Doug MacDonald is a Getty Images artist and longtime Jeju resident. — Ed.

I make my way up the narrow, tree-lined path just a few minutes shy of 3 a.m., my small flashlight piercing the darkness around me. Rustling leaves, cracking branches and the faint sounds of small animals echo faintly through the air. The atmosphere is spooky and I silently thank myself for not watching any horror movies recently.

A light rain begins to fall about 4 km into my 9.5 km hike up to the summit of Mt. Halla. I take a brief water break before moving on.

An hour later I pass Sara Oreum, a hill with a crater lake at its peak and a miniaturized version of what lies ahead a few kilometers above me.

Now the hike gets tough as the trail steepens. I feel every kilogram of camera equipment in my backpack as I inch my way up the path. As if on cue, it begins to rain a little harder. Undaunted, I press on…

By 6 a.m., the first slivers of dawn appear as I approach the top of Halla. It’s a miserable day. Curtains of rain now fall and the sky is laden with a mixture of thick black clouds and soupy fog. Despite the relentless winds that now buffet my body, I take a few moments to crouch down and photograph a beautifully barren tree a few meters off the trail, its branches stripped of life from years fighting nature’s wrath.

I finally reach my destination a few minutes later. Over the last week, Mt. Halla has received over 800 mm of rain, filling Baengnokdam crater at its top to unprecedented levels of water.

As I reach the crater’s rim and excitedly look down into its rocky bowl, I’m met with disappointment. Despite the rain, the water level seems to have receded quite a bit compared to the photos I had seen a few days earlier.

But, as I turn around and look at the rich greens and pinks that dot the landscape below me, I realize that spring has truly arrived on Jeju Island and my trip has not been wasted.

Mt. Halla National Park, Jeju Island, South Korea. Photo by Doug MacDonald

Mt. Halla National Park, Jeju Island, South Korea. Photo by Doug MacDonald

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