Wondaeri Forest, Inje, Gangwon-do, South Korea

 Wondaeri White Birch Forest, Inje-gun.
Wondaeri White Birch Forest, Inje-gun.

This is another one of those destinations that has been on my to-do list in Korea for at least a year. I first heard about it while reading another one Korean Airlines magazine article and I had it snapped and saved on to Evernote. It just says 자작나무 숲을 and thats about it. I know that it is somewhere in Gangwon-do and close to Inje town but there was no map and nothing in the English internet that could point me in the way. 

An adventure into the Korean internet showed a few blog posts with GPS points that are all over the place. Back in 2012, I hatched a plan to take a bus to Inje, and then running about 20km to survey the place to look for this white birch forest. Luckily I didn’t do it eventually as it was around winter at that time and it did take some hike – uphill – around 5km one way to get to a location where the trees are a little more dense than usual. 

To get there, first you have to drive all the way to Inje. There are no public buses to the entrance of the park, so don’t bother going public. I guess you could hitch hike, but I doubt many cars intentionally take that route unless they were either living there or going to the park. Rent a car. Its worth it. By the way, Avis in Korea is a company called AJ Rental, and they do have a branch close to the Inje Bus Station as I found out while having my lunch in that town. So in theory you could take a bus to the town and rent a car after that. 

Anyway, at Inje, drive down southwest along the only highway through town. I believe it is highway 44. Take the turning towards the east at 38° 1.212′, 128° 7.855′. The road leads to a small road that eventually hugs the valley that gets narrower and narrower till it is almost a bottleneck. Keep on going.

Entrance to the park is at 38° 0.554′, 128° 11.698′. I had to park by the roadside when I was there. There’s a booth, but no fee to pay, you just have to sign in the visitor log. I was there in Winter, around christmas, and I don’t know if in other season the road is opened to cars to drive up. 

 The trees on the way up are somewhat white. Don't despair - a few more km uphill to go...
The trees on the way up are somewhat white. Don’t despair – a few more km uphill to go…

So far so good. You follow the path uphill, and a few hundred meters after the booth, take the right part of the fork. It goes uphill for about 5km, sometimes you get flats, but generally it is uphill. In winter, you need spikes on your boots. Either that or walk on the side of the road. Cars are not allowed on it, unless you live there I guess since the whole way I only saw a truck with dogs in the rear bed. 

The higher up you go, you’d start to see more white birch. Close to the road, it is quite sparse. Eventually you hit the 5km mark and there are plenty of white trees. That’s all there is to it. 

Now for equipment. I brought with me a Sony RX1 with fixed 35mm lens and I had to rely on the might of that sensor to do some cropping. I would have loved to bring my full DSLR with me, and perhaps 100-300mm range of lens for that compressed look, but I doubt I would have enjoyed the uphill hike. I consider this a survey trip then. The end of the trail (but not the trek, it looks like it goes on farther) is what looks like a small car park and the path leads downhill among the white birches. 

        
     

I realised it is not that easy to follow my words and GPS copy and paste for direction, and so if you have a software that reads GPX, you can download the file I recorded on the iPhone here. You will be able to view it in Google Earth or one of those free Garmin applications for the PC/MAC. 

Enjoy Inje, please get in touch with me if you need more directions. I’m sure I’ll make another trip there one day with an extreme wide angle and a long lens. 

 

*end*

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Patagonia: El Chalten, Santa Cruz, Argentina

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Arriving in El Chalten: Cerro Torre and Fitzroy in the background

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Fitzroy in the morning

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Rio Blanco from the top of the moraine at Laguna de los Tres

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On the trek up Laguna de los Tres

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Hikers at the start of trail to Laguna Torre

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Cerro Torre

31 December 2010
… Continued from the previous post. After Laguna Azul this morning, and a long drive around Lago Viedma later arrival at El Chalten was perhaps one of the best road trip I’ve been on. From far, the mountains I’ve seen in magazines and pictures start to appear slowly, and while the bus stops in many spots for us to take panoramas, it always seem to look better the closer you get to it. Normally there are not that much traffic on the road, but when the cars do appear they drive fast. Just before the descent into El Chalten there is a look-out point with a nice view that is spoilt by certain inconspicuous large buildings in the town.

