HIKING APSAN | 7.5 Miles on the Road to Nowhere Trail

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There are many different Buddha statues that each carry different meanings typically differentiated by the positions of Buddha’s hands and the placement of the statue. These Buddha statues in the trees near the entrance of the temple — with right palm open and facing outward and left hand in resting position — Β offer protection, fearlessness, and blessings.Β 

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I couldn’t get quite close enough to tell the exact details of this Buddha statue but it looked to be a seated Buddha holding a lotus (?) which would mean serenity/meditation

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I’m going to have to start coming up with better names for my hikes, but I’m not quite sure how to name them. As far as I know, trails aren’t given names. Besides the signs for “Jarak-gil” I haven’t seen any trails with names, just numbers (trail markers?) with a bunch of confusing words that I need to learn to understand.

There are some signs. There is a sign with a cartoon leaf guy holding a camera that I assume means “lookout point / photo zone.” Some signs will point to a temple or fortress or office or valley with the mileage….er KM…underneath but a majority of those are not in English.

So, say you came to a crossroads and wondered where each path led — good chance you wouldn’t know until you hiked along whichever path you chose. And the so=called “trail map?” That only marks the MAIN trails — the ones that lead directly to a temple or to a peak or to a natural springs — not all the zillions of backwoods trails that criss cross all around the mountain.

It’s not TOO hard to figure things out though. When in doubt i just go up, and once I’m above the tree line I can pretty much gauge my location by my relationship to the city below. Even so, it makes for some interesting hikes and for some “wtf where the f am I” moments and some “at some point I’ll have to stop going up, right?” type of moments as well.

A few days ago I packed up my tiny backpack and headed outside to enjoy the awesome weather. I think I had it in my head that maybe I’d retrace a trail I hiked a couple weeks earlier except this time summit Mt Sanseong and continue on to Mt. Apsan. Instead what happened was when I came to the crossroads, instead of going up to the fortress, I followed the (flat) path along the old ruins of a stone wall until I reached a sign that read “Hermitage,” with an arrow pointing up.

I craned my neck to the left to see where the path led. It seemed wide and kind of flat, so i went in that direction. i passed some burial mounds, some made of earth and others entirely of rock and followed a river bed adorned with balancing rocks. The breeze picked up ever so slightly and I could smell wood and incense burning and hear the sound of water trickling melodically down river rocks. Perched above a wall covered with flower vines and through an arch decorated by brightly colored paper lanterns blowing in the breeze was the most idyllic story book Buddhist complex I have seen.

I could hear people talking so I tip toed around the hermitage in search of an entrance. As far as I could tell i would need to cross the river and walk through the complex where the people were talking to get to the temple. Since it was a Hermitage, I knew most likely people were living there and I didn’t want to barge in on them.

To the left of the Hermitage I noticed a steep trail cutting into the cliffs. I proceeded to climb on this trail hoping it would lead me to a secret back entrance. As far as I could tell, it didn’t, but from the trail’s vantage point i could make out a Buddha statue nestled in a small cave as well as a few golden Buddhas in trees overlooking the complex.

The trail continued up through the forest, up a steep set of steps and over some boulders until it met up with a natural springs along with a fairly sizable outdoor gym space — complete with an entire set of rusted dumbbells. I walked around the springs in search of the trail but all I found was a scratchy little trail that zig zagged its way up the side of the mountain and looked as if it had been made by someone dragging a thin stick behind him.

Eventually I found myself at another crossroads marked by a sign written in Korean. If I turned right, the next destination was 2.7KM. If I turned left, 1.7KM. I struggled to sound out the Korean characters and, thinking I had spelled out “Sanseong,” but most likely influenced by the shorter distance, I chose the path to the left.

I was right! It led to Sanseong! The last time we were on this peak it was still winter — everything was brown, trees were bare, and grass was nonexistent. A couple months later everything was lush and full of life. Bright flowers popped open on bushes and trees, bees buzzed like crazy around my head, a snake slithered across my path, and (gross) wormy things dangled from tree branches on barely visible thin lines of string. On top of Apsan, Spring was still in full bloom.

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  • jj
    May 12, 2015 at 12:59 am

    It looks like Pinky hitchhiked on a plane and found you

  • veronika
    May 12, 2015 at 11:53 am

    except I would have heard her screaming from a mile away