Hiking in the Sky

Rachel and I were feeling outdoorsy and inspired after our sea-kayaking adventure, so on Tuesday, we went to Haneul (sky) Park. It’s one of Rachel’s favorite parks, a gorgeous, green oasis threaded neatly into the outskirts of the city.

It used to be not-so-green, in any sense of the word. In the 1990s it was a massive landfill, but South Korea wisely decided to fix that before hosting the 2002 World Cup 3 blocks from the site. Essentially, the refuse was covered in dirt (and other barrier-things), which was covered in grass, which is now carefully but delicately managed, so as not to disturb all the toxic trash-stew beneath the surface. Methane gas is pumped out from the landfill, and used to power the electrical features of the park (bathroom lights, maintenance rooms, etc) and provide supplemental electricity to surrounding city venues.

StadiumHanuel

The landfill really was massive–massive enough that when it was covered, 2 parks were actually formed–Haneul, the one we went to, is the highest of the 2 (though it’s not the highest point in Seoul–that’s Namsam Tower). It’s a popular hiking venue, and the site for several annual festivals–the biggest one being a harvest-themed celebration in October (which we saw some preparations for). The park is very open and free-looking, but meticulously maintained. There are sculptures and lookout points, benches and lined trails that cut through uniform fields of grasses, flowers, or (in one very small location) rice paddies.

In order to enter the park, you climb up 291 steps. They’re numbered, which is either encouraging or soul-crushing, depending on the number.

haneulstairs

After the stairs come some archways.

zuchinnitunnel

These will undoubtedly play a role in the upcoming harvest festival. Also, why don’t we grow zucchini this way in Texas? I’m adding it to my list of harebrained homesteading ideas.

Past the tunnels, the trails splinter off, leading you to lookout points and “manicured” landscapes:

woodrings

and rest stations shaped like weird, alien sculptures. Wait, what?

aluminumalien

This view from a lookout point summarizes my basic assessment of Korean landscape: Verdant, sloping mountains interrupted by swaths of dense, houseless cities.

mountaincitymeet

After exploring the park (and chasing SO many butterflies) for about 2 hours, Rachel and I headed home–only to discover that it was far easier to catch a taxi in the city, rather than find one out in the boonies. We managed, though, and then she went off to work like a responsible adult…

…while I lazed about and took a nap. Vacations are the best.

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