New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Walkway Over the Hudson


Hudson Valley hiking Walkway Over the Hudson-1

The Walkway Over the Hudson is one of those unbelievably easy walks, but offer tremendous views. The walk is literally what is says- a walk over the Hudson River, over a flat pedestrian bridge.

Hudson Valley hiking Walkway Over the Hudson-6


You can do this walk from the eastern side of the Hudson River starting on the Poughkeepsie trailhead or from the western side from the Highland trailhead. Either side is easily accessible for parking. I chose the western side, because I was going to go straight from this walk to another hike on the western side, so it was right on the way. From Rt 9W in Highland, take the first turn north of the Mid-Hudson Bridge exit onto Haviland Road (right turn if you’re heading north on Rt. 9W).  The entrance to the Walkway is on your left in less than a mile.Parking in the official lots of $5 USD, though there is other parking further away that doesn’t charge. But I figured, why not just pay so I am right at the trailhead (again, maximizing my hiking time).

Hudson Valley hiking Walkway Over the Hudson-4

I started relatively early in the morning around 8 am, since it was my last day in the Hudson Valley and I wanted to get all my hiking in before I had to head back to New York City and the airport. That particular morning wasn’t really sunny or anything, but at least it wasn’t raining, though the clouds did diminish the power of the autumn foliage colors a bit.

Hudson Valley hiking Walkway Over the Hudson-2

This is another one of those easy hikes where is it impossible to get lost. The entire trail consists of a pedestrian bridge that spans the Hudson River. If you walked the trail from end to end, it would be about 3 miles, though once you are not over the river, the view isn’t quite so majestic. It’s fine and all, but it’s nothing eye popping- just local neighborhoods, some of which have erected privacy screens so you can’t see into their homes (that’s how close part of this trail is to homes).

Hudson Valley hiking Walkway Over the Hudson-5

I certainly didn’t have the bridge to myself that morning, as there were other walkers, bikers and joggers, but at that hour, the crowds were at a minimum. The views were pretty great and expansive, and you can see for quite a ways up and down the river. The autumn foliage that lines the river was very bright and colorful in spots, and times I felt like I was looking at a beautiful pastel painting.

Hudson Valley hiking Walkway Over the Hudson-7

This is one of those walks that shouldn’t be missed. It’s easy, easily accessible and the views are worth it.

New York Hudson Valley Autumn Leaf Peeping

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-15

This past fall was my first full autumn experience since 2010. The previous three years I was living overseas so I missed out on the wonder that is American autumn. Granted the past two years were in South Korea, where their own fall is amazing. But it was nice to get back to the States where autumn is not just beautiful nature, but practically an industry in and of itself.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-17

There are so many wonderful places to see autumn in America, but I chose to visit the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. I had been wanting to visit it for years now after I read about all the things to see and do there. I mean, there is such a plethora of beautiful nature and of fun Halloween/autumn activities. I was in the area for a long four day weekend, and even then, I didn’t get to see everything I wished I could see.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-9

I was actually a bit surprised when I did my research and realized that the Hudson Valley is only about a 90 minute drive north from LaGuardia Airport. For some reason, I thought it would be farther north. Originally I had planned to fly into Albany, because I thought it would be closer to my destination. And while yeah, it technically was, but it also would have taken about twice the time and an airline ticket would have cost twice as much as flying into NYC.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-2

I flew into LaGuardia in the evening, and once I got off the utter madness and traffic jam of the Long Island Expressway, it was surprisingly easy to get on the right interstate highways. The Hudson Valley is well served by more than one interstate, so it is pretty easy to get around.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-3

I was absolutely lucky to hit the Hudson Valley in peak fall foliage. That is something that is nearly impossible to predict every year. I was there in mid October, but I heard the previous year, that by mid October 2013, the leaves were already on the ground, because the cold came early. But this year, the weather was (near) perfect and the trees were swollen with leaves in all shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-4

