It seems finally that the bulk of the summer rains have come and gone. For some, this is worse than when the monsoon season was in full swing as the afternoon temperatures tend to reach some unpleasant heights. Worse yet is the humidity, melting constitutions strong and weak. Yet this flood of sunlight and warmth can also be a blessing, a test of an adventurer’s ability to strike out into adversity and find beauty worthy of the struggle. This week, we’re taking an old road to a familiar place.
Mudeungsan is a name synonymous with Gwangju. From vantage points as far out as Sangmu, the jagged line that the great guardian cuts into the sky is as recognizable as the tune to my favorite song. Even so, few people have fully explored the trails of this majestic natural wonder and because of this some of the more impressive trails become lost in the underbrush. Recently I spent an afternoon hiking one of these nearly forgotten trails not far from downtown.
On the back side of Mudeung Mountain there is a trail between Sansu dong and Duam dong called the Historical Foot Path, or more literally translated the Old Road. This path, which starts in a narrow lane through a small neighborhood, has the feel of a place both ancient and important but with an air of remoteness that adds to its charm. Starting up the trail, passing the neighborhood gardens, this place seemed similar to most other trails I’ve hiked, if maybe a bit steeper. After coming to a short fork in the road and looking to my left under a shady patch of trees, I looked out and saw a rare view of the entire city. Seeing this spurred me further in anticipation of how much better it could get.
Walking further up the stones and roots left me with a surprising amount of vigor on a hot summer afternoon mostly due to the fact that almost the entirety of the trail is shaded. After a couple of forks along the way, I came to a large paved road across which the trail really opened up. A short set of stairs later I was walking on a stone wall from some long passed era. This wall climbs along the side of the mountain, open to a view of the city I’d be hard pressed to improve upon. From this vista it’s possible even on a slightly hazy day to see the entire city and beyond, something that can be very hard to find on most mountain trails due to the dense foliage. At the end of my hike, though not nearly the end of this extensive network that made the Old Road, I was glad to find a pleasant bit of shade hanging over a large stone and a couple benches, offering a great view and a chance to relax in a cooling breeze.
Getting to this sparsely used area of Mudeungsan is reasonably simple. The bus stop for this area is the Sansu Mudeungpark Apt. and can be reached via the 81, 187, 1187, 1187-1, and 1000 buses. You’ll see a number of small brown signs pointing in the direction of the trail which will lead first through a narrow lane in a quaint neighborhood with some lovely wall paintings then, almost suddenly, onto a somewhat steep path. This is definitely not a trail I would recommend for young children or for someone who is not accustomed to a tougher hike as a great deal of the beginning of the trail can be quite steep and leave the unprepared wanting to turn back before it gets good. The beginning of the trail is the worst of it however and if you can get beyond that, the rest is quite a bit easier.
With summer in full swing, it can be tough to want to go outside, but with the help of some shade and cool mountain breezes, a jaunt along the hill side can still be a great experience. For every season there’s an excuse to stay indoors but for every excuse, a place like this pops to mind and puts those ill-suited ideas where they belong: the circular file. Always remember to bring some water when you’re about though: you never know how long you’ll be when you step out onto the crooked trail.