Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Walk Thoughts #19: 20.1K steps

Keeping in mind that my walk with Brian two weekends ago was around 28K steps, all told, tonight's walk, which passed the 20K-step mark, wasn't that much shorter, yet resulted in no toe pain and no blisters. I have a theory as to why.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Walk Thoughts #18: date update

My boss at the Golden Goose is getting antsy about the travel dates for my peninsular walk. I had originally suggested May 8th to the 28th to him, and he hadn't said much except for a vague grunt about those dates' acceptability. Now, several weeks later, the boss has a clearer picture of what lies ahead, publishing-wise, and he wants me back in the office well before the end of May, so the 28th is no longer viable. We renegotiated my walk dates today, and I now have a longer window during which to walk, but the dates have been shifted: April 24 to May 22. This gives me nearly a month to do my walk, which ensures I'll be done with days to spare. Lately, as I stare at the relevant maps, I've been thinking that 23 days won't be enough: 25 days will be closer to what I'll need. Some of those stretches along the Nakdong River, at the very end, look long, indeed, between certification stations. I might be able to straddle such distances in a single day, but at the cost of walking several hours more than anticipated. If at all possible, I don't want to walk more than seven hours per day.

The major problem with starting much earlier is that this cuts down on training time, but I suppose I'll just have to make do. I'm behind on my training, anyway, so I'm already making compromises with the schedule I had laid out.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Walk Thoughts #17: all but two

As far as items I can find in Korea go, I have only two things left on my shopping list. Yesterday and today, I got my first-aid kit, a surprisingly cheap tent footprint, a multitool (which I convinced myself I needed to buy, but might not actually need on the trail*), new cell batteries (sold somewhat under the counter), and a portable cell-battery charger that can charge a phone three times before the charger itself needs to be recharged.

The only two items left for me to buy are that damn hanging scale (the scale store was closed today, and I was too late to go there yesterday) and those reflector strips, which proved amazingly hard to find in both the Jongno and Euljiro districts.

One good point about today's shopping trip was that I got discounts. The tent footprint was tagged at W35,000; I got it for a cool W17,000, which is more than reasonable for an item that often retails in the States for anywhere between $30 and $60. The multitool was listed at W45,000, but the seller gave it to me for W40,000. I'm glad I got those discounts because the dude at Jeonja Land gave me no discounts at all for the cell batteries and portable charger.

I may pop out to Jongno early tomorrow morning to visit the scale store before going to work. Whoever runs that store is a lazy bastard: every time I've tried to go there, the store has been closed, either because it was after 4PM or because it was Sunday.

*One guy I spoke with in 2008 told me that, from his outdoors experience, a multitool was more useful to him than a knife was. I had brought a combat knife and a pocketknife along with me in 2008; the combat knife proved utterly useless, but the pocketknife came in handy on multiple occasions. A multitool is like a pocketknife, but its main function is as pliers.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Walk Thoughts #16: final purchases

With thanks again to my on-base benefactor Abel Magwitch, I've got two boxes of MREs coming, along with a "map pen" for measuring distances on a map. I've also got one final round of things to buy here in Korea, and those things are:

1. a "footprint" for my bivy sack (I might make one if I can't find a cheap one to buy)
2. a standard first-aid kit, which the local Costco sells (last I checked, anyway)
3. a portable cell-phone charger and 2 cell batteries
4. a hanging scale for luggage
5. a set of reflector strips for safety

I'll stroll through the Jongno/Euljiro districts to see about that footprint. Camp stores in Korea might or might not sell footprints separately, but everything here is far more expensive than in the States. I've seen some sites offering tutorials on DIY footprints, so I might just go that route, or I might simply buy some 6-mil plastic sheeting and cut it to size.

The first-aid kit should be easy to obtain: that's a Costco purchase, unless the kits have rotated out of stock for the season. I don't think they'll have disappeared, though: I've seen trekking poles on the warehouse shelves month after month, regardless of the season, and I think the shelf-logic will extend to other camping/outdoors-related items.

The cell batteries and portable charger will be a Yongsan Jeonja Land purchase. There are apparently service centers, close to where I live, that sell the phone batteries, but I suspect Jeonja Land will be cheaper overall, especially if I buy two batteries plus the charger from the same seller. When you buy several items, negotiating the price downward is a bit easier.

I'm taking a gamble with the hanging scale, as I'm assuming that that scale store—the one that was closed when I learned about it last time—actually has what I'm looking for. I may end up walking away with an analog version of the scale.

Then there are the reflector strips. Where to buy those...? Probably the Jongno/Euljiro area again, but also any of the big stores that have a sports/outdoors section in them: E-Mart, Home Plus, etc. I won't need the strips for walking at night, although nighttime walks are possible if things go terribly awry. No, the reflector strips are more to protect myself whenever I'm inside a tunnel, as I know will happen at several points throughout the walk: some of these tunnels will be bike-only, which isn't so bad, but other tunnels will have cars going through them, and I'm not sure whether those tunnels will also have pedestrian walkways. Here's hoping they do. Or, hey: if a place is selling those nifty reflector triangles, I might slap one or more on my backpack and wear another one on my front, hanging it from a cord like a rapper with his obnoxious bling. Please don't mow me down.