I had a very packed weekend schedule of local farms visits, winery tours, haunted houses, short hikes, and leaf peeping (all subject to future blog posts). There was just so much to do and so little time. When traveling on my own, I am a hardcore planner, and I spent a lot of time in advance of this trip researching different things to see and do and narrowing down what was possible in the time allowed. I even calculated all the driving times and directions in advance, and basically wrote out an itinerary that enabled me to maximize my time there, while still providing a variety of experiences.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-7

I had a few absolute must do’s, but everything else was evaluating what was possible. I mean, I was only there for four days, and given the distance between some of the places I originally wanted to visit, I had to let some things, so I didn’t spend a ton of time in the northern part of Hudson Valley, and sort of centered my activities within a reasonable driving distance of Poughkeepsie.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-10

There is so much beauty in this part of New York. So many times I was driving through the valley and wanted to pull over and gawk at the beauty around me. Sometimes I could do that, but other times, there was just no room, because some of the road lanes were rather narrow with no shoulder space.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-12

I will say this though. While driving around New York is beautiful, it is not exactly cheap. I haven’t been to every state in America, but I had never encountered a place that had as many road tolls as New York. It wasn’t every interstate, but it was definitely some key ones. Most of the tolls were calculated based on the distance traveled on the toll road, so it was not a flat fee.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-14

However, none of those upstate tolls compare to the tolls for driving into New York City. I chose the shortest route back to LaGuardia and didn’t make my choice based on tolls. So imagine my surprise when I got the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey, and it cost $13 dollars to cross the bridge into New York City. And then about 15 minutes later, I was shelling out $7.50 to cross the RFK bridge. So yeah, I spent over $20 dollars in road tolls to basically skirt the city and drive back to the airport. Definitely know before you go, and make sure you had enough in cash, because the toll booths don’t accept credit cards. I nearly got the cops called on me, because I forgot I was carrying large bills and asked if I could use my credit card. The toll booth operator called the Port Authority on me (all while the traffic backed up behind me), before I remembered I had a $100 bill that she could thankfully break. Whew.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-17

All in all, this was one of the best weekend trips I have been on in America. There just was so much to see and do in upstate New  York. If you like beautiful autumn nature, you definitely want to make a visit to upstate New York at some point. Even though there are other places to see and do for American autumn, I am still highly tempted to go back to the Hudson Valley this year.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-9

Jirisan National Park- Piagol Valley Autumn Hike

Piagol Valley colorful foliage river title picture

I did a lot of reading to plan my autumn hiking season in Korea, and one of the places I kept coming across was the Piagol Valley in Jirisan National Park. This quote was frequently sited on articles about this valley, “People who have not seen the red-tinted leaves in Piagol dare not say they know red-tinted leaves.”- Jo Shik, a Confucian scholar of the Joseon Dynasty. A popular autumn leaves festival is held in the Piagol Valley around peak foliage time (supposedly 24 October 2013).

Piagol Valley orange river reflection

Piagol Valley branches with red leaves

Piagol Valley bright red, orange and yellow leaves

So as you can imagine, I had grand visions of awe inspiring beauty for this hike. I imagined the entire trail tinted red, and looking through my pictures, I am reminded how beautiful this hike can be, and how many shades of red and orange percolate through the valley and glow in the bright sunlight. However, I also look back on this hike as exemplifying two other concepts: the gap between expectation and reality, and knowing your own limits.

Piagol Valley shaded valley view

Piagol Valley river pool with red foliage

Piagol Valley river waterfall with red and yellow leaves

Last Sunday when I hiked this, the day dawned very early for me, since my train left from Yongsan Station at 0520. It was a three hour train ride to Gurye-gu Station. I could have taken a bus from Seoul to Gurye, but aside from my preference for trains, I was actually able to start hiking sooner than if I had taken a bus. I knew there were local buses that went from Gurye to the Piagol Valley trailhead, but none of them originated from the train station to my knowledge. So to save time, I elected to take a taxi from the train station to the trailhead, which only cost me 30,000 won (negotiated fare, not meter fare), and it was a roughly 30-40 minute ride. It was still pretty early in the morning when I started hiking, so there weren’t TOO many hiking groups out on the trail.

