Falling in love with autumn leaves

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Falling in love with autumn leaves

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Fans of fall foliage had been concerned that this year’s autumn display would not be as beautiful as previous years, due to the exceptionally dry summer. But according to officials working in Korea’s national parks, the fall foliage at Mount Seorak and Mount Jiri is expected to be even more spectacular than in previous years. The staff at these national parks said their mountains are tall and their valleys are very deep, so that they are not affected by drought as much as other mountains in Korea. An official at Mount Jiri National Park said rainfall on the mountain was almost at normal levels this year. The peak for autumn foliage at Mount Seorak is expected to occur until Oct. 30. Mount Jiri’s best display will take place in early November.
The JoongAng Ilbo asked cottage guards at the two mountains to recommend good walking tours for those who want to enjoy autumn foliage. Staff writers added two additional destinations.

Baekdam Temple to Yeongsiam to Oseam.
Lee Young-jin, 36, who is a cottage guard in Suryeom-dong at Mount Seorak, recommended this course. “This route shouldn’t be crowded,” he said with laughter. Mr. Lee is one of the last natives of the mountain to become a cottage guard. He was born in Yeongsiam and is the son of Lee Gyeong-soo who built the cottage, where he still lives. “Most people who visit this area hike to Bongjeongam or Daecheong peak. So, the path from Yeongsiam to Oseam is usually quiet. The natural features are splendid and the view is enchanting, rather than simply picturesque,” Mr. Lee said. “It is very attractive and I cannot look at it often enough, even though I walk up the path everyday. There is no better place to do a great deal of thinking in fall,” he added. Mr. Lee advised that it is better to set a time limit on the hike, rather than a destination, and to walk up slowly, enjoying the scenery.
A shuttle bus runs from Yongdae-ri, the starting point, to Baekdam Temple. It departs every 20 minutes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and costs 2,000 won ($2). It takes about seven hours to hike around the course. Drinking water is available at Yeongsiam. For information, call the mountain cottage in Suryeom-dong, (033) 462-2675.

Hwaeom Temple to Nogodan to Imgeolryeong to Piagol.
Ham Tae-sik, 78, arrived at Mount Jiri in 1972. He lived in the Nogodan cottage for 16 years and has lived in the Piagol cottage for 19 years.
“It’s not important where somebody begins to walk on Mount Jiri, it’s the hiker’s attitude which is important,” said Mr. Ham. “You can’t enjoy the foliage properly if you come with a group of friends and make noise chatting with them,” he said.
Mr. Ham said that he has observed the Mount Jiri autumn foliage for 35 years and each one has been unique. He recommended a route that starts at Hwaeom Temple and takes in Nogodan before heading toward Banya Peak and then arrives at Piagol. There are various broadleaf and maple trees on the route, and one can observe different colors of foliage during the hike, depending on the elevation, said Mr. Ham
He suggested staying one night at the Piagol cottage. “After sleeping, visitors can enjoy the foliage with a cup of coffee. That is a superb experience,” he said.
It takes about eight hours to walk from Hwaeom Temple to Piagol cottage. Drinking water is available at Nogodan and Imgeolryeong.
For more information, call the Piagol cottage, (061) 783-1928.

Gaeam Temple in Buan, North Jeolla province.
Gaeam Temple is located at the eastern most tip of Byeonsanbando, one of the most gorgeous places on the west coast. The temple is beautiful but not as popular with visitors as its neighbor, Naeso Temple. The maple trees that line both sides of the road to the temple from the wooden entrance, better known as an iljumun, are awesome.
The avenue is just about 500 meters (1,640 feet) long but the colors are vivid. An iljumun is an entrance gate to a temple. Wooden posts support a tiled roof and Buddhists use an iljumun to pause and let go of all secular or evil thoughts before entering a sacred place. Visitors are encouraged to do the same.
It’s better to walk from Gaeamje reservoir to the temple, as the dotted red maple leaves make for fascinating scenery along with the clean water and green fir tree leaves. The air here is especially pure.
To get there, take Seohaean expressway to Julpo and make a left turn to Julpo-eup. At Buan junction, turn to the right to take national road No. 30. Make a right turn at the Seokpo three way junction toward Byeonsan, then a sign for Gaeam Temple will appear. For more information, call (063) 583-3871.

Gakhwa Temple, Bonghwa, North Gyeongsang province
The maple tree forest at Gakhwa Temple is the best place to walk with a lover. The temple is not filled with cultural assets and treasures but it is surrounded by a forest with rich autumn foliage, creating a romantic touch. In particular, the two kilometer long avenue which leads towards the temple creates a cozy mood with its soft yellowy leaves.
Another attraction at the temple is Dongam, which is in the temple’s eastern forest, about 30 minutes away on foot. Dongam is a hermitage where monks in pursuit of high virtue practice austere lives.
To get there, take Jungang highway to Punggi. After passing Sosuseowon and Seonbi Village, take national road No. 39 at Buseok-myeon. You’ll see the direction to Gakhwa Temple at the Chunyang’s three-way junction. For more information, call (054) 672-6120.


by Sung Si-yoon
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