Continuing my project of catching up, here’s another overdue post from this fall!
In October, Jared, some friends, and I ventured to Sokcho to go beach camping. This was quite the adventure. Our plan was rather vague and open-ended. It was something like this.
We left our house around 9 pm on a Friday night. Yup. We had four hours to drive across Korea, find a camping spot, and set up camp. (Per the Army, we had a 1 am bedtime to work with.) Our little hooptee was loaded down with tents, coolers, and sleeping bags. We arrived to the coast around 12:45. We spotted the ocean and pulled over. Can we camp here? There was a chainlink fence, and we went up to it and tried the gate. It was padlocked, and we decided to drive back down the coast and try another stretch of beach. As we were walking to the car, we noticed that two men were walking down the beach toward the fence. They were wearing Korean military uniforms and carrying guns. Did I mention that Sokcho is rather close to the border with North Korea? And that some of the beaches have razor wire to discourage amphibious landings? Though we had technically done nothing wrong, we were clearly not at a beach that was meant for camping. As we quickly drove off, a military truck pulled up with reinforcements. Definitely not the spot for us.
We tried again and found a campground full of motorhomes. No tents allowed. We had about five minutes until bedtime. It was getting a little tense in the car. We could see a beach, and decided to just pitch our tent and deal with whatever happened in the morning. What was the worse that would happen? Military police show up and tell us to pack up? We could deal with that. We parked in a parking lot, and looked toward the beach. Guess what we saw? Tents! Our beach that we were just going to pitch our tents on was actually and camping beach! And it was 12:58! We pitched our tents in the dark, scouted out the bathrooms, and settled in for the night. I thought that we were arriving so late in the night to set up camp. Apparently, that’s the Korean way to do things. Throughout the night we heard tent pegs being pounded in, cars being locked, and general camping merriment. Our halfway full campground that we went to sleep in was completely full at sunrise. (Side note, Koreans go all out for camping. One of the tents next to ours looked like a gypsy camp. There were pennants, a rug, and a lovely little kitchen set up. We watched a rat enter this campsite.)
We paid ￦10,000 for our night of camping ($10). We had breakfast at the camp, left our things, and headed over to Seoraksan National Park. I love that the beach and the mountains are so close to each here. We had decided on a hike to Ulsan Balwi, a well-known landscape in Korea. Like most hikes in Korea it was packed with people and went straight up. We were there in the fall, which made the masses of people even worse. However, it was really beautiful. There were a few restaurants to stop at along the way, but we had packed our lunches. (We did stop for ice cream on our way down. I have to admit that it was nice touch to a hike.) We climbed hundreds of steps to arrive at the top of the mountain. There was a narrow area from which to view the mountain tops and cliffs, but there was a well organized line for pictures in front of the famous granite cliffs. The hike back down went a little more quickly, and it seemed that the colors had grown more vibrant in the few hours since we had first passed by. We arrived back at camp in the evening and had dinner there. I swear nothing is more satisfying than camp food after a hike.
I absolutely loved our weekend away. It was a perfect outdoor weekend, and we couldn’t have timed it any better with the weather. We liked our little beach so much that we returned there for our New Year camping adventure, and we have had several friends use our directions to visit the same campsite. I know we will be visiting it again before we leave Korea!