Piagol Valley bridge with red and orange leaves

Piagol Valley orange and green trees

Piagol Valley red and green leaves

I had planned in advance to only hike to the Piagol Shelter and back, and not push all the way up to the Piagol Samgeori (forked road). While it was only two kilometers from the shelter to the pass (1.2 miles), I could tell from online maps it was pretty steep, as the estimated travel time was two hours one way. This was confirmed for me when I looked at the map at the trailhead, and it had that portion of the trail at a 32% gradient. I remembered, and my legs remembered, the Ulsan Bawi hike which had nearly the same level of steepness, how long it took me, and how much my body ached afterward. Combine that with the distance being twice the distance of Ulsan Bawi, and it reinforced my desire to just to go the Piagol Shelter. I knew my limits of my body, the limits of my hiking speed, and the limits of the return trip to Seoul (since I already had a train ticket booked), and elected to only do the eight kilometer round trip hike to the shelter and back. That hike was only projected to take four hours round trip and the gradient was described as only 6% by the map, so I thought it would be a pleasant and easy hike. However, in my opinion, that map spoke lies. Maybe the AVERAGE gradient of that hike was only 6%, but there were plenty of times throughout that hike that it was much, much steeper.

Piagol Valley orange and yellow leaves river

Piagol Valley shelter

Piagol Valley colorful leaf trees and river

Parts of this trail were very well-maintained that reminded me of American hiking trails. Other parts of this trail were supremely uneven with big rocks substituting for an actual path. If I didn’t actually know what some Korean hiking trails looked like, I might think I was lost in the middle of the woods. But I would never get actually lost, because I was never actually alone out there. This hiking trail is very popular, and I saw dozens of hiking groups. In fact most of them skillfully and quickly passed me as I trudged along the trail, carefully picking my way from one uneven rock to another to avoid falling or spraining my ankles. I forgot to bring my walking sticks (AGAIN!) and my body (particularly my thighs and my knees) definitely felt it by the end.

Piagol Valley swing bridge with colorful leaves

Piagol Valley river pool and red leaves

Piagol Valley red and orange overhead foliage

This brings up the gap between my expectation of this hike and the reality of this hike. I thought this hike would be easier than it was, and I admit to feeling a bit dispirited by the end, and supremely grateful when I completed the hike. I kept thinking that what do Koreans have against even, well-maintained trails. Maybe it’s part of the fun to not only enjoy a colorful view, but also to lightly hop from one rock to another.

Piagol Valley colorful rocky river

Piagol Valley red, orange and green leaves

Piagol Valley orange and yellow overhead foliage

In any case, while I don’t regret going on this hike, if I had known all of this in advance, I might not have done the hike. There are very beautiful views on this hike, but I didn’t see anything so unique that I haven’t seen on other Korean hiking trails. Though looking back at all these pictures, I do marvel at the colorful beauty I saw. So honestly, if I was more fleet of foot and didn’t stumble on uneven trails, I probably would have enjoyed it more. My opinion of this hike is colored by the fact that I can be a graceless klutz at times.

Piagol Valley small waterfall and red leaves

Piagol Valley red orange leaves

Getting to and from Gurye is pretty easy. Like I said before, you can take a train or a bus. Both of them travel from Seoul to Gurye on a regular basis. If you take a bus to Gurye, you can easily transfer to a local bus to Piagol (approximately one per hour) directly from the bus station. Or you can easily take a taxi to the trailhead. Getting back from Gurye was a bit more painful, because all the direct trains were full and I ended up having to make some transfers, and what is a three hour direct KTX train between the two cities, became a six hour journey over slower trains. So if you take the train back, make sure you book your train ticket well in advance, particularly on popular weekends, like the height of autumn and spring.

Seoraksan National Park Day 2- A Hike in the Cheonbuldong Valley

Seoraksan day 2 title picture

My second day at the Seoraksan Nation Park dawned early, sunny and cold. Walking into the park, I admired the sun rising over the mountains. The rising sun painted the the rocks in a reddish-gold light and it reminded me a bit of Zion National Park.

