Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hiking Jiri Mountain

 hiking Jiri mountain
 Fall is hiking season in South Korea. 

After the sweltering hot and humid summer, it's no wonder people are lining up to enjoy the crisp fall air in the mountains. Mountain ranges are never far away in Korea and with the trees making their yearly wardrobe changes from green to gold/orange/red, it's the perfect time to explore the outdoors.

This fall, our explorations began with a trip out to the highest mountain in mainland South Korea, Jiri mountain. Jiri mountain is located in the southwest part of the country spanning across of three provinces, Jeollanam-do, Jeollabuk-do, and Gyeongsangnam-do. It is about an hour northeast of our city, Suncheon, by car. The mountain is located in a 182 square mile (472 sq. km) national park along with ten Buddhist temples and multiple national treasures

bell at the temple we visited
We spent the day with one of our Korean friends and three of his friends. We visited a temple before we began our hike and saw a couple natural treasures that were perched on the mountain. The stone sculptures were placed behind the main temple area, almost secluded, with trees all around them. It was like they were a part of the forest and had just always been there. At around 1500 years old, that very well could be the case. 

Signs describing the statues and their origins were written in both Korean and English and as I read them, I couldn't help but think about all the people who had looked upon these two stones. I wondered what kinds of clothes people had worn while carving them. I thought about the Japanese invasion and how these two had survived the attacks. The history I stood before in the middle of the forest was sobering and steady. Here they were and here they would stand, just like this, possibly for another 1500 years. It put my measly 24 years into perspective. Would I ever create something that would last 1500 years?  

national treasures
 After admiring the national treasures, we began our hike. We walked on pavement at first, past shops and little restaurants tucked into a very narrow valley. When we reached the end of the pavement, we walked on a gravel road. The gravel road tapered into a rocky dirt path continuously leading up and up and up!

The scenery was delightful. The vibrant leaves were blowing in a cool, light wind and a babbling stream was constantly within our sights. We advanced up the path with countless other people. Everyone was in good spirits and enjoying the perfect hiking weather the day had given us. It was nice to be able to enjoy the temperate weather before the chill of winter sets in and all the bright fall color fades from the trees.

After walking for perhaps an hour we sat on a great rock in the middle of the stream to eat lunch. Our Korean comrades provided an excellent picnic lunch for us which, much to my surprise, included beer and soju! I had no idea Koreans liked to drink and hike but we weren't the only ones getting our drink on while perched on boulders in the river!

our picnic

After lunch we continued on our hike, all of us tipsy from the booze. We didn't make it all the way to the highest peak but we did hike for around 5-6 hours, in total. There were lots of color dotted vistas and the endless babbling water trailing along beside us made our journey all the more worth while. Breathing in the fresh mountain air while feeling a good buzz and working my muscles brought a smile to my face and a warmness in my soul. Spending time in nature is rejuvenating and inspiring. I will never tire of this vast and wonderful world. 

stone pillars on the mountain

See all of our Jiri Mountain hiking photos on Flickr.


  1. Oooh, so pretty! I personally don't enjoy hiking (it comes with my crippling fear of heights), but the scenery here looks amazing! Also, I had no idea that Jirisan was the highest peak in mainland S Korea (I always thought it was Seoraksan in Sokcho). Learned something new today!

  2. Thank you for the comment, Tom! :) With your fear of heights, do you get scared to fly??