Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bbaejae - Samdobong

Baekdudaegan day 10.
Distance: 27.1km (160.6km), time spent: 12:48 (82:46).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 800m / 1176m / 1290m.
Weather: Morning cloud, sunny.

At two o'clock in the morning, I wake up by a bus stopping next to the jeongja. Out of the bus, a large group of people is coming out and suddenly there is a flurry of activity at the pass. I look bewildered out from my sleeping bag as the people are teeming around the pass, lights from headlamps in every direction and a lot of voices in the night. Or am I just being haunted on the bony remnants of the hallowed ground I am sleeping on? After a while, the ghosts are getting in line and disappears into the night, voices receding. The rest is silence.

A wonderful view towards Gojemyeon and the ridges and mountains beyond in the morning.

Morning dawns, a long day ahead of me. Looming in the distance some 27km away from me is the goal of today's walk, Samdobong, the third peak of three provinces on the trail. As the ghosts left for Deogyusan, I set out in the opposite direction, the sun rising behind the trees as I walk. Following a path leading to the edge of the ridge, with ridges beyond stretching further back into the horizon. Clouds unfurled, but never cloudy.

Looking down at Sosagogae far below and over to the ridge on the other side of the valley under the onset of clouds. The trail is from here going steep down before climbing back up again on the other side.

From Sambongsan (1254m) the trail turns into a fun ride, going for a walk over a section of narrow rocks with the aid of ropes and basic scrambling. At the end of the ride I stand looking down at the valley below and can but wonder at the way of the trail. It is a long way down, and the trail follows suit, knowing that it will rise up again on the other side. I can hear the complaint from my legs before I start walking down. This is the first of two very steep and long descents that awaits me today.

The Tapseon Supa at the quiet pass of Sosagogae, a small and charming place in rural Korea. And a good place to fill up provisions for the trip from.

At Sosagogae (700m), after a minor mishap sends me bashing through some thorny bushes on a wrong turn, I go straight to the Tapseon Supa for some gwaja, relishing the opportunity to refill my batteries in this quiet spot in rural Korea. The shop is small, but well stocked, though there is no meat to be found (only tuna).

View down to the farmland of Sosagogae and the main ridge of Sambongsan from the summit of Samdobong.

This is a region with many apple orchards, and the trail passes right next to several of them. In one of the orchards, there are some workers and I ask if I can buy some apples from them, the apples here are big and extremely juicy, they give me three apples free. The trail here is confusing at times and difficult to find.

Having a rest on the benches at the summit of Samdobong, a signpost, a board and a stele also decorates the summit area.

At Samdobong (1249m), the second peak of that name on the trail, the views are extensive. I sit down and rest after the tough climb up, looking back to ridge on the other side of the valley. The path continues on mostly open ground to the peak of Daedeoksan (1290m). I pass some hikers, the first ones on the trail today, all quite surprised to meet a foreigner. One is literally jumping when he sees that it was not a Korean that greeted him with the common annyong haseyo. At Daedeoksan, a large group is sitting down and eating. A fine walk, now the second long and steep descent is waiting, down towards Deoksanjae.

The stele at the pass of Deoksanjae.

Everything looks abandoned at Deoksanjae (600m), the road is quiet and no sign of life or anything at what is according to the guidebook an artist's hermitage. I move quickly on, taking me onto a pleasant walk on the ridgeline above. I collect water from the old mining track. Tired, and so is using a long time to reach the pass of Buhangryeong. From the pass, the climb intensifies. At one point, I climb up an overly steep path to an unnamed peak that has nothing to offer, which I promptly is naming Useless Peak (Sseulmo-Eobsneunbong). From the Useless Peak (967m), the trail descends steep in almost the same direction as I came up, where at the bottom it joins a track that bypassed the peak.

Emerald ridge going from Baeksurisan.

After Baeksurisan (1034m), my mood is improving as the path is gaining height and entering a nice section of the ridge. The scenery is good, looking far in the distance. Passing a nice boardwalk called a namu deck. The sun is setting and I am racing against the clock to get a good view. I arrive at the summit of Samdobong (1176m) in the dark, my body aching. The sun went down beyond the mountains afar while I was walking through a forest.

A boardwalk, or as this is called, a namu (tree) deck.

Tents cover the summit; I did not expect to meet anyone here. A party of young people invites me over to join them. I sit down and a beer and some food is pushed into my hand, I get a cramp in one of my legs. No place on the proper summit to pitch my tent, so I go down to the helipad just below. There I meet Jungkyun Rha and Dong Hyun Kim, sort of an advance team for another group coming to the summit. The rest of the group, Francis Roh, Sung Woo Kim, Hyung Soo Chang, Dae Il Lee and Yong Hoon Kim, is arriving shortly after out of the darkness.

Evening view from Samdobong.

I have a great time in the chill evening at Samdobong together with the group at the helipad, another great encounter with the Korean people along the trail. They serve me dinner, together with soju, sake and raspberry wine. The only regret is still that I feel I cannot give anything in return. In the end, my fatigue overtakes me and I have to return to my tent. A great day, but equally hard. As a side note, I met Francis Roh, Jungkyun Rha and Sung Woo Kim in Seoul for another nice evening before I returned back home.

The Samdobong camp friends. From right: Jungkyun Rha, Hyung Soo Chang, Yong Hoon Kim, Dong Hyun Kim, me, Dae Il Lee and Francis Roh.

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