This particular morning, I woke up a bit tired and sore, but pressed on nonetheless with my planned hiking itinerary. I was determined to see as much autumn foliage as possible, and everything I read about hiking in the Cheongbuldong Valley promised a steady stream of autumn colors.

Seoraksan day 2 yellow leaves on trail

Seoraksan day 2 valley with prominent leaves

The first part of the hiking trail was fairly easy. After the extremely steep hike of Ulsan Bawi, a trail with an initial 6% gradient felt like a piece of cake and a stroll in the park. The path was relatively even, and it was just enjoyable to walk along the trail and enjoy the view of the woods around me and not have to stare at the ground so I didn’t trip and fall.

The first major viewpoint on the trail, and a popular turnaround point, was the Bisondae Cliffs (Fairy Rock).  The bridge traversed this very beautiful valley and natural pools of water formed in the rocks via erosion.  I just had to stop, stare and take in the beauty around me.

Seoraksan day 2 Bisondae sunny valley

Seoraksan day 2 Bisondae pools

The trail continued for another few more kilometers up to the Yangpok Shelter. Truthfully, the trail continued much farther and deeper into Seoraksan National Park, with the next major viewpoint Daecheong Peak, several kilometers away. However, I made the decision to turn back at the shelter after a nice break. The gradient more than doubled to around 14%, but the spectacular natural view more than made up for any muscle soreness in my legs.  When I hike in Korea, I have to balance maintaining my footing on the trail, and maximizing the reason I go hiking- enjoying the colorful wonder of beautiful nature of me. Thankfully, there were plenty of man made stairs and boardwalks, so it wasn’t all just me stumbling over large, uneven rocks.

Seoraksan day 2 canyon river

Seoraksan day 2 rocky shale river

Seoraksan day 2 soaring colorful valley

Sometimes the view was so soaring, that I kept having to remind myself that this was all real. This wasn’t some movie. This wasn’t some memory, but real life, happening all around me.

Seoraksan day 2 valley river

Seoraksan day 2 running river

This particular hike is one of the most popular hikes in Seoraksan National Park, and it is easy to see why. The trail isn’t THAT difficult (by Korean hiking standards that is). You can hike as far out as you want and turn around when you want.

Seoraksan day 2 overhead river pools

Seoraksan day 2 river with red and green leaves

Because the elevation seemed to be greater, and the weather a bit cooler in this part of the park, I found plenty of autumn colors on today’s search.

Seoraksan day 2 colorful overhead shot

Seoraksan day 2 red and yellow leaves valley

Seoraksan day 2 red leaves valley

Even though this trail was much easier than the Ulsan Bawi trail, I definitely felt it, particularly on the hike back. That was probably because I was still feeling it from the day prior. There were scores of people on this trail, because it was a Saturday and the busloads of Korean hikers descended on the park. Even though I’m reasonably fit, I was passed by nearly every one in sight, particularly while trying to negotiate the rocky descents. So many Korean hikers were light of foot and they walked confidently, hopped, or even a few cases, ran down the uneven rocky hills, while I gingerly picked my way down, afraid if I didn’t, my spindly ankles would give out and I’d fall down, down, down the rocks. I am absolutely not as sure-footed as most of the other hikers. And thanks to my sore muscles, I was passed by nearly every one on the trail, with the exception of the elderly and infirm. And when I say elderly and infirm, I mean so old and sick, they probably shouldn’t have been on the trail to begin with.

Seoraksan day 2 rocky valley with trees

Seoraksan day 2 steep valley

I did enjoy the hike, and it felt so sweet when I finished and I could just relax, eat lunch and then go back to my hotel for a nice, warm nap. In those two days, I saw all the main sights in Outer Seorak. That is the eastern part of the park, the one closest to the town of Sokcho. It is the most popular with the craggiest hills. A person can easily do this part of the park on the normal, two day weekend. Of course I highly recommend taking a bus out to the park on a Friday night to start hiking early Saturday morning. Even with my relatively slow hiking pace, I was still done by early afternoon. I could have been on a bus back to Seoul that early evening if I so desired.

