I had been a bit disappointed with the scenery on the Seongpanak Trail, but I remembered that the Gwaneum-sa Trail is the most beautiful. Indeed, the Gwaneum-sa trail did not disappoint.
I chose to go up by Seongpanak because a) I could take an early bus so I would have plenty of time to get to the roof of South Korea and b) it much less steep, and starts from a higher location above sea level, meaning less work for me.
By contrast, the Gwanuem-sa trail is the steepest on Hallasan, and would have definitely been a lot of work to ascend. And yes, I brought a hiking stick to reduce the strain on my knees on the way down.
Just as I was descending, the clouds began to open up, and I could see Jeju City and the sea beyond.
I was, of course, starting in the subalpine zone, and going down to the temperate zone.
As I got lower, I managed to see the Baengnokdam Crater again, and the sharp notch in the crater on the north side.
There is an old mountain shelter which was destroyed by a typhoon, and its former site is a resting place. I met a German traveller there, and we spent some time chatting together.
He had already been to Seoraksan National Park, and I had not yet, and he told me about it.
I always enjoy watching the flora around me change as I hike through a change in climate zone.
I also talked to some Korean hikers on the way down the trail.
We encountered a group of South Korean soldiers (shown in the photo) going up the trail. They were all decked out with weapons and ammunition. This is a training drill – they have to practice going up steep trails while carrying all of their gear.
In addition to flora, there were more basalt cliffs to be seen on the way down.
And the trail wound through the gaps in the cliffs.
I eventually reached the first bridge.
From the bridge, I looked up, and saw another basalt cliff.
Eventually, I reached an elevation low enough for tall trees again.
There was no public transportation running to the Gwaneum-sa trailhead that day (this was on purpose, since when public transportation is available the trail is even more swamped with hikers).
So I joined together with three other tourists, and we got a taxi together to the nearest bus stop with regular service. Two of the tourists were going to Seogwipo, but the Israeli and I were heading towards Jeju City, and we talked to each other on the bus.
The last section of the trail had a ravine full of lava rock, as shown below.
So, this is the final post on this blog about Jeju Island. Even though it is South Korea’s smallest province, there is plenty to see and do, and I am far from having seen everything.
I particularly enjoy travelling in compact areas with a great deal of variety. Jeju has climate and ecological variety – from the coral reefs in the sea (I did not go diving or on a submarine tour, so I did not see this) to the subapline peak of Hallasan. Jeju also has cultural variety – from the old traditions of Jeju folk culture, to the Joseon heritage, to the modern resorts where newly industrialized South Koreans can honeymoon and have fun, to a humbler, down-to-earth experience on the Olle walks. And the keystone for the ecology, society, and culture is Hallasan, the volcano which created Jeju.
If you travel in South Korea, Jeju Island is not to be missed.