Sunday, January 15, 2017

the new walk project

If I can clear this with my boss, it's gonna be amazing.

By the time we hit March 1, I will have racked up over 120 hours of comp time on top of the 20 or 30 extra hours I have left over from my Christmas/New Year's break. I've therefore broached the idea of taking three or so weeks off straight so I can walk the South Korean half of the Korean peninsula, from Seoul to Busan, by following the Four Rivers Project bike path. The path actually varies in length as there are some alternate routes (that all come together by the time you reach Busan), and one of the four segments will take me across the imposing (imposing to me, anyway) Baekdu Daegan mountain range.*

One athletic Canuck made a video of himself (drone camera, GoPro, and all) biking from Seoul to Busan; his version of the route covered a distance of 572.95 kilometers.** In miles, that comes out to around 355, which is a bit more than half the distance I walked in 2008. I calculated that, if I were to walk the route in 17-mile chunks every day, the walk would take 20.9 days, i.e., 21 days, or three weeks. If I block off about 24 days to walk the route (with a few days' padding as a "Murphy's Law buffer"), I can do the whole thing in about 3.5 weeks.

If I get the "yes" from the boss within the next week or so (we're still confirming our publishing schedule), I'll begin training much harder than I currently am. Having walked 600 miles before, I now have a much better idea of what to expect in terms of aches and pains, logistics, etc. On the bright side, I'll be armed with a much better cell phone, and since I've seen reports that there's a 500-kilometer version of the trail, I might suss that route out and make it my hiking route of choice.

Further research has revealed that foreigners who have biked the Seoul-Busan route were delighted by (1) how well-maintained and generally easy the route was, and (2) the fact that there are rest areas and free(!) campsites spaced evenly along the way every 10 or 20 km. That last thing was a worry for me: I had wondered how much back-country camping I would have ended up doing, with no recourse to civilization. Now, it seems that civilization is available every 10 or 20 kilometers. Good. So I can concentrate on walking.

One major issue is, of course, my knees, which haven't really improved since 2008, given that I've gained weight since then and have kept my knees under constant strain. I'm going to look into a wheeled carrier that I can hip-belt to myself, but I'd ideally like a rig that can convert easily into a backpack if necessary: I anticipate needing such a thing when I reach the mountainous part of the route. And if all else fails, I'll go back to using my backpack, but I'll do what I can to reduce my encumbrance to no more than 30 or so pounds. (In 2008, I was lugging about 60 pounds on my back, gear plus pack. I'm not a trained soldier—not used to carrying 120 pounds of gear plus 8-15 pounds of a weapon and ammo—so 60 pounds was insane for this untrained civilian.)

The prospect of a long walk is exciting, even if it'll be short in comparison with 2008's walk. Here's hoping the boss looks over our 2017 publishing schedule and says yes.

Oh, and: if I do get to do this walk, it'll likely happen this May. Walking during Korean summer would be unbearable.

*Korean mountains generally aren't that high, but their slopes can be steep. South Korea's tallest peak is actually Halla-san, which is not even on the main peninsula: it's on Jeju Island, just off the coast, and is 1950 meters tall (6398 feet or about 1.2 miles).

**Watch the video with the sound off. The music soundtrack is horrible and obnoxious, and the guy's voiceover narration doesn't add anything important to the video, except maybe for the one part where he ends up in the mountains and wastes part of a day inadvertently biking a loop instead of a line.


John Mac said...

Enjoyed your "I have a dream" post, so appropriate for MLK day.

Hope it works out, sounds like a great adventure!

Surprises Aplenty said...

If you choose to chop a little around the north end on weekends, maybe starting in March, I would love to join you. Two or three weekends, cut off the first four or five days from the trip with the week to recover, or something like that.

Kevin Kim said...




Are you talking about "pre-walking" part of the route so as to do less of the route during my actual walk? I'm definitely planning to walk the entire thing from stem to stern, but having said that, I probably will walk at least part of the Seoul route just to get a feel for the initial path. Bikers report the path is smooth, easy (except for the Baekdu Daegan part), and very well-maintained, so this ought to be entertaining. If rest areas, with free campsites, really are available every 10-20 km, that'll be icing on the cake. (Frankly, I expect the campsites to be spread farther apart than that, but I'm going to visit a tourism office and find out more.)

Let's stay in touch and talk more about this. March sounds like a great time to go.