Hiking Namsan in Gyeongju

I think every Korean city has a mountan named Namsan.  Anyway,  last night was our final lovely restful night at Mt. Tohamsan Recreational Forest camp ground.  It was brisk and misty when we woke and packed up.  On the way out Bryan met Kim Sunwook – a lung cancer patient who is doing a ride across Korea to raise awareness about cancer in Korea.  He is also trying to heal himself by staying healthy, camping out, and taking in as much fresh natural air and life he can.  He has a blog, but KBS is also doing a mini-documentary about him that will air at the end of the month.  Hopefully we will have our stuff by then and can watch it.  The film crew was also at the campground.  He was a super amazing and interesting person to speak with.

From their we pushed back down the mountain and over to Namsan.  This is the mountain just south of Gyeongju and is supposed to be full of old Buddhist carvings and sites.  After speaking with the folks at the information booth we decided to start in Sammneunggol valley – the hike gets to rewarding sites earlier.  It started very flat and even a deck trail for a while before really climbing up up up the mountain.  No trails in Korea have a difficulty rating because they are all UP and strenuous.  But, no one cares.  Everyone hikes anyway, they just take it slow and bring lots of snacks for long stop offs.  We did the same stopping just often enough at cool Buddhist carvings or sculptures.  The trail was well marked with signposts showing mileage on the trail, and also meters on side trails to the nearest relic sites. 

The kids were amazing.  Avi ran or climbed or bounced most of the way.  Zoe led the way most of the time being a ‘rock jumper’ and scouting for relics.  I think we ended up doing just under 5 km … half up and half down.  Zoe didn’t complain an inch the whole time.  Seeing new carvings, crossing water, and stopping for snacks kept her interest.  Avi rode on Bryan’s or my shoulders for the last 1/2 km UP to our turn around point – the Sangseonam Hermitage.  It was a tiny buddhist temple / shrine and another building for sleeping or meditating set on the edge of a steep cliff just under the summit in the valley.  Avi fell asleep on Bryan for the hike down, which took half or less the time of going up. 

Exhausted, we all got into the car. Both kiddo’s fell asleep and we drove home.  So, if you drive directly from Songtan to Gyeongju its just about 3 1/2 hours.  We didn’t hit any traffic since it’s a Monday – Koreans don’t do American Labor Day.  Back on base we got calzones at Checkertails.  Usually we share… not tonight.

 
Bryan and Kim Sunwook

At the trailhead of Namsan

Namsan hiking

Zoe watching the river flow

Zoe found our first buddha triad

the men on the trail

Another sculpture

snacktime

Zoe at the hermitage … the stairs are the trail at this point.  Korea’s mountains are very up and very down

Avi hiking down
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