Hiking Mudeungsan

This past weekend I finally got around to hiking Gwangju city’s famous: Mudeung Mountain. So many things are named after the mountain: streets, restaurants, libraries, stores, markets… Since I arrived, people have told me I need to go to Mudeungsan Mountain National Park (무등산국립공원). So I finally looked into going when a friend was visiting me in Korea. It was a stroke of luck that the same bus I take to work also goes to the park entrance. It’s that close! Only a 40 minute bus ride to the last stop on the line.

Throughout Korea’s history, mountains have played a powerful role in the myth making and religion of the times. It is said that Cheonwangbong Peak was worshiped and considered a mountain of God. Today you can find a several temples near the base of the mountain. The trail my friend and I took lead us past Jeungsimsa, and Wonhyosa Temple. At Wonhyosa there was a temple service going on and you could hear the monks chanting inside. It made for a very serene feeling.

 

Mudeungsan has an elevation of 1,187 m (3,894 ft). The hike wasn’t particularly difficult, however there were some steep parts that some people could find more challenging. The weather was beautiful and since we weren’t in a rush, we took our time, not caring exactly which trails we took. We brought kimbap and fruit for lunch. While the weather was nice, once we cleared the protection of the trees, the wind was still quite cold. For the end of March though, the weather was fantastic. The flowers were starting to bloom. In the next few weeks we should start to see the cherry bosoms appear which I’m looking forward to! We ended up near the lookout that faces Gwangju:

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You can see the entire city nestled into the valleys with island-like mountains appearing from a sea of urbanization.

I found out afterwards we hadn’t actually reached the summit, but were soooo close. I plan to go again in the future. There is also a large ridgeline that we missed. Perhaps in the autumn when there’s more color on the trees. I had planned to do more hiking this year, especially since I haven’t been suffering from RA since I arrived in Korea (huzzah!), but I was just so busy. I also got sick early on which ruined a number of weeks for me during peak hiking season! To date the only mountain I hiked was Ulsanbawi (Ulsan rock) in Seoraksan National Park back when I first came to Korea.

I had been planning on other hikes, however this year has been particularly bad for yellow dust, or hwangsa 황사. Hwangsa is a seasonal meteorological phenomenon which affects much of East Asia sporadically during the months of spring. However this year we had bouts of it even in the late fall and February! The dust originates in the deserts of Mongolia, northern China and Kazakhstan where high-speed surface winds and intense dust storms kick up dense clouds of fine, dry soil particles that get carried east to China, Korea and Japan. While this in itself isn’t too terrible, in recent times problems with the dust has been exasperated due to increased industrial development in the region. The dust sweeps through the polluted air of China and picks up pollutants and toxins. So not only are you breathing in dust, but toxic dust. Korea has also played a role in the contamination of the dust with it’s massive development, although blame flies back and forth between the countries on who is to blame (*ahem* how about everyone just get their act together?). Anyway, I get alerts on my phone when the air is particularly bad and try to limit physical activity and stay indoors as much as possible. Long story short, I didn’t hike as much as I’d have liked. So I shall be returning!!!

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