that hikers also hike to eat.  Along the trail, I spotted three restaurants that served traditional rice wine and anju (foods eaten with alcohol).

Located in the Sognisan mountains are several different Buddhist temples.  Beopjusa is the largest temple located closest to the park entrance. I've been wanting to do an overnight temple stay where I can meditate and learn about Buddhist culture, and I think I'll be going back to Beopjusa in early December.  
Speaking of hikes, my school teachers and I went to Jeollado Province earlier this month to see the beautiful colors of the leaves changing color.  In Korean, there is one word 단풍 (dan-pung) to describe this transformation. I wouldn't call it a hiking trip if one spends 4/5 hours in a bus and the remaining hour walking along an asphalt road, but, hey, that's how my school advertised the trip to me. Here are some pictures I took.
Temple Architecture
Faculty of Jeungan Elementary School   

This is what I get for blogging so infrequently.  I have two more pictures to post.  This is from the visit to the Sangdang Sanseong Fortress in Cheongju that I went to with my host family.  I didn't take any pictures of the actual fortress, but I was mesmerized by the reflections in the water.

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