Hiking At Korea National Park

Posted: October 2, 2011 in South Korea

Me and Buddha at the entrance of Korea National Park near the start of the trail we took. I was willing to take all the other-wordly help I could get.

It has been quite some time since I last posted — 20 days to be exact — and I was beginning to wonder if I should change the name of the blog from The Traveling Soldier to The Sedentary Soldier and post Call of Duty updates and pictures of my Cheeto-stained finger tips.  I’m halfway to World of Warcraft and diabetes at this point and we still have the winter to get through.

Despite my efforts of inactivity, I recently agreed, albeit somewhat reluctantly, to go hiking at Korea National Park with a group of  coworkers after realizing that I needed to get out and experience South Korea while the weather was still favorable.  Plus, it’s hiking, how hard can it be?  I agreed on good faith alone and failed to do my research on the ascent I was about to embark on.

I believe my ol’ pal G-Dub said it best in this situation when he botched the old adage that ended up something like this:

I was fooled and we were climbing to Daecheongbong Peak, the highest peak of Seoraksan which is the third tallest mountain in South Korea.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Mount Everest type proportions but me tackling this climb on foot alone with an athletic prowess somewhere between Larry The Cable Guy and Chaz Bono is no easy task.

The trail we decided to take was 22km (13.67 miles – round trip) long with a change in altitude of 1.7km (1.06 miles – one way).  Doing the math, that means I was climbing 1 foot up for every 6.5 feet I was walking forward — on average — which may not sound like much until you have to do this for 36,089 feet just to reach the top (and then turn around and come all the way back down).

As difficult as the trail was — Korea National Park’s website rates this trail as a Grade A trail, with Grade A being the hardest on an A-D system — the absolutely gorgeous views and the overall sense of accomplishment made the trip well worth the effort.  Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate as it was largely rainy, foggy, and overcast throughout (this only got worse the higher we climbed) and while the few pictures that did turn out, despite the conditions, are beautiful, they still fail to fully capture the breathtaking views and the daunting task at hand.

(Editor’s Note: click the images for full resolution versions.)

This picture hardly does justice to the overwhelming peaks that surrounded us.

I felt as I was walking through a scene in Jurassic Park and at any moment a pack of Stegosauruses would come through the tree line and cross the river.

We would've swam in the waterfalls had the weather cooperated.

As with anything I talk or complain about on this blog, this trip wasn’t without incident as just about every muscle in both legs began cramping uncontrollably about 3/4th of the way to the top.  Apparently a few beers the night before a big hike is not what is meant by the phrase “proper hydration.”

For all of the grief I dole out, most of you enjoy watching me struggle in return. You're welcome.

Not so much here or here, but right here.

The further up you climb, the colder and thinner the air gets and that much is expected.  What you’re not prepared for is traveling through 5 hours of lush, green foliage only to abruptly reach the point where vegetation no longer thrives.  We crossed in to that area just past the last of the safety shelters on our way up and the desolate nature is somewhat depressing yet very tranquil at the same time; an interesting dynamic to say the least.  And if nothing else, I didn’t have far to go.

If you all were betting men and women, you likely would have bet against me to make it to the top but more than 6 hours and 16 Charlie Horses later, I reached the peak (that’s what she said).

I feel like this could be a strong contender for the cover of special needs informational brochures. "You, too, can overcome and persevere."

I had done the unlikely and climbed to Daecheongbong Peak.  The descent was a little easier but it wasn’t without its dicey moments and by the time the trip was complete, my legs hurt so bad I could hardly stand up.  I’m not talking muscle-soreness-hurt, I’m talking Nancy Kerrigan-after-Tonya Harding-hurt and I don’t think we made it out of the parking lot before I was in a coma.  Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe my physical state at the end.  However, as I stated above, the overall sense of accomplishment coupled with the amazing scenery and experience made this excursion more than worth my struggles.

Just don’t expect me to be doing anything like this again soon.  Look, someone is going to have to save America when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 comes out.

Like President Bush said, “Fool me; can’t get fooled again!”

Daecheongbong Peak. I didn't take this picture in particular, but the rest are from our trip.

  1. Bo says:

    Looks like an awesome experience, Matt, and yes, a serious hike can easily lead a man to questioning his will to survive. I’ve been pretty sure I was going to die a time or two on 10+ mile trips in the Gorge.

  2. Was 13.67 miles one way? If so, you hiked a full marathon 🙂

  3. Matt says:

    It was actually 13.67 miles round trip so I guess I should’ve specified that; now it doesn’t seem quite as impressive but it was still tough nonetheless.

    And it was a great experience, Bo, and with 10 mile hikes at the Gorge, I’m sure you can relate. Unfortunately I never made it to RRG while I was at UK so if I get back to Kentucky for any length of time I’ll have to remedy that.

    Thanks for the feedback!

    • Actually it is very impressive. It would be tougher than any marathon considering 1/2 of it is uphill and the other half is spent resisting gravity. I am very proud of you. Good job.

      • Matt says:

        Thanks, Mom! It was tough but also a lot of fun and at least I can say I finished it. I wish more of my pictures turned out to show how rough some of the spots were.

  4. Calvin says:

    How long did it take round trip Matt?

  5. Matt says:

    It took about 13-14 hours round trip. We stopped at the periodic shelters probably 3 times each way as well, just to get out of the rain but never stayed for longer than 15-20 minutes.

  6. Steve Garner says:

    Nice job Matt, did several hikes of Pikes Peak with my AF buddies. Good times.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Steve!!! It was rough but definitely good times. I hope all is well back in Ag Data (well, other than the football season we’ve been given).

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