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The only way to the island's peak: two trails meet at Baenokdam[Jeju's Trails] Day 30 of a 1,200 km journey recording Jeju's hiking trails, oreum (volcanic cones) and Olle courses
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승인 2011.10.20  13:52:43
페이스북 트위터

▲ Photos by Steve Oberhauser

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The Journey
These are the top 21 sites in sequential order for Day 30: Seongpanak course, base - Seongpanak course, Guidepost 4-1 - Seongpanak course, Guidepost 4-6 - Seongpanak course, Guidepost 4-11 - Seongpanak course, Sokbat (shelter) - Seongpanak course, drinking water spring - Seongpanak course, Sara Oreum, base - Seongpanak course, Sara Oreum, crater - Seongpanak course, Sara Oreum, peak / observatory - Seongpanak course, Jindallaebat (shelter, store) - Seongpanak course, Guidepost 4-31 - Seongpanak course, 1,800-meter marker - Baenokdam, Seongpanak course / Gwaneumsa course, peak - Gwaneumsa course, Wanggwan Rock, resting place - Gwaneumsa course, Yonggingak (shelter) - Gwaneumsa course, suspension bridge, drinking water spring - Gwaneumsa course, Samgakbong (shelter) - Gwaneumsa course, Guidepost 5-19 - Gwaneumsa course, 1,000-meter marker - Gwaneumsa course, bridge over Tamna Valley - Gwaneumsa course, base / campground

View The Jeju Weekly's Hike Jeju 2011 in a larger map
7 Eleven -- 8,000
Total -- 8,000 won

1 rice bowl, 1 can fish (gongchi), a lot of hard tack, 1 Vitamin C tablet, endless amounts of water

Thoughts from Day 30

Seongpanak, Part 1: Used but never abused. There is no way to compare Jeju Olle with Hallasan National Park’s trails. The best part about Hallasan is each course has a certain high level of quality and every one is maintained. I have seen constant improvements in the last three years. That said, I adamantly dislike Seongpanak for the sole reason of overuse. There were thousands of people on the course this day and all other experiences I’ve had here. The only way to get away from the crowds is start an hour before sunrise and race to the summit or walk up Gwaneumsa (the connecting route on the other side of the peak), and descend Seongpanak at the latest chance possible in the afternoon. Thankfully, although this is the longest of the five main courses, there is the least to see here. I think it is remarkable this trail, with that much use, can be continually maintained in the current condition it is now. Regardless, I am firmly committing this as the least recommended trail of the five at Hallasan to climb.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Seongpanak, Part 2: Sara Oreum. The new highlight of the course. This Jeju Weekly article, written last year, sums it up: "Where nature expands the imagination." Luckily, this was the only spot on the entire trail that provided some respite. Hundreds and hundreds of hikers kept on passing it on the way to the top of Hallasan. I arrived and not a soul for at least 30 minutes. There is major renovation to the wooden walkway, but before the crater. Major meaning, the trail has been rerouted to an adjacent brush path, chainsaw operating and welding men are recreating or creating a new one at the site.

Seongpanak, Part 3: Jindallaebat. I’ve never actually been able to get inside the store because of the amount of people here. This is a resting place and often the grounds for high school students’ field trips, praying for their upcoming university entrance exams. One of my fondest and strangest moments of Hallasan took place here. It was last, last wintertime. I went with a co-worker and his two sons. We sat outside at Jindallaebat eating gimbap. Fifteen minutes later, as if I was watching a cloning movie, I witnessed approximately 20 professional and young Korean couples with the men holding mirrors and the women re-applying make up. Surreal. This idea is often talked about by Western women. Soon after, I made it a point to teach my students the difference between the sayings: “Clothes are one’s wings” (in Korea) and “Clothes do not make the [wo]man” (in Western countries). Following a similar line, I find the scent of cologne on men to be strange at any point on any trail. Around Jindallaebat is also a good spot to see the red azalea blossoms, as the sign attests.

Seongpanak, Part 4: Peaking. Roughly every 250 meters a safety guidepost marker appears on each of Hallasan’s courses. Seongpanak (totaling 9.6 kilometers), Course No. 5, reaches 5-36 before the summit, where it meets with Course No. 4 and 8.7-kilometer Gwaneumsa on top to a 4-34 marker. The scene is always different at the top. Will there be water in Baenokdam? (Today it was dry.) How many people? What about the wind? Never did I imagine there to be a swarm of flies. Hundreds of people trying to eat lunches, tolerating the densely buzzing nuisances. I stayed for five minutes taking pictures and down Gwaneumsa I went.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Gwaneumsa, Part 1: The best of the best. I can’t imagine a harder course than the already mentioned 8.7-km stretch in the name of Gwaneumsa. The autumn colors are turning, and with it, so the best of Hallasan’s courses is revealing even more. There’s no need to list a myriad of reasons why this route is supreme. Get out and experience it. The next few weeks are the best for autumn. And in a few months following, during the deepest of snows and with a good set of Eisens, or ice cleats, one can experience a full winter scene on Jeju.

Gwaneumsa, Part 2: Forgotten shelter. The best place to go on Gwaneumsa is at this spot. Get past Samgakbong (Triangle Peak) and descend into the valley. The sign was erected within the last two years. The suspension bridge to get there was dedicated June of 2009. Located at 1,500-meters, Yonggingak was, according to the sign, a shelter and mountain retreat since it was created in 1974. The scenery is all there. It is looking at four distinct landscapes: the north wall of Baenokdam crater, Janggumok Path, Samgakbong Peak, and Wanggwanggeung ridge. The views remain lavish and if a food, delicious; however, “in 2007, typhoon Nari hit Korea and the shelter was destroyed by a torrential current and fallen rocks from the north side wall of Baenokdam crater. The devastating rainfall not only changed the topography of the area, and rooted out aged trees, but also washed out the three decades longstanding Yonggingak shelter without a trace.” On another note, bokbunja (Korean black raspberry wine) tastes best here.
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Gwaneumsa, Part 3: Skiing anyone?
I have to plug this course once again. Go in the wintertime. If there at the right time, early in the morning, with a lot of snowfall, and thus no people, it would be easy (and I’ve heard forbidden) to carry a set of skis up and glide on down most of the trail. Some research will be necessary on the way up, no doubt. The snow packs down brilliantly after the heaviest snowfalls. This is it. Go no other place to get the best winter sights on the island. Gwaneumsa.

Gwaneumsa, Part 4: Discovery Trail. The first 1.5-kilometer stretch of the course is flat and has various correctly translated signs in Korean and English describing animals, plants and natural phenomenon at the Gwaneumsa Zone Discovery Trail. Perfect for the kiddies. It goes until Guringul, a 442-meter long and three-meter wide cave documented as an ancient ice storage facility.

Ride the ... pony? the snake? the ducks? No. An idea must come across every hiker’s mind at some time up and down Gwaneumsa that he or she wants to ride the slow-moving device along the course transporting goods to and fro.

Rain. I don’t mind hiking in the rain. But, I have a camera that needs to survive this trek, a cell phone that is almost nonfunctional and a GPS that is not mine. Therefore, heavy rain grounds me in my tracks. So, Friday is washed away, but never washed up.

Oct. 13, 2011
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