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Donnaeko delivers a long natural path[Jeju's Trails] Day 33 of a 1,200 km journey recording Jeju's hiking trails, oreum (volcanic cones) and Olle courses
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승인 2011.10.23  12:36:01
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▲ Photos by Steve Oberhauser

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The Journey
These are the top 17 sites in sequential order for Day 33: Sol Oreum, base - Sol Oreum, peak 1 - Sol Oreum, peak 2 - Sanlok Bridge - turnoff to access Donnaeko course - Donnaeko course, start / trail office - Donnaeko course, Guidepost 6-5 - Donnaeko course, Guidepost 6-10 - Donnaeko course, Guidepost 6-15 - Donnaeko course, Pyeonggwe Shelter - Donnaeko course, Nulbendle Observatory - Donnaeko course, Guidepost 6-25 - Donnaeko course, ranger station - Donnaeko course, (safety marker, Yeongsil course, Guidepost 3-26) - Donnaeko course, Banga Oreum - Witsae Oreum, Eorimok course / Yeongsil course / Donnaeko course peak - Sanlok Bridge

View The Jeju Weekly's Hike Jeju 2011 in a larger map
Family Mart -- 3,000
taxi (Seogwipo to Sol Oreum) -- 5,100
taxi (Donnaeko to Seogwipo) -- 6,800
roadside stand -- 8,400
King Mart -- 3,800
PC room -- 8,000
Total -- 35,100 won

12 odeng on a stick, 11 bananas, 3 red bean paste pastries (bungeoppang), 2 apples, pineapple slices, 1 sandwich, 1 bag potato chips, 1 small soda, 3 small hot coffees, endless amounts of water

Thoughts from Day 33
Sol Oreum. The day started at Sol Oreum, which is south of Seogwipo, about a 5,000-won taxi ride from the center of town. There’s an A and B course designed, providing one long three-kilometer loop through forest sections toward the top where there is definitely military interests on the peak’s land. An overgrown concrete helicopter landing square is also visible. This is a popular drive-your-car-here destination with the Koreans. It was busy not only late Sunday afternoon, but also at the crack of dawn Monday. As with all things in life, I think, the less people the better. Monday morning was the best pick for that to get a warm-up in for Hallasan’s Donnaeko course. On arrival, a person has no clue where Sol Oreum goes or how high one will ascend. It sits back a ways from the entrance. It looks like nothing at the onset and it provides a good climb.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Donnaeko, Part 1: Introduction. This part of Hallasan was reopened Dec. 4, 2009, after 15 years. It was closed July 4, 1994, for what the information sign reads: “Rest-Year Sabbatical System.” The area was originally called Dotdreu, translated as pig (dot) field (dreu) in Jeju dialect, according to the sign; but, the name was changed to pig (don) stream (nae) entry (ko). There is no English signage to get to this trail. I was fooled by my two different maps and Korean road signage and not understanding which bridge was actually Sanlok Bridge. I, for sure, thought a Korean sign that reads “DonNeCo Esplanade” would not be of Hallasan National Park creation, until I looked the second time around and saw the “Only Jeju Island” slogan. Confused even more, there’s also a sign for the other Donnaeko (not trail), which sits well south, and a Donnaeko Youth Campground, which is west of the trail. After my bearings were straight I found the base at 11 a.m., probably having covered more than 15 kms. Just getting to the base is an inclined chore. I completely descended before 7 p.m., when darkness stole the day.

Donnaeko, Part 2: A simple trade. My personal gripes on the other Hallasan trails (Seongpanak, Eorimok, Yeongsil, and sometimes Gwaneumsa) all stem from thousands of people in one short period of time. To me that is not nature, or natural. Donnaeko, on this day, I maybe saw 30 to 40 people within eight hours and 20 kilometers, minus the time at Witsae Oreum. There’s really not many people, I believe, since the trail is remote, long and steep, and there’s not much to see, in comparison to all the others. I was the last one to leave from Witsae Oreum after 3 p.m. There were a multitude of semi-wild roe deer. (Typically, I addressed this early, many are too accustomed to the people and development, akin to the people-fed deer in some national parks around the US, almost more similar to a dog than a wild animal.) These roe deer were startled by my presence and I could hear their repeated calls at dusk. I also could listen to birds at the same time, more than the individual crow, woodpecker or pheasant. And, the cacophony of insects and small creatures signaled this place was thickly alive.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Donnaeko, Part 3: The spots. About 5.3 kms after the start of the trail, a person sees Pyeonggwe Shelter. The architecture is quite unique as rock takes up a large percentage of the inside roof area. The outside roof is flat, with what looks like an old chimney. Next is Nulbende Observatory where Seogwipo and its four offshore islands are visible on a good day. At the trail’s “official” end at the South Wall Fork seven kms in, one will find first, Nambyeok Watershed Observatory (where a ranger station is located, and empty this day) and a bit farther on is Banga Oreum Observatory and spring. The last two have perfect direct views of the crater wall of Mt. Halla’s peak. From the ranger station to Witsae Oreum is another 2.1 kms. Because there are safety guideposts on all the trails, this stretch reads it is part of the Yeongsil course. I’m not sure why. Since Yeongsil is the shortest course, perhaps it equals out the corresponding safety team’s responsibilities.

Donnaeko, Part 4: One tough cookie. If the Donnaeko course is masculine, call it inflexibly crotchety; if feminine, it’s a leathery battle axe. At its end, which extends much further than Guidepost 6-1, a hiker will feel the pain. Hallasan National Park’s official trails (minus the 1.5-km Seokgulam, I’ll get to later) are formally in the books.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Hallasan National Park, Part 1: Plants by the numbers. According to the newest Hallasan National Park English pamplet, there are more than 2,000 species, of which 90 are indigenous.

Hallasan National Park, Part 2: Animals by the numbers. From the same source as above, there are more than 5,000 animal species. Here is a breakdown: 4,361 insects, 384 birds (fairy pitta, large-billed crow, etc.), 254 spiders, 30 mammals (roe deer, Jeju weasel, etc.), eight reptiles (snakes discussed in Day 31), and seven amphibians (such as Jeju salamander and Korean fire-bellied toad). I love Hallasan; however, out of the places I have been, this provided the least natural experiences to observe wildlife.

Hallasan National Park, Part 3: Fees. As a walker currently or as a walk-in hiker many times before, I or anyone else accompanying have never been charged an entrance fee to use any of the trails the past few years. If using a car, there is a 1,000-won parking fee, and 500 won charge for a motorcycle (assuming a scooter fits in this category). Year-round camping is only available at Gwaneumsa. Fees are per night, one tent, three or less people (3,000), four to nine people (4,500) and more than 10 people (6,000).

Hallasan National Park, Part 4: Further information. The Web site in English is here. As for public facilities park-wide, there are four administration offices in four different locations, six parking areas, six shelters, and 53 restrooms. If really interested in botany, natural science or in-depth study, start with the many workers at the Eorimok Visitor Center and go from there.

What’s next? Six more days to slowly get back to Jeju City and conclude Part 2 of Hike Jeju. What’s possible is Jeolmul Recreation Forest, Sangumburi Crater, Geomunoreum, a long forest trail or anything else close by.

Oct. 17, 2011

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