28 (Sat) May 2011
Smoked Duck with Buchu and Perilla Leaves in Onion-Wasabi Dressing
-Seonjaryeong, Gangwon, Republic of Korea-
with W, MtG, CBD
Exactly 365 days ago, on a trip organized by Backcountry Camping to this same mountain range, MtG and I first met those who would become the core of the CBD group. From the food at the campsite (see 1.144 Grilled Yangnyeom Galbisal) to the awe-inspiring trek through the colossal windmill forest along the verdant hills of the region, we shared an unforgettable experience.
Seonjaryeong (선자령) is a strictly regulated national preserve, where any activity beyond walking along the established trails is prohibited by law and punishable by fine of up to 500,000 won. Even smoking and eating are technically illegal. Last year, we had slept at a formal campsite located at the base of the mountain and trekked through the course with daypacks the next day.
On the first anniversary of that trip, we returned to the scene with a bolder plan for the sequel. This time, we carried our gear into the mountains, looking for a secluded spot in the woods to spend the night in true backcountry fashion. Until we found a suitable spot, we had no idea where we would end up.
As with last year, the hike up the mountain was spectacular, though somewhat obscured by fog. At the top, the range leveled off into a rolling green plateau studded with windmills that generate energy from the ocean winds coming in from the East Sea about 10 kilometers away. In addition to the visual impact of the windmills, the audial and physical sensation of walking under them as they rotate and swoosh overhead was exhilarating.
W, who is not a core member of the group, surprised everyone by agreeing to join us on the trip. While she is by now a semi-seasoned car camper, the most difficult outdoor challenge that she had faced to this point was camping without electricity. She had never been mountain climbing or even trekking. And she certainly had never strapped on a backpack larger or heavier than the one she used to carry books in high school. But she came through like a star, never once wavering, never once flagging, never once complaining.
The reality of camping off the beaten path posed several practical problems. Water, or lack thereof, was the most serious concern, especially for Koreans who need a lot of it to cook broth-based foods (e.g., ramyeon) and to rehydrate after a long night of boozing. Fortunately, our site was located near a stream, and we had packed a purifier. Another thing was that forest floor was littered with rocks and tree branches and weeds and thorns and mud and all kinds of nature’s crap, none of which made for a pleasant sleeping surface, even with an inflatable mattress. And on a mountain, there was also the incline. Fortunately, we found a clearing in the forest that was relatively even and suspiciously free of debris, making us wonder what lay beneath the surface. Insects and other pests could also be problematic in the dense vegetation. Fortunately, it was still too cold for mosquitoes, and everything else seemed content to leave us alone. Then again, YYH would tell us the next morning that she didn’t sleep a wink after hearing us talk about racoons and snakes and boars and ax murderers and aliens.
With the adventure and camaraderie and food, as well as the thrill of illegality, it was the greatest camping experience that I’ve ever had.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also CAMPING)