You know, one good apple can spoil the rest, ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Juwangsan National Park
No more beaches and sunsets to enjoy. Summer is gone and it’s time to say goodbye to those warm weather months. Now is the time to dust off those hiking shoes and get back to the mountains, where the weather is becoming perfect to enjoy some of Korea’s brighter spots. Two great people offer us a ride to witness a truly uncovered gem – Juwangsan National Park. Small in stature compared to the big players of Seoraksan and Jirisan, this little jewel holds its own for those in search of lovely waterfalls and smaller crowds.
The trip starts on the right foot thanks to an unexpected arrival: apples. Oh, how there were so many of them! On the drive east, stands sprout up along the highway and a curious stop leads to a discovery that massive apple groves accompany each one. The vendors are selling from their own collections and at a much better price than one finds at the marts and superstores back in the cities.
After securing a massive haul and arriving at Juwangsan’s campgrounds, more friendly shop owners greet us along the path leading to the trails and there they are again! From apple chocolates to key-chains, it is official that this is Apple Country. Being a smaller park, even a late arrival at 1 allows for a hike around most of the highlights. A walk to the top of Juwangsan’s second-highest peak leads us through waves of friendly Korean hikers. There’s always a “hello” follows by “nice to meet you” instinctively uttered at each notice of a new face.
Views of waterfalls and walks through tiny canyons round out daylight as the sun makes its way down. An anticlimactic peak really doesn’t hurt the gorgeous day either. Getting to and from the top proves the best parts of it for one important reason. Our company proved the true highlight, sharing the weekend with two people whose positivity can barely be summed up within a paragraph and full of spirit. Without doting on them too much, one thing is clear. Their exciting existence thrives on a “Life’s a Journe(e)y” mantra that inspires if not impresses all who’ve come into contact with them.
One of their stated goals (while living in Korea) is to visit all of the country’s national parks and “Klimb” along the way. At the time of writing, completion is inching closer. Spending a few hours walking and talking with people of this calibre makes Juwangsan an even more special trip. Sharing dinner and some rice wine flavored with (of course!) split apples and ginseng completed the perfect day. After a light sleep and a walk to more waterfalls that Juwangsan is known for, it’s time to head back. Summer’s death knell makes itself clear during the cold night that renders our “sun canopy” useless after so many peaceful nights camping on beaches.
As we drive back and all contemplate buying more fruit from a local seller, one thing dawns on me. We didn’t need anymore apples, and not just because there were 40 in the trunk. Those would suffice our appetites while the two bright and shiny ones driving us home make for more than enough great memories and conversations to start this year’s Fall.
Ever have a similar experience? I’d love to read your story in the comments section below!
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