Top 20 Things To Do At The Damyang House

What will you do during your stay at The Damyang House?  Here are 20 suggestions to help you organize your visit (in no particular order).  These can all be done without a car (bus/transfer service gets you to the house):

1.  Hike Through the Bamboo Forest
Pretty obvious choice seeing as you’ll be surrounded by it on three sides.  Added bonus:  the trailhead is in the front yard.

Continue reading “Top 20 Things To Do At The Damyang House”

Hiking: Mudeung National Park (Shinseondae) – Dog Friendly Route

 

 December Hiking

 

Mudeung National Park (or any NP for that matter) doesn’t exactly scream “dog friendly”, but Mudeung is unique in a few key ways that make it a bit more accessible for you and your pup.  In short, it’s very large and was only recently given national park status.  Provincial parks, Mudeung’s former rank, aren’t as heavily funded and therefor lack the strict regulations found in national parks.  They’re usually free so there is no reason to limit the number of access points and trailheads leading into the mountains can be found in just about every village in the countryside.  We have one right in our front yard that connects to Sosaewon, Shikyoungjung, and a massive network of trails throughout the surrounding mountains.  These types of trails are dog friendly and usually much less crowded!
Continue reading “Hiking: Mudeung National Park (Shinseondae) – Dog Friendly Route”

Bike’n Hike (VII): Chuwolsan Provincial Park

Destination:  Chuwolsan Provincial Park
Cycling:  97km
Hiking:  4km
Days:  1

 Chuwolsan Park
Gamagol Eco-Park (용소)
  
Gamagol Eco-Park (출렁다리)
The destination and dates for Bike’n Hike VII bounced around a bit, but eventually focused on a one-day adventure exploring some of the parks around Damyang.  Specifically Damyang’s most famous mountain, Chuwolsan, and the neighboring Damyang Lake and Eco-Park.  Even packaged as a manageable one-day outing, it’s tough to find willing cyclists during the dead of winter.  Thankfully Geoff, a participant in the inaugural Bike’n Hike almost a year ago, was both available and interested.  You’re about to see a lot of photos of Geoff (clearly I had the only camera!).  
 
Leaving Jishil Village
We left from The Damyang House and headed toward Damyang (Eup) via the 887.  This is one of my favorite roads as it’s relatively free of heavy traffic, is flat and has awesome views of the surrounding mountains.  It also leads directly to downtown Damyang (20km) or connects you with other important cycling roads. 
 Road 887
 
 Road 887
Navigating through Damyang (downtown) is pretty simple as it’s well marked in terms of signage for both the roads you need and Chuwolsan Park.  I recommend staying on 887 until you arrive at 13 where you’ll take a right.  Shortly after you’ll take a left on 29 heading toward Chuwolsan Park.  If nothing else just look for the mountain as it’s usually visible from just about everywhere around Damyang!
    
Chuwolsan Mountain
 Chuwolsan Mountain
 Chuwolsan Mountain (fall)

As you get closer to Chuwolsan you’ll be met with a few different climbs, varying in length and difficulty, but nothing to worry about.  Be thankful you’re heading north because it’s more challenging coming from the other direction.  You’ll also get your first views of Damyang Lake, which like most lakes in Korea is a dammed river that fills in the valley creating a giant amoeba shape. 

Getting Closer
Damyang Lake

 Uphill
 Damyang Lake
After you pass through a small tunnel, you’ll be pretty much right in front of the mountain and it’s all downhill to the park entrance where you’ll find a few restaurants, an information center, trailheads and a series of boardwalks around the lake.  There isn’t much open in the winter.  During the summer this place is packed…especially on weekends. 
Chuwolsan (summer)
 Damyang Lake Boardwalk
 Damyang Lake (Boardwalk is just above the water line)
We opted to cancel our attempt to summit Chuwolsan for a variety of reasons.  First, it was colder near the mountian/lake and much windier.  Second, Chuwolsan is much bigger than it looks and getting to the top would not have been quick or easy.  We were on a pretty tight schedule as it was (short winter days!) so instead pressed on past Chuwolsan and Damyang Lake towards Gamagol Eco-Park.  Getting to the Eco-Park from the base of Chuwolsan is easy as it’s located at the north end of the lake.  Continue north on 29 and take a right on 792.  Of course there’s another climb heading this direction.
 Leaving Chuwolsan
 Take a Right onto 792
Gamagol Entrance 

The park entrance will be on your left and is hard to miss.  The roads leading into the park are scenic and during this time of the year, extremely quiet.  Judging by the plethora of riverside restaurants along this road, I’m guessing this is not the case during the summer months. 

 Heading into Gamagol

At the end of this road you’ll find a parking lot and a park office.  The park itself is small and you can see a lot of the highlights in less than an hour.  Grab a map at the park office and explore!

