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On Mt. Halla, Eorimok and Yeongsil hikers unite to greet Witsae Oreum[Jeju's Trails] Day 31 of a 1,200 km journey recording Jeju's hiking trails, oreum (volcanic cones) and Olle courses
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승인 2011.10.21  15:11:51
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▲ Photos by Steve Oberhauser

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The Journey
These are the top 21 sites in sequential order for Day 31: Gwaneumsa course, base / campground - Tamna Education Institute - junction, roads 1117 and 1139 - Cheonwangsa (temple) - road 1139, turnoff for Eorimok course and bus stop - Eoseongsaengak course, base - Eoseongsaengak course, peak - Eorimok course, base - Eorimok course, bridge over valley - Eorimok course, Guidepost 1-6 - Eorimok course, big sky wood walkway - Eorimok course, drinking water spring - Eorimok course, Manse Hill Observatory - Eorimok course, drinking water spring - Witsae Oreum, Eorimok course / Yeongsil course / Donnaeko course peak - Yeongsil course, Seonjakji Field - Yeongsil course, Byeongpungpawi Rock - Yeongsil course, Yeongsilgiam Rocks and rain waterfall - Yeongsil course, base - Yeongsil course, ticket office - Yeongsil course, Jonjaam (temple)

View The Jeju Weekly's Hike Jeju 2011 in a larger map
roadside stand -- 4,500
Witsae Oreum store -- 3,000
Total -- 7,500 won
(Note: Rain and rest day, Total -- 55,900 won)

9 odeng on a stick, 2 cups noodles, 1 coffee, 2 Vitamin C tablets, endless amounts of water

Thoughts from Day 31
Rest day. On Friday morning, after relocating (due to rain) my sleeping bag and other belongings from the Gwaneumsa campground at 1 a.m., to across the street at the shelter next to 7-Eleven, I hid and slept between a wall and a ground floor restaurant table. The rain had no thoughts of relenting. I was ready early to walk the 10 kilometers to Eorimok on the road. Going nowhere, when day broke, I grabbed a taxi to a PC room in Jeju City. I returned to my same spot via taxi the following morning at about 5 a.m., and started walking west. Reaching Eorimok about 10 a.m., I knew I had another eight hours of hiking. Every kilometer not on a road, inside Hallasan National Park is earned. Nothing is given.

How many courses does Hallasan National Park have? If you, the reader, answered “five,” try doubling and subtract one. That leaves nine. (A lot of heads scratching.) Is that true? Answer: ’Tis. Even after more than three years of active, almost weekly hiking here, I thought the answer was six. This day, I confirmed nine is correct. Here’s why: There are the five main trails. Seongpanak (9.6 km) and Gwanuemsa (8.7 km) meet at the 1,950-meter peak; while Donnaeko (9.1 km), Eorimok (4.7 km) and Yeongsil (3.7+ km) link up at Witsae Oreum (1,700 meters). These are the heavily-trotted (or promoted) routes; although, according to a graph in the Eorimok Visitor Center, Gwaneumsa saw one-fifteenth the number of hikers than at each of the Eorimok and Yeongsil courses in 2002 and one-fifth the number at each of the Eorimok, Yeongsil and Seongpanak courses in 2007. And, Donnaeko is seldom used. Most people know little about the 1.3-km Eoseungsaengak Trail, which is accessed next to Eorimok Visitors’ Center (see below). Even lesser-known (not even labeled on the official government Web site, English or Korean, but on the newly created Hallasan color map now out) is the 1.5-km Seokgulam Trail, located in Aheunahhopgal Valley, running between two temples, Cheonwangsa and Seokgulam (west of Gwaneumsa on road 1117). That’s seven. Eight is the Hallasan Dullaegil (talked about extensively in Day 32). Good luck finding that one! And last, not reviewed yet, but I term this unofficial 15-km stretch, “the mushroom trail.” (Much more on Seokgulam, because I passed it before I knew it was a trail, and the shroomery one, because that will take extensive planning if passable, during Part 3 of Hike Jeju.)

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Eorimok, Part 1: Visitor Center. After much thought, this is the best educational museum on Jeju for an English-speaking foreigner (and children, any age) to visit. This is not written haphazardly. I fondly remember talking for hours about museums in education content and visiting countless ones all over the place, and have been for years. The Eorimok Visitor Center is light years ahead of others on the island. Check it out. It is more than interactive. The education continues with all the signs correctly placed along the trail. All intelligent, for instance, learn why all the leaves are changing colors now. It is because of the sun’s dying intensity in the fall, “depending on the ratio of two pigments in leaves, carotinoid and anthocyanin, the leaves turn red, yellow, or brown.”

