The beautiful Naewon Valley in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
With hundreds of successful temple adventures, there have been a handful of times that I haven’t succeeded for one reason or another. Other than the famed failure at Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, because of a crazed monk, my other failure came at Anjeokam Hermitage and Jogyeam Hermitage in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
It had been my intention, when setting out for Anjeokam Hermitage and Jogyeam Hermitage, to enjoy a crisp fall morning hike in the Naewon valley. I knew that the trek up to the two hermitages would not only be long (9 kilometres) and arduous (up and down mountains and valleys), but that they might also be a bit hard to find. I knew the area well, having traveled the valley numerous times both in groups and by myself. I knew once I passed Nojeonam Hermitage, which is a couple kilometers into the valley, that I would have to keep my eyes peeled for the sign marker pointing me north towards Anjeokam Hermitage and Jogyeam Hermitage.
I’m pretty good at reading maps, but when I came to the map on the trail, I completely misread it. I blew past the trail head that would have led me to the two remote hermitages. This mistake would take me halfway up Mt. Cheonseongsan, in the wrong direction, and four kilometers out of the way. Backtracking, and after asking a couple Korean nuns, I finally found the trail head that I was initially looking for. When I finally did arrive at Anjeokam Hermitage, the first of the two nestled beside the other, I had already traveled 8.5 kilometres (with another four and a half to get back to my car), up and around mountains and valleys.
The not so nice monk at Anjeokam Hermitage, who is highlighted by the arrow.
However, the story doesn’t end there. There were a couple times when I was going to give up along the way, so as you can imagine, I was pretty happy to finally arrive at Anjeokam Hermitage. I started to explore the smaller sized hermitage grounds, having a look inside the rather atypical main hall and the stately Iljumun Gate. I had noticed, what I believed to be, the head monk at the hermitage talking to an older Korean man. When I came out from the main hall, the head monk was no longer joined by the Korean man. Perhaps this is when he noticed me for the first time, as I made my way towards the Samseong-gak. I thought it was pretty harmless, in my near delirious state, to explore the shaman shrine hall. Well…I couldn’t have been more wrong. He told me no, in Korean, and pointed me towards the exit. As I said, being nearly delirious with exhaustion, I simply said good-bye to the hermitage and made my way towards the neighbouring Jogyeam Hermitage. With another hermitage to see, which turned out to be stunning, and another four and half kilometers to hike, it wasn’t until a couple days later that I realized that I had been shooed from a hermitage.
The much nicer, and more beautiful, Jogyeam Hermitage.
This would be my first, of just two, temples that I’ve been asked to leave or simply barred from entering. Fortunately, in the over three hundred temples and hermitages that I’ve visited in Korea since 2003, it’s been nothing more than an isolated incident. More often than not, Buddhist temples and hermitages are among the friendliest places you’ll visit in Korea. So don’t be deterred, I haven’t been.
A beautiful water cascade in the Naewon Valley.