All posts by nbhorn

Three Peaks in Three Weeks

Last year my partner and I challenged ourselves to climb South Korea’s three highest mountain ranges in three consecutive weekends. We not only climbed the mountains (san’s) but also reached the highest peaks (bong’s) in each range: Dongneunbong at Hallasan, Cheonhwangbong in Jirisan, and Daecheongbong in Seoraksan.

Seoraksan Saturday, 9/19/15

View from the base of Seoraksan

The Daecheongbong Peak Course is 16 kilometers (9.94 miles) that averages approximately 11 hours and 20 minutes to complete (Obviously, we are better than average ๐Ÿ™‚ ). We hiked the majority of the mountain quickly, crossing falling rivers, stone carvings, watching mountain climbers scale sheer rock faces, and almost being turned away at a guard post (we got a late start), but checked into a lodge 3/4 of the way as night fell.

The lodges on Korean mountains are not the typical lodges that come to mind. They are small, cramped, and lack privacy. They are typically one room buildings full of giant bunk beds without mattresses (or maybe that is only for us peasants). One slab of plywood held approximately six people which increase the chance of sleeping next to someone who snores (myself included). Thankfully, since I was one who contributed to the harmony of snarls and wheezes, I slept quite well.

Sunday, 9/20/15

Whatever sleep we did enjoy was short-lived because if we wanted to reach the peak by sunrise, we had to start hiking at 2:30 in the morning! However, watching the vibrant sunrise at 1,708 meters (5,604 feet) made the lack of sleep and early morning climb worth the extra hustle. As we waited for the sun to rise above the ocean and clouds we munched away on snacks and watched the rocks around us fill with other early risers.

Hallasan Monday, 9/28/15

Crater Peak
Crater Peak

The next mountain on the list was South Korea’s highest mountain, Hallasan, on Jeju Island. The 9.6 kilometers (5.97 miles) up Seongpanak Trail to Dongneunbong at 1,950 meters (6,398 feet) took us six hours both ways. At the peak we ate our snacks amongst the other hikers, were offered chocolate, and my partner even got told to put a shirt on in the process of changing out of his sweaty top! We struggled with the lineup or lack thereof to get our pictures with the engraved rock with the name of the peak, but barely got them before being crowded out by courteous and patient locals. The beginning and end of the trail was at such a gradual incline that on the way down we were able to get competitive and race past the stares of the Koreans (foreigners are weird). Next to the parking lot was a UNESCO information center where we were able to purchase tacky certificates for successfully hiking South Korea’s highest mountain (we’re so cool).

The conditions could not have been better; the tail end of the summer meant the weather was warm, the sky clear, and thanks to the proximity to the ocean, a slight breeze. We congratulated ourselves on a great day at a “Monkey Bar” complete with slides, jump ropes, ball pits, games and buckets (and straws) of alcohol (in moderation).

Jirisan Sunday, 10/4/15

Cheonhwangbong at Jirisan
Cheonhwangbong at Jirisan

Jirisan was our final hike! We took the Chilseon Valley Course, 9.7 kilometers (6 miles), to Cheonhwangbong at 1,915 meters (6,283 feet). The hike is estimated to take ten to twelve hours round trip, but we managed to complete it in approximately seven to eight hours (estimating be damned)!

As we pushed our way to the top, my partner’s stomach began to bother him. He almost gave up, but when I offered to leave him behind he became so determined that he carried me the rest of the way (A few days later, we found out his appendix had burst!). Upon reaching the peak we ate our snacks waiting for an opportunity to get our picture with the peakstone but alas, it was too crowded. We met our third companion at the bottom and enjoyed a cup of ramyeon before driving back home, flushed with our completion of a three week uphill battle with Korea’s highest peaks.


Initially, we considered hiking Korea’s three highest mountain ranges in three consecutive weekends to be an ambitious plan, but luckily it was logistically completely possible. The mountains are in opposite corners of the country (one on an island) and it just seemed destined to fail when my partner fell ill in the days leading up to the last hike. Thankfully we are young, in good enough shape (damn sweets), are able to enjoy time off from work, are both stubborn and as obstinate as the mountains themselves, and took some time to plan it all out. ย Similar to many things in life, this was a small lesson in overcoming obstacles in geography and our own inner naysayers to complete a challenge and rise to the occasion.

