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This past weekend I decided that I wanted to try walking/hiking Gyejoksan Mountain’s Red Clay Trail in Dejeon, South Korea. The mountain has a trail that goes from the bottom of the mountain to about halfway up and then around. A small portion of that trail is a soft red clay that you walk on barefoot. The experience is supposed to be healing and will help restore the soul.
I am no hiker. I have just occasionally enjoyed short hiking excersions back in Texas (over a year ago) but mostly walked on flat ground for up to 5 hours at a time on the weekends. The vice principal at my school said she walked the whole thing with some of her friends (she is an older woman in her 60s), so that made me think it would be easy and not that big of a deal. Boy, was I wrong AND SO UNPREPARED! So, here are some things that I learned from my slightly awful yet not unbearable hike of Gyejoksan.
TIP #1: WALK TO THE LOOP WITH TENNIS SHOES
I know this makes no sense.. but trust me on this. I used to walk A LOT back in Texas, but it wasn’t inclined like this. Parts of this felt so steep and I think that walking up without shoes on an unstable clay ground killed my legs. Once you get to the loop that goes around the mountain, that is where I would take my shoes off and walk on the clay. I would also possibly suggest walking back down the mountain with shoes off (with a certain stipulation found in tip #2)
TIP #2: BRING SANDALS
AND MAKE SURE SAID SANDALS CAN GET DIRTY because you will be putting them on with clay covered feet. I went in the middle of August. Prime time for extreme heat, blazing sun, and other things we hate about summer. That being said, the whole trail isn’t covered with trees, which leaves parts of the clay trail to dry up making you essentially walking on dirt. ALSO, they occasionally come through with a water truck and wet the clay so that it continues to stay soft. However, when they do that and you immediately try to walk on it, you will fall. It is so slippery. I tried to walk down the mountain without shoes (we left our shoes at the bottom of the mountain) and it was a disaster. I almost fell and decided to walk on the dirt portion of the trail with bare feet so I wouldn’t bust my ass.
TIP #3: BRING MONEY
You may be tempted to carry a water bottle, which you should… But unless you have a good one, your water will get hot pretty quickly. Luckily, you have some cash on had to stop and buy water/beer/makgeolli/ice cream as you hike. Yes, that is correct. You can stop and get snacks while you hike. You can even get drunk on the mountain if you want. I personally loved this since my water felt boiling hot and I was dying from the heat. Remus loved the popsicle we shared! (I usually don’t promote giving dogs people food, but it was so hot and I wanted him to get some liquid in him)
BONUS TIP: BRING YOUR DOG
Dogs are allowed on Gyejoksan! How awesome is that?? Remus loved being outside and on the mountain. I was worried he wouldn’t like walking on the clay, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all. If you bring your pet, make sure to bring poop bags as well 🙂 I would hate for them to not allow dogs if people don’t continue picking up after them.
Honestly, I wasn’t able to finish the hike… That really upsets me BUT I now have a goal. I will get in shape and hike that entire trail!! I just recently started running and hopefully I will be in better shape soon. Next year (before it gets too hot) I will go back to Dejeon and finish this trail!
Also, it’s important to note that the trail is 14km. I had no idea it was that long when I started.. Now, I do.