For Labor Day weekend we drove east! After watching the sun set on the west coast last weekend, we decided it would be fun to check out the sun rise on the east. Bryan had Monday and Tuesday off so we waited until Sunday to go on our trip. This worked out best and gave us the chance to see Bryan’s Uncle Jim who was in Seoul for work! It’s so awesome to get visitors. We spent the evening at the park across the street enjoying the great weather and all our neighborhood friends.
The east coast beaches are different from the west – more sandy, more built up and touristy, and the water gets deep and rough pretty quickly. We found a nice beach to camp on, but it was a lot different than last weekend. Naksan beach is in the town of Yang Yang so there were lights and hotels and a few pink horse drawn carriages. Of course we needed to ride one of those around! Lucky for us there were no crowds; I guess going during the weekdays works best. We bought some fireworks for a post-dinner activity and then stuff quieted down. Sleeping was super comfy and surprisingly quiet – just the sound of the surf.
In the morning we played in the sand, made castles, dug tunnels, and walked the beach collecting shells and other good stuff. We then changed and attempted to swim. The waves were just to big and powerful, though, to get past the breakers. Mostly we just had fun trying to stand up. As afternoon rolled around we packed up camp and drove into the mountains. That is one thing that is awesome about Korea; the beaches and the mountains are in the same place!
We drove to the south, and less touristy, entrance of Seoraksan National Park for an amazing hike down a canyon-walled valley. The kids did not need motivating to get out on this trail! They did need motivating to keep moving, though. There were so many interesting rocks and sticks and waterfalls to see. The 2.7km took us about 2 and a half hours! No complaints, just lots of great family time outdoors.
From Seoraksan we drove south into Odaesan National Park. There was a nice campground at the north entrance to the park, and we picked a great sight with cool rock outcroppings for the kids to play on. Again we were lucky that it was all but empty. Korean campgrounds mostly consist of 10 ft square “sites” lined up like a grid…so if it’s crowded you are basically in a packed neighborhood of huge tents and kimchi. No so on a Monday night!! After setting up we played hide and seek and splashed in the creek before dinner and bed. Another good nights sleep in the tent; especially with my eye mask. This has become a new camping necessity. There are very few dark places in this country. Even the campground was so well lit you never would need a flashlight; we think Koreans are afraid of the dark and perhaps a bit afraid of actual nature. Eye mask!
In the morning we took a nice hike a couple kilometers up the valley past a neat temple and into some more cool canyon rocks. While Seoraksan has orange/red granite outcrops and lots of maple trees, Odaesan has gray granite and lots of pines so it felt very different than our hike yesterday. Again the kids were slow, but we came away with some great hiking sticks and a lot of cool mica. We stopped for lunch at the waterfalls and found the wildlife. Zoe will be the first to tell you, “there is no wildlife in Korea.” But we did get to meet some curious little chipmunks who wanted our “pig food” – it’s what we call dry ramen noodles (that is a long crazy story). Neat to actually see non-avian creatures here; it is fairly rare.
The drive home was uneventful. No traffic on a Tuesday afternoon, thank goodness. This weekend was super fun and super cool. The weather finally dropped temp – I can now feel that fall will be coming. It’s like Sept 1 rolls around and the peninsula decides to let go of the super hot super humid bubble of haze we’ve been living in. How refreshing!