Seoraksan day 2 rocky valley

Seoraksan day 2 pool with red leaves

Again, if you like beautiful nature, particularly in the fall, and you like hiking, I HIGHLY recommend Seoraksan National Park. Just don’t mind the crowds. And it’s probably best to bring some walking sticks to maintain your balance while hiking on the uneven pathways.

Seoraksan National Park Day 1- Searching for Autumn Colors

Seoraksan day 1 beautiful view from Ulsan Bawi

Last weekend I kicked off my autumn hiking season with a long weekend at Seoraksan National Park. My favorite time of the year has arrived in Korea and I intended to enjoy the beautiful nature to the fullest. I have a whole season full of hiking planned at national parks throughout Korea. I have been to Seoraksan National Park the last time I lived in Korea, but that was actually only one day of hiking, so I wanted to enjoy it more and hike many different trails in the park.  Seoraksan National Park is one of the most popular national parks in Korea, for good reason. The hiking is amazing and the scenery is so beautiful. It’s nice any time of the year, but its true charm comes out when the fall colors ablaze everywhere. It’s also when the crowds come out, but that is just something you just deal with to enjoy yourself.

It’s very easy to reach Seoraksan National Park. The nearest large city is Sokcho and there are numerous busses departing from  the Dong Seoul bus station and Seoul Express Bus Terminal (about every 30 minutes during the day). The trip only takes about three hours, so I took an evening bus to Seoraksan Thursday night, so I could start hiking early Friday morning before the crowds hit. To make it easy for hiking, I chose to stay at a motel (The Seorak Morning Inn) in the village of Seorak-dong, which is about a 1.5 km easy, pleasant walk or short bus ride to the park entrance.

I picked Seoraksan as my first hiking weekend, both because I had a long weekend to do all the hikes I wanted in the time available, and it was also supposed to be the first national park to hit peak color for autumn foliage in the middle of October. I had visions of seeing the entire hills covered in red, orange and yellow. What I found was a bit different. Due to the warm weather this, the advent of fall seems to be delayed in Korea. It was the middle of October, and while there were leaves changing, it was not as much as I expected. But I valiantly set out in search of autumn colors.

My first day in the park was a Friday, so while there were people there, it certainly wasn’t as crowded as it is on weekends.  Of course it also helped that was I an early bird and arrived at the park shortly after it opened. The first thing I did when I got to the park (before the lines got too long) was take the cable car up to Gwongeumseong (Gwongeum Fortress) which is the ruin site of an old castle. The cable car ride is only about six minutes up, and it takes you to a hill with a beautiful view over the valley below and the mountains surrounding the hill.

Seoraksan day 1 cable car to Gwongeumseong

The weather was a bit hazy at first, since it was early morning. But I could see patches of orange and yellow among the abundance of green trees.

Seoraksan day 1 Gwongeumseong view

It was SUPER windy at the top of the hill. See the picture below for just a hint at how windy it was. At times the gusts were so strong, I felt like I was going to be blown off the mountain if I lost my footing.

Seoraksan day 1 super windy me on top of Gwongeumseong

My ultimate goal was the top of Gwongeumseong, which was marked by the Korean national flag blowing in the wind. Getting up was interesting, because the path was a bit narrow in parts, and I had to pull myself along with a rope during parts of the ascent. And it was even windier on top of the mountain.  Like always, I personally found it easier to ascend and climb up rather than descend and climb down. Coming off the mountain was an interesting journey. When you see nimble, able Korean hikers descending on their butt, you KNOW it is a bit treacherous for someone like me who is clumsy and decidedly not sure-footed. But I made it in one piece, ready for more hiking.

Seoraksan day 1 Gwongeumseong treacherous path

The second hike of the day was an easy hike to Biryong Falls. It was only 2.4 kilometers with no major uphills. Instead it was easy and pleasant to hike along the trail, enjoying the view around me. The hike starts a few hundred meters from the entrance to the cable car, and you can see the cable car ascend as you begin the hike.

Seoraksan day 1 cable view on trail to Biryong Falls

I was very charmed by the numerous, beautiful waterfalls and the colorful foliage during the course of the hike.

