Officially: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
Taken: July, 2011
Place: Jeju Island, South Korea
“Yeah yeah yeah, just take us here,” we continued to tell the cab driver, pointing at a wrinkled map (yeah, we still used physical maps). My friend and I felt a little impatient as we knew we had to start this hike early in the morning to get to the top. The volcano that sits in the middle of Jeju Island, Mt. Halla (or “Hallasan”), stands at 1950 meters. It is no behemoth, but nothing to scoff at. The cab driver continued in his vain attempt to dissuade us from taking our chosen trail, but we thought he just wanted to drop us off farther to charge more.
We began our climb at around 9 am and continued for about 4 hours. The trails were awfully empty for such a popular mountain in Korea. Something seemed off. As we edged towards the top, we realized why. This trail does NOT REACH THE SUMMIT!!! Noooooooooooooo!!! “Should have listened to that cabby,” we thought in defeat. While it was quite an amazing hike, it was very disappointing to be exhausted without seeing the renowned lake that adorns the top of Mt. Halla.
There is a reason people who enjoy photographing famous places continue to do so, despite the fact that millions have taken the same shot, and at least some have done a better job at it, too. It is the story behind the picture that is equally as important as the picture itself. What makes this photograph special to me is that it took two separate 10 hour round trip hikes to take it. A few days after our first attempt, we set out earlier than before and we reached the top of Mt. Halla after a five and a half hour climb, out of breath, out of food, but full of wonder. Soon after, the Korean crowd at the top started singing folk songs and we met some awesome people who even treated us to dinner later than night. I don’t know if you can see in the picture, but one of Jeju’s miniature deer is taking a sip on the lake, making the exhaustion well worth it.
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