Vegan Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

It is that time of the year again when everyone is craving pumpkin! I am not a huge fan of pumpkin, but I have made this pumpkin cupcake for multiple events and birthdays throughout the month of October and it has always been a hit!

What I love about this recipe is that it is VEGAN and GLUTEN FREE. Once I started traveling, I met individuals with many different dietary needs either due to religion, personal preference, or allergies. Due to these conflicting dietary needs, it can be challenging to make something that everyone can enjoy. The solution I found? Making something that is vegan and gluten free! I have yet to find someone who will turn this dessert down!

Let me add that Pinterest is my best friend when it comes to new recipes. I combine or add my own twists to multiple recipes I pin on Pinterest. When it comes to cooking, I am quite creative, but whenever I bake, I lack creativity!

I DO NOT claim this recipe as my own. Pinterest led me to Shannon’s, a vegan blogger, website I omitted and added a couple ingredients she used, but, in general, this is basically her recipe. I am happy I found her website because, like I said, this dessert has always been a hit!

I was also quite pleased how easy it was to make!

Medjooled DatesBefore you begin making the crust, you need to soak 1 cup of medjooled dates in warm water for 10 minutes. Be sure to remove the pits from the dates. ๐Ÿ™‚

Rolled OatsWhile the dates are soaking, measure and process 1 1/4 cup of rolled oats in a food processor (my processor is already dirty because this was my second batch…I told you this dessert was a hit!).

Oats and Pumpkin SpiceWhen the rolled oats have been processed, add 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of pumpkin spice into the processor (the pumpkin spice depends on how much you love the pumpkin flavor!). Process until it is evenly mixed in the oats.

Soaked Medjooled DatesRemember those medjooled dates that were soaking? Now it is time to drain the water and add the dates to the processed oats and pumpkin spice mixture!
It is not photographed, but you also need to add in approximately 2 tbs of agave or any other sweetener like maple syrup (If I ever felt like the mixture was too dry or not mixing well, I added in more agave).
Side note: My processor is quite small. I had difficulties mixing in the dates. As a result, I removed half of the oat mixture and half of the dates. As I processed the dates and oat mixture together, I slowly added the potions I set aside.

Date and Oat MixtureProcess the date, agave, and oat mixture until it is nice and sticky! It should look like this! ๐Ÿ™‚

Crust and Pumpkin FillingBefore you make the filling, you need to form the date and oat mixture into the crusts! Scoop out approximately 2 tbs of the mix into a cupcake pan. My pan is made out of a material that allows me to bend and invert the pan. If you do not have a pan like this, be sure to line the pan with the paper cupcake wrappers or line the pans with plastic wrap.

Once the molds are made, freeze them for approximately 15 minutes. If you freeze them longer it is fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, in the top part of this photo you see coconut cream, agave (or maple syrup), and pumpkin puree (I had to make my own pumpkin puree because South Korea does not sell it in the cans…this was better anyways! The puree was sweeter than what you get from a can.).

In the processor, mix 1 cup of the pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut cream, and 2 tbs of agave. At one point I felt the mixture was too thin, so I just added in more pumpkin puree to thicken it up. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pumpkin CupcakesOnce the filling is complete, remove the cupcake pan from the freezer and add the filling into the crust! To decorate the dessert, you can add cacao bits or anything else you want to the top!

Side note: If you want this dessert to be 100% vegan, yet you do not have cacao bits then it is okay! If you decide to use chocolate chips then either get dark chocolate OR vegan chocolate chips. I buy vegan, semi-sweet chocolate chips from Costco. It uses vanilla powder instead of milk products to give it the semi-sweet flavor.

Finally, put the desserts in the freezer for another 15 minutes until the filling solidifies. You can also keep the desserts in the freezer until you are ready to serve them!

Pumpkin CupcakesENJOY!

Vegan Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Yield: 6 Servings

1 cup soaked medjooled dates
11/4 rolled oates
1 – 11/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
2 tablespoons agave (maple syrup) for crust

1 cup pumpkin purรฉe
1/4 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons agave (maple syrup) for filling

Cacao nibs

1. Soak 1 cup of medjooled dates in warm water for 10 minutes.

2. Process 1 1/4 cup of rolled oats and 1 -1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice in a food processor.

3. Add and process soaked (drained) medjooled dates and 2 tbs agave.

4. Once the crust mixture is nice and sticky, scoop out approximately 2 tbs of mixture into one cupcake mole. Form the sticky mixture until you create the crust which should look like a miniature bowl. Do this until you have created approximately 6 crusts.

