Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Walk Thoughts #76: assessing Day 5, Leg 4

Today's walk was shorter than those of previous days, and it felt shorter, too. The pedometer was only about 1.3 miles different in its measurement of my walked distance (14.97 miles instead of Naver's 13.6). I got to my destination at exactly 1PM, which has given me time to prop my feet up and allow my screaming soles a chance to settle into more of a whimper.

Today's walk deeply impressed me in terms of the river bank and what's possible to see and do in Korea. I finally saw people camping in earnest, and I even passed some campgrounds with precise square gravel plots laid out for people looking to experience the outdoors without doing any real camping. I also saw plenty of fishing, as well as a number of odd riverside structures such as that one mandu restaurant (did you see the photo I took of it?).

As I walked with Eron, I remarked on how Korea is a land of little treasures, not grandiose ones. This is something I've noted on the blog as well: Seoul's charm lies not in huge, famous, in-your-face edifices like the Empire State Building or a memorable structure like the Eiffel Tower, but rather in the things you find when you turn a corner: a tasty hole-in-the-wall restaurant, a tiny art museum, a small shop that wasn't there last year. There are all these little nooks and crannies to explore, and they're always changing. Seoul's charm is also a reflection of Korea itself: mountainous and thus filled with tiny valleys, Korea on the whole has millions of little, humble places to explore: a mountain temple, a restaurant in the boonies that's famous for a regional soup, a tucked-away shrine, or even the eldritch burial mound of some king, still radiating symbolic power. Korea champions the small things; that's its proper domain. And walking along the Namhan River has only reinforced that impression.

Okay, that was a digression, but those were my thoughts as I followed the river today. On to more technical matters.

Today's walk was short enough that I didn't have to change out my phone's battery. I walked 31,108 steps in 315 minutes, according to my pedometer; that gives me a step rate of 99 steps per minute: very peppy, indeed. I hope to do something similar tomorrow: tomorrow's walk is among the shortest on my schedule (Naver says 11.52 miles).

My walk was also short enough that I didn't have to worry about my water supply. My CamelBak and I have a bit of a contentious relationship, and I finally ripped off the obnoxious and perfectly useless cap that covers the mouthpiece. That cap had been popping off at the slightest touch, so I decided that, if it couldn't perform its most basic duty, i.e., protecting my mouthpiece, then I didn't need it at all.  Things improved after the amputation. We have an understanding now.

Tomorrow's walk is taking me to another pension, but from the look of it online, it's a super-expensive one. This will be another walk-in, the way today was, and there's a chance that the place will have no room for Mary and Joseph. If that's the case, I'll camp, but I suspect that an expensive place like that will want the Yanqui's money.

The day after tomorrow, Friday, will be my final day on the Namhan River path. On Saturday, things get real as I leave the rivers and embark on the Saejae trail. Up and over the mountains we go! As I've said many times already, I am so not looking forward to this portion of my walk. Best-case scenario: three days of moving slowly and steadily uphill, followed by a single precipitous day going downhill (my final Saejae day is supposed to be over 19 miles; I'm fervently hoping it's all downhill). I'll be looking at the contour lines on Naver Map to confirm all this. It was Naver that alerted me to today's hilliness.

In other news: based on how I look in the mirror, I haven't lost much if any weight. My resting heart rate, though, is down to a very healthy 68 beats per minute, which means I'm receiving some sort of benefit from all this exercise. As I wrote earlier, I'm not expecting any weight-loss miracles. 2008 showed that I could lose over 50 pounds and still be fat. (Then, of course, there's the matter of regaining all that weight...)

One day at a time. My feet already feel somewhat better; I think they'll be ready for more abuse tomorrow.

En avant!

Walk Thoughts #75: one last rodeo

I'll be lucky if my faithful-but-deteriorating backpack makes it through this trip alive. (See pitiful pic below.) It's a fraying mess, but I'm too attached to it to abandon it.

That said, the time has come to move on. I hope that Gregory has improved its backpack designs to eliminate many of the problems I've been experiencing regarding comfort: the hip belt and the shoulder straps, in particular, both need a complete design overhaul.

