Hiking Mt. Palgong Mountain Mountain
The title might sound a little redundant, but we only recently found out that san in Korean means mountain. So a couple of weekends ago when we hiked Palgong-san, we were calling it Mt. Palgongsan, Palgongsan Mountain, or some other incorrect combination. This might explain why it was so difficult to get directions. Aside from giving us a strenuous workout and a wonderful Sunday afternoon, Palgon-san taught us to show a little respect for our Korean elders.
Before we hiked Palgongsan, we usually chuckled at the old people walking down city streets fully decked out in North Face hiking gear. We would see them at a bus stop or on the subway with a backpack on, boots and hiking poles in both hands. “Check this guy out…pffff.”
After about 10 minutes on the trail to the top of Palgon-san, we were wishing we had taken the cable car instead. Our jeans were rolled up to our knees and our sweatshirts tied around our waists. The breakfast we had of soda and street food while waiting for the bus was not getting the job done. Meanwhile, the grandpas from the bus stop were blazing past us with little radios tied to their packs blasting Korean ballads. “Waygukin (foreigner)…pfff”
We huffed and puffed our way around the sometimes paved, sometimes unpaved, but always steep trails. Periodically, we leaned against logs or rocks and tried not to pass out while catching our breath. Meanwhile, the grandpas would have a cigarette and eat some hard-boiled eggs.
After a couple of hours, we were greeted by a giant Buddha engraving on the side of a triangular rock, a small temple and the realization that we were nowhere near the top of the mountain. Wrong trail waygukin, wrong trail. So we raced the sunset back down the mountain, finding another temple, some friendly monks, and giant guardian statues along the way. We agreed to conquer Mt. Palgonsan Mountain another day.