National Foundation Day also known as Gaecheonjeol is a Korean holiday on October 3rd. This holiday celebrates the formation of the first Korean state of Goiosen in 2333 B.C. This date has traditionally been regarded as the date for the founding of the Korean nation.
For only one day each year since 2011 Cheonwangbong Peak (Mudeungsan’s highest peak) opens to the public…The South Korean Air Force station is located at the top of this peak which is why for security reasons visitors are only allowed once a year. Unfortunately being a USA citizen I wasn’t able to make the full voyage there past this fence since there were soldiers guarding but it was incredible to be a part of it and to enjoy a 9 mile hike! You can see the soldiers standing at the gated area checking ID’s in the photo below. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there. Families, every age possible including young children and adults that were well over 80 years old. It was an amazing sight. It was the closest moment in my life that I felt like I was seeing some sort of pilgrimage. Although we didn’t get to complete the voyage to the very top, the hike up the mountain to the second highest peak was worth it. And the amazing views. I felt like we were part of a tiny piece of history for 2015 in South Korea.
About a mile into the hike that day, Claire and I met three Koreans that were each in their early 50’s. They invited us to join their hike and eat lunch with them at the top of the mountain. Claire and I were in for a serious hike with them. They were in such good shape…as most Koreans are…and kept us going fast up the mountain. We hiked with them for over 7 hours! At the top of the mountain since we weren’t able to go past the gates guarded by soldiers we sat and ate lunch instead. Our Korean friends had a full Korean meal waiting for us. They made chun and kimbap and homemade kimchi, peppers and of course had soju.
We also found out that they were two poets and one painter. The painter is actually well known and has had exhibitions in Japan, Europe and Korea. While we were eating lunch he took out a sketchpad and pencil and sketched us a picture of the mountain as a gift to us. It was so kind and something I am planning to frame.
It was one of those days where you have no expectations going into it but it turns out to be a day full of memories you’ll never forget.
Let the adventures continue…
Love from Korea,