Unfortunate as it it, not everyone has the time (or the desire) for a multi-day, triple digit mileage cycling and hiking adventure. In an effort not to alienate the majority voice, I’m doing my best to map out some bike’n hike themed afternoon excursions that won’t leave you cursing the surrounding mountains.
The cycling portion of this trip is a quick 4km bike ride to and from the trailhead and the hike up through the valley to the final destination of Wonhyosa is another 4kms each way with modest elevation gains (for a total of 16km…click here for the cylcemeter link). You could easily bookend this trip with a tour through the Eco-Park near the house and lunch at one of the many bori-bap restaurants near Wonhyosa in order to fill out the afternoon. Alternatively, you could use this as a first step to a much larger hike through Mudeung National Park as Wonhyosa is home to a variety of trail-heads that put you within striking distance of just about every corner of the park.
The Wonhyosa Valley hike makes use of two of the lesser know trailheads tucked away down a gravel road near the entrance of Buncheongware museum (pottery) and right down the street from Eco-Park. The Pungam entrance is certainly the busier of the two and can even get a bit crowded during the summer months due to the infamous Mudung swimming holes found in the valley.
Take a left at the first intersection and another quick left at the museum road entrance.
This road has seen better days so take it slow and avoid the massive pot-holes! Thankfully you’re not going far…take the first left down this little service road.
Follow this road to the gate and lock up your bikes (but don’t lock them to the gate as this is still an active service road which I believe goes through the entire park. Definitely looking forward to sneaking my bike up here!).
You can see the trailhead sign just in front of my bike. Follow this trail through the forest until you see this pogoda:
Head down past the pogoda, but don’t cross the river just yet. Continue up the valley on this side of the river until you see rock stairs guiding you down to the river. This is where you should cross.
Head up the river bank on the other side (you should eventually be walking away from the river) until you come out on a gravel road. You should see a sign marker for Wonhyosa at this point. This junction connects the two trails and completes the loop portion of the hike…if that first part seems too confusing just park your bikes at the end of this trail (Pungam entrance) and hike in and out at the same place.Follow the signs up through the valley toward Wonhyosa. Navigating all the guerrilla farmers is a bit tricky, but I sort of love that they’re all here in the middle of a national park. I suspect they were grandfathered in as this was only recently given national park status. This dude even has cctv cameras!
The rest of the trail is well marked and always within earshot of the river. Depending on the season, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for secluded swimming holes or picnic areas. The valley is filled with them and the further up the valley you go, the less likely you are to be disturbed by the hordes of families fighting over picnic space near the Pungam entrance.
At the top you’ll run into yet another old service road. Plenty of signage at this point so just head toward Wonhyosa and cross the old bridge.
From here you’re close to Wonhyosa temple, the ranger station and all the restaurants. You have a few choices to make…either grab some lunch, head back down or continue on up the mountain! It’s a quick and easy hike back down through the valley and an even easier bike ride back to the house.
Gukbap is one of many foods Damyang claims to be famous for and Changpyeong, just down the road, is the epicenter of it all. Unlike ddukgalbi, which overshadows all the less famous Damyang foods, gukbap is actually affordable and doesn’t come with a pretentious “fusion” theme (don’t get me started). Quite the opposite actually. At 6,000 won a bowl, Gukbap is some serious blue collar eats. Come here during lunch time any day of the week and you’ll see what I mean.
If you’re not a fan of the nasty bits, you’ll want to give this spot a pass because the menu is nothing but pork products.
“Changpyeong Gukbap” is one of the more popular gukbap restaurants around this area and is consistently packed. To get there head down 887 to the Goseo intersection and take a right (about 6km). The driveway entrance to the restaurant is about 100 meters down the road on your right. The restaurant itself is tucked away and a bit difficult to see from the road so keep your eyes peeled for the tall blue roadside sign. A map with this restarant labeled (and many others) can be found here.
Most people order the standard 국밥 (pictured below), but personally I prefer the 공나물국밥 (don’t worry, it also comes with plenty of organs as well). Enjoy!
I’ve documented a lot of rides around Jeollanam-Do, Damyang specifically, most of which can be found here. Be forewarned, I am not a fan of river path cycling in Korea and this ride is no exception. This particular course loops through the mountains and countyside roads of southern Damyang, just east of Gwangju (riding from Gwangju via Mudueng National Park would add an extra 20ish km each way). The cyclemeter link can be found here.
From The Damyang House the first 20km of this 55km/2.5 hour ride are on road 887…simply head out to the main road and take a left. You’ll climb up through the valley the house is in and ultimately pass through a tunnel.
After the tunnel keep heading straight on 887. It’s clearly marked and an easy ride. The local makoli bootlegger is up on your left, just across from the abandoned elementary school if you’re feeling thirsty.
You’ll eventually pass Aquana, which is the least fun looking resort/water park I’ve ever seen. You’ll also start seeing a lot of signage for the dinosaur footprint park that is close by…it’s a pretty park, but like all the other tourist attractions around here, it’s pretty much empty. Not a bad place to stop for a snack though, just don’t expect much out of those dinosaur footprints.
Keep riding until you see the sign for Daedeok. Take a left here and follow this road through the farming valley. Part of what makes this course so great is that these old valley roads have been left largely unused due to newer, bigger, and faster expressways built over the last couple of decades. Just you and the rice farmers!
