...like walking in a silk scroll painting; a mountain oasisAbout 25 miles north of the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, and just 25 miles south, as the crow flies, of the heavily fortified DMZ, the Jujeonggol valley in Seoraksan Nat'l Park is an oasis of jade-colored waters beneath pinnacles of pine-studded granite. Hiking in this valley, you begin to understand where the Asian landscape aesthetic comes from; the first time I came here, I felt as if I were moving about inside a silk scroll painting.
Downstream is a Buddhist temple site with its famed Osaek medicinal springs--the high mineral-content water comes out of the stone slightly bubbly: natural carbonation!
The tranquility of these valleys, far from the pulsating night lights of Seoul, belies the occasionally troubled past of Korea's history; fierce battles were fought near here just six decades ago during the Korean War. But people have been seeking, and finding, solace in these mountains for thousands of years. Before today's hikers came yesterday's monks; some of the world's earliest Zen temples are located in this region, built at a time when leopards and tigers were a very real threat in these forests.
While much of Seoraksan National Park is easily accessible by public transportation from the nearby coastal city of Sokcho, this section is less-well served; renting a car would be a good option here.