A Long and Beautiful Climb
Begin your ascent up any South Korean mountain, and within seconds you’ll witness the barrage of outdoor wear that paints the trails in this small but peak-filled nation–a head-to-toe ensemble of high-performance boots, quick-dry long sleeves, loose-fit rain-resistant pants, form-fittting day packs, ultra-wide visors, and professional light-weight walking sticks that could tame an Andes summit. It’s a uniform worn by almost every Korean who sets foot on a hill. It’s a commitment to the journey. It’s the gear of champions. Koreans, I have learned, like to get their hike on.
So do Bryan, Dianna, Leah, and I. So earlier this fall, before the leaves had turned and the chill arrived, we set out on a Saturday afternoon for the peak of Busan’s Geumjeong Mountain–a height of 801.5 metres that rises behind Beomosa temple and overlooks the city panorama. The sky was bright and cloudless. We had a picnic in our packs. We wore shorts and sunglasses, and–sans walking sticks–began our trek to the top.
Hiking always reminds me that blue and green were designed to go together…
and this white craggy rock made for some sweet colour contrast…
with Busan looking up from below.
Enroute to the top…
we passed a few pastoral fields, exploding with grass…
and leading us to views we can’t see…
from the windows of classrooms.
Down the other side, we explored Beomosa Temple, a holy site originally built 1300 years ago, destroyed in 1592 during the Japanese invasion, and renovated in 1713. According to the geography book ‘Donggukyeojiseungram’, Beomosa–translated as ”fish from heaven”– was named for the “golden fish” in the well on the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan, which “rode the colourful clouds and came down from the sky.”
The temple grounds host a statue garden circled with pines…
Perhaps he found it here, radiating from the mountain, spilling down in invisible streams from the gold Korean leaves. Perhaps he found it simply by being committed to the journey, on a long and beautiful climb.
Take line 1 to Oncheon station, and then bus no. 203. Alternately, you can take the cable car from Geumgang Park and walk the trail from the botanical garden.