There isn’t necessarily a climb to speak of, although you do sort of wind your way up through the valley. You’re met with a nice view at the top and a long decent you’ll feel like you didn’t earn.
Follow this down to the junction with road 60 and take a left towards Changpyeong. More downhill!
At this point you have some options. You could easily explore the “slow city” in Changpyeong, get some lunch and continue on road 60 until it reconnects with 887 which if you take a left, will take you back to the house. You might regret it though as the best has yet to come.
Personally, I recommend taking a left off of road 60 towards Yucheon-ri (유천리) and straight into the belly of this beast:
Even the photo came out scary looking! For good reason as this old unused road takes you pretty much straight over those mountains. It’s not long, maybe 30 minutes (if you’re in shape), but it’s steep (10%) with lots of switchbacks. This is what the road looks like from near the top.
As you slowly start climbing the mountain you will be rewarded with better and better views of Damyang and the surrounding mountain range. I really need to get a proper camera because these photos don’t really do it justice.
A bit mind-blowing, but from this mountain pass it’s downhill all the way to the house. Put on some headphones and enjoy the ride through yet another gorgeous valley. Just don’t forget to take a right when you intersect with road 887!
- Winter is approaching and with it comes the need to heat the house. The cast iron fireplace was originally bought for it’s aesthetic value, but after realizing what it costs to heat a stand-alone house with ondol things quickly changed. That 200kg beast in the photo above, when used correctly, does a much better and more efficient job of heating the house anyhow. Guest staying during the colder months will be given a quick tutorial and are encouraged to turn down the ondol and enjoy a proper fire. Honestly, you’d be crazy not to!
- Enjoy a piping hot cup of coffee on us. Have a couple. Free coffee is now available! I bought that gorgeous stainless steel french press as a Christmas gift for my brother, but quickly ordered myself one after seeing how nice it was. A little taste of luxury first thing in the morning is never a bad thing.
- We harvested the last of our summer veg (peppers anyone?) and replaced the planter box with some leafy greens and scallions. Definitely the healthiest garden I’ve ever had the pleasure of maintaining. Feel free to grab a few handfuls to eat with your BBQ.
Destination: Naejangsan National Park
The Bike’n Hike concept was born out of a failed backpacking trip to Jirisan National Park in February of 2014. For whatever reason the logistics of that trip weren’t coming together so we opted to ditch the car, grab some bikes and head to a closer National Park. That park was of course Naejangsan. Since February we have done six Bike’n Hike trips to five of the surrounding National Parks…three of those trips were to this little park to the north. It’s not by accident that we keep returning.
Traditionally these mini-bike tours have been a minimum of three days. This was our first attempt to squeeze it all in a weekend. Luckily we weren’t without willing participants. Gibby and Jay were the first two to arrive from Seoul and after a bit of drama with cranky taxi drivers and unwelcome rain storms, we headed to a local 고기 집 to fill up on BBQ and booze and wait for the others.
The next morning we scraped together a nice breakfast, got our gear in order and hit the road.
Lots going on around The Damyang House!’
- Replacement hammock finally arrived this week. What started as a seemingly harmless afternoon of cold beers and cornhole quickly took a turn for the serious when ANDREW BLACK destroyed my prize possession. Shortly after he lost 20,000won on the ol’bean bag court. Not a good day for Andy.
- Hosting Chuseok weekend for over 20 of our friends taught me one thing about The Damyang House: we were in desperate need of more comfortable seating. Our timing is a bit off, but we’re now the proud owners of four reclining camping chairs. Pretty damn comfortable and a built in beer holder in the armrest to boot. We’re ready for next year. *(the campfire fishing pole is one of the first things we bought when the house was finished…it’s even cooler than it looks!)
- Birdwatching seems like another expensive hobby I can’t afford, but it’s hard not to get wrapped up in it when you’re surrounded by wildlife. Ringed-necked pheasants, Ruddy Kingfishers and White-backed Woodpeckers are all birds I never even knew existed in Korea before the start of the summer. Patrick Blake (local birding legend!) will return next month to The Damyang House to celebrate spotting his 700th species (!!!) and hopefully use that fancy camera of his to help me replace some of the blurry cell-phone photos I’ve collected trying to document the aforementioned wildlife. Check out his website and learn something about the birds flying around the Korean peninsula. His photography website is worth a look too!
*Here’s a link to donate to the Birds Korea Organization if you’re feeling generous!
These little guys love the surrounding bamboo. My limited research tells me they are White-backed Woodpeckers (the local birding facebook page seems to agree). They’re gorgeous birds.
I hear them almost daily and have been trying ALL SUMMER to get a decent photo. The odds have been stacked against me. They’re not only fast birds, and bounce from tree to tree, but the bamboo forests around the house are thick. And I’m using a camera phone. I miss the days of early summer when that Ruddy Kingfisher was hanging around…he was much more willing to photographed!
This summer was really our first chance to address the giant landscaping opportunity/nightmare that is our 200 pyeong property. Here’s a before picture to give you an idea of what we were up against:
For the next couple of weeks these little guys will be popping up all over the countryside. By far the most psychedelic flower around these parts. Straight from Mars. They don’t stick around very long so get on your bike and head to the countryside soon!