A Day to Remember at Hallasan

On our second day in Jeju, we took the advice of Young Suk, our host at the guesthouse, and embarked upon the Yeongsil Trail up Hallasan.  As she had suggested, we bought 'joomok bap' (rice balls stuffed with kimchi and covered with dried seaweed) at the base of the trail to later eat for lunch on the mountain.  With high spirits and a clear morning sky, we began to ascend the mountain at around 9am. 


I'm not sure if it was because we were there during low season or if it was because Yeongsil Trail is not one of the two trails that goes all the way to the top crater of Hallasan, but we found a surprising lack of tourists on the trail.  We did however run into a handful of hardcore ahjumma's and ahjuhssi's that were shamefully in much better shape than I.  

The trail started off deceivingly gently, pleasantly curving over gradual slopes through woodland trees.  Before you knew it however, the trail started getting quite steep, transitioning from a dirt path to well maintained flights of wooden stairs.  As the trees fell away, the winds picked up, making it increasingly difficult to breathe.  Continuing up the steepening path, there were times when I wasn't sure if I would make it, which I suspect spoke more to my level of fitness rather than the difficulty of the trail.  Nevertheless, in time the trail leveled off as we approached our destination, the Witse-oreum Shelter.

We arrived at the shelter around 1pm.  Suddenly realizing how hungry we were, we bought the most expensive (and I dare say the tastiest) cup ramen I've ever had.  Having just experienced the only way the ramen could have been delivered to the shelter (that is, up steep trails on someone's back) I could understand the inflated price tag and why they limited the number of ramen per customer.  Happily, we dove into our bowls of joomok bap and ramen.  While it wasn't the most glamorous meal, it was certainly among the most satisfying.  The sense of achievement at making it to our destination seemed to make our meal all the more delectable.   

When we left the shelter, we noticed that the wind had picked up significantly and clouds were starting to gather along the peak of the mountain.  We took some pictures to document our success of the day and hurried down the mountain before our bodies became chilled.

Going down the mountain, we could face the views of the island outstretched below.  While most of the snows had melted, the verdant signs of springs had not yet begun to show, leaving a rugged landscape of browns and orchre.  By the time we got back to the car, we were all pretty tired but our spirits were invigorated.  As we pulled away from the parking lot, I quietly mused how funny it is that something like climbing a mountain can have such an energizing effect. 


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