The day began beautifully, not super early but we hit the entrance to the park before lunchtime. I had hiked Gwanaksan before, while carrying too much gear as I had planned to spend the night up there. It isn’t easy but not hard either. My goal was to collect two letterboxes along one of the trails.
We did some light stretching and checked our appearance in the mirror at the park entrance. we bought two kimbap and two waters and a sports drink from a women along the road leading up to the trail head.
The first few steps were really rocky. Most steps were rocky, big and uneven, it’s a mountain; that is to be expected. We followed the trail along huffing and puffing, stopping every so often to check the clues that would lead to the first letterbox.
It was just a sort while later that we hit this beautiful lookout, where after a few minutes of tracing and retracing my steps, then battling some spider webs, I picked up the first letterbox that hadn’t seen a visitor in several years. we stopped here to eat the snack that we had bought.
From this lookout you can see Seoul Grand Park, where I was locked in the zoo while looking for a letterbox. I wouldn’t have known except for a giant metallic sphere near the zoo. One of the amazing things about Seoul is the number of opportunities there are to see where you have been from a near aerial perspective.
From this spot it was just a short trip to the second letter box which I also got. after collecting my prizes I was content and ready to head back down the way we came up. it must have been about 5 or just after and i knew the sun would only be on our side of the mountain for another hour or so.
I reluctantly went the complete opposite way, not wanting to challenge the captain. We went to the summit. because it was closer to the metro station we needed not to mention the nearly 1,000 meter elevation change that would entail.
At the top of the mountain I figured I might as well stop for a minute and get a few pictures since I was up there again, this time with my nice camera. it looks like many other photographers have taken the same shot as the one below. the fence has has a circle cut out of it the perfect size to poke a lens through.
Now we began the 650M trek down hill. the trail was not a commonly used one and required first using a rope that was bolted to the steep wall to do an easy rappel. Once down the 4-5 meters the canopy blocked out the sun. And the trail markers disappeared. A couple from Hong Kong was in front of us but quickly disappeared. So did the trail.
I had a head lamp but all it did was narrow my field of vision. Our water was gone and we had a few crackers. we were walking in leaves almost knee deep on very rocky terrain. Each step was carefully felt out before trusting the ground beneath. it was slow going.
By this point the sun had gone there was only the faintest trace of light, penetrating through the canopy thanks to light pollution. It did nothing to help me see. My knee gives me trouble after a while on long hikes ever since Seoraksan, which was also a disaster. Each step down was painful and carried the potential of slipping which could lead to us being stranded on the side of the mountain.
Ji was very scared I was just hulk angry that I allowed us to get into the situation that I knew better than to have entered. to make matters worse I had to work in the morning and the last thing I want to do on a Sunday is trail blaze until midnight. Like I said each step was slippery and unpredictable. Then it happened Ji took a tumble. It would be really easy to break an arm, ankle leg up there. Lots of nooks and crannies for things to get lodged into and torqued.
That was the straw that broke her back and sent the tears rolling, not so much from pain but from fear. I had taken a look at the top and had a general bearing on where to head but by that point I had lost track and had considered it might be safer to huddle up until sun rise.
There was a flat area of rock that seemed like it would be better than being down in the leaves with all the creepy crawlies. Its not like we were totally in the wilderness; walking any single direction long enough would lead you to civilization. But I remember from some survival show that if you follow the valley down hill you will hit water and following that will lead you to people.
Shortly I heard some gurgle-y noise. There was water bubbling out from under a rock. Fantastic, but now we had a really slippery situation. Just past the water I caught a light from about 100 meters away, I shined my head lamp in that direction and called out to them. their light intensified as it turned in my direction. Then it dimmed as it turned away.
I called again, and again this time they stopped the light came closer and we met in the middle.The lone hiker led us up to the trail. I had burned a ton of calories and had barely eaten anything all day. I was so hungry and thirsty I hadn’t dared try to eat those crackers with as thirsty as I was. but now that the hiker had offered us his water I dug in.
There was still about another 45 minutes of hiking but on trail it was much easier. We said our good byes and were popped out on the Seoul National University Campus. A nice engineering student opened the building door for us and we raided the vending machines before going to get real food.