용연1 폭포
가마골

                                                              용소

                                        

용소
출렁다리

출렁다리
출렁다리 & 용소

After a quick look around we hopped back on our bikes and returned to 792, the main road that brought us here.  Instead of backtracking the way we came, which is certainly an option, and a quicker one at that, we decided to continue on 792 and pick up 24 creating a loop back to Damyang.  The ride along 792 is scenic and relatively traffic-free, however it also hosted our biggest climb of the day.  You’ll eventually ride past another county park, Gangcheonsan, which we unfortunately didn’t have time to explore on this trip.

Gangcheonsan Park Entrance

Near Sunchang, home of gojujang, you’ll pick up 24 which will take you back to downtown Damyang.  This is by far the least fun 10km of the route.  The gojujang village is over-the-top ridiculous and has nothing to offer outside of this one famous ingredient (i.e. no marts to restock on supplies) and this section of road is pretty miserable with narrow shoulders, fast cars and construction.  Joy!

Gojujang
Gojujang
Once back in Damyang, you’ll pick up 887 downtown and basically head back the way you came.  Time permitting, I’d recommend grabbing lunch in Damyang as the options are plentiful.  We, of course, were in a race to get home before the sunset so instead chose to stop by the Bamboo Brewery (담주 브로이) and pick up a few pitchers of ‘to-go’ bamboo beer and bamboo sausages to enjoy once we arrived back at the house.  It’s a quick detour down 13, just outside of downtown, and only added an extra 15 minutes or so.  The ride back on 887 is always a welcome finish to the day and we were able to catch the sunset at the Gwangju Lake Eco-Park right as we arrived home. 

Gwangju Lake/Eco-Park/Mudeung Mountain
Once back at The Damyang House, we stocked the fireplace, poured some beers and enjoyed those tasty sausages!  
Victory Beers
Looking for a different route?  Something easier?  Something more challenging?  Plenty of other suggestions can be found here.

Bike’n Hike (III): Wolchulsan National Park

 

Wolchulsan National Park

Length: 3 days
Cycling: 170km
Hiking:  6km

Overview: Day 1 takes you around Mudeung mountain and through the National Park, so the first half of the day is especially spectacular and challenging.  Day 2 is a challenging, albeit short, hike to the summit of Wolchulsan and some of its best highlights (suspension bridge anyone?).  Day 3 starts out on a few of the same roads that lead you into the park, but takes a detour through Gwangju city and the opposite side of Mudeung National Park to end the day on a high note. 

Day 1
Click here for the Cyclemeter link.

Follow road 887 (take a left when exiting the village…towards Sosaewon) up through the valley until the 9km mark where you will see a small unnamed road on your right, just past the abandoned elementary school (update:  this road has since been paved and is glorious!).  This road winds up through another valley behind Mudeung Mountain.  Around the 17km mark, just past the reservoir, you’ll take a right and head towards Hwasun.  This 10km stretch of road is absolutely gorgeous.  A couple good climbs, an 18% descent and plenty of sweeping views of the valley and Mudeung.  Beware of goats in the road!  

In Hwasun, you will pick up route 55 and follow that for about 35kms.  You’ll briefly jump on a busier route 23, but quickly get off onto 819 which takes you into the park and campground.  I opted not to stay in Yeongam City because quite frankly, there doesn’t seem to be much there.  I stayed at the Cheonhwangsa Campsites, which is on the northeast side of the park (there are two visitor centers/campgrounds) and seemingly the more popular choice because it provides an easier access to the infamous cloud bridge.  
Tent camping is 2000 won/night (not a typo).  There are showers (lower those expectations!), a few restaurants, a couple of minbaks and not much else.  You’d be wise to bring cash.  The massive annex parking lot leads me to believe this is at times very popular.  When I was there (June), this was not the case.  Empty campground and even emptier trails.
 
Wolchulsan
Cheonhwangsa Campground
Mudeung National Park
Day 2 (Hiking)

