Deungsan—Mountain Climbing

I’ve been settling in. I’m not done settling in yet, but I’ve been working on it. Getting to know everyone here better. We’re going to be the tightest group ever at the end of the year. I hate to think how much I’m going to spend on tickets to Britain to go visit most of them in the future, after we’re done here. Well, either that or we’ll somehow come to hate each other, which would be cheaper but not nearly as enjoyable. And I don’t see that happening anyhow, because they’re all great people. One of the big things I want to do here is write, so, for some practice, I’ll characterize them all later, try and give an idea of what they’re like, but for now I’m just going to do some storytelling. This is the tale of the second mountain I climbed here. I could write about the first one, but the story’s not nearly as good, and I can just copy this one from my journal because I wrote it there intending to put it here, and anyhow it would probably get boring to read about two mountains in one entry, especially since there are going to be plenty of mountain stories here in the future.

Russell, Sean, and I all gathered. Deanna, Amanda, and Ben decided to skip the mountain. So we three took off down the road along the river, looking for the split in the road where there was a statue of a yellow man. After an unexpectedly long walk, we found it, and we turned right and crossed a bridge to get to the path up the mountain. But there was just a house with an old lady out front. So we turned and walked the only possible direction down the river, even though it seemed like the wrong way.

A gray van came down the road from in front of us. It stopped next to us and inside was a little Korean lady with no hair. She talked to us in Korean, prosumably asking where we were going, so I said, “Deungsan-ro”—having learned the word for “mountain hiking trail”. She chattered away excitedly in quick Korean and seemed to gesture us back the way we’d come, and then droe off.

We turned around. “I guess that was where the trail was,” Sean said. Then, back at the old lady’s house, the bald woman stopped and got out. She talked to the old lady a bit, then took us into the house’s garden. “This is a strange path,” we all agreed. We followed, and the bald woman led us to a shack, and then seemed to say we couldn’t go further from there, and we all turned around. That wasn’t the trail.

She gestured us into her van. Though Sean was suspicious that we were going to get murdered by a bald Korean lady, we all got in, and she drove us down back roads, one of which had a boulder on it. She tried to explain where the trail was, and where we had gone astray, or something, but we got nothing from it. She also made a praying gesture, indicated her head, and pointed out her loose, ornate, white vestments, and I figured she was a nun at a temple somewhere nearby. Finall we stopped at a tiny trail with a sign that said, “Du-ryu-san cheongsang [Mount Du-ryu peak] 3000m”. She pointed up the trail and through charades told us something about a temple (sa) where you can drink tea (cha), or something to do with temples and tea, somewhere down the trail.. As the person with the most Korean, I thanked her as profusely as I could (which was actually no more than Sean or Russell could’ve), and she drove off somewhere, and we looked at the trail. “We never would’ve found this,” Russell said. Thoug8h we may have foiund the other trailhead marked on the map online—but then again, that didn’t really seem to exist behind the old lady’s garden.

We started limbing. It was tougher than Mount Chang-an, because the trail was a lot steeper, and there were no gazebos. We had to stop and rest at non-optimal, steep places. It was rough. But we shook it off as best we could and powered up the mountain— even though we couldn’t see the peak or anthing through all the thick forest.

After a long time of hiking through that impenetrable forest, and quite a few breaks, the trail leveled out and we could catch glimpses of the peak here and there. Then we could see it clearly, and then we were right up at it. I heard voices up there. We rounded some bg rocks and found a yellow sign marking the summit—”/993m”. Also lots of Koreans with expensive backpacks and hikind sticks. Sean thought of an interpetation for the ribbons we’d been seeing all day on the trail, tied to trees, like the green one that freaked us out because it said DMZ. Some of them said “산악회“, and Sean now figured that meant “hiking club”. He turned out to be right.

There wasn’t a great view because of all the trees, so we sat and had lunch. I had a weird pastry from a bakery in town, one with a hot dog baked in. Also, pizza toast. Sean did too, but Russell only had bread and butter.

After tring to appreciate the peak more, we moved on, sort of to get away from the hiking club. There was a sign we’d seen that pointed toward Mount Chang-an, which promised a trail more fun than hiking back down the road. We made for Chang-an.

And we didn’t regret it. A short ways on, there was a lower peak of Du-ryu with a cleared-off area, and no trees blocking it, We could see everything. Both Sachangni and the village on the other side of Chang-an from it—as well as of course Chang-an itself, which from this height was a pitiful little bump. Sean’s school’s town, Damokri. All the other mountains around—we picked the best ones to climb next. The cars and tricks on the road were midgety inchworms crawling along. It was more or less perfect.

Further on, we descended toward Chang-an with ropes and ladders put into solid rock. Then on a break I decided to tackle the rest of the hike with no shoes, and the ground felt soft and friendly—like fall, though fall isn’t quite here yet. Going down was great. We whistled. Well, I whistled.

We came all the way down, finally—after a cut on my foot (toldja so)—to Daeseong Temple. It might have been the temple that the nun told us about. There was a gray van, but none of us could remember if it was hers. And how would we invite ourselves in for tea? Especially smelling like we did? We walked past the giant bell and the temple building and through the gate that looked like it’d been standing there since the 1600s waiting to see us off, and emerged into the town.

Some dinner would be nice. We washed up and felt like we’d stepped fresh out of a sauna, then gathered Amanda (who’d stayed and sunbathed on her balcony all day) and got some pizza. After that the four of us sat on the roof and talked until well into the night. We talked about music a fair amount, but also about the next day’s zipline excursion in Chuncheon, and relationships, and how nice it is to be out here where it’s calm, you can see the stars, and you don’t have to worry about almost anything.

File under: adventure, friends · Places: Korea

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I am so glad you are having this wonderful adventure, and with all your new found friends from around the world. Keep writing it all so that we can live vicariously through you. Most people want to do such things, but you are actually DOING them. Hooray for you! Grandma




I second Grandma's Hooray for you. Sounds like a day well spent to me. As they say life is an adventure and not a destination. Go for the adventure. Grandpa




I am enjoying reading your September entry. On Sept 11 I prove my courage by setting off on an airplane trip in memory of the 2001. I shall visit son Marc in New York for theater and great Museums. MLJordan


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