It’s been a long road. When I broke my leg at the end of April, I didn’t think it would be approaching autumn with me still unable to use my leg normally. I had the notion I would be at nearly full capacity in a matter of months, but life has a funny way of ignoring notions and doing its own thing. Slow recovery aside, I’ve really made an effort to not let the bum leg slow me down, and last weekend marked my first foray back onto the trails…
The most frustrating thing about injuries is that they take so bloody long to heal.” – Jason Statham
Suyeon and I were looking to do a small hike, something my leg would be able to handle, but preferably with a great view. Bogyeongsa — a temple at the base of a popular hiking trail — was the obvious choice, as it’s a short ride from Pohang and easily the best hike in the area. While the full trail goes into the mountains and visits 12 waterfalls, most of the best ones are at the start. That made hiking Bogyeongsa much more feasible, and we set out on my motorcycle to get the heck out of the city.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the area rears its head when you first arrive and find a parking spot. The whole walkway up to the temple is lined with overpriced Korean restaurants. One thing they all have, other than food, are these phallic bottles of liquor hawked as a tonic for male stamina. Subtle marketing, no?
We left Bizarro Street behind and soon found ourselves in the temple complex. Something I love about living in Korea (and Asia in general) is the rich history hidden amongst all the modern glitz. Bogyeongsa is a bit non-assuming as far as temples go, but the site dates back to the 7th century AD, when King Jinpyeong, following the directions of a high priest, found Naeyeonsan (내연산) and buried some holy scripture there, laying the groundwork for Bogyeongsa itself.
While most of the structures have been rebuilt and renovated over the years, some stalwarts remain, such as the multi-tiered pagoda below. It’s just shy of a thousand years old!
Even such a short distance from Pohang, the air quality is significantly improved, and the blue sky had us in a great mood. But the heat… dear goodness the heat… It was a scorcher of a day, so we cut our tour of the temple short and headed for the shaded trail, which works its way up alongside a river. Along the way, families picnicked and played in pools of water, while a few brilliant souls had passed out on shaded boulders.
We took our time, as my leg hurt from the get-go and the heat didn’t exactly have us excited about overexertion. When we finally made it to Yeonsan Waterfall (연산 폭포), we were sticky with sweat and thoroughly tuckered out. It’s amazing what 3 months of sitting on your rear-end will do to your stamina…
But the view was amazing, with limestone cliffs rising all around and the sound of families playing in the pools. We soaked our feet in the water, as I tried to avoid eye contact with one of my students I’d spotted. Please, for the love of God… this is my weekend…
A couple nearby waved us over, eager to show us something they’d found in the water. It turned out to be a school of tiny minnows, ravenous for the stinky, sweaty dead skin which had been accumulating on our feet. “The dirtier your feet are,” the wife told us, “the more fish will come!” My foot attracted a healthy number, but no one beat her husband, whose manky feet drew every fish in sight.
We took our time at the top, but eventually, the rumbles in our bellies overcame the desire to rest, and we left our sparkling mountain pools for a traffic-clogged highway, as we and the rest of Pohang headed back to the city. It had been an almost perfect day. Dinner was fantastic, as was fitting, and we left the gamja-tang restaurant nearly staggering from the meal we’d eaten.
|A huge thank you to Cascade Mountain Tech for the trekking poles in the picture above. I finally got around to ordering a pair (breaking my leg was the kick in the pants necessary, unfortunately) and I already regret not buying some sooner. At less than $50, with a carbon fiber construction and comfy cork handles, these poles are a heck of a deal and really made a huge difference in my ability to make it up the trail. Not to mention, I got a pretty decent upper body workout as well! I really recommend these to anyone into hiking. If you click the link to the right, I get a small commission!||…………………..|
Perhaps the easiest way to get to Bogyeongsa (보경사) is to drive yourself, but for those without their own wheels, the 510 bus conveniently leaves from the intercity bus terminal (or downtown) and goes all the way there. Buses run there and back throughout the day, but make sure to check at the terminal to verify when the last bus heads back to Pohang!