Hiking: Mudeung National Park – Wonhyosa Valley

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.

To get there, grab a bike and head out to the main road.  Take a left.  Take the first right across the bridge and follow this wooden duck lined road (called 속대) around the rice paddy filled 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.

 

 

 

It’s all downhill to the house 🙂

 

Cycling: Damyang – Course 1

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.

Here they are!

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.

You can see the road way off in the distance!

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.

You can see the Hanok Village in the foreground.

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!

TDH Updates: 10-8-14

Seasonal changes:

  • 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. 

Hiking: A (Dog-Friendly) Walk Through the Rice Paddies

Your dogs will thank you for the opportunity to run around along these empty service roads!


Dog friendly areas are few and far between in this country, even outside of city limits.  I’ve written about some of the dog friendly hiking trails here, but another hidden gem (and more of a walk/less of a hike) is the rice paddies in front of our village or behind the Eco-Park/Gwangju Lake parking lot (if you drive there, walk up the road behind the 7-11).Lucky for us the family friendly Eco-Park attracts all the attention and leaves these intersecting farm roads, connecting a vast stretch of rice paddies, virtually empty.  It’s pretty much a “locals only” hangout, which is strange because once in this valley you have almost a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains…most of which are Mudeung National Park.Once in the valley it’s easy to explore and difficult to get lost.  You could walk for 30 minutes or a few hours depending on your route…the options are plentiful.  However, just to get you started, this is our “go-to” route for an after dinner dog walk.  It’s about 40 minutes and a nice loop.  Here’s the cyclemeter link if you think you need it.From the house, walk out to the main road.

 


Take a right at the main road and look for the service road/bridge that crosses the river…take a left down that road.


Take a left where this road dead-ends (a right will simply take you to the Eco-Park/7-11).


Take the first left down in the rice paddies and feel free to explore!  Or continue to follow my directions for the aforementioned 40 minute loop.

 

 

 


Follow this service road as it winds around towards the cows.  At the cows, take a left.


And take the next left (about two minutes).  And the next left after that (about 10 minutes…you’ll see more cows lol).  After that you’ll want to take a left at the pottery studio (which is number 14 on our top 20 things to do at The Damyang House list).  Here’s what you’re looking for:


After that you’ll follow this road until you intersect with the road you came in on…take a right and head home!

Peanut Harvest

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:

 
I won’t bore you with the after pictures (they’re all over this website lol), but I will say that every rock, bush, tree and blade of grass was deliberate and done by hand.  The garden was no exception.  There was a bit of trial and error finding not only the right spot, but the right soil consistency (mixture of soil and something called 마사토 was the winner) as well.  The locals swore up and down that my little spot on the side of our house wasn’t going to get enough sun…lucky for me they were wrong.  Healthiest garden I’ve ever had.  Next year I’ll be able to incorporate a trellis or two and essentially double the yield.  This year we did cucumbers, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, two kinds of hot peppers, and of course…peanuts.  

I’ve actually grown peanuts before during our three year stint at the local 주말농장 (a weekend farm called Happy Farm…awesome place).   Seeing as this year was more of an experiment for the garden, we only planted three starters.  That gives you exactly one small serving of peanuts:
Anyway, they were delicious!