Seoraksan day 1 river view on Biryong Falls trail

I even saw more hints of autumn color on the trail. It was beginning to feel a lot more like autumn.

Seoraksan day 1 Biryong Falls autumn view

Seoraksan day 1 trail view on way to Biryong Falls

Even though the final destination was a waterfall, that doesn’t mean there was a shortage of waterfalls along the way, such as Youkdam Falls pictured below.

Seoraksan day 1 double falls view on way to Biryong Falls

Seoraksan day 1 overhead view of river

The sun kept peeking in and out from behind clouds and the trees during the walk. That highlighted the leaf colors, but it also produced interesting and beautiful effects on the rippling water.

Seoraksan day 1 shimmering waterfall pool of light

At the end of the hike is the 40m high Biryong Falls, which means “Flying Dragon”, because of the shape the water evokes. It’s a very pleasant place to sit by the water and silently take in the water and scenery or enjoy a picnic lunch with a group of other hikers, or at least partake in some of the food the very nice older women offered me.

Seoraksan day 1 Biryong Falls

But as beautiful and peaceful Biryong Falls is, I didn’t relax, because I had one more hike planned for the day. And this hike is considered one of the most difficult hikes in Seoraksan National Park. It is also one of the popular ones, because of the beautiful, panoramic view from the top of the 876m high Ulsan Bawi. Because the first two hikes were pretty easy, I wasn’t really tired, which is good, because the Ulsan Bawi is an ass smoker, or more specifically, a thigh smoker. It starts out easy enough with beautiful scenery.

Seoraksan day 1 trail to Ulsan Bawi

But soon enough the hike reveals its true difficulty. The hike gets steeper as it proceeds to the midway point of Gyeojo Hermitage. It’s a nice place to rest, enjoy the scenery and gather your strength for the final ascent to Ulsan Bawi. From the hermitage to the top, it is only 1 kilometer, but it took me about an hour to ascend because of the difficulty and the steepness of the trail. I didn’t realize this until later when I saw a map of the trail, but the final 1 km of the trail is a 30.8% gradient, so at times it felt you needed to climb it and not just hike it. I’m in reasonably good shape, but I had to take numerous short breaks to catch my breath and allow my poor thighs to rest. But even though I was focused on getting to the top, I still was able to enjoy the colorful foliage. The higher I went, the more red leaves I could see.

Seoraksan day 1 autumn colors on Ulsan Bawi trail

I did this hike during my last visit to Seoraksan, and it was interesting to contrast the hikes. Both times the hikes were strenuous, but the trail was much more uneven several years ago. I had to spend a good chunk of my hike with my eyes glued to the ground so I didn’t trip and fall. But in the intervening years, the trail has been improved so it’s not QUITE so uneven. Wooden blocks have been placed among the stones, so it is easier to find steps.  The crowds were also much less this time around. During my last visit, it was on a Saturday afternoon, and there was literally a line waiting to reach the summit, since the summit is not that big and only so many people can fit up top. This time, there was no line, no wait. Maybe it was because it was Friday. Maybe it was because the leaves hadn’t fully changed colors. But either way, it made for a more pleasant journey. Plus a good chunk of the trail was steps, so it a BIT easier. However, when you are faced with a very long stairway UP, you just hope that your legs hold out.

Seoraksan day 1 steep trail to Ulsan Bawi

But then, I hit the top. I got to the summit of Ulsan Bawi. I could see for miles around, all the way to the town of Sokcho and the East Sea. Sure it is windy as all get out, but it’s worth it, because I MADE IT. No, it’s not like summiting Everest or anything difficult like that. But my thighs were certainly shaking enough on the way down.

Seoraksan day 1 Ulsan Bawi view summit

All told, I probably hiked over 10 km my first day at Seoraksan National Park. That doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s really not since it’s only a little over six miles. But Korean hiking is no joke for the most part, particularly for someone short and clumsy like me. By the time I walked back to my hotel, I was ready for a hot bath and long snooze to get ready for day two of my Seoraksan hiking journey.

