Tag Archives: mountains

“Well, I’m back,” he said.

As you probably know if you saw my Sunday post, I was away last week on  a trip. I went by myself to a couple of small islands in the southwest of Korea, called Heuksando (흑산도) and Hongdo (홍도). They’re part of a national park, which is not surprising, considering all the natural beauty there. As promised, here are some pictures I took there. It’s very visual, although not fiction; it’s a travelogue, and actually was pretty fantastic. Enjoy~

I left here on Sunday and went down to the port city of Mokpo. The next day I took this ferry. It was very fast and the water was very rough, making it fun for me, until other people starting getting sick and throwing up. The guy behind me kept saying, “I’m dying. I’m dying. I want to live. I should have gotten off at the last island.”

fast ferryOn the first island, I took a bus around the island on a road that wound up and down mountains on hairpin turns and steep grades. Between the cliffs and mountains, were tiny, idyllic coves with fishing villages.CoveHere is one of the roads. This one is famous on the island and has twelves switchbacks in a row. It was quite something going up this in a bus.

Snake RoadThe next day, it was crazy windy so I walked along the beach to see the waves crashing up on the rocks.

Wind and wavesAfter a while, I hiked back inland, through the forest and through pastures. I came across a lot of cow dung, but only 4 cows the whole time. This was a bull, a cow and a calf. The calf was very cute, but I didn’t want to get close, since the cow kept bellowing at me, even when I was out of sight.

CowsThe forest on the island was almost all broad-leaf evergreens and there were vines and ivy everywhere. It is much different from the rest of Korea.

Heuksando ForestThis is a view of the harbor looking back across the peninsula where I was hiking. I could easily have stayed there for a long time. It was so peaceful.

Heuksando ViewAt sunset, I went back to the harbor where my motel was. It was the off-season for tourism, so I think I was the only one in the hotel. I never ate at a restaurant with any other customers; just the owners eating their supper.

Sunset at Yeri HarborThen I climbed up the hill behind my hotel, where I was rewarded with this view:

Sunset over HeuksandoThe next day, I took a ferry thirty minutes to the island of Hongdo, which has some of the best craggy rock formations I’ve seen. Just like on Heuksando, I was one of the only tourists there.

Hongdo harborI climbed up the mountain and had a beautiful overview of the whole southern half of the island.

Hongdo overviewThe only problem with this island was that it was quite inaccessible. A lot of cliffs, like the one below, were off-limits, with no trails or safe ways to get to them. Which is too bad, since I would really liked to climb up on some of them.

Hongdo CliffsThe day was absolutely beautiful. As opposed to the previous cloudy and windy days, this day was sunny, warm, and serene.

Hongdo ocean viewI found a hotel, then struck out to the south side of the island and fought my way through the forest of vines and thorns down to a small beach. This island was just offshore from there.

Hongdo IslandA lot of where I walked was quite close to the edges of cliffs that plunged more than a hundred feet straight down to the ocean. I was careful, of course, but I’m sure my wife would have had a heart attack if she’d seen me.

Cliffs on HongdoHongdo is much smaller than Heuksando and everyone lives in one village in the middle of the island. Probably half the buildings are hotels or restaurants, the vast majority of which were closed for the season. Here is a shot of the harbor as I was coming back in late afternoon.

Hongdo harborI walked down to a dock on the far side of the island to see the sun set behind the island.

Hongdo SunsetThe next day I got up way too early for the ferry, so I went down to the harbor and watched the sunrise.

Sunrise over HongdoThen it just better and better as I waited.

Sunrise over Hongdo

Sun and cloud over Hongdo

I hope you enjoyed the tour. Now that I’m back, I am slowly climbing the long, winding steps up into the Green-walled Tower to see what other fantastic worlds I can spy. More fiction coming up tomorrow.

P.S. Bonus points if you can name the reference in the title. It doesn’t count if you’re related to me, since I KNOW you know. 🙂

Always, Always Bring a Camera

You never know what you are going to come across in your daily life, and if you are at all photographically inclined, you need to be ready to catch those perfect, once-in-a-lifetime pictures. Or even those once-in-a-week pictures. My rule is that I should always have a camera with me when I leave the house. It is a rule I often break, sometimes to my lasting regret.

For instance, the very first Visual Fiction post I did was about a bridge I used to take to school every Friday. One day, a few months ago, the entire area was shrouded in fog and that bridge looked amazing, emerging out of the ghostly pall of mist, like the passage to another world. You would agree with me, if you could have seen it, but I forgot my camera that day. I kicked myself over and over, but of course, it made no difference.

The worst time, though . . . I almost hesitate to tell you about that time because frankly, it’s unbelievable. However, a fiction blog like this seems like a safe place to share it. Suffice to say, you are the first people to hear this story.

