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On Walkabout On: Godaesan Mountain, South Korea

A really nice day hike in a very rural area of Korea that provides some fantastic views of the infamous Iron Triangle from the Korean War as well as North Korea is Godaesan Mountain. To reach the start of the trail to this peak, visitors have to travel to South Korea’s northern most train station in the tiny village of Shintan-ri:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

My brother-in-law and myself took the Gyeongwon Line train north from the Seoul suburb of Uijongbu to this small village in order to climb this isolated peak:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

The train ride from Uijongbu is about an hour and a half to  include stops in Dongducheon, Jeongok, and Yecheon along the way.  The train station at Shintan-ri is typical of older train stations found in Korea:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

From this train station the Gyeongwon line once ran all the way to the major industrial port city of Wonsan in North Korea.  However, the division of the country has caused this line to be severed here at Shintan-ri.  Shintan-ri is home to only a few hundred people and a very rural area surrounded by some beautiful, green scenery:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

Shintan-ri is just a really pleasant to place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Korea’s busy cities and experience some peace and quiet and fresh air in rural Korea.  As my brother-in-law and I walked from the train station towards the trail head, the 832 meter Godaesan Mountain was easily visible in front of us:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

At the start of the trail head there is a large map that shows the variety of trails to the top of Mt. Godaesan:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

Most of the trails to the summit are 4 kilometers long which was the length of the route my brother-in-law were taking to the summit of the mountain.  The trails to the summit are estimated to take about three hours to get the top of the mountain.  My brother-in-law and myself were in good shape so we figured it would probably take about two hours to get up the mountain.  As we started up the trail the first thing that really stands out about Mt. Godae is how lush and thick the forest that covers this mountain is:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

The forest was really pleasant to walk through, but before we knew it we ascended above the lush forest below on the steep trail.  This gain in elevation eventually rewarded us with great view looking down on Shintan-ri where we began our hike:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

The mountains you actually see in the far background are actually in North Korea since this village is so close to the DMZ.  From the opening in the foliage we also had a view back down the scenic valley towards Dongducheon that the train travels up to reach Shintan-ni:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

From this opening in the foliage the trail quickly is absorbed by the thick bush once again obscuring all views.  Something that the bush didn’t obscure was the lone bit of wildlife we saw during our entire hike, which was this lizard:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

After little less then 2 hours of hiking we both emerged above the tree line and made the short walk up a ridge line to the summit of the mountain.  The summit of Godaesan has some spectacular views of Korea’s Northern Gyeongi-do province.  Here is the view of the steep and rugged mountains to the south of the mountain:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

Way off in the distance I could actually make out the shape of Soyo Mountain near Dongducheon, which is one of my favorite mountains to go hiking at in Korea.  Godaesan is actually even more scenic then Mt. Soyo.  To the north, the summit provides a spectacular view of the Iron Triangle area of the DMZ:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

This large farming valley is where the major regional city of Shin-Cheolwon in Gangwon Province is located.  The original city of Cheolwon was completely destroyed by the Korean War and only some ruins of the city remains today.  With such a good viewpoint of the Iron Triangle, it is no surprise that a small South Korean Army installation is located on one of the peaks of the mountain:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain

From the summit of Mt. Godae the most striking landmark of the Iron Triangle is the memorial that commemorates the Battle of White Horse Hill, which was a ferocious fight between the South Korean Army and the Chinese during the Korean War:

Picture from Goedaesan Mountain, South Korea

White Horse Hil is actually the land mass in front of the hill that the memorial sits on, but it is still hard to believe that the fight to control that little hill was worth the lives of over 10,000 people combined who perished on both sides.

Anyway after checking out the summit and enjoying the fresh air my brother-in-law and I proceeded to head back down the mountain, which only took us about an hour to do.  All in all we spent about 5 hours on the mountain before getting something to eat at a restaurant tent near the trail head.  For whatever reason some of the best food I find in Korea is in these tent restaurants usually in the middle of nowhere like this place.  My brother-in-law and I had some excellent Korean BBQ bacon called “samgeopsal” and more then our fair share of rice wine called “makeoli”.

It is days like this one that really make me love Korea.

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