This is going to be a short but picture-heavy post. I hiked up into the mountains north of Chungju today, and had a great time. As I mentioned in my last post, I absolutely love how close the mountains are; considering their proximity, I hope to hike up into them at least once a week. I got a camera yesterday for 209,000 won ($187 ) and although it’s just a compact digital, I actually managed to capture some great shots with it. This shot to the left is actually of the mountains to the east; I hiked up a ridgeline that’s even closer than the peaks you see here. Seriously, you cross an 8-lane highway and then you walk up a 30 degree inclined dirt road, right up onto the mountain. Oh, and a quick note: if you want higher resolution versions of any of the images, just click on them. 14 megapixels of detail await.
I suppose because of the proximity of the mountains to Chungju, the number of people living here, and the popularity of hiking among all ages of Koreans, the trails are actually pretty torn up and muddy. Still totally usable though, and the rougher sections have small log stairs built into them to keep the erosion down. I saw a lot of people out today. I’m used to hiking in Appalachia, where you’re lucky to run across one or two other groups a day. I probably passed a fellow hiker every 5-10 minutes. There were some really beautiful views, and though my little camera did a good job, the photos don’t really do the longer shots justice. With the naked eye you can see beyond to the other side of Chungju and the river there, and even the mountain ranges beyond that. It’s ridiculously beautiful.
As I was walking along, I didn’t see or hear many animals, though I did come across a Korean woodpecker (or whatever the regional equivalent is called in Korean). I tried to get a shot of him, but he was super skittish and kept shifting to the other side of his tree. He was big, at least by American woodpecker standards, and bright green. I also came across these odd mounds–lots of them. They’re definitely human-made–I think they may actually be burial mounds (which do exist in Korea for sure, but I don’t know if these specific mounds are–going to ask my Korean coworkers tomorrow).
On the way back down the mountain, I actually walked through some sort of orchard or farm. Again, the contrast with the city just a few hundred yards away was amazing. Most of the buildings were much older than anything I’ve seen in Chungju (where the Ministry of Education is replacing a building because it’s “old”–it was built in the 70s). The farmers didn’t seem to mind hikers walking right through what I presume was their property, and this again was a big contrast, because hikers and cavers in the States have to ask permission before traipsing through private property. I have to say, the greater communal focus here has a lot of advantages.
And, finally: dogs in Korea! All seem to be either a) a stock large terrier breed with short, thick fur and a fox-like face or b) a tiny, tiny lap/purse/pocket dog. Some stores seriously have pet lockers for them to wait in while you shop. Ugh. Anyway, I saw five or six dogs as I came down the mountain, and all but one seemed to be the same basic breed described above. This guy on the right was the last one on my trip down. He was super excited to see me. In short, hiking today was great, and I look forward to more trips up the mountains of Chungju.