The Road Less Traveled

Written by on March 12, 2014 in Travel

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The famous Amita-bul sculpture at Seondosa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

This past spring, I visited temples, hermitages, shrines, and tombs around the western portion of Gyeonju. But what I was unable to do was visit the peak of Mt. Seondosan. I travelled all around it, but the day was drawing to a close when I finally got around to it. So to make up for it, I finally found myself in Gyeongju again this past fall to hike up Mt. Seondosan.

There are numerous ways that you can hike to the top of Mt. Seondosan, but I chose the trail that is on the eastern face of the mountain. In fact, there are two trails on this eastern side of Mt. Seondosan. To be clear, I chose the wrong one, which will become clearer soon.

In total, the hike up to the top of Mt. Seondosan, and Seondosa Temple in turn, is a kilometer in length. You’ll first start off just west of four tombs, one of which is the famed King Jinheung’s tomb. While walking this trail, you’ll pass by numerous tombs and a scorched landscape laid bare by a recent forest fire. There are quite a few places you can catch your breath during the hike up to the top of Mt. Seondosan, which stands at 390 metres in height. Take your time and enjoy some amazing views of this haunting landscape, but don’t do what I did when taking a rest. As I lowered myself onto a burnt out log, I accidentally put my hand in a bush of thistles. Ya, ouch!

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An eerie picture from where I put my hand in the thistles

However, as haunting, and painful, as this landscape is in parts, it was also hard to travel because the trail has become overgrown with bushes and fallen debris. The kilometer hike to the top of Mt. Seondosan felt at least double the initial length.

It wasn’t until I got to the top of the mountain, just below Seondosa Temple, that a four-wheel motorcycle went speeding by me on a narrow dirt road. On board this bike was an older Korean man and woman, who waved to me as they parked at Seondosa Temple. Before I had even seen them as they turned the corner, I was kicking myself for not having taken this much easier dirt road; instead, I had chosen the much harder bushwhacking trail. Usually, I do a lot of research into a temple before I visit it, but there was so little out there to help me this time. Doh!

I guess the moral of this story is look before you leap. But then again, the adventure is part of the journey.

For more on Seondosa Temple.

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One last look at the completely disfigured face of Amita-bul

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About the Author

Dale Quarrington

Dale Quarrington has lived in the Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do Province area ever since arriving in Korea in 2003. He’s visited all of the Korean provinces, exploring both the known and unknown temples and hermitages around the Korean peninsula. While he’s not traveling, he enjoys reading books and learning about Korean history.