Saturday Exploration

Last weekend, I decided to set aside my Saturday to explore the mountains just to the north of our apartment. We have been here before, but only to select spots and I naturally wanted to see what else was to be found. I set off around 10 am, via subway, towards Beo-ma Temple. After a 15 minute ride, I joined a large group of Koreans on a bus up the mountain to the temple. This is where my exploration would begin…

I started by taking a few pictures of the temple as they are preparing for Buddha’s Birthday (in May) and have paper lanterns and other decorations hung around the temple. I jetted up the first portion of the hike as I had done it before. At a family pace, it takes about an hour to reach the top. I was not up for spending my day on things I had already seen, so I did it in about 30 minutes. I must say having a stuffy nose, while quickly hiking up a steep mountainside is not an ideal thing. The whole time, I was somewhere between sniffling and needed to blow my nose. I am sure the Koreans around me thought I was making some weird sounds. Nevertheless, I reached the top gate and set off on a new route across the mountain ridge.

I was walking along the ridge line, next to an old – yet refurbished – wall that a century ago was to keep out Japanese invaders. Let’s just say it did not work so well. However, it did leave quite a site to see for visitors today. The wall is only nine feet in height and is made largely of mid-sized blocks. There are lookout posts at set increments along the top of the wall and a few large main gates that served as an entry way to the fortress the wall was surrounding. I very much enjoyed the peace and quite – much different from the sound of constant traffic everywhere in the city. The sun was shining and their was a gentle breeze, so I found one of the rocky outcroppings overlooking the valley and sat for awhile – in peace.

Eventually, I reached the end of one section of the wall and followed a small stream uphill to a place where the cherry blossoms and Magnolias were in full bloom. It was very pretty, especially with the sun shining and the gentle stream flowing below. After a while, I reached a small uphill to a somewhat hidden temple. I say a small uphill, but what I mean is the steepest road I have ever seen in my life. I literally had to walk on my toes for about twenty minutes to reach the temple. The temple itself was very neat. It was framed by a large block of granite behind the main temple, with a bell tower hovering over side of the mountain falling away below. The traditional colors were used in painting – vibrant greens, reds, and blues.

I realized after finding a small map (all in Korean, of course) that I was actually on the opposite (wrong) side of the mountain and had wandered into a small valley somewhere along the way. Though I was tired, I climbed back up to the ridge top and finally descended through a small village filled with small shops and dirt tennis courts. Adults were out playing a version of Nukem with their feet (I am sure it has a real name, but I don’t know it – anyone know?).

I finally reached town and was met with traffic congestion. Wow, it is night and day between the mountains and city! It took me another hour just to walk back to my apartment, even though it had only taken me three hours to hike all the way down the ridge line, including going up and down the mountain twice! Traffic is nuts.

All in all it was a great trip filled with amazing views and picturesque temples, cherry trees, and magnolias.

J

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