Monday, October 3, 2011

Sobaek San

Beyond the mountains are more mountains.

-Korean Proverb

Sobaek Photo Gallery

Monday the 3rd was a public holiday in Korea. Zach, Mr. Do and I took the opportunity to climb Sobaek San (mountain), the 3rd tallest mountain in South Korea, the 4th tallest in the peninsula. This last weekend, I picked up a new telephoto zoom lens, 55-250mm and I was quite anxious to use it. 

Mr. Do picked Zach and I up at 8:30 in the am and we drove 40 minutes to the base of Sobaek mountain. We parked near a pagoda and began our two and one half hours hike up what mostly seemed like a 20-25% incline. Mr. Do packed snacks and lunch for us. We ate oranges to stay hydrated as we progressed up the mountain. 

Before a hike, I anticipate the endeavor to provide ample opportunity for conversation only to discover I spend more time winded, unable to talk and breathe simultaneously and this hike proved no different. The three of us (mostly me) spent the hike up huffing, puffing and cursing the gods, the rocks and the roots. Without conversation, I spent a lot of time in my own head, wondering why I ever even bother to climb mountains. "I'm a Midwestern boy," I thought, "I have no business on these mountains. This isn't hiking, this is mountain climbing. Give me a good trail with hints of inclines and declines, a river and some woods, that's a hike!" But no matter how I tried to nominally justify my exhaustion and effort I was still on the side of mountain with no end in sight. The hike itself wasn't as scenically rewarding  as would help motivate me as most of the mountainside was covered in a a tall, thick canopy of broad leaves. But once we reached the summit, I was whistling (or wheezing?) a different tune.

We stood roughly 1439 meters (4721 feet) above sea level, above everything on Earth in every conceivable direction. "Beyond the mountains are more mountains" indeed. The ridges of the mountains beyond, the the backbone of Korea, the dirt, time and tectonic fury which chiseled out this beautiful country, lie before us like a ruffled blanket, stretching beyond infinity and ever deeper into our imaginations. 

We saddled up to a rock outcropping where we partook in the packed lunch Mr. Do brought. Traditionally, Koreans eat kimbap while hiking and on picnics. We ate with gusto and washed down lunch with some warm plum tea Mr. Do prepared in a Thermos. We spent a good 30 minutes at the summit, Zach and I contemplating our surroundings. 

After lunch, we began our decent, which lasted a mere 60 minutes or so. Driving back toward Yecheon, we stopped at a jimjilbang or traditional Korean style steam room. These steam rooms are essentially public baths which offer warm, hot (I mean hot) and cold bath pools as well as a sauna. We soaked our sore muscles and brutalized feat, rotated through the different pools twice through, dried off, dressed and called it a day.

My camera as inspired me to spend a lot more time outdoors and I am quite happy that I bought the telephoto lens just two days before this hike. It certainly came in handy.