Monday, September 25, 2006

Jeju-do Pictures

As some of you know, we recently took a trip to Korea's Emerald Isle, Jeju-do. We were hoping for some R & R on the beautiful beaches, and maybe some hiking on the volcano Hallasan, BUT the weather conspired against us.

We flew onto Jeju-do as a large typhoon was beginning to churn through the straits of Japan and Korea, so we didn't need suntan lotion or bathing suits. We were still able to see the island's most famous waterfall, Jeongbang, and enjoyed the sound of an angry sea on lava boulders. Click the link below for pictures.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

For My Mom

. . . and this time i didn't dye the bathroom any strange colors!

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Love is . . .

    "More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse."*

It was the ultimate convergence of being ill-equipped and ill-prepared that led to this moment. Sore muscles and joints creaking to a halt where we could only assume was not anywhere near the end of our trail, my parents’ voices in my head rattling off the checklist of a successful, or at least smart, adventurer. Yet here we were, in the pitch black of a forested mountainside on an unfamiliar trail with one working flashlight (one busted flashlight) and an uncertain number of miles left to go.

The courses on the northwestern face of Mt. Mudeung (무등산) are among the most beautiful but least traversed on the mountain. The early climb is a steep, wide, well-marked affair “paved” with large rocks and tree roots for footholds. The later paths, however, are not for the weak of heart or body. Rarely marked trails wind over jagged ravines of boulders, narrow ledges coupled with a termite-infested bridge, an overflowing spring muds the ground making footing hard-won on slippery moss, and bats fly out of the ground in sudden bursts that in absolute darkness should startle all but the dead.

As we ascended the first quarter of the trail by the sun’s dwindling influence, our bodies were already suffering from the initial endeavors of the day, which included not only our bicycling to Gwangju’s airport, but also the 12 miles through mountainous road to the trail’s head at Wonhyo-sa (원효사). Looming before us was another 6 miles of hiking, most to be untaken by flashlight. One flashlight.

There were so many moments we could’ve turned back, and spent all night in the warm comfort of a restaurant drinking soju and laughing at our ridiculous planning. We could’ve slept under the ivy canopies near the trailhead, or in the clearing marked with monk’s graves. We just kept moving, sometimes because of my stupid pride & other times from Alex's inability to stop. Whatever it may be, we're simply unyielding in the face of challenge.

We had been in the thick of it for nearly two hours with no ridgeline in sight. We had navigated a peaceful barley field by the light of moon then been re-submersed into the deep dark of the forest. Boulder mantles that resembled less the trail than an advertisement for Tylenol- where the weary climber would stop to take in the view while popping pain-killers and smiling at a hard-earned reward- had slowed us considerably. Trouble was, we weren’t at the end, and though there was certainly a view as well as jagged edges great for bone grinding below, there was not enough light to see either. I guess it’s best here to note the fact that Koreans leave it up to the individual to decide if you’re going to fall to your death from the many places the trail makes this possible. There are never rails, rarely guide ropes, and a great respect for Darwin. So with that comforting thought, and a moment to reassure one another, Alex and I were back on the trail.

It took us a bit over 3 hours, but when we hit the ridgeline clearing I thought I might cry. Gwangju City below us ablaze with neon, a sky of stars above, and not a sound but the wind and the crickets. We opened our bottle of Cabernet and laughed through the pain, waiting for the sunrise and glad to have each other to share it with.

*Doug Larson

Monday, September 4, 2006

Land of the Morning Calm

for photographs of our most recent expedition, sunrise atop Mt. Mudeung, click above.