Camping in 지리산 (Jiri San), South Korea
You can learn about it HERE. ‘Cause, I’ll mostly be talking about all the fun we had ^_^
This past weekend I had the privilege to travel with some of my best friends to the Jirisan National Park, here in South Korea. We laughed, we hiked, and damn it we sung some campfire songs! Our trip started out in Daegu where we rented a car (that’s right, rented) and then drove a three-hour drive (well Brad did most of the driving) to Jirisan. Talk about a cool place. I always crave getting out of the city, and Jirisan was the perfect place to have a nice and relaxing Buddha’s Birthday weekend.
Our friends Matt and Josh arrived early Saturday morning, on their motorcycles, to stake out a camping spot for us. We got a really nice spot right next to a path that lead down to the river. We (Brad, Brian, Tom, and I) arrived in the afternoon and started setting up camp. The air was clean, the water was cool, and the sun was warm! I was in paradise. We didn’t do too much hiking the first day. Day 1 was mostly filled with adventuring around the river, eating, and making a campfire. We talked a lot before making the campfire. A few of us were convinced that it was illegal. But soon after we started seeing a few Korean families building their own campfires and we followed suit. Before the night got too dark I took a really casual motorcycle ride with Matt up the mountain to a lookout spot to see the sights. The views were stunning and the motorcycle ride was a lot of fun; however, a bit chilly.
While Matt and I were wandering around the lookout point we ran into a couple of his Korean friends, who had also traveled to Jirisan via motorcycles. They were decked out in some serious biking gear, and one of them was in a motorcycle accident no longer than a month ago! I was so surprised to see him out riding so soon. They accompanied us back to the campsite and we all sat around the campfire singing some songs on Tom’s guitar while drinking some really overpriced Korean beer. That night turned out to be a bit cooler than we had anticipated. Tom, Brian and I were in a tent I had borrowed from a co-teacher, Brad and Matt had cozied up in Matt’s one person tent, Josh was sleeping like a baby in his hammock “tent” (jealous), and Matt’s two Korean friends slept in our rental car. It was a full party to say the least! Unfortunately, Tom and I decided to not bring sleeping bags and just rolled up a couple of blankets to bring along, plus one yoga mat. It wasn’t the best but at least it was something!
In the morning I was the last one to arise and we fed ourselves some trail mix and kiwi and decided to leave for a long day of hiking! Brad and Josh had already left around 4a.m. for a mountain marathon they were participating in… Those crazy kids. And the rest of us wandered around the campsite until about 10a.m. then hopped into the rental car for a hiking adventure. Side Note: the night prior two college-aged girls came around to our campsite and befriended us with their smiles. We invited them to go hiking with us and they graciously accepted (anything to get away from their parents, I’m sure. Plus, Matt is a husky husky man and Brian is a smooth Korean speaking waygook. Don’t get me started on what Tom is, but he was off limits.) Anyways, so the six of us bundled into the car and drove off to our first trailhead of the day.
It took us about 40 minutes to drive to our first trailhead, on a glorious May afternoon, when Brad gave us a call telling us that he and Josh were stranded. kajsdkjfhaskdj ‘What?’ They just got done running for 7 straight hours, finished the marathon, and there was no shuttle to take them back to the beginning of the race. ‘Koreaaaaaaaaaa!’ I said. So we tried putting their location into our car’s GPS but to our dismay we couldn’t find them. Even our two new Korean girlfriends had trouble finding them on our GPS. Matt was just about to leave to go save them when Brad told us that he found a ride back with another runner. ‘Hooray!’ I said. And with that, was stopped panicking and began our hike up Jirisan Mountain.
What a gorgeous and lovely hike that was! Only problem was that the majority of the trail was washed out so they wouldn’t even let us hike up to the waterfalls (let alone the top of the mountain)! One by one we could feel our hiking spirits being crushed but then realized that there are so many hiking trails to be explored. This is just one we shouldn’t have picked. So, after a small lunch of PB&Js we played a game of ‘go fish’, in Korean, and headed back down the trail. Which might I add was ridiculous! It was more like a super long cobblestone driveway. The sites I’ll give an 8, trail design I’ll give a 3.
Our next hiking destination was much better. It took us another 30 minutes to drive there but it was well worth it; plus, we had our summer theme song to keep us in good spirits. We started through this small little village (name escapes me) and began our hike on a completely normal trail! I was so happy! We had a tree canopy to keep us cool and a beautiful hiking path to walk on. The weather was perfect and I didn’t burn at all! We hiked for a ways and then decided to just turn around. Our new Korean girlfriends were getting tired and we didn’t want to force them to hike. I really wanted to hike down to the river and go for a swim. But everyone kept telling me it was illegal. I regret not going.
Afterwards we made it back to the car, started singing our summer theme song (for the hundredth time), Grandpa Matt bought us ice cream, and we couldn’t have been better! We made it back to the campsite and I checked my phone: two missed calls from Brad and a text message that read ‘PLEase give Josh or I a call when you see this’. Oh no. We called them and they had been stranded, again, somewhere I don’t know for the entire duration of our past hike. Yikes. Apparently the guy they got a ride from was actually another dude runner and the three of them got into a taxi and took a cab the distance equivalent to $100. Did I say yikes? YIKES. So we quickly found their quadrants on the GPS and with that Brian and Matt went to go save Brad and Josh. Tom and I spent the time frolicking in the river, playing 10 card Gin on the rocks and wandering around the park. After an hour or so I started to wonder about their whereabouts. Sure enough, I gave ’em a call, and there was yet another problem. This morning Josh and Brad drove Josh’s motorcycle to the start of the race, parked it in a parking spot and then just left. Problem with that is that they didn’t calculate what a hungry Korean starving for a parking spot would do to Josh’s motorcycle. They moved it over out of the way and behind four parked cars. Super. Thanks. And they had been waiting for one of the four cars to move so that they could reclaim Josh’s bike. Eventually, somehow, I convinced them to leave the parking lot and come eat some dinner with us. That night we all had a well earned feast of a dinner, especially Brad and Josh, and repeated our campfire shenanigans from the night prior. Adding a nutty story from Grandpa Matt that ends with him being wasted in an airport, all translated line by line, by Brian, into Korean for our Korean girlfriends.
The next morning I awoke, late, to some unfortunate lower back pain. ‘Is it that time of the year?’ I asked. Yes, unfortunately it was that time of the year my body rebels and gives me a sneak peak into my day-to-day life as a 70-year old woman. Well, we packed up the camp, debated on whether or not we should go on another hike, decided against it, and then drove to the Jirisan Hot Springs! Which was more like a mildly cleaner bathhouse (jimjilbang) then we’re typically used to. However, this hot springs had outdoor coed swimming pools! We all hung out together for a bit in the strangely Asian Disney themed hot springs and then made our way back to the car. But not before taking some pictures outside of the Hotel. Which was Christmas themed. Everything just makes sense here…