Seoraksan is the third highest mountain in South Korea, and the highest in the Taebaek Range, in which we find ourselves living. On the fourth day of our orientation to the Gangwon-do EPIK program, we were bussed up to Seorak National Park and let loose. Having been couped up in a hotel for five days, we were pretty excited to get out and do some hiking. So we took off from the group, hoping to get some exercise and a nice view, and were immediately impressed with the mountain.
We went in a ways and found this quite helpful, if slightly cartoonish, map of the park. It's amazing how they can turn just about anything into a cartoon here!
Just a bit further up the path, we came across a gigantic statue of Buddha. I'd estimate it at 40-50 feet high! I love this photograph. If ever one of my photos has captured the contrast of modern and traditional Korea, this must be it.
After that we started hustling, as we had about two hours and really wanted to make it up to a cave called Geumgangul and had heard it's a tough hike up there. It was indeed a tough hike up. This next picture is from a platform just below the cave. You can see how tough a hike it was by how proud I look to be there. In the interest of full disclosure, the man who took this picture was wearing loafers. I don't know how Koreans do it.
Here's a look at the hike that remained from there. Thankfully, in Korea, there tend to be stairs leading to just about anywhere you might want to go.
I had left Melanie a bit down the mountain because we thought we wouldn't have time to make it up together. But lo and behold, just as I was leaving the cave, up the stairs she came! Here's a look from within the very modest cave. It contained three small statues of Buddha, a woman selling Buddhist wares (and coffee, of course), and lots of these hanging lanterns, the significance I'm unsure of.
We made it back to the bus in just over two and a half hours. It was a great hike for such a short time... plenty of culture, beautiful scenery and athletic challenge.