Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Urban Camping

Camping in the middle of a megacity - a city of more than 10 million people. Impossible? Not at all. Not when that city is Seoul. If you look at the geography of Seoul, you'll see it is bordered by 8 different mountains. This allows Korean folk to get their hiking fix in between their hellishly long hours - be it working, studying, or keeping house.

If you think the last one doesn't involve hellishly long hours, you'd be wrong. Things get dirty here quick! Living here is like living on a dirt road in a house with open windows. You sweep, dust, mop, and wash windows one day - and the next you have to do it all over again. I sometimes contemplate hiring a maid (as my co-workers do) to keep our apartment sparkling clean. However, we're too cheap for that.

But yes, you can go camping in the middle of Seoul. I read about it on the internet. There were no pictures or maps - just one small reference to "campground #5" somewhere near Seoul National University. So, I convinced Jason, Fritz, and Nathan that I knew of a campground on Gwanaksan. Since it was peak season for autumn colors, we decided to try it out.

After a longer than anticipated hike from the subway station, we found the (a) trailhead. We kept our eyes peeled for any signs that would show us the way. Unfortunately, the only signs we came across were 'No Camping' and 'No Fires' signs. Undeterred, we hiked on. After 45 minutes or so on the trail, we began to ask other hikers where the campground was. While I may not know much Korean, I was positive that no one we spoke to knew of campground #5. The laughter, the crossing of arms into an X, and the words "no camping" weren't too hard to interpret. "No worries" I said to the guys, "Koreans aren't really into camping".

After another 20 minutes of hiking, Jason and Fritz left the trail to explore a clearing which turned out to be campground #5. Unfortunately, the campground was surrounded by razor wire and the camp pads were overgrown by about 5 years worth of grasses and such. Apparently the 'No Camping' signs were for real. Jason has never been one to be deterred by trespassing, so he led us back into a creek bed that was hidden from the main trail.

So, we set up our tents, made a fire, and commenced to camp. I'll admit my heart quickened a few times when we heard sirens, and I was quite preoccupied by errant sparks, but it was a good time. I'm not sure the guys will trust me the next time I come up with an idea though. My last one was a hike around a "beautiful lake" which we did on a cold, gray, rainy day. The "beautiful lake" part wasn't quite so beautiful either as there was a freeway overpass right above it. Oh well, I'm sure I'll keep trying.

The hike from the subway station - I have no idea what was so dangerous about this road. It looked fine to me.

Colors on Gwanaksan.

Nathan and I waiting while Jason and Fritz explored the clearing.

Jason and I slept in Fritz's tent.

While Nathan enthusiastically slept in his own.

Group shot with my pretty bag in the foreground.

We took the easy way out and jumped on a bus for the return trip to the subway station.

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