Palgonsan Provincial Park autumn foliage painting

my painting of Palgonsan Provincial Park fall foliage

Thus continuing my love of brightly colored landscapes and a desire to make brightly colored paintings. This painting was accomplished with a watercolor underpainting, watercolor pencils for the trees, and hard pastels for the foliage texture. I chose this particular picture to paint, because I really liked all the wild, natural colors.

my painting of Palgonsan colorful forest interim 1

I first applied masking fluid to all the trees to save the white. Then I laid down a multi-colored watercolor underpainting roughly corresponding to the colors of my desired endstate. I didn’t try to be very restrictive in the sense of coloring in exact lines, but rather a bit more free flowing and abstract.

my painting of Palgonsan colorful forest interim 2

After the underpainting dried, but before I applied the foliage texture with hard pastels, I used watercolor pencils for the trees. I pulled up all the masking fluid and laid in the trees with a variety of colors. I like watercolor pencils more than normal colored pencils, because I can layer all the colors and the detail like a normal colored pencil, but then I can make a rich, controlled wash with the watercolor. Then I finished up the painting by applying layers of differing colors of hard pastel to recreate the image of foliage.

Palgonsan Provincial Park red orange and yellow leaves

This was my reference photo. It was taken during a nice day hiking in Palgonsan Provincial Park one Saturday afternoon in October. I was completely taken by all the natural colors. Palgonsan Provincial Park was very easy to reach. I just took one of the numerous KTX trains from Seoul Station down to Dongdaegu, which was only about two and a half hours away by express train. The local bus number 1 out to Palgonsan Park and then just hike to your heart’s content and enjoy the beautiful Donghwa Temple and the beautiful nature. It made for an easy and pleasant full day trip.

My painting is certainly not photo realistic, and part of me wishes that it was. But another part of me likes the more impressionistic nature of the painting and thinks it captured the abstract colorful nature of that autumn foliage.  I still need to work on representing light sources accurately. I’ve been trying to branch out my technique and move away from attempting to recreate the reference photo as much as possible, to a more abstract capture of the scene.

Tokyo Ueno Park Colorful Autumn Foliage painting

Ueno Park autumn foliage painting


This painting was the next in line for my autumn creations. I am deeply inspired by colorful nature, so for the most part, when I take pictures, I try and compose the pictures like I would a painting, because I know that I will probably want to paint it later. I selected this picture (see below), because it had the colorful foliage I like to paint, and it was a different setup than the previous painting from Bukhansan National Park. The composition for this painting reminded me of all the perspective drawings I did in art class as a kid. The majority of the medium for this painting was a watercolor underpainting  overlaid with hard pastels. The gazebo was drawn in watercolor pencil.

The most challenging part of this painting for me was to produce a sense of depth in the water to add to the perspective, and also to render the green foliage in the foreground with as much realism as possible. That required me to lay in multiple layers of pastel in different colors. Even then it still wasn’t completely realistic, but close enough.

Like most paintings, this one looks better from afar, and after I completed it, it took a bit to grow on me. Sometimes it takes a bit for me to finally say the painting is as complete as it is going to be. Frequently I am dissatisfied during the actual process of creating the painting, and I often feel that I am not producing the painting on the page that is in my head (and close to the reference photo). However, I eventually reach a point where I can’t think of any way to improve the painting and I call it done. Then, it takes a couple days for me to really develop an attachment to the the painting  and to like it.

Ueno Park colorful fall foliage


The reference photo was taken in Ueno Park in central Tokyo when I visited there Veteran’s Day weekend November 2012.  Ueno Park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks and right next to a major Metro stop  (Ueno). It’s a pleasant park to walk around and enjoy different museums, temples, shrines and gardens. This particular picture was taken late in the day and the sun was close to setting. I like the warm, late afternoon autumn light and how it makes most of the backdrop warm, though the cool blues of the water and green foliage in the foreground makes a nice contrast to the yellows and oranges in the background.