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Entering El Chalten Continue reading “Patagonia: El Chalten, Santa Cruz, Argentina”

Hong Kong Trail Part 4, Hong Kong: Tai Tam Reservoir to Shek O

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Start of Part 4: Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir

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End of Part 4: Shek O village from Tai Tau Chau

This spring has been quite terrible here in Hong Kong. It rains everyday, and just like back in Shanghai, you rejoice when you get the sun, because it is rather rare. So it is with this I told myself, whatever happens I’m out to complete the Hong Kong trail this weekend. That would be Section 7 & 8 according to the official map. This would mean starting off at Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, go right through to To Tei Wan and then up to the Dragon’s Back mountain trail and ending up at Big Wave Bay. Lets just get to the plot here, to mention that there’s a Part 5 after all, and I never made it to Section 8 on this trip as Dragon’s Back trail is a little too tough to complete in one afternoon along with the hike from Tai Tam reservoir.

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GPS plots of the path (in green) for Part 4, with Stanley and Shek O in the picture for positioning

It’s the usual. After filling up on a heavy brunch, I’m off by MTR to Shau Kei Wan, and then onto bus 14 on the main road just before Chai Wan Road. Booted up my Garmin Colorado 300 GPS and got off the bus right before the reservoir. There are not too much space here for any lingering. The dam is so narrow, there is only room on the top for a 2 laned road, so the views will have to be appreciated either in the vehicle, or on one end of the dam. Water is choppy due to a drizzle, with wind from the sea whipping up small waves.

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A road runs on the Tai Tam reservoir dam, but being narrow, I don’t think I want to walk on it while double decker buses come charging down one side.

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Tai Tam Bay

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The initial part of the trek is along thick forests, along a concrete path, so it is quite safe.

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Tai Tam reservoir viewed across from the other side of Tai Tam Bay

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Tai Tam Bay coastline

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Lan Nai Wan Village

Then it is a short walk up Tai Tam Road before going into the forest on the right following a path where I left off in Part 3. Here the path should be rated as easy as it follows a catch water and the altitude reading on my GPS is pretty much constant throughout. Under this heavy tree cover, there are no photo opportunities except for plants macro. The trail are paved almost all the way to Tung Ah Pu Village. The trail is not really straight, quite simply because it follows the contour lines of the hillside. There are some areas where there are clearings and this is where the views of Tai Tam Harbor can be had. It looks across to a bunch of apartments on Red Hill. Some sections I could see Lan Nai Wan village in the foreground and the expensive houses on Red Hill in the background. So a nice mid telephoto lens like 105mm can be useful here. Wide angle lenses are ok, but because there are always shoulder level undergrowth, it is not possible to get a clear shot. When I was there, there were patches of rain cloud and some patches of sunlight, so I was hoping for perfect lighting to capture an interesting shot. I don’t think I was given that opportunity anyway.

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 4, Hong Kong: Tai Tam Reservoir to Shek O”

Travels: Nikko: Tochigi Prefecture, Japan

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Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Tobu line Train to Tobu-Nikko

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Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Spring Water Pool in Nikko Town

Its a scouting trip because I’m fed up with the weather. Its just too much. Cloudy and raining the whole weekend and I’m here expected to be hanging around all the time in Tokyo. Rain or no rain, I’m off to Nikko to have a look. The temples will be covered today, but what I will really scout are the wilderness and mountains this place offers. Next trip will be more specialized. However don’t think for once I’m going light!

In the backpack, a Mamiya RZ67 with 50mm lens, and 2 film backs. One loaded with Velvia 100 I don’t expect to use at all considering the weather, and a couple of Tri-X rolls. In the utility pack, Ricoh GR Digital and a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron ASPH.

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Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Forest in Nikko

Train to Nikko, or shall I say, the cheapest way to get to Nikko I can find is the Tobu line to Tobu-Nikko from Asakusa Tobu line station. Cost 1320yen. Taking the 7:10 train today. The 7:30 express train cost 1400yen extra because its more ‘express’. One thing to be really sure is that your train car actually reaches Tobu-Nikko. The last few I saw has different destinations, so my guess is along the way they drop cars so only the Tobu-Nikko train actually gets there. The train is oldish, but hey, it moves. Going to take a nap… Been a chore to get to Asakusa before 7 am.

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Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Stream on the way to Jakko Waterfall

937hrs: And it has to happen. Just arrived at Nikko and the rain is coming down hard – for Japanese standards, that is. So hard it is probably stupid to walk anywhere in this rain. So its time for a morning katsudon and salad in a restaurant next to the station. Could be a nice weather to shoot b&w in. Although this place is not full of people today (likely because of the rain) its mostly elderly hikers at the station. Should have borrowed an umbrella on the way here! The buses plying the routes here are from the Tobu group and they look quite high class for a town bus! Too bad I have plans to take the bus today. Walk is good!

Continue reading “Travels: Nikko: Tochigi Prefecture, Japan”