Taking my experiences, I previously had quite low expectations for nature in Korea. Nature and “wilderness” equaled a well beaten path, people not too far in front of or behind you, and wildlife that hardly ever showed its face … except magpies, pigeons, bugs, etc., that are used to the presence of humans. So, this morning brought me a pleasant surprise.
I woke up with an itch to get outside, lay on the beach, and draw. Unfortunately, the weather was not about to let that happen.
I woke up to hazy skies, a bit of wind, and about 16 degrees Celsius instead of the previous day’s 25. Disappointed, I dragged myself out of bed, and thought of alternative plans.
I could go to a coffee shop.
I could stay home.
Maybe I could go to the park?
Finally, I left the house and went to the bus stop. The first bus I saw made my decision for me. It was a bus that took me straight to the entrance of Ulsan’s Grand Park.
My plan? Go to the amphitheater in the park and draw.
When I arrived at the park, despite it being mostly empty, there was a couple walking in front of me with a similar idea … only they planned to have a picnic. They went directly to the location I had chosen in my mind.
Disappointed, but realizing it might be better, I headed off the paved path and into the woods. Not ten steps in, I passed a hiker, so I thought the experience would be as devoid of wildlife as my previous Korean ventures into the “woods.”
But another ten steps in, I startled a deer.
Stunned, I just stopped.
Looking up at the hill, I confirmed what I saw.
The deer, just as stunned, had stopped a bit up the hill.
A deer? In Ulsan? Wow.
My hopes were up, and I continued along the path.
Not two steps later, I heard and saw a woodpecker on a tree directly in front of me. After he caught sight of me, he moved behind the small tree, but he was curiously playing peek-a-boo. As much as I wanted to catch sight of him, he seemed to want to get a glimpse of me.
As I watched the woodpecker, a tufted eared squirrel started yelling obscenities and ran up a tree, while another across the way made a claim on the bark of a dead tree. Gnawing and scratching, tugging and pulling to collect bark … for what? I’m not sure.
I was amazed and blown away.
I had seen more wildlife in five minutes than I had in the eight months previous.
I realized that while I had been observing all of this occur around me, I hadn’t seen anyone else. Even more amazingly, this little haven was not far off the paved, overly-manicured park path.
It seems, weekday mornings are the best time to explore Korean “wilderness.”
I had ventured onto Grand Park’s hiking trails before, but on that trek I hadn’t seen any wildlife, aside from the usual bugs and magpies. It was a legitimate hike, but on a Sunday, the trail abounded with people.
I was annoyed by the old man walking behind me with a speaker blaring news. I grumbled to myself, “Haven’t you ever heard of headphones?!”
After being unable to outrun the sound, I slowed to let the man pass and try to get some quiet and hear some birds.
But I ran into another person and another.
Yes, I am still in Korea.
There was no tricking myself that Sunday.
This morning was different, though brief. The forest was quiet and filled with the racket of wildlife.
As I was leaving, I heard a rustle in the bushes and turned to see a green snake, with a splash of red. As I stopped and turned, another deer bolted into the forest, and I heard a cuckoo call out, though it took me a minute to realize it.
While there was no way I could possibly belief myself to be in Idaho (the wildlife looked much too different, as did the greenery) my brief walk this morning was quite pleasant and incredibly convenient.