Eorimok, Part 2: Civil servants get it done.
After reading all the English content in the visitor center, I tracked down park ranger Yang Chun Suk in her office, and, having talked previously, she answers foreign visitors’ questions in English. I’ve talked to her on maybe 10 occasions before, and this time she and another co-worker took my topographic Hallasan and Jeju maps and efficiently showed me all the trails I needed to know about and answered other relevant information. Good people. This was probably the best one hour’s information I have received for Hike Jeju, since the information about hiking trails is virtually non-existent in English and not concise (and sometimes not correct) in Korean, according to a few people.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Eorimok, Part 3: Eoseongsaengak. Although 1.3-km in length, it reaches 1,169 meters at the top. There’s a lot of wood steps; not too steep, but it only goes up. Eoseongsaeng is a scoria cone. Not simplifiable, the quotes will do the work: it was “formed by a volcanic eruption when spurting scoria from the vent piled up around it, forming a small volcanic edifice. As magma rises from deep underground (where the pressure is very high) to the surface, the gas components in the magma rapidly expand and erupt, causing the fragments of magma to spurt skyward. These fragments (scoria) are often tinged red or reddish black.”

Eorimok, Part 4: Solid all the way through. There is not one special point to single out. Many small sites are worth admiring and reading all the signs. It takes about an hour from the base to rise through an oak tree forest. And, then about another 90 minutes later it opens up to a wide wooden walkway, Sajebi Hill, that fragments to rock and back to wood covering to a Manse Park Overlook and eventually reaches Witsae Oreum. I remember a Jeju co-hiker one time telling me of this big sky space: “Even though I grew up on this island, this area makes me feel like I’m not on an island.”

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Yeongsil, Part 1: Witsae Oreum. This is the common name, according to a sign, of three oreums: Bulgeunoreum, Nuwunoreum, and Jogeunoreum “at the highest place of the area.” As stated before, three courses meet here. No access to Baenokdam is afforded to protect from environmental damage. At Witsae Oreum, there is a shelter, bathrooms and a place to buy noodles, snacks and other hiking knickknacks. An extremely popular course in the wintertime (using spikes), this is a great place to reach very early in the morning before it gets too crowded.

Yeongsil, Part 2: Short one-hit wonder. I would recommend all to see this trail and every other on Hallasan, but this 3.7-km path from base to Witsae Oreum is only great because it has one of the so-called 10 greatest scenic sites of Jeju, the Yeongsilgiam Rocks and rain fall, where in spring if it is wet and / or raining “water flows between the strangely shaped rocks and cliffs. There are various stories in English at this Web site and elsewhere why the rocks are also called “500 Generals” or “Buddha’s 500 Disciples.” If hiking Yeongsil, do another course, too. Do not let this be the only representation of Hallasan.

Yeongsil, Part 3: Sleeping on a bridge near Jonjaam temple. There’s a kilometer or so spur trail accessed at the Yeongsil ticket office toward the Jonjaam temple. Note: Currently, this is a zenith natural spot in autumn to observe. The temple is a similar Jogye Order one seen many places with surrounding buildings and grounds. Because it is in a valley of Bulrae Oreum, at about 1,300 meters, there was simply no noise or light pollution, or people at twilight and a slow explosion of colors. Incredible for Jeju. Because of this, in between the trail’s start and the temple, I decided to sleep on (note “on,” not “under”) a newly cut (and fresh smelling) wood bridge crossing over a small active creek. The nature here, one day after a full moon, was the real peak of the day and luminous night.

Yeongsil, Part 4: No meetings with snakes. I’m certainly not a scientist, but I’ve read enough field guides and seen enough fat, fat rattlers, copperheads and pythons (all not on Jeju) in the wild to know when to be alarmed and when not to be. Hopefully, this will get to the heart of the Jeju snake dilemma. I’ve heard the hype and the fear. From all the signs read, I gather there are these on Jeju: Korean tiger keelback snakes, garter (gureongi) snakes, dion rat snakes, slender racers, red-tongue viper snakes, black-headed snakes, and maybe one or two more. The only one to be truly concerned about is the Korean tiger keelback. … and it rarely attacks people, it is found at wetlands in Jeju, mainly rice paddies, ponds and streams, according to a sign. Skin color varies, but “it usually features black dots spreading the entire body against green and red dots around the front part of the body.” And the best part of the advice is this: “However, playing with the snake, by grabbing it, for instance, can lead to a dangerous situation.”

Oct. 15, 2011

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

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The Mt. Hallasan National Park Tambang Information Center. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
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