The Eorimik trail is one of the easiest routes to take on Hallasan. It’s popular with couples (Jeju is a popular destination for Korean couples) or families travelling with kids or elderly people. After lunch, and taking a few moments to appreciate the peak, we began our descent. We chose the Eorimik trail, because it would be easier, after the scenic Yeongsil Trail, and would give us a different view of the mountain.
The trail begins with a boardwalk that takes you through lush greenery. With the sun out, and clear skies, everything looked beautiful. There’s a viewing point, early on this route, and it gives you to a vantage view of Jeju city, below, and oreums in the distance. Families with children and couples were still climbing up.
The boardwalk leads to steps and eventually a small stretch of rocky stones. The trail flattens after this point. It’s a good idea to wear hiking shoes, not sneakers, something I kept regretting not doing, as the stones get painful when the pressure increases as your descend. The stony steps lead to a another boardwalk and I had to take a break from the beating my ankles had taken.
Just when I thought it got easier, the trail morphed into cascading steps of unevenly lined stones. We were getting closer to the base, deeper into the forest, and it was beautiful with bursts of fall colours. Initially, my excitement with all the colour, around me, dampened the torture of descending on broken stones. Unlike the Yeongsil trail, that takes you over the ridge of the mountain, this trail skips those plunging valley views, and follows a simpler path that cuts deep into the forest. It must be easier while climbing. However, if you have a problem with your knee or ankles, it can get painful with the pressure and hard steps. If you skip a step, or are not careful enough, it’s possible to sprain your ankle. Other hikers quickly whizzed by me, and Basil didn’t have much trouble either, but I struggled to find my footing without injuring my knee, which was showing some signs of distress.
The forest was in a state of decay with giant trees uprooted, exposing their roots, and most of the branches were bare. There were few streams that hadn’t lost their strength and gently gurgled in the silence of the forest. Although, the branches were bare, the base was pretty green with moss or shrubs that had survived fall.
There were moments, on the trail, where I thought I might not be able to continue any further. And walking, is like a rhythm. You either have it or you don’t. Whether you’re walking on flat land, or climbing a mountain, or descending; everything depends on how you breathe, balance your weight, and get your footwork correct. In preparation for this hike, I walked a lot, and managed to correct the way I walked, and controlled my breathing while doing so. That’s why, climbing the mountain wasn’t hard. While descending, I think, I forgot what I had learned from all those walks. Instead of descending faster, I kept stopping, and my old fears of injury kept playing in my mind.
It was a difficult patch and I understood why the signboard marked this part of the trail in red. We eventually made it to the river crossing.
The river had dried and the bridge looked strange on a bed of rocks. The trees were burning orange and yellow and looked stunning. It was worth it and that’s the beauty of a torturous hike. There’s always a piece of heaven waiting on the other side of a hellish trail.
When we exited Hallasan National Park, I was dead tired, and yet, quite happy to have made it. And, it’s strange, as I write this post, nearly two months after our hike, I don’t remember the pain or the tiredness, as much as the the beauty and silence of the forest.
We walked, in silence, on a well paved road (seemed like a luxury now) from the entrance of the trail toward the bus stop, surrounded by flaming trees, and chirping forest birds. It might have been a kilometre or two long to the bus stop. Thankfully, the trees kept me going and I was feeling quite happy. We made it to the bus stop and waited for 20 minutes before a cab stopped. The driver said that the bus wasn’t coming and once again, we had to take a cab back to our hotel in Jungmun. Jeju had been a wonderful discovery and I knew, we had to be back again.