I'll likely retire this old hoss at the end of this walk. Maybe I can bury it with honor somewhere. After it's gone, I'll mourn for a bit, then go find my next Gregory. It's a damn good company that makes a damn good backpack.

Walk Thoughts #74: feeties

Below you see shots of my right foot and my left foot. My right foot, amusingly, has much the same blood blister I had acquired during my walk with Brian Dean. This, too, will soon harden into armor. Once that happens, my feet will be invincible. Well... my right foot will be, anyway.

My left foot seems to be in the early stages of blister formation: for the moment, it's all about the irritation. It wouldn't surprise me if a blister decided to appear; with my luck, that'd be par for the course.

It's painful to walk around right now, but by morning, I'll be all better. This is why I prefer to arrive early at my destination: so I can kick back and do nothing.

Walk Thoughts #73: my digs (Sangju Pension)

Not nearly as plush or as clean as my previous love hotels, my newest digs are nevertheless comfortable enough, and the gent running the place-- whose name is in fact Sangju-- seems like a nice fellow. Sangju wasn't there when I arrived (the property was empty except for the dogs), but when I called him, he told me to go into Room 2.

I used a can of Korea's famous F-Killer spray to down two flies in the place, and I found a long hair, on the floor, that obviously belonged to a woman. No matter; after the pube yeogwan (do a search for it), a single hair isn't going to affect me. As long as things are clean enough for me to come away without contracting any diseases, I'll be fine.

Enjoy the photos. In my next writeup, I'll be talking more in-depth about how the day went, among other things.

Walk Thoughts #72: getting closer

I was startled by how close I was to the pension when Eron and I parted ways. This inspired me to keep from slowing down despite mounting pain.

The road suddenly became very hilly, but I chugged along fast enough to pass some young bikers who were walking and pushing their bikes up one of the hills, having given up on riding thanks to the steep slope. I felt like a tough old man for once.

The pics below show my final approach to the pension, ending with a wide shot of the grounds. As you'll see in a later batch of photos, the pension is fairly humble and a bit rough, but it's a comfortable roof over my head at the end of a sweaty day. And all for the low, low price of W30,000 paid via wire transfer thanks to my cell phone!

Walk Thoughts #71: Eron and beyond

Immediately after leaving the certification center and starting across the dam, I fell in with a retired math teacher named Eron, who was on his own long, round-trip hike that day from Yeoju to Gangcheon-seom, an island in the river that was just off the bank. We walked and talked for a couple hours about everything except math: language learning, diet and weight loss (of course), my route, our personal lives, and so on. The kilometers proved, surprisingly, easier to bear with company along for the hike, but my left foot complained when we seemed to go a bit faster than I had wanted to go. Eron and I parted ways when we reached his island; he joked that he was doing reconnaissance to see about taking his wife there.

I continued alone, and I ended up making great time to Jangsu Pension, a place that had told me to just walk on in because it was a weekday. I arrived at exactly 1PM, which is what I projected. To have reality match the projection was so surprising that I did a mental double-take: could Naver Map be right after all? If it is, then the probable blame for previous prediction/reality problems falls squarely on my own shoulders: perhaps I really was walking at 1.4 miles per hour if we factor in all my breaks.

Be that as it may, the day started off late but energetically. I was out the door by 6:35AM and charging down the path immediately thereafter. I felt almost no pain, and my blister looked no worse the evening before, so I think it's healing and toughening up. I learned in 2008 that you can indeed just walk right through blisters. They'll hurt like a bitch for a while, but they'll also heal even if you're still walking on them.

So I kept up a decent speed (well, decent for me), and I ended up at the pension at 1PM. I hope this means foot pain will become less relevant from here on in. I prefer to arrive at my destinations while it's still early so as to have the maximum amount of time to put my feet up. At the end of today, my feet were screaming, but it was a generalized ache, not an open wound or another blister. The pain will be gone by tomorrow morning. My feet are becoming the badasses they were meant to be.

More photos soon.

Walk Thoughts #70: final approach to Gangcheon Dam Certification Center

Walk Thoughts #69: leaving Yeoju Bridge and hitting a park