Reedy or Not, Eoksae Are HereIt is already mid-October and the weather gets chillier by the day. Around this time of the year, fiery tints on the mountains begin to fade gradually and the ridges become filled with golden brown eoksae, or reeds, that wave in the wind.
Between now and early November is the peak season to enjoy this wild plant found around the nation. Most well-known reed habitats include mountains such as Yeongchuk and Hwawang in South Gyeongsang province, Wolchul and Cheongwan in South Jeolla province, Mindung in Gangwon province and Myeongseong in Gyeonggi province. Of those places, Mount Meongseong is the smallest, but probably the most popular.
Sanjeong Lake and the surrounding Mount Myeongseong are famous sites in Korean history. Gungye, the founder of the Hugoguryeo Dynasty (901-918), fled to Mount Myeongseong as he was chased by Wanggeon, a former member of the court who led the rebellion against the king. Gungye, despite all his efforts, was ultimately defeated by Wanggeon, who later founded the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). According to local folklore, the mountain cried in sympathy after Gungye broke down in tears of defeat. Mount Myeongseong has ever since been known as the "crying mountain." On the mountain, there is a natural cave called Gungyewang-gul or King Gungye's Cave. The cave is large enough to accommodate 200 people and is believed to be the place where Gungye and his troops hid. Another folktale has it that Maeui Taeja, the last Crown Prince of the Silla Dynasty (B.C. 57-935), changed into a hermit as his kingdom fell apart. When the prince arrived at Mount Myeongseong to live his life in seclusion, the mountain cried out of pity for him.
Climbers to Mount Myeongseong usually depart from the Sangdong mountain resort parking lot. The hiking trail is rocky, so be careful. After about 10 minutes, you will get to Biseon falls where the serious hiking begins. Walk along the valley for half an hour, then you will find the Deungnyong falls where, local myth says, a dragon ascended to heaven. The two-story waterfall is so beautiful that it is often compared to the Peach Pond (boksung-a-tang in Korean) of Mount Seorak in Gangwon province.
Near Deungnyong falls, the hiking trail divides into two － the steeper and rougher to the left, and the gentler to the right. After about 20 minutes on the right trail, you will arrive at a large field covered with reeds. Those reeds look even better under the afternoon sunshine since the field heads toward the west, accenting the midday sunlight. Another 20 minutes' walk from the field of reeds takes you to a peak named Samgakbong, where you can enjoy a view of Sanjeong lake. When you descend, follow the ridgeline at the three-way-intersection under the Samgakbong peak. It takes three hours or so to complete the round trip, which is about 6.5 kilometers in all.
On the edge of Mount Myeongseong lies picturesque Sanjeong lake. At the lakeside are various resort facilities, such as an amusement park, restaurants and accommodations. The amusement park offers many fun rides, including motorboats and paddleboats. Admission to the park costs 1,000 won (about 80 cents). Within an hour's drive from Mount Myeongseong, there are tourist attractions with wonderful views of much scenery, including Hantan River, Sundam valley, Jiktang falls and Sambuyeon falls. Also in the area is Jainsa temple of the Goryeo Dynasty, which was originally a small temple built by Wanggeon.
At Hanwha Resorts near Sanjeong lake, you can enjoy a refreshing spa. It would be nice to relax for a while after a trip to the reed fields in the mountains. Admission to the spa costs 5,000 won for adults. For more information, call 031-534-5500.
Idong is a popular area for galbi, barbecued beef ribs. In Idong, there are more than 60 restaurants that specialize in galbi. The rib village in Idong is located at about half-an-hour's drive from Sanjeong lake. One serving of galbi (10 ribs) costs about 20,000 won.
by Kim Sae-joon