In my continuing efforts to train my body for the elevation challenge that Mt. Fuji will present to me, I move from a leisurely waterfall hike to a more vertical hike through Bukhansan National Park in Seoul, South Korea. Our goal was to reach the summit of Bukhansan, the main mountain, standing at around 800m tall, but we ended up having a more leisurely four-hour hike to Daeseongmun Gate.
We started at the Jeongneung Park Information center and began our hike to Daeseongmun. Our goal was to gauge how we felt once we reached this landmark and decided whether or not to continue on to reach the base of the main mountain. The path itself is very well worn but not without its challenging bits. There are a few parts on the way up that require you to pull yourself along a rope to traverse and there are tons of stairs to climb. As a matter of fact, while we were climbing, we happened upon a small construction crew installing more stairs into the trail. The upward parts proved to be the most challenging, particularly on the way down. It was a nice cool day with a bit of polluted haze blanketing the city below.
The smog cleared near midday on our way down and we were greeted with some nice views of the city. We would have gazed more, but the way down was pretty challenging, as many parts of the path were a bit loose and gravely, key ingredients for falling flat on your face. In the more forested bits at the lower elevations, there were also a ton of mosquitoes flying around, ready to feast on your flesh. Bug spray is a must if you’re going on this trail! We got sunscreen but no bug spray, so we ended up with several lumps on our shoulders and ankles at the end.
We were also incredibly sore for several days afterward. My calves were killing me, and it took close to a week to recover. On the plus side, the hike alone netted me around 15,000 steps for the day, so I got a very good workout and got to enjoy a ton of great nature and cool air at Daeseongmun. The “gate” was under construction, so much of what we saw was just a wall that stretched across the mountain. We did spy some pieces of pottery up there. I can’t verify how old they were, but it seemed like a nice touch that added some (maybe artificial) weight to the history of the area. There was also a temple nearby where we could hear bells and chanting on our way down. That added a nice touch to the ambiance. Upon looking at how little we had come on the map, we decided to head back to the park entrance and call it a day. So, we began our two-hour descent back to civilization.
Overall, this was a huge step up for my training. I know I’ll have to be hiking for much longer and to much higher elevations for Fuji, but having that experience with changing elevation like that was a good step in the right direction. I look forward to my next foray into hiking!