Apsan Park: The Transcendent Outdoors (and successfully communicating a desired location with a Korean taxi driver)

I was skeptical to make a reference to the transcendent in the title. In my experience, when someone uses that word or makes that reference, I try to avoid them. They are either the people who bring their own bags to the grocery or they are the pseudo intellectuals who wear tweed in warm weather and quote Emerson. I don’t like it. They also typically smell like canned meat and public transportation.

In this case, though, after the morning I spent with friends at Apsan Park, transcendent is right description.

By definition (from me), transcendent describes something divine; something set apart or gracefully perfect. There were several different times during this morning hike where I felt overcome with the touch of the divine. I felt connected with something apart from me, something greater. I saw it in the landscape and I heard it in the wind. I smelt it in the blossoms and I felt it with my friends who were there with me. No matter what you believe or where you place your faith, nature evokes the transcendent. It brings that feeling of connectedness to everything around you. You are reminded of the divinity in which this world, in which all of us, were created. It is impossible to feel anything other than love when you connect with this… I tried. I stood atop Apsan Peak and I pictured my ex-gf sharing a make out and a giggle with a new bf–I wished them well. Nature, when you connect and appreciate it, is that transcendent.

I left Apsan knowing that joy and divinity are all around you–in everything.

Sometimes you just need a little run in with the outdoors to open your eyes.

(Heavy stuff)

I’m a below average photographer, so I will comment after each picture, hopefully succeeding in word where a blurred Galaxy S6 failed. Also, so I don’t have to mention it again, I told the cab driver where to go. He didn’t speak English. I added a hard “uhh” sound at the end of “Apsan Park”–to sound like Aap-ee–saan-paaar-kuuuh–and he nodded and took off like I had been living in Northeast Asia all my life.

***Thanks to the Ruf Family (Henry, Darin, and Libby) and the Petricks (Zach and Adria). This was an amazing trek that was made even better by your company.

Apsan Park


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Just a mildly attractive dude taking in some nature.

This was at the very beginning of our trail. It was beautiful. A creek ran along our left. I would have crossed it if I noticed the bridge but I was intent upon two hills up and to the right that resembled breasts.

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The Apsan Park is interspersed with Son Buddhist Temples. There is a reverence and a love at these places that is palpable. In remote locations like this, these temples and halls are devoid of distractions and desires. Here they seek Enlightenment, which is the end to suffering. What is even more powerful–which I found after a quick reference to the Google machine–is that Son Buddhists aim to rid others of suffering; that is their path to Enlightenment. It is humbling being in a place like this that is dedicated to the freedom of others.

I returned the small stone Buddha I pocketed as soon as I read the stuff on Google.

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This was one of those moments were nature and man intertwined. Dad told Son to respect Lion. Son obeyed. Son pet Lion. Zach, initially hesitant, carefully approached. Zach pet Lion too.

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Yes, I look awkward with a small child. I know this. I’m working on it. I asked Henry’s parents to toss him to me so I could take a pic for the gram. After they handed him to me, we took this picture.

Being around Henry, with his family, in this setting, was pretty special. Even though I try to live for others, I have selfish tendencies. I do what I want and go where I will have the best time. Again, I’m working on it, but it’s something I do. Here, at beautiful Aspan Park, with the happiest little kid I’ve ever met, who waves at everybody, with his parents who are just as cool and just as selfless, I sort of got hit with the big picture. As much as divinity lay with the majestic landscape, the transcendent can’t really be felt fully without benevolence amongst people.

If that didn’t make sense, I was trying to say: Nature is amazing. I loved it. I loved it more because I got to love it with other people–with friends.

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There is an actual gym at the base of this natural park, right before the Gondola. It is a real gym, full of heavy things that need to be lifted. This isn’t a great picture, in small part because I’m a poor photographer but in larger part because Libby blocked my view in an attempt to monitor Henry eating candy from a Korean man’s pocket. The gym is weather dependent, but when available it offers an environment of separation and beauty. It appeared to be an amazing place to get in touch with your fitness and yourself.

I performed 7 perfect form pull-ups before getting on the Gondola, imbuing American strength just in case North Korea was in the trees.

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Until you reach the Gondola (next), almost everything is covered in a lush foliage like this. As beautiful as it is to see, it is even more serene to hear. When we listened, and after Henry stopped crying because I took his last bag of gummies, we were met with a ballad sung by the birds–aided by the wind in the trees.

You’re welcome.

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At this point we are just beginning our Gondola ascent.

As you begin, you are staring up. You see the trees as they climb and you fixate at the top, where you are going. Quickly, as you rise, you notice the emergence of a city skyline. It is behind you. The further you climb the more the city unfolds. I’m not sure why, but perspective seems to register. When your eyes shift from the city back to the mountain, you will see a few different Temples interspersed. The perspective becomes reverence. And then, because I’m 27 and single and having difficulty compartmentalizing these beautiful emotions, I fart. Henry laughs.

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The Wives Club.

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A few times, when an attractive Korean woman walked by I made note of the beautiful blossoms. I stopped, because it was disingenuous and they didn’t understand me.

These trees and flowers were in bloom all over the park. It wasn’t until I reached the top, however, that I paid them mindful attention. There was a rock where I sat and had a few minutes to myself.

Beneath the tree I closed my eyes and tried to give thanks. I gave thanks for my friends and my family. I thought about people I wanted to help and things I wanted to do. I started thinking about all the things I am capable and the footprint I want to leave. Then there was a soft, fleeting pressure on my leg. I opened my eyes and saw a single blossom on my thigh. Emotion and belief pervaded through me. Instinctively, after wiping away a single tear, I grabbed for my nuts, double-checking. I realized though that this was real. I don’t really buy into symbolism or metaphor, but there have been few times in my life when I felt connected to a world that I knew was inherently good.

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This is a view from atop Apsan Peak.

Again, this was an opportunity to stop and revel in what I was experiencing. To be more literal, since I just covered you in a thick cherry blossom load, I’ll tell you what this moment literally encapsulated for me:

  • Mindful awareness. It is easy to be aware of your present moment when you are engulfed in beauty and views like this. I experienced a freeing clarity, centering my thoughts on sight and sound and forgetting distraction. I wasn’t thinking about burning sensations or related symptoms.
  • Removing tree sap from my hand. I put my hand on a limb that had sticky sap on it. I needed to find Libby. She keeps wet wipes for Henry that she lets me use when I eat or spill juice.
  • Stretching. I was trying to stretch. The more I practice meditation and the more I read Tim Ferriss’ “Tools of Titans”, I realize that most successful people work to cultivate their bodily functionality as much as they do their mind. Yoga is aggressive, but this place was calming. So I put my leg up on a rock atop Apsan peak and I attempted to sequester my toes… I use sequester there because I went to my travel pack thesaurus. Seems like a waste not to use the word just because it doesn’t completely fit.
  • City scan. As my eyes wandered away from proximal beauty, like the trees and the hills, they set upon the city (Daegu) below. It was humbling observing an entire city. I felt connected to it and to the people. The symmetry of mountain and city was pervasive. I sent this pic on snapchat to the girls I know like art/poetry, or bondage.


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