Christmas is just around the corner, followed closely by the coming of a new year. The shopping season is coming to a close, the school year winding down, vacations coming in to focus, old friends leaving, preparations for new folks being made, phone calls and Skyping and post through the revolving doors and so on and so on… All that is amazing is also quite frustrating and a bit tiring. It can be easy to lose perspective when the world is all abuzz with plans and obligations coming from every angle possible, which is why this week we’re going to take a step outside to clear our heads and get some air.
In the south of the city near Bongseon-dong, there is a bridge that no car crosses and few people know of. The Korean name for this place is Je Suk San Gureumdari, but a pretty basic translation of it is My Stone Mountain Overpass. Looking at this in the spirit of communalism that this country so embraces, the name could easily be interpreted to mean that whosoever may go there, for so long as they stand on those rocks, it is theirs to tend to and theirs to enjoy. It’s been my pleasure to call this great expanse mine a few times now, first in the summer on warm days and now in the winter on a brisk evening. Both conditions offer amazing views and a beauty hard to match against any other place in the city. This is due to the fact that, though there is an extensive circuit of mountain trails like many other local parks, this one starts off with a high suspension bridge spanning a mountain pass. Explaining it that way does it little justice but without breaking down into a bunch of high minded poetry beyond my skill, I’ll just recommend you go see it yourself.
Getting there in itself can be a bit of a trek as there are no buses that go directly to it, though there are two stops that are less than a kilometer off. The further of the 2 stops is for Bongseon Daehwa Apt. This can be reached via the 28, 55, 59, and 98 buses. The 98 and 28 buses both stop at the Namgwangju subway station, which without traffic is only about 10 minutes from the stop for the mountain. From the Bongseon stop, travel south (if you’ve come from the direction of Namgwangju station, follow the direction the bus is going, which is south) a short way, about a block, until you come across the first large intersection. This is the first one with traffic lights, pretty easy to pick out. At the intersection, turn right. This will begin the ascent into the mountain pass. Along this path, you’ll come across a slightly closer bus stop for Munseong Go or Munseong High School, which can be reached using the 55, 59, or 76. From this stop, just continue up the hill until you reach the stairs up to the bridge. The only reason I mention the first stop is that the buses that go there are slightly more regular and access a greater part of the city. Another benefit is that at the lower parts of the pass, there are some nice coffee shops and restaurants: good places to prepare for or recharge after your hike, especially in the colder months.
A short word of warning before you go running over to this trail: the stairs, though decent, can be a bit narrow at points making them especially difficult to negotiate after dark, even with the lights posted along the way, though there are rope railings along the way if you’re so inclined. That being said, this is not a difficult hike, taking anyone who’s experienced even the easiest mountain trails about 5 to 10 minutes to crest followed by a great number of gently angled trails on the other side of the overpass. In this busy season of gifts and trials, it’s difficult to find the time to slow down and take things in. Becoming focused on what’s desired or what must be accomplished can take its toll on even the most durable constitution. Do yourself a favor: take a little time to take it all in. Life is only as hard as we make it and only so beautiful as our minds allow. Good luck to you, travelers, and Merry Christmas. See you again on the crooked trail.