It was a few years ago, when I was on vacation by myself. I am a bit of a lone wolf at times and sometimes I just need to get away from everything. I was hiking in the province of Gangwon-do. It is the biggest, most mountainous and least populated province in Korea, and by far the wildest. There are many hidden valleys and steep passes between them. I found myself just south of a big national park and just started walking, away from the park. Korea isn’t that big of a country so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost.

I followed a small road up into the mountains until it came to a sanjang—a shelter for hikers in the mountains, like a small, rustic hotel. I decided to stay the night there.


a sanjang, although not the one I stayed in

That night after supper, I decided to go outside to look at the stars. I wasn’t planning on going long and I didn’t bring any of my things with me, including my camera. I walked up to the closest ridge and strolled through the forest, looking at the stars peeping through the budding spring foliage at me. I admit I got lost in a kind of reverie and when I decided to go back, I wasn’t sure of the way. It is very easy to get lost in the mountains at night, especially in an area that you don’t know.

I wandered all night, first on one trail, then another. I wasn’t particularly scared; just thirsty and very tired. The eastern sky began to lighten and just as the sun broke between the mountains, I reached the crest of a long valley and saw a large building with a golden dome on top, shining in the sun.

I wish I had a picture to show you. It was one of those moments that hits you unexpectedly and just floors you. All I could do was stand and stare at it in amazement.

That was the beginning of a several week-long adventure that was like nothing else I have ever experienced. I don’t know where it was, but it wasn’t Korea, as weird as that sounds. I am hesitant to use a phrase like “another world”, since it brings up images of magic wardrobes and Neverland. It wasn’t like that at all.

Over the next few weeks (maybe once a week), I’m going to share my account of that time. I’ve been going through my memory, trying to remember every detail and making some notes. I am not much of an artist, but since I did not have my camera, I will try my best to convey what I saw through my words and a few sketches if I can manage them. I will do my best at least.

Visual Fiction – Vanishing World

I watched it from the mountaintop: the creeping whiteness that devoured the landscape below me. I had climbed up, camera in hand, to capture the view but instead what I saw was nothingness. It was not fog, it was simply white. I should have been frightened, I suppose, but instead I watched with dread fascination as it ate away at the landscape, slowly approaching the mountain where I stood. Just as it was climbing up the slope, I saw far away, a glimmer of something. It was a single spot of color in the vast field of white, but it was enough to give me hope. So I saw down on the bench to watch and see what would happen.

Vanishing World

Visual Fiction – Birds of Hope

I had toiled many days through the snowy mountains until my strength and spirit were almost gone. I was about to despair when I came to an area where stone lanterns sat, capped in snow. Nothing was moving, save a few small birds, which filled the air with their chirping. I tried to move on, but they fluttered around me, always blocking my way.

Stone lantern

Taken in Odaesan National Park, Korea

I finally held out my hand and one of the birds came and perched on it. It may have been my fatigued state, but it seemed to me that the bird spoke to me. “There is hope,” it said. “You have wandered many days and do not know, but today is Christmas. It is a day when all people can find hope, for it was the day that the great Hope came into the world.”

friendly bird

With that, it flew away and although it would not come back to my hand again, I followed the birds to a hidden path and found myself at last in the land of life and hope.

Visual Fiction – Phantom Mountain

Jun-Young’s breath caught in his throat as he stepped outside and saw a mountain rising out of the mist, where before there had only been fields. It was Gwishin-san, the phantom mountain, which appeared every century, for one day only.

He had to leave soon. He had less than twenty-four hours to reach the peak.

taken in Wanju, Korea. (click to enlarge)

taken in Wanju, Korea. (click to enlarge)

Visual Fiction – Dawn Guardtower

“The sentry gripped his spear with sweaty hands, watching the shadowy figures moving in the valley below. The final assault was beginning and it was likely he would not see another day. Behind him, the sun rose, a blazing orb setting alight the funeral pyre of the world.”

I took this picture from my kitchen window, as a matter of fact.

Visual Fiction – Mountain Valley Map

What do you see when you look at the picture below? My wife said it looked like an amoeba. What it is, is a topographical map I drew of part of a world I’m creating. Here’s what I see:

  • It’s a valley with steep mountains around it.
  • This map was originally 16 pixels to a mile, so it’s about 35 miles across.
  • Each elevation line is 1000′, so the highest peaks are about 16,000 feet off the valley floor.
  • The darker areas are the mountains. The green areas in the middle are depressions in the valley floor.
  • There are 137 mountain peaks, ranging from 3250′ to 16,340′ tall.
  • The circular area on the right is a deep lake with high mountains all around it. There is a waterfall falling off the northern face.

This is why I love drawing topographical maps. I can look at them and see the places in my head. To some people, it may just be a bunch of lines, but for me, it’s truly inspiring.

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