Parks Beyond Borders: Leaf-Peeping Picnics In Korea, Tanzania's Tiniest, More Shore For Canada's Gulf Islands

There's an inspiring cultural tradition in Korea when it comes to enjoying fall foliage—Mount Seorak National Park is one of those hotspots. In Canada, the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is adding miles more shore. Photos by the respective country's national park services.

“Foliage Picnic” Fever in Korea's National Parks

Many places in the world find people hiking and motoring their way through great fall color, but only in Korea is the fall ritual specifically aimed at picnicking. Indeed, this autumn activity has it’s own name and a long history.

An article in The Korea Herald quotes one of these leaf-lunchers.

“‘A foliage picnic is different from hiking or any sport,’” says Kim Sang-hun, a 32-year-old office worker who calls himself a “Danpungnori (foliage picnic)-enthusiast. There’s no pressure to climb all the way to the top. You just enjoy the moment and watch the scenery ― that’s your ultimate goal.’”

Danpungnori, foliage picnicking, has a long tradition here—and I mean centuries!

The practice in an early form dates back to 1,000 AD, with a celebration of “‘Junggujeol (double 9 day),’” the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar.” Later “eras” of Korean history included “a national holiday when kings would encourage scholars to climb up to a higher place such as hillsides or mountains, drink chrysanthemum liquor and eat chrysanthemum pancakes for a day while enjoying foliage and composing poems.”

Pointing to the popularity of mountain leaf-looking, The Korea Herald article said, “‘Seoulites loved Mount Nam, Bukhan, Dobong and others. People around the country loved to celebrate Junggujeol because it was the peak of foliage season and near or after the harvest season, which spared them time to take a break,’ said Kim Tae-ho, researcher at the National Folk Museum.”

This year, the paper says “Junggujeol falls on Oct. 23 but the foliage will be spectacular even before and after the day, with a bit of a crisp chill in the air.”

Besides the splendid insight into a culture where the aesthetics of leaf-peeping have been enshrined for centuries, the article brought in the advice of the Korea National Park Service for places to plan a great fall picnic. If Korea is on your travel agenda, whatever time of year, the article’s park suggestions are interesting.

The article raves about, “Mount Seorak in Gangwon Province is arguably the most visited mountain in the country. Its average temperature marks the lowest in South Korea, meaning that the peak foliage season comes the earliest in the country. Also, the temperature gap between the foot and the top of the mountain marks 12-13 degrees Celsius, resulting in a variety of colors.”

The foliage should be great right now. “One of the most followed trails for foliage picnics,” says the Herald, “is the 6.2-kilometer path stretching from Heullimgol and Jujeongol to Osaek Yaksu. Osaek Yaksu’s mineral water contains more sodium than other ground water, which explains its unique flavor. Near the foot of the mountain, several restaurants serve dishes using the spring water.”

Close to Seoul, the Uiryeonggil path links Mount Dobong and Mount Bukhan and “is therefore known as one of the best-preserved trails in Seoul and the metropolitan area. An observatory at Obong (‘five peaks’) is named after five men in an old folk tale who competed to win the heart of a beautiful lady there.”

Besides other great selections for foliage walks, the piece offers the Korea National Park Service’s list of “Things to Remember” when on “on a picnic or in nature.” Among those are these strictures offered by Kang Hong-kyu, a Korea National Park Service official, quoted from the article:

—Please do not pick the vegetables. They are usually grown by local residents and even if they are not, it doesn’t mean that you can take them.

—The regular routes developed by professionals are safe. But if you “try ‘something unusual’ by sneaking into unauthorized routes you may encounter wildlife such as snakes or any accident could happen.”

—Cooking at national parks is strictly prohibited but there are designated camping sites in nearby parks.

—Drinking alcohol is tolerated but smoking is prohibited.

One-Stop Safari Shopping

Tanzania’s smallest national park is not only big on scenery, it’s a convenient focus for people wanting one-stop-shopping for an African wildlife experience or as the starting point for a safari vacation.

A travel article by Sarah Gibbons in The National, “the Abu Dhabi Media Company’s first English-language publication,” says Arusha National Park “can be explored within a few hours and is only a half-hour drive from Kilimanjaro airport, a small but well-connected hub. For those that want to devote more time to wildlife-watching, Arusha is seen as the starting point in Tanzania for many safari-goers, and the gateway to the northern safari circuit that includes the ever-popular Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire national parks.”

Gibbons says the park is “considered to be one of the most beautiful and topographically diverse safari parks in northern Tanzania and is well worth a trip in its own right. ... Situated in the East African Rift Valley, Arusha is part of a fertile and undulating volcanic landscape that includes the highest peak in Africa - Mount Kilimanjaro.”

The National’s story is a nice overview of an accessible African national park experience in one of the continent’s most iconic landscapes. You won’t see “lions and rhinos - two of Africa's famed ‘big five,’” but “about 72 species of mammals are known to thrive in the park, including giraffes, hippos, warthogs, zebras, water buffalo, elephants and several species of monkey and antelope - more than enough to keep visitors snap-happy for a day.”

Canada’s Gulf Islands Expands Park Acreage

Late last week the Canadian government announced an expansion of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

Peter Kent, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and Ms. Michelle Rempel, Parliament Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, said Gulf Islands will be expanding with new protected lands on Pender, Saturna and Prevost islands.

A government release said the park sits “on the doorstep of Vancouver and Victoria," where the new preserved properties “are a mix of waterfront and forested areas, including more than 2,700 metres of shoreline with sandy and pebble beaches. This expansion will lead to the development of new hiking trails, day-use areas, and walk-in or boat-in camping.”

Ecologically, the expansion protects “more of Canada's rare Garry oak ecosystem.”

Even as controversy rages over deep budget cuts and layoffs at Parks Canada, the release quoted Minister Kent as saying the announcement “is another example of our government's strong record on the environment, particularly in the area of conservation. Since 2006, the Harper Government has added nearly 150,000 square kilometres of new park lands and waters."