Intro to Jirisan Range
Alright so I made it to the first temple at about 10am and met Julie in the parking lot. It was good to finally meet her because he had been planning this trip via facebook and couchsurfing for quite some time at this point. I was a bit disappointed because I could not find any kimbap on the way in, which they usually have at the bottom of the trails, but oh well. I got a half dozen wanna be kimbaps, basically just rice and sauce wrapped in seaweed (kim) and some of the best kimchi I've had yet to go with it. So we headed up the road and made it to the first temple, Hwaeomsa. There we took a few snap shots and we treated to some free green tea and rice cakes. We also were able to op off our water bottles. Julie lit herself up a pretrail smoke, demonstrating her care for the environment by placing the butt back in her pack I knew I had myself a good partner for 3 days in the wilderness, and we were on our way.
After about 3km we saw a sign for another temple and we thought "Oh cool, this one's a bit further into the woods here so it could be interesting." We walked over and noticed it was beginning to rain a bit. As we were covering our sacks, a kind monk approached us and softly asked us if we would like to join them inside for some lunch. I informed him that we didn't have any money and he replied that it was not necessary because today was a special day, Buddha's birthday, and there is no charge at the temple for a warm meal. We obliged and went in the shelter for a nice bowl of bibimbap, kimchi and fruit.
After about another 8km or so, it started to pour rain on us. So we did not make it to the shelter we had planned on staying. Instead we stopped at the first shelter we saw and stayed there for the evening.
However, it was not a walk in the park trying to get a place to lay our head (not pun intended, hahah)...The shelter was booked solid and people were pouring in by the second to get out of the heavy rain. We headed to the kitchen where we had a few soju shots with one group then they bounced cause they were going to get a taxi and head back to seoul (there was a road that lead pretty close to the shelter)...I was outside kickin it with Julie while she made another valiant attempt at acquiring lung cancer when I noticed a guy I had climbed with before. He invited Julie and I to his table where they fed us and gave us soju and beer all evening. At 7pm we went back into the shelter as instructed to see if we could score a resting place. Fortunately we could not because they went by age.
Julie and I at Hwaeomsa Temple
..what makes this fortunate is that I was able to snag a spot in the utility closet where it was EXTREMELY warm, allowing for all my clothes to completely dry, even my boots.
Day 2 was basically just long as shit. We hiked 21 km. Got a bit muddy along the way too and had an impromptu English lesson with some little Korean children on the trail. This was my longest day on the trail up to this point and as I anticipate having more long days as this, I believe there could not have been a better trail to really emerge myself into the hiking scene.
Day 3 was when we caught the wicked sunrise. I find it difficult to describe the beauty we witnessed that morning. It was quite the sight. Clouds, mountains, trees, birds, nature as far as the eye could see in all directions.
The sky lit up with different hues of blue and orange like a gift from heaven with the sun lifting itself above the horizon. At the last shelter we stopped at, we made some friends because we needed of some hot water for my noodles. I was down to the last of my food except for one more power bar. They were kind and shared water with me and gave some to Julie for her tea, they also gave my a can of tuna, although I felt bad cause I knew she was as hungry as I was, I was kinda glad Julie was a veggie cause that meant I could eat the whole thing :). We ran into these guys again at the bottom trail when it was all said and done and they invited us to join them for what was most likely their 4th meal of the day (it was for us). So around...hell, I don't know what time it was.
But we had plenty of sunshine though. So they grabbed a cab to the bottom and said they'd send it back for us...ha, little did they know but I stuck out my little thumb and the first car that went by gave us a ride down to the bottom. I was in no mood to walk for another 30minutes down a road after about 50km in 3 days.
So we met them at the bottom, drank and ate and I think we had some sort of initiation into their "Mountain People" hiking club. We exchanged email and are supposed to go again in a month...