CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea –Members of the Humphreys community and the garrison Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers council braved through Korea’s cold weather to hike ten of the country’s mountains in the months of November through February.
Sergeant Timothy Baso, interim BOSS president, said a ten-national-hike-bundle was created out of one of the organization's lines of engagements: Having a ready force. The hikes allowed more than 27 service members, private to lieutenant, the opportunity to stay fit and explore the Korean peninsula through the fall and winter months, by hiking national park mountains. After completing the ten hikes, Soldiers became eligible to receive the Korean Leaf Award.
The Korean Leaf Award is given to those who complete ten of the 22 Korean National Park hikes. The award consists of a medal, a certificate of appreciation and pamphlet with information about the parks.
Baso said he never imagined a country the size of Indiana would have so many mountains, and the hikes presented the Soldiers an opportunity to push themselves as they spent hours treading up slopes with exhausted legs and worn-out bodies. Each hike became more challenging then the last as the temperature dropped and the elevation rose.
Specialist Trevin Thurman, assigned to the Eighth Army Band, said coming from Texas he wasn’t used to seeing what resembled a "winter wonderland," with the powder snow. He was ready to venture onto the mountains and see what the view looked like from the top. While climbing it was imperative that Thurman was strategic in placing his feet on the cold, icy ledges. He said there were stairs in the places in which the mountain was steeper, but the chance to slip and fall still existed.
“Climbing the mountains were like conquering a difficult challenge,” said Thurman. “In between the trees I would pass I could see little patches of mountain. I just kept thinking I must keep this rhythm with one foot in front of the other. Finally, we reached a rock that told us how far we had to go and I got a sense of satisfaction. The peak view was nothing like the one from the bottom.”
Baso said the view from the peak of the mountain was clear and beautiful, without a cloud in sight: simply the treetops above and the valley below. Before it got too cold, he said you could still see the yellow, orange and brown leaves. Also, some of the mountains were close to a waterfall, so the water would flow over the rocks to the streams below.
Hiking the national parks created some shared experiences causing Soldiers to meet and bond with each other and their Korean counterparts.
Thurman said during one of the hikes he made a wrong turn causing him to wander around the mountain for two-hours. He made it to the information center by following the river and ran into some Soldiers who were in the same dilemma.
“I made it back to the information center just in time to see a very nice Korean gentleman I had met on the path,” said Thurman. “He and his friends called us a cab and took us back to the bus area. The whole time in the cab we just chatted. He told us about the mountain, and we told him what we were doing there. It was good getting to know each other.”
Baso said he hopes there will be other opportunities for BOSS to host bundles and take on the other 12 national parks because of the success of the ten-hike bundle.
“Korea is a beautiful place,” said Thurman. “Get outdoors, hiking around Korea is worth it. It is something you won’t get to do all the time and it is a great adventure.”
Below is a list of the ten parks the service members hiked:
• Sokni MT
• Naejang MT
For more information on these parks Go to https://english.knps.or.kr/