Camping at Seoseokdae
After spending forty years as a Provincial Park, Mudeungsan was designated Korea's 21st National Park on March 4, 2013.
Mountains are regarded very highly by Koreans, including many people who believe them to be sacred. Mudeungsan Mountain is no exception. Locals once worshiped Cheonwangbong Peak as it was considered a mountain of God. Fittingly, two of the "Jewels of Mudeungsan" are found here. Seoseokdae and Ipseokdae formed about 70 million years ago, as a result of rapidly cooling lava. The duo is part of the Jusangjeolli Cliffs, rock pillars of various hexagonal shapes that seem as if they were hand carved. Ipseokdae is a distinct pillar shape as it has been heavily weathered, and Seoseokdae, which has been less weathered, looks like a folding screen. The pair have been designated Natural Monuments due to their rarity and uniqueness.
Our first round-trip to Seoseokdae
As a result of our snowed out attempt at an early morning, mountain-peak, New Year's, sunrise hike - we decided on an overnight trip near Cheonwangbong Peak. The weather had finally turned warm. Temperatures in the city had been reaching the eighties. Also, this specific night, the low was only forecasted to dip to forty-eight degrees.
We returned and purchased the surprisingly affordable, colorful, teepee style tent we had previously seen at Lotte Mart. We made a few peanut butter & jellies, grabbed some oranges, and packed extremely light. I didn't want to overload our pack, we already had the not-so-hiking-friendly-tent in tow. Two liters of water, a camera, plus Alexis' iPhone & selfie stick should be all we need. I also, reluctantly, packed a fleece throw blanket, that my princess had to have. I convinced her that too many extra clothes were unnecessary, and that mine would double as pillows. After all, we were going to be hot from the 3,500 foot climb to Seoseokdae. The plan was to enjoy the climb, view the sunset, sleep peacefully, then witness the beautiful sunrise.
The ascent to Seoseokdae can be done with relative quickness, two to three hours. However, we zigged where we should've zagged, took breathers, and soaked up the vistas along the way. The trek totaled five hours for us. And, from the beginning, we had to ration the water we brought with us. But, the views were amazing and worth it!
Seoseokdae, shown below
We set up our tent on the Seoseokdae observatory deck, surely we would be the only two on the mountain overnight. While setting up, we realize that the tent flaps don't zip along the bottom. This is one of the shade tents that Koreans use for park picnics! Oh well, we really didn't even need the tent. We could sleep under the stars, if we had sleeping bags.
As soon as the sun went down the temperature plummeted. During my haste and excitement while planning, I failed to think about the impact of the 3,500 foot elevation difference. Forty-eight degrees in the city meant a great deal colder on the mountain. Especially, coupled with the breeze flowing through the open tent flaps. We wore every stitch of clothing we brought, meaning we had no pillows. We even wore our extra socks, in the place of mittens, on our hands. Sleeping was going to be a hard task.
One of us managed to fall asleep for ten minutes, or so... About that time, Alexis woke me with a startle. In my groggy state, I heard someone and waited to be evicted from our campsite in Korean. However, as I gained clarity, I realized there were no footsteps. It sounded like a medium to large sized animal walking about, directly under the observatory deck! I made a quick, mental note of potential weapons in our tent. A near empty water bottle and a selfie stick were all that I came up with. So, after removing Alexis' iPhone from her selfie stick, I started making my way outside. Luckily, the creature, whatever it may have been, was just as scared as I was and fled before I had to encounter it. I'm glad it didn't want to fight me for Alexis or the uneaten peanut butter & jellies. I have a feeling the selfie stick would not have held up!
The rest of the night was spent trying to maintain our core body temperatures and listening for sounds of a return visit. It was an uncomfortable and sleepless night. If the party planner had brought a flashlight we probably would have hiked off the mountain.
We've survived the cold, the wildlife, and my ignorance!
Waitin' on the warmth of the sunrise.
Alexis was glad she made me pack the throw blanket!
Ipseokdae, shown above. Thirty pillars (30 - 60 ft. in height) spread to the east and west. Also seen here, at the base of the rocks you may notice a mounded tomb. Must have been pretty important to be carried up and buried at this site.
On the way back down to Gwangju we enjoyed the daylight, took pictures of the city, and enjoyed a big ol' tree.
At the base of the mountain are several famous temples including Jeungsimsa, with the main hall pictured below.
We enjoyed the adventure and the scenery. Next time I think I'll err on the side of caution, rather than comfort.