5. Freeze cupcake crusts for approximately 15 minutes.

6. In the food processor mixย 1 cup of the pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut cream, and 2 tbs of agave.

7. Remove cupcake crusts and fill them with the pumpkin filling you just created!

8. Top cupcakes with cacao bits or any topping of your desire!

9. Freeze for 15 minutes so the filling can solidify.

10. Enjoy and try not to eat them all in one sitting! ๐Ÿ˜›


The Unattainable

I have been spending copious amount of hours trying to make a decision. My reflections sent me back to my journal and blog. I apologize this post will be extensive, but if you’d like to get a peek inside my brain then keep on reading! ๐Ÿ˜‰ This post consists of two entries I made in my journal. One back in August and the other in April.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I have been reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. Just last night, I read a passage that he quoted from Walt Unsworth,

“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  most cautious men might have. Determination and faith are ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  their strongest weapons…”

I don’t know why it took me quite some time to discern that this is who I am. As I reflect back on my experiences and interactions, I realize that the unattainable fascinates me. I tend to be content with being unvigilant when attempting to attain something that seems so wonderful because there are few who have had or lived it.

I discovered while trying to reach these unattainable goals, discouragement sporadically emerges for a brief moment. When this occurs I begin to question myself: Why am I trying to attain this aspiration? Is it really worth it? How much do I REALLY want it? Once I have it, will I still want it or will I move on? I may never know. Additionally, how long do I attempt to reach it? How much do I put myself through to reach the final goal…the goal I desire simply because, to most, it is unattainable?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I recently reviewed to the passage I wrote back in August about desiring the unattainable and I began to reflect…

Everyone has their own aspirations in life. One of mine is to travel the world, but my aspirations do not cease there. I want to make a difference. I am not sure how I specifically want to make a difference, but I know I can do so by using my passion for teaching and learning.

Every day most of us are given a choice and each decision should be made based on how it will better our chances to accomplish our aspirations. I have come to that point in my life where I need to choose. I have reached the precipice of the mountain and now I need to decide if I should find a new path or take a leap off this precipice to the next highest mountain. Each decision has its risks and benefits, but determining which decision will assist me in making a difference or reaching my goals in this one life I have…is difficult.

I cannot live in fear. If I live a pusillanimous life then I will be unsuccessful. These last few weeks I had been living pusillanimously because of these decisions. I have had the fear that whichever decision I make then I could potentially discover that my choice was an egregious mistake. That terrified me.

After doing some deep reflection and cathartically disclosing my thoughts and concerns, I remembered that I cannot live in fear. If I want the unattainable then I will not attain it until that fear is eliminated. With determination and faith, I will reach my goals. I will be strong and courageous. I have also realized that whatever choice I make, I will not make an egregious mistake. I should just be thankful God has given me the possibility to have options in my life.

I shall not vacillate. Either I take that leap off the precipice or find a new path. Either way, each decision will present new obstacles I have to overcome. These obstacles will change who I am and my perspective on life, but it will not blind me from my aspirations. I will reach my goals. I will make a difference. I will attain the unattainable.

Eating Sannakji (Live Octopus) ๋‚™์ง€

My friend, Annie, and I spent a weekend in Busan. While there, we decided to try some ๋‚™์ง€ (nakji)! ๋‚™์ง€ is a small live octopus. When it is ordered the chiefs take a small octopus out of the fish tank, chop off its legs, sprinkle some oil on top, and then serve it to the customers immediately. When you ask for raw octopus…you can’t get any more raw than this!

It was such a great experience. I could feel the legs sucking to my tongue, teeth, and cheeks! It was also pretty tasty! ๐Ÿ™‚

Beomeosa Temple

The following video is of Beomeosa Temple in Busan, South Korea!ย This temple is one of the three largest temples in the Young Nam province in Busan. It was built in 678 with an intention to realize the purpose of HwaEom, a Korean monastery that pursues a life full of happiness and generosity.

My cogitation about my experience in Busan will be coming soon, so in the mean time I hope you enjoy this video! ๐Ÿ™‚

A New Beginning

During my first month in South Korea I had been searching for the perfect pair of chopsticks. I wanted my first pair of chopsticks to last me a lifetime and be a symbol that I have finally immersed myself into a culture unlike my own…a symbol of a new beginning.