Bukhansan National Park Red Autumn painting

my painting of Bukhansan National park sunny red trees


Autumn in Korea is my favorite time in the country. The weather is cooler and less humid, which makes hiking so much more pleasant than during parts of the Korean summer when the humidity makes you feel like you just took a shower after stepping outside, and sometimes the monsoon rains gives you a real shower. But most of all, the reason I love Korean autumns is that the landscape come alive with bright, beautiful colors. Korea is a very mountainous country and there are numerous forests populated with trees that change color and foliage for the seasons. These bright colors of nature inspire me to create art.

The art my eye is drawn to, either as a viewer of art or as a creator of art, is bright and colorful paintings. I’ve never been a fan of dark, dreary realist paintings and preferred paintings that pop with color. Likewise the art I want to make is the colorful world around me. This makes autumns the perfect time to capture images to create paintings later.

The mediums I used for this painting were a watercolor under painting in greens and browns, watercolor pencil for the trees, and hard pastels for the foliage. I felt the combination of  mediums would be ideal to achieve the effects I wanted. This was the first time I used an under painting, and I was really pleased with the result for the most part, though next time I should fade out the colors of the under painting more to make the colorful leaves pop to a greater degree. In the past, one of the frustrating things about using white paper for paintings is that the teeth of the paper showed through  and marred the overall effect I was trying to achieve. Putting down the green/brown under painting enabled me to build the trees and leaves on top of the under painting and thus achieve a greater illusion of depth. The viewer can see the green poking through in parts of the painting to look like real nature. The big lesson I did learn for improvement with this painting, is that I should use an under painting for the leaves as well. This became readily apparent when I started to apply the pastels for the leaves. I prefer hard pastels, because I personally find soft pastels to be rather messy. Even though the pastels are hard, they have varying degrees of hardness and softness. The whites, yellows, and even the oranges to a certain degree were reasonably soft and therefore easy to build up layers of color to produce realistic-looking leaves. I ran into trouble with the red pastels though. That color was substantially harder and it was more difficult to apply the red color to the existing under painting. The reds didn’t pop the way I wanted them to, unlike the yellows and oranges, because they didn’t layer well. It was also more apparent for parts of the painting where the leaves overlaid branches. I initially used masking fluid to block out the tree branches before applying the under painting, so when the fluid was removed, the paper was white. Due to the hardness of the pastels, it didn’t build up layers of color easily and the whiteness of the paper can be seen behind parts of the painting. Overall though, I was rather pleased with this effort, since it was the first one like it that I painted. I think I mirrored the reference photo well enough (though it wasn’t a complete duplication), and captured the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of this landscape.

Bukhansan National Park sunny red trees


This is the reference photo used for the painting. It was taken in Bukhansan National Park on a fine sunny October afternoon. The park is located within the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area, which makes it readily accessible for urban hikers. Visitors can easily reach the park by taking subway Line 3 to Gupabal station, exit 1 and then Bus 704 or 34 to Bukhansan National Park. Just follow the hordes of people in hiking gear to the trailhead and follow the signs for the trails from there. The park’s location within Seoul means that this park is convenient not just to you, but to everyone (approximately 25 million people) in the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area. While beautiful, particularly during autumn, this is not a place for solitary hiking, so know before you go. Crowds are numerous on the weekends, though if you want to beat them as much as possible, start very early. Yes, there will be early hikers, but they are the serious hikers and not the slow family walkers. You can walk as much as you want and turn around at any point, since the trail is well marked with signs and distances. The trail can be a bit uneven and steep in places, but for the most part, the trail is suitable to regular hikers. One word of advice though. Since this park is reached via a bus and not a direct subway stop, there is a high potential for running into long lines at the main bus stop for the park. When I went, I made it to the bus stop not long after sunset, and it took me an hour to get on a bus to go to back to the subway. The smart hikers in the know walked further up the road to catch an earlier bus stop and avoid the main bus stop with the very long lines. After all, once a bus was full of people from the early stops, it would just drive by the main stop. If you like hiking and love beautiful nature (particularly in autumn), Bukhansan National Park has much to offer for hikers, nature enthusiasts and landscape artists to be inspired.