(Continued from Wolchulsan Guide Part One: Right Here!)
After the cloud bridge, the trial continues almost vertically upwards, and then vertically downwards. The stairs which you climb at this point are not for the faint-hearted, and are no doubt extremely dangerous in winter. The way down is perilous, and a little-heartbreaking, because this is the trail to the peak, and you know that every step down is one that you will need to take back up. From the cloud bridge the trail travels steeply upwards, then steeply downwards, then steeply upwards again. At this point the trail continues upwards Cheonghwang-bong. The peak itself is relatively flat, and has a large area for people to sit and admire the views. To the north, you are overlooking Yeongam and the flat farmland beyond. To the east is where the trail continues along the ridge through the centre of the park. On very clear days, it is said that to the east you can see the coast. To the south is a wide flat valley with a few towns, and beyond another area of mountains. The juxtaposition between mountains and flatland makes this relatively low viewpoint unusually impressive.
After a time we continued down from the peak, eastwards along the trail. Here the trail follows the highest points of the ridge, so there is little descent and the trail is relatively flat. The views on either side of the trail are breathtaking, and this is certainly the best part of the hike. The ease of the trail allowed us to take it slow (and take loads of pictures) while admiring the rolling slopes and huge rock-spires which jut suddenly out from the green. The walk between the main peak, Cheonghwang-bong, and the next highest peak, Gujeong-bong, is the true treasure of Wolchulsan. The cloud bridge is a novelty, no doubt, but the ridge trail is just delightful. The trail is pocked with beautiful crafted viewpoints and comically named rocks (keep your eyes out for the pig rock and the phallus rock, complete with explanation boards in English and Korean).
Further along is Gujeong-bong. This peak offers wonderful views back towards Cheonghwangbong. To get to the top, you have to climb through a tiny gap between rocks (look for a faded yellow arrow to show you the way; we had to ask some kind Koreans who were already at the top who to get there). We spent a long time at this peak, because it was quiet and the weather was perfect and the views were breathtaking. Just below this peak there is a trail to a Buddha statue set into some cliffs. Since the afternoon was wearing on we decided we didn’t have time to visit this, so we can’t really comment on it.
We took the trail eastwards towards a field of silver grass (which is marked on the signs as a “community”, not sure why). From here, the trail continues downwards through the forest until you reach Dogapsa. This temple is wonderfully set out and offers some impressive photo opportunities. Just outside the temple is the entrance/exit to the park. Waiting were several taxi drivers, but there were no sign of the buses we had read about. At this point, tired and hungry, we opted for a taxi which took us back to the bus terminal for about 10,000 won.
After showering and changing back at the Regency, we headed back into Yeongam central and found a gritty chicken and hof place. Not the best food in the world, but there was English music and it was well-deserved.
The next morning we took the bus directly back to Seoul. We talked to a gentleman from South Carolina who was visiting his Korean wife’s family in Yeongam. He said there wasn’t a bus directto Yeongam from Seoul, and that was our experience as well (that is not to say that it doesn’t exist, but only that we and this kind gentleman could find it). After 7 hours (and an EXCRUTIATING wait to get into Gangnam Express Bus Terminal) we were home, glad to have finally found Wolchulsan, and already figuring out when we could return to this unlikely gem of a national park.