While in Seoul, I spent some time in Insadong to do some shopping. As I was shopping I found a pair of chopsticks I liked, so I bought them! My first pair! Later that night, I made my way back home to Daejeon. It was a long night and I was tired, but as soon as I got home I regained my energy. Why? I became extremely excited because on my table was a note with a pair of chopsticks! My friend, whom had stayed with me for a few weeks, had left this thank you gift on my table before we left for Seoul! What a great surprise!

These chopsticks are, truly, my my first pair! The best thing about these chopsticks is that they were a gift from a dear friend of mine. These chopsticks will stay with me forever and always be cherished.

Thank you, David, for being a part of this new chapter in my life. Chopsticks

A Weekend in Seoul

I am deeply sorry, as my last post was nearly a month ago! This last month was my first month teaching, but now that my life has finally settled down (because I have my time management figured out), I will be making regular, weekly posts! I have quite a few topics to reflect on, so I will post each reflection once a week until I have brought everyone up-to-date!

The following post is an insert of my journal which I recorded on September 7th while spending my first weekend in Seoul:

As I sit in a cafe, sipping on Korean tea and eating traditional dessert, I reflect on my weekend. David (my college friend) and I decided to head up to Seoul for his last weekend in South Korea (David had been traveling Asia all summer and one of is stops was South Korea to visit me). We arrived to Seoul late Friday night after taking the bullet train. The bullet train got up to 300 kilometers per hour! That night we stayed at Bong House…my first hostel! It was great! I will be staying at more hostels throughout my travels. As for Saturday, Dave and I went to Gangnam to walk around, shop, and dance…Gangnam style. ๐Ÿ˜‰ This was Dave’s last day in Asia and I am very happy he ended his trip by staying with me…for three weeks! It was great to have someone to explore with!

The next day, I had the whole day all to myself because David left for the United States early that morning. This was the first time in three weeks that I was alone! I decided to spend the day at Insadong (์ธ์‚ฌ๋™). This area of Seoul is filled with people and shops selling traditional Korean souvenirs. While there, I finally purchased my first pair of chopsticks and gifts for family members.

Now…I am relaxing as I write this entry. The theme in this Insadong cafe is amazing. At each table is a notebook/journal that people may write in. Every entry is torn from the journals and placed under glass table toppers at each booth, or hung on the wall. There are hundreds of entries! Everyone is able to leave their mark at this cafe.

I admire all of these entries. I began to think about how I need to leave a mark everywhere I go and with everyone I meet. Individuals never know how much of a lasting effect they can leave. It is my goal to always leave a positive, lasting impression with everyone I meet and everywhere I go! I am excited to leave my mark these next two years in South Korea. Hopefully one day I will be the effects that it made on other individuals. ๐Ÿ™‚

The following photos are from my time in Seoul. There is no particular order to these photos. I would like some of them to be closer to one another because some photos have explanations in the captions. I guess you will just have to look at them all! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yeoncheonbong Peak Reflection

The following is an insert of what I wrote on top of Yeoncheonbong Peak:

Today marks the first day of many solo hikes. As I sit on the top of Yeoncheonbong Peak, 756 meters above sea level, I gaze out at the mountain peaks that sporadically vanish into the foggy mist above. Although this summit is not the highest on this particular range, it is just as beautiful. If anything, it is better. I have been sitting on the highest point of the Yeoncheonbong Peak for approximately 30 minutes now and I have only seen two other people. It is so peaceful. What makes this view exquisite is the absence of trees which allows me to see everything surrounding the mountain.

These mountains, or any mountains, will cease to exhaust me. To see the small wonders in this world causes an individual realize that there is always more to see. Whether these wonders are beautiful or not, it is worth experiencing. These new experiences cause an individual to realize how miniscule his or her life is in this world.

In this world we have become so materialistic. We have become fixated on having the biggest house, newest technology, or most expensive clothes or jewelry. What does that do for an individual internally? Instead of using our resources to satisfy our acquisitive nature towards items, we should use our resources to better ourselves mentally or spiritually. If more individuals were to do this we may better understand and appreciate the world.

This hike cost me $3.75 in transportation and $2 in entrance fees. Six dollars cannot buy me the most popular apparel or newest item on the market, but instead it gave me an enduring view. The path I took to reach the precipice was rocky and challenging. I had to push myself up the mountain to view the land below from a different perspective. Although the path chosen was difficult, I would take this experience I received when reaching my destination over any materialistic item any day.