One of the things that I’d hoped to do in Korea was to hike in each of the fifteen ‘proper’ Mountain National Parks. They have some Marine National Parks too but while we’ve been to a couple I’ve never really had any inclination to get around them all.
The trip to Juwangsan marked the fifteenth and final of the Mountain National Parks. The main reason that we hadn’t done it sooner is that it’s a bugger to get to from Seoul. Jen and I caught the 8.40am bus from Dong Seoul that goes directly to the park. Although directly in this case means a five hour meandering route with half a dozen stops in places where I couldn’t see any reason for anyone to want to get off the bus.
Despite the long journey it was still only early afternoon when we got there and after so long cooped up on the bus we stretched our legs with a two hour stroll to see a few waterfalls. They weren’t particularly impressive, in fact we passed the first one without realising, but it was good to be out in the fresh air.
Whilst there were plenty of restaurants around the park entrance there weren’t any places to stay, not anywhere that had bathrooms or beds anyway. In the end we found a pension fifteen minutes walk outside of the park where our fifty thousand won bedless room was upgraded to a sixty thousand won room with a bed as quickly as the existing Korean occupant could be turfed out. He’s probably better suited to a night on the floor than we are.
Next morning we made an early start, our plan being to make our way from Daejeonsa Temple up to the 866m Gamebong peak. It started off well enough with us retracing our route past the waterfalls in a virtually empty park.
Not far after the third waterfall the path to Gamebong was closed. It was to reduce the risk of forest fires apparently. We doubled back and decided to loop around and see if we could reach it from the other side.
That didn’t work either. Gamebong was completely blocked off. Our next contingency plan was to follow the trail to the 722m imaginatively named Juwangsan. This involved a river walk followed by a steep ascent of possibly five or six hundred steps. The azaleas were just starting to flower and I imagine a week or two later the trail would be swarming with hikers. As it was, we saw very few people on the way up.
There was still the odd patch of snow on the ground left over from the winter and in the otherwise silent woods we could hear it melting as we gained height. We reached the summit around two and a half hours after setting off but a covering of trees meant that there wasn’t much of a view. We didn’t hang about.
The loop back down took another hour, lengthened by the number of times we had to wait for a hiking party to pass us on the way up. It seems most people tackle the route in an anti-clockwise direction so if you are looking for a bit of peace and quiet do the same but start earlier than the tour buses.
At the bottom we bought a carrier bag of mushrooms to take home and I bolted down a bowl of soy bean paste stew quickly enough to allow us to catch the one o’clock bus back to Seoul. There are about five buses a day I think and the last one goes sometime between four and five o’clock.
So, whilst that’s the National Parks done, there are still a few Provincial Parks that we’ve yet to see. If we stay in Korea, then they’re next.