▲ Similarly to Baengnokdam crater lake at the summit of Mt. Halla, Mulchat oreum’s crater lake is especially large after periods of heavy rain. It makes for great photo opportunities for hikers, and sustains a number of insect and plant species. Photo courtesy Kim Hong-gu
Even the smallest oreums can provide a full day of activity. Mulchat oreum is located in Gyorae. A full day can easily be spent there, and in the surrounding forest, which is a must-see for those who like the changing colors of autumn. The top of the oreum is closed until December, but a good deal of time can be spent on the many trails that snake over the foot of the mountain, near the Songpanak rest area. Take the 5.16 bus from the bus terminal and get off at the entrance to Gyorae. It's about a 1km walk from the mountain road to the trail.
The network of paths is well maintained, and most are paved or gravel-lined, which is good for your feet. There are plenty of benches and, once off the busy main trail, it's easy to find your own neck of the woods in which to sit down, enjoy the sounds, and possibly see some snakes. Right now, many of the trees are flourishing with colors, ranging from bright green-yellow to rich scarlet.
Halfway through the trail, hikers will come upon a small stream. After heavy rain it will be running, but most of the time the water will form small pools and makes for a great place to sit and relax. The area often fills with children enjoying the adventure of jumping from one large rock to the next. A careful eye will spot that this stream follows most of the first half of the trail, but is hidden in thick undergrowth and set back about 50m from the main trail.
Take the time to talk to the Koreans walkers; as always, they are friendly. Many bring their families, and on a Sunday, if you're a teacher, you many even run into some of your students. Luckily, compared with most hiking trails on Jeju, this trail gets fewer visitors. So, getting away from everyone can be easier, which is good because that's what this place has to offer- quiet time. No screaming kids, no crowds.
Saryeoni forest is the area around Mulchat oreum, and is home to four others. However these are not open at this time. In an attempt to help the area recover from past overuse, these oreums have been closed to the public. Much like the trail leading to the top of Mt. Halla from Eorimok, closing these trails is giving native Jeju plants and animals space to live without interference from humans.
If Mulchat isn't enough, Halla Eco Forest is just a little further down the mountain. Saryeoni forest acted as a path for communication before modern technology. It allowed people from the mountains to travel down to the villages near the coast. The name “Mulchat” comes from the crater at the top of the oreum that, much like Baengnokdam, fills with water during heavy rain. Still, there is water there at all times. It has also been called Geomun oreum, especially during the Japanese occupation. Older maps and reference material will list it as Geomun, but most on Jeju prefer Mulchat.
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