Some time in 2011 or 2012, when the notion of hiking in South Korea first got in my head, I did an internet search, and practically the first hike I discovered was Songnisan National Park. Since then, I decided that whenever I got to South Korea, I would go to Songnisan, and I did.
After seeing Beopjusa Temple near the Park entrance, I went on the easy hike through the forest up to the famous peak Munjangdae (1033m), which the Joseon King Sejo had personally visited.
When I reached Munjangdae, it was cloudy, but hey, I was there. At the top it was very windy, and I saw granite peaks all around me poking through the haze, like the photo below.
Yet as I was on the peak itself – and I was not there long, it was too windy – the sun emerged, and bathed the scenery around me in sunlight, so I started to see sights like the photo below.
I then continued along the ridge of Songnisan.
The above photo of Munjangdae was taken after I left, since blue sky is visible.
I tend not to look forward to ridge walks, in spite of the spectacular views, because of all of the tedious up-and-down slogging. But this is an *easy* ridgewalk – I felt like I could zoom right along the track without tiring myself – and I got the spectacular views. Now that’s sweet!
I finally reached Cheonhwangbong (Heaven King Peak) at 1058m, the highest point in Songnisan, which is where the acove and below pictures were taken.
After I descended from Cheonhwangbong, I passed by a small mountain hermitage, and passed a monk, who most likely lives there. The hermitage even has a small vegetable garden.
I finally made my way down to the stream which flows by Birosanjang, a mountain lodge which is not next to any road, which means you can only get there by walking. I was super lucky. First of all, I was able to get a reservation, which is not always possible. Second of all, since that month was the 50th anniversary of the opening of Birosangjang, I could stay there for free. When I heard this on the phone, I didn’t believe it, but it was true.
The woman who was taking care of Birosanjang that night is a friend of the owner who decided to help out. The current owner is the daughter of the husband and wife who first built Birosanjang.
She was very nice. Even though I didn’t want to take any food since I was not even paying money, she insisted that I eat her grapes, and she also prepared some tea for me. I was happy to drink the tea outside by the stream, with nobody but me and her around, and I was happy that the tea was warm because it was getting cold very quickly as the sun set.
I slept in a small room which was all I needed. It was an ondol style room, albeit with an electric ondol. Koreans survive the Siberian winter (yes, it is Siberian, Korean winter is so cold because the Siberian wind blows in winter) by heating their homes efficiently – specifically, they heat the floor, and then lie down straight on the floor with a pillow and some blankets – no bed or futon. Having felt the cold of outside, lying down on the ondol was cozy indeed.