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Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
July 18, 2004
The closest temple to the entrance is Sinheungsa, the oldest Zen meditation temple in the country. A twenty-metre high seated bronze Buddha guards the approach; the temple buildings are two-hundred metres further on over two stone bridges, all golden statues, peeling paint and splintered wood, encircled by tree covered slopes and towering granite peaks.
The crowds begin to thin as you follow the track the Anyangam hermitage. It’s a 45-minute hike to Kyejoam at the foot of Ulsanbawi. Grottoes and ancient graffiti are cut into the rock face beside the famous Heundeulbawi tottering rock, scene of a million photographs. An uphill path starts here, segueing into steep stone steps after a kilometre or so. Red metal steps twist and turn their way to the top of the granite rock face, each of its six peaks over eight hundred metres high. At the foot of the stairs the tree cover suddenly clears next to two bare pine trees, unfurling mist-flecked views of craggy mountains and the sea.
A second hike starts at the top of the cable car route, views stretching across to Ulsanbawi and Sinheungsa, enveloped in the folds of the park below. Five minutes of steps and stumbles up from the masses on the observation platform, a rocky plateau marks the beginning of Gwonngeumseong Fortress, a two-kilometre long stone wall winding round the peak of Bongwhadae. Tall peaks jump out of the fog, and Sokcho wraps itself round a deep blue lagoon on the other side of the ridge. Back at the observation point, concrete steps lead down to a café and the start of a track down to the tiny Allagam hermitage. It’s possible to continue back down to Seorak-dong, a steep path goes back down via a series of three waterfalls.
The entrance to Seoraksan National Park is a few kilometres west of Sokcho at the top of a road that runs inland from Seorak Sunrise Park. Bus number 7 shuttles between Sokcho and the park entrance. If you’re coming on the bus from Yangyang Airport, Sunrise Park is the first stop after the sign telling you you’re in Sokcho. Cross the road for the bus stop to Seorak-dong.
From journal An Eastern Jewel
Port Dover, Ontario
March 22, 2004
Hiking here is not really a wilderness experience as it's always crowded and the trails frequently open into rest areas with vendors, refreshments, and washroom facilities. However, fellow hikers are very nice and often offer to share local foods and stories with you. It's a great place to enjoy Korean culture outside of hurried cities like Seoul. In the hot summer months, nearby Sokcho has lovely beaches. Again, they are very crowded.
Local accommodation is plentiful, but reservations are recommended in high season. Make sure you have a good map as taxi drivers often have difficulty understanding where you would like to go.
From journal Hiking in Seoraksan National Park, Korea