Friday, April 3, 2015

Bright Lights in the Night

Trail by Night

             Afternoon heat, crowded trails, and busy commutes to the park can dampen any daytime hiking trip. So why not hike at night? On the northern face of Apsan (앞산), tucked away behind a highway and restaurant, is a trail suited for night hikes that leads to an observation deck overlooking the entire city of Daegu. On a windy, cool evening I struck out with a confident, if amateur, group of hiking friends for a spectacular adventure.

             The trail’s first half was a wide and well-lit cement road leading to a small temple named An-il. The road was steep, but was a good way to stretch the legs and dust the cobwebs out of the muscles before the main ascent. Old adjummas (Korean for older women) in their oversized visors made their way down and reassured any new travelers that, yes, this trail was feasible for anybody with legs and a working pair of lungs. Yet by the time we reached the An-il temple we already needed a breather. Looking behind us we could make out the twinkling city lights through a layer of trees, and we were reminded that the view at the top would be worth it.

             The long, rocky flight of stairs of the trail’s second half were a different animal. Here, there were no street lamps or cement roads. A flashlight is recommended, but at times we turned ours off and let the moonlight guide our feet. The stony steps snaked their way up the mountain, and it was fun to see the loose string of headlamps and flashlights make their way up and down the mountain like some sort of pilgrimmage. Our pilgrimmage included plenty of rest stops for us weary, unathletic travelers. However, it wasn’t terribly long before we broke the canopy and the steepness of the path disappeared, and before we reached the top we were already rewarded with a great view of the city. A few hundred more feet, this time with the help of modern wooden stairs, and we made it to the observation deck marked by a large, white square visible from the base of the mountain.

              In front of us was the entire sprawl of Daegu, a valley of twinkling city lights and unabashed neon discernable from hundreds of feet up. It was a gorgeous sight and a worthwhile hike, which I would rank as easier and much shorter than Gatbawi (Palgong Mountain hike) with more payoff. The first thing we did was unload our backpacks and have a miniature feast of snacks as our reward for the strenuous hike. Then we got out the cameras and took a wedding’s worth of pictures.

We stayed on the observation deck for about 45 minutes, taking in the illuminating scenery, then decided it was time to head back down. The return trip, obviously, was quicker and easier.

Either because of the temperature, the time of day, or the relative secrecy of the trail, the observation deck and trail was one of the precious few attractions I’ve experienced that have not been overly crowded. There were enough hikers to make the trail feel safe and well-attended but far from enough to make you feel claustrophobic. I would also imagine this trail is great for a sunrise or sunset hike.

To reach the trailhead, take the 410, Dalseo2, Dalseo4, or Dalseo4-1 buses to the stop called ‘Daedeok Restaurant.’ You’ll be noticeably on the edge of town, with the mountain directly across a highway. Across the road and through the highway underpass there’s a sign for an Indian restaurant. Walk up through the parking lot and head west (to the right). Look for signs for the An-il temple and you’re on your way. From the subway, take the Red Line to Anjirang Station and make the first major left outside exit #2. From there, it’s about a 20-minute walk up a hill to a dead end. Turn left and keep walking until you get to the ‘Daedeok Restaurant’ stop.

If you want to make a full night of it, grab some dinner before or after the hike. The bottom of the mountain features several quality dining options, mostly romantic, to add to your scenic hike. Aficio is a casual, yet sophisticated Italian restaurant located at the base of Ap Mountain. 

Overlooking the city are large windows on the second floor, from which you can enjoy a variety of delicious meals made with organic ingredients. In addition, every customer who orders a main dish gets a 30% discount on the drink menu from Drop Top downstairs. 

Another great fine dining option is Gooksu, known for its 'slow food' approach when preparing its delicious dishes for customers. Slow food doesn't mean it takes hours to cook, it just means everything is made from scratch. The restaurant has an Italian Firenze style atmosphere and serves fabulous pasta dishes. It is also famous for its T-bone steak and Ripieno pizza. Your taste buds won't be disappointed. Italian fine dining and Korean hiking, it turns out, make a good pairing. Hours for Aficio are 11:30AM ~ 11PM (with last order at 10pm) and hours for Gooksu are 12PM~12AM.

Happy Hiking!

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