The hiking portion of this trip is tough at times, but not particularly long.  The trail head is right at the entrance to the campground and takes you pretty much straight up the valley to the biggest crowd-pleaser in Jeolla-do: the cloud bridge.  It’s a suspension bridge, and judging by the massive steel cables anchoring it down, is probably the safest stretch of trail anywhere on this mountain or perhaps in the world.  Unfortunately logic doesn’t apply when you’re hovering 100 meters above the valley floor. 
Once across you’ll head up the mountain a bit further, then back down a bit and finally all the way up to the summit.  When it’s not covered in clouds the views of the surrounding valley are expansive and the mountain itself is a gnarly group of craggy rocks that’s easy to visually get lost in.  From the summit, I headed back down around a small loop to check out the waterfall, which is worth it if for nothing else than to head back down on a portion of trail that offers some different views.
Time and/or transport permitting, I might suggest hiking through the mountain range and park to the other side coming out at Dogapsa Temple.  I strongly recommend working out the logistics beforehand, otherwise it’s going to be a long hike back to your campsite.
Wolchulsan
Wolchulsan
Cloud Bridge
Local treats
Day 3
Click here for the Cyclemeter link.
Not much choice except to head back the way you came….road 819, a quick jump on the busy 23 and ultimately back on 55.  Take this to NamPyeong.  I stopped in this little “city” both days to enjoy the local mini-stop culture.  Cheap snacks and an outlet to recharge my phone is always welcome.  Also from here you can pick up route 1, which takes you into Gwangju city.  Follow route 1 for a bit and generally head north working your way through the city towards route 29 (take a look at the above link for more details on how to navigate the city).  This road puts you onto Mudeung Gil (Mudeung Street) and back into the National Park.  There are a couple of climbs on this last 15km stretch, but again, it’s a beautiful forest and one of my favorite roads in Jeolla Province.  This roads spits you out almost literally in front of the house.  
Mudeung Mountain/Gwangju Lake
Mudeung National Park
Mudeung National Park
Victory beers
Already been to Wolchusan?  More Bike’n Hike options can be found here.

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 🙂

 

Bike’n Hike (V): Yulpo Beach via Mudeung National Park and Boseong Green Tea Fields

Destination:  Yulpo Beach
Cycling:  84km
Hiking:  0km
Cyclemeter Link

Yulpo Beach isn’t the best beach in Jeolla-Do by any stretch, but it makes a great place to finish a long day of cycling.  A day of cycling through the iconic Boseong green tea fields no-less.  And even a shitty beach is still a beach!

This ride starts like most others; head out to the main road and take a left on 887.  Even the first 200 meters to the main road has it’s scenic moments!

 
Head south on 887 up the valley and through the tunnel for about 8.5km.  Here’s the valley you’ll be riding through from a bird’s eye view (Taken from the overlook accessible via the trail behind 식영정). 

About 8.5km up the valley you’ll need to take a right on road 897.  All I can say is it’s just after the abandoned elementary school, which is on the right side of the road and difficult to miss.  This used to be a gravel road, but has recently been paved and is now excellent for cycling! 

Continue on this road for about 14km.  You’ll wind through a yet another scenic valley and have plenty of opportunities to see Mudeung from it’s less famous back-side.  Eventually you’ll head uphill and pass a reservoir.

Just after the reservoir you get to enjoy an absolutely gratifying descent through yet another valley.  Climbing this beast from the other direction is grueling so be thankful you’re headed downhill!

At the bottom of the valley you’ll need to take a right (south) on 15.  You’ll stay on 15, which for a double digit road isn’t bad at all, for about 16km.  Eventually the road intersects with Juam lake which is massive (obviously man-made) and fills in the surrounding valley forming an elongated amoeba shape.  This lake, and the overlapping roads and subsequent bridges, could be amazing save for all the garbage collecting in every corner.  Frustrating to say the least.

At the junction with 18, where you should take a right, there is a small mart (휴게소) offering an extensive menu of water, chips and ramen. There isn’t much before this so if you’re hungry it works.  Good place to stock up on water if nothing else. 

18 takes you almost all the way to the beach.  It’s a pretty road and, at least when I was there, not too much traffic.  I even found a really cool Eco-Park that was completely deserted.

Near Boseong city you will of course start seeing the iconic green tea fields.  Don’t waste you time or energy stopping to take photos of the first couple you see.  Trust me it gets way better.  There are a few small climbs mixed in here, but nothing I remember being too extreme…at least going this direction (if you’re riding back it’s a different story!).

At the bottom of the epic downhill finishing off road 18 you’ll see signs for Yulpo Beach, but if not just take a left on 845.  That will take you directly to the beach where you’ll find lots of tacky neon, plenty of minbaks, and copious amounts of cold beer and seafood! 

Green tea ice cream no your thing?  Plenty of other options here.

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!

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!

Mudeung Swimming Holes!

We had been hearing rumors of a few nice swimming holes in the area for weeks (thanks for the tip Geoff!).  Busy summer schedules, vacations and wet monsoon weather kept us from actually locating them…until last week.  Hosting Chuseok weekend for 20 of our closest friends was the perfect opportunity to go exploring and find them.  The stretch of river just inside the Mudeung National Park entrance (the 원효계곡 entrance) offers a variety of swimming holes varying in size, depth and available shade.  It’s about 4km from the front door of the house (or 3km from Eco-Park), look for the Buncheongware Museum turn off down a gravely road (분청사기전시길).
What a treat they turned out to be.  So bummed we didn’t get there until practically the end of summer!  More specific directions can be found here or under the “swimming” page of this blog.