The Cloud Bridge
Words by Ellin Hale
Photography by Ellin Hale and Ding-jin Kim
Gureumdari Footbridge, also known as Cloud Bridge, is located in Wolchulsan National Park. The park is just outside the little city of Yeongam in the Jeollanam-do province. Cloud Bridge is just one of the many sites to see within the park. There are also temples, waterfalls, and many trails to choose from that lead to various peaks; Cheonhwangbong Peak being highest, sitting at 809 meters.
So, on the snowy morning of January 14th when Kim Dong-jin and I set out for Wolchulsan National Park at the rather brisk hour of 7 o’clock from the Usquare Bus Terminal in Gwangju. After about an hour and twenty minutes of travel, we arrived at the quaint little bus terminal in Yeongam. We had time to relax before heading out to the park because our next bus was not leaving until 9:00. At the convenience store, we picked up some light snacks to bring with us and enjoyed the warmth inside. When the time finally came to board the other bus, we had begun to feel a bit skeptical about the adventure ahead. The weather did not seem too prime for hiking, but we wouldn’t be deterred so easily, so, we got inside and hoped for the best.
As the driver dropped us off at the Cheonhwangsa parking lot entrance and waved goodbye with a rather concerned look on his face,he wished us luck and advised that if at anytime we felt that the trail was too dangerous, we should turn around immediately. I considered his words carefully, but I am a stubborn person.
On the walk up to the start of the trail, it seemed like we were the only crazy ones out hiking this early in the morning, and in the middle of a little snow storm no less. Soon enough, however, we met a large group of hikers who seemed both eager, and also like us, a bit leery of what the hike might hold. Nonetheless, the trek to the bridge began.
We started up together with the other group putting down the first footprints into the soft, snowy trail. Soon, we separated from them as Dong-jin and I were engrossed in taking photographs of the beautiful scenery. The trail was actually not bad at all and soon other hikers started to appear behind us. Reaching the bridge was a trek, –especially climbing up all the stairs — but when we finally arrived, the view was amazing. Shouts of excitement from the other hikers echoed to the ones far below the bridge that lie 120 meters up, connecting two mountain peaks. My first steps on the bridge felt a bit weird because I could feel it shifting at every step the other hikers took. It was riveting. Dong-jin and I enjoyed the view for as long as we could in the snowfall but then the cold wind arrived, encouraging us to head back.
In just two hours up and an hour back down, we were able to complete our journey to Cloud Bridge. Though this is only the second National Park I have been to in South Korea, I think it will always be my favorite as well as the most memorable because of the adventure it turned out to be. I know we will be back again to conquer Cheonhwangbong Peak and to see the numerous other sites that Wolchulsan has to offer.