Today's megawalk brought my October daily step average up from the low 13Ks to 17,596 steps. My walk totals:
Miles: 16.4 (but the pedometer shortchanges me, so I'm rounding to 17)
A quick summary of my route, which involved double-summiting and then some:
I went from my neighborhood on Chungmuro 5-ga up to and through Dongguk University. From the university, I picked up Trailhead 8 toward Namsan. At the intersection of that trail and the bus road, I took the bus road up to the summit. This is my standard hiking route when single-summiting the mountain. Once at the top, I immediately turned around and went down the other (descending) bus route, which terminates next to Namsan Public Library on Soweol Street (Soweollo, 소월로). At Soweol Street, I took the old, familiar 90-step stairway that plunges down into Huam-dong, which is one dong (district) over from Cheongpa-dong, my old Sookmyung University neighborhood. I walked my former route back to Sookmyung's campus, went into my old building, the Sahwae-gyoyuk-gwan (Social Education Building), took the elevator up to the darkened third floor, and had myself a gratifying dump in the deathly quiet men's room. Just like old times. From Sookmyung, I walked over to Samgakji Station, past the Korea War Memorial and the 8th Army Garrison, and up the hill to Itaewon. From Itaewon, I walked back down toward Samgakji, but instead of hitting Sookmyung again, I chose a slightly longer route back up to Namsan Public Library. From there, I took the ascending bus route back to the summit, then went down the other side to Dongguk University, and ended up back in my neighborhood.
The walk from my neighborhood to the summit of Namsan was about 7,000 steps. From there to Sookmyung campus was about another 5,000 steps. From Sookmyung to Itaewon was probably almost another 6,000 or so steps—about 17K steps in all. I admit I cheated on the way back home: I didn't swing over to Sookmyung to retrace my route exactly. Instead, I headed for Namsan, but because I took a longer route back to the mountain than the one I took when leaving the mountain, I don't feel too bad about cheating.
Coming back to the Sookmyung neighborhood evoked a mixture of feelings: homesickness, because I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of teaching at Sookmyung; confusion and shock, because of how built up with high-rises that neighborhood is now; delight, which erupted every time I saw something even a little familiar. But the neighborhood truly has changed since 2008: the high-rises were one aspect of that change, but so were the shops and restaurants near Sookmyung's campus: almost all of them were completely different. Another surprise was the new, huge elevator across the street from Namsan Public Library: an imposing elevator/observation deck now towers over the 90-step stone stairway that I used to labor up on my way to Namsan proper. Astonishing, the use to which all of this real estate has been put. I also belatedly noted, somewhat wistfully, that I had walked right past the home of my Korean buddy JW's parents. It might have been nice to stop and say hello, but I hadn't brought any sort of gift with me.
Once in Itaewon, I went searching for Sortino's, which is about the only pizzeria in Itaewon that I like and trust. Sortino's has very good appetizers, and it serves large, brick-oven, personal-sized pizzas that are the real deal, from a Westerner's point of view. I finally found the place... and it was closed. God, that pissed me off. All that walking—and for what? I ended up going to a local Subway sandwich shop in Itaewon. Ordered myself a foot-long Italian BMT and chowed down on that, probably reversing some of the good that I had done myself by walking so far. But Itaewon marked the approximate halfway point of my walk: I soon started back after taking a second gratifying dump at Ho Lee Chow in the Hamilton Hotel.
My return walk took me past Samgakji Station, and I was curious to see whether that kick-ass tangsuyuk place was still in existence. It was. That was reassuring. After having faced the shocking unfamiliarity of so much of my old stomping grounds, I felt as if order had reasserted itself to some extent. The place is called Myeong Hwa; it's a grungy dive, but it's well-known among locals as the place to get some of the best damn tangsuyuk in Seoul. I'll have to go visit it again sometime, when it's open.
My trudge back up to the bus route to Namsan's summit became a race at one point—a race that I lost. A middle-aged man had begun stomping up the mountainside just a little bit before I did; by the time I began that same road, he was perhaps sixty yards ahead of me. I slowly and steadily caught up with him, but once he noticed that I was catching up, he suddenly poured on the speed, and our walk became a race. By that point, I had already walked a good five hours, so there was no way I was going to smoke this bastard. Ultimately I gave up, cursing, and let him take the lead. If only you knew how much I'd already walked, old man, I thought. The fact that the guy had made the walk into a race reminded me of how I used to drive along Route 66 between my home in Front Royal, Virginia, and my workplace in Centreville, Virginia. I tended to go fast, and I always drove competitively, despite knowing that such contests were purely an act of vanity. Occasionally I'd have my ass handed to me by a driver who was just a little crazier than I was (I could easily get up to 100 miles an hour), and who was almost always driving a much faster car than my poor, underpowered Honda Fit. Very often, though, the key to winning such contests was craziness: the willingness to gun it and go dangerously fast. Had I had the energy this evening, I'd have jogged past the old man and then returned to walking. But I really was pooped.
The trek from the summit back down to my neighborhood was much quieter than the walk up: I had started around 4:40PM, so there were plenty of tourists crowding the mountain when I was on my way to the top. By the time I was going down Namsan for the final time, it was dark and around 11PM: very few people were on the path. I also noticed that my fingertips were getting cold. I guessed that the temperature had dropped to the 50s, and when I checked Weather.com on my phone, I saw I was right. I had been toting my jacket along with me all day, and I finally put it on while texting my brother David, who was curious to know how far I had walked.
So, yes: this day more than makes up for the previous few days' slacking. I doubt I'll do any double-summiting until sometime much later this week. I burned enough calories to nullify about a meal-and-a-half's worth of food, and I ate only one meal all day—that foot-long BMT at Subway. While I'm still sore at that ajeossi for sucking me into a stupid race that I ended up losing (really, it's not his fault for being a competitive asshole, even though he was one: I'm the one who chose to compete with him), I enjoyed my walking tour of Huam-dong and Cheongpa-dong. It was good to find myself back in the Sookmyung neighborhood, even though it was too dark and too late to see much of anything.
Below are some pictures from today's walk. Hover your cursor over the images to read the captions, and click on any "landscape" images to enlarge them.