On Riding Busses and Climbing (Icy) Mountains….
Today was our one free day. And what an adventure we had.
The day started early for me thanks to the time change…I was wide awake from about 3AM on. Clint finally woke at 5:30….man we know how to sleep in on vacation. We started our day with FaceTiming with the boys. It was good to see them and hear their latest adventures, Leighton and Caedmon have both lost teeth (Caedmon’s first!) and Edric was very excited to show me the rocks from the rock tumbler that just finished its final cycle.
After finishing up with the boys and having a big breakfast we headed out. We had decided that we were going to hike in Bukhansan National Park which is just north of Seoul and climb Baegundae Peak, which is the tallest mountain around Seoul (I mean go big or go home right?). I had found a blog about it and thought it sounded like a good idea. The only parts that worried me was that all the blogs were about climbing it in good weather, and that we were going to have to take a bus. We’ve become really good at the subway but had not done a bus yet. So I read up on it and figured we could do it, but decided to put Clint in charge of figuring out the bus details and all that that entailed.
The subway system in Seoul is great, but one of the first things one learns is that it totally matters which exit you go out of because different exits lead to totally different places and each station can have between 4 and 15 different exits. Most places and directions not only give the subway stop but the exit as well. We re-learned this lesson today….
We started out great, got on the orange line to take us way to the north west side of the city. We got off at the right stop and Clint said “we need bus 704 from exit 3”. We went up exit three and looked for the bus stops. We didn’t really see any but saw different buses pulling over all along the road where we were at, so we just started looking for the blue bus with a 704 on it. We found it and it went speeding past us only to go another 50 yards and come to a screeching halt. We ran to catch it and got on and I was so excited that we made it and we were doing so well.
After a few stops I turned and asked Clint, who was hanging on for dear life on one of the standing rails (the buses like to make sudden stops….like REALLY SUDDEN), how many stops until the national park. He looked on his phone where he had a bus app and after a few minutes said “oh well it looks like there are over 45…we might be on the bus for a bit”. I found that odd because the blog I had read said that it was a short bus trip. But I didn’t really think about it much.
In fact it wasn’t until we had been on the bus over 30 minutes and I realized that a number of the bus stops were names of subway stations that we had passed through this morning already. I also kept seeing signs for Seoul Station which is a huge middle of the city hub. I asked Clint to see his phone and pulled up his map and realized that instead of heading away from the middle of the city we were headed into it. We hopped off at the next station and found a subway station. In the end we ended up at one subway station down the line from where we started everything this morning…
As it turns out the instructions on how to get there said we were suppose to use exit 1. When we got back to that station we looked up at exit 1….and guess what? It was even named Bukhansan which is the name of the national part that we were headed to. And as I teased Clint, there was a large display of hiking gear and then a number of peopled decked out head to toe in hiking clothes…..oops. I will likely have to tease him about that for awhile. So finally we crammed into bus 704 headed in the right direction with all the other hikers
I should have been paying more attention because I think a number of those waiting for the bus were talking about my choose in shoes. Actually I didn’t have any other options, I packed my nice pair for our meetings, and brought my old trail running shoes. Clint also just had on tennis shoes. And if there had been no ice I think we would have done great.
However when we made it to the park and started up the trail we came to a part of the trail that was solid ice. And it turns out a good portion of the hike was solid ice. Luckily there were cables along the more terrible parts. It was beautiful and really peaceful to hike and just spend time with each other and talk. Except for the parts where we were trying desperately not to slide off the side of the mountain from the ice. Clint struggled more than I did, I think his running shoes have no traction. We saw many people wearing Yake Traxs to get them up and down. And as we learned on the backside going down that actually going up in the ice wasn’t that bad….it was the going down part that was terrifying.
We made it to the top though. We were the tallest thing around which was pretty cool. It was a pretty hazy day (and COLD) so our shots and views of the city from the top weren’t crystal clear but it was amazing. We started at Sea Level and ended up climbing more than 2,500 feet.
Coming down was rough, both of us ended up on our backsides a number of times. There were a few areas that were not icy but it was pretty much a sheet of ice from the top to the bottom. On the way down the other side we got to walk along part of the old city wall that goes around Seoul.
By the end we were very cold and hungry and tired and likely bruised in a few spots as well. It was a great day though, despite the ice.
We found a bus once we got down and road that to a subway station and from there figured out where we wanted to go. I knew we were on the same line as Dongdaemun station which is one of the far outer city gates. We didn’t get to see it last time we were here so we road the subway there. Turns out that they were doing some construction work on it so most of it was obscured.
After getting the gate we walked to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park and took some photos. We were super tired and very cold at this point (we had left our hotel at 8AM and it was past 5 at this point. So luckily there were some little restaurants inside the design complex and we found a good place with bone meal soup (what I ate) and a meat and rice dish (what Clint had). We even found a little shop with Macaroons so we bought a couple of those as well.
We walked around the shopping area briefly after dinner because we were both beat and tired. It was a really good day and a chance to do something we hadn’t done yet, but we are both tired and ready to call it a night. Tomorrow we get to have another meeting with Paxton!