I'll be engaging in this final paroxysm of shopping tomorrow, i.e., Saturday. If I do get the hanging scale, I'll be using it to weigh my fully prepped backpack, at which point I'll have a better idea as to what can stay on the walk and what must go. I'm shooting for a total pack weight of 35 pounds (15.9 kg), not including water, which can be up to another 7 or so pounds (my CamelBak ripoff holds 3.5 liters). Even with the near-gallon of water, the encumbrance is going to be much lighter than the 60 pounds (27.2 kg) I'd carried on my big walk—a reflection of hard lessons learned on the road in 2008.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Walk Thoughts #15: gear

With sincere thanks to Abel Magwitch, my benefactor-on-base, for collecting my ordered items, here is the first round of hiking/camping gear that I got from Amazon and REI. Click on the pic to enlarge; right-click and "view image in new tab" to see at full size.

Let's walk through the items you're looking at. Ignore the Costco bag in the back.

Starting from the left:

Dark-grey convertible hiking pants (you can zipper off the legs to make shorts, and the pants' material doesn't darken when wet—one reason why I've long loved this particular brand of hiking pants) sit atop a bucket of scrumptious Mountain House freeze-dried meals. I'll be taking only a few of those meals with me; as you recall, I'll be eating actual, substantive, rib-sticking meals only every other day, and I'll be taking along a combination of MREs, Soylent, Survival Tabs, and Mountain House freeze-dried meals.

Moving rightward and inward:

The large, white box is full of Soylent, and those powder packs are heavy. Each pack weighs nearly a pound (15 ounces, or 425 grams). I don't see myself taking more than one of those bags along with me. Taking two would be insane, especially since MREs are going to be both heavy and bulky. In terms of prandial enjoyment, I rank Survival Tabs lowest (they taste like congealed powdered milk because they're mostly milk solids; I tried some already). Next up the flavor totem pole is Soylent, followed by MREs, which at least have the virtue of being recognizable food. At the top are the Mountain House meals, which are lightweight and, when mealtime comes around, super-easy to prepare. Survival Tabs—I'll take four tablets to replace a single meal—will be what I eat on non-meal days so that I don't simply starve. I'll be taking seven or eight Mountain House meals plus two or three MREs, plus a bag of Soylent and two bags of Survival Tabs. I definitely won't starve.

Moving on:

Next up, we've got my foam roll in the back: that'll be my camp mattress, insulating me from the cold ground, which is what spongy stuff is good for. In front of the foam roll, you see the long, cylindrical Grayl purification system, which I'm eager to try out over at the Yangjae creek in a few days. The large orange cartridges are the filtration system itself: one for the Grayl cup, one as a spare, which I probably won't need to take along with me since a single filter is supposed to last for several hundred French-pressings.* To the right of the orange Grayl filters, you see my super-simple Coleman mess kit, 75% of which I won't even really need: I bought the kit mainly for the covered mini-pot, which holds nearly a pint of water—water that I'll be boiling for my Mountain House meals. That tiny little thing tucked into the corner behind the mess kit is my backpack's rain shroud—nice and compact. My pack is fairly rain resistant, but the shroud offers more protection for when I'm camping and it's raining all night, or for those times when it's just non-stop rain all day long.


The red-and-black bundle is a compression harness holding my el-cheapo sleeping bag. I might not even need a sleeping bag if the weather in May is going to be largely warm and pleasant. The much-smaller gray bundle in front of the sleeping bag is, incredibly, my bivy bag, i.e., my shelter. Pretty tiny, ain't it. It weighs a bit under two pounds (863 grams, to be precise—almost exactly 1.9 pounds), and I can't wait to unfurl it and test it out in the park next door to my building (assuming the crotchety ajeossis who might or might not be supervising the park say it's OK to set up camp for a few minutes). The grayish packet between the sleeping bag and the shelter contains my Survival Tabs. Lastly, the bright-blue box is a box of alcohol wipes, which I'll probably repack into a Ziploc bag for the trail.

Now I need to tally up which of my ordered items have arrived and which haven't. I also need to go out and buy (1) a first-aid kit (which Costco sells), (2) a hanging scale (which I'm hoping that scale shop in Jongno will sell), and (3) cell-phone batteries plus a portable charger (which I'll buy in Yongsan's Jeonja Land, the huge electronic-products complex).

At this point, the heaviest thing in my backpack is looking to be the food. I'm going to have to figure out how I'll be packing that.

And that's all for now. More walk-related thoughts to come.

*There's also the matter of actually, physically obtaining water. I'll be walking close to rivers pretty much the whole time I'm out on the trail, except perhaps for the Saejae section. That said, there's no reason to assume that I'll be able simply to walk up to the riverbank and dip my Grayl into the flowing water. The bank may be much higher than the water; it may be lined with treacherously uneven rocks; there could be other problems that make accessing the water a less-than-straightforward task. I'm thinking the simplest solution to this problem would be something like a gallon jug with the top cut off so that the jug is almost a scoop, with a long cord tied to the jug's handle so that the jug can be thrown or lowered into hard-to-reach water. Dip the jug in, pull a few liters of water out, then run it through the Grayl. It does occur to me that the Saejae part of the trail will require a bit more planning than the other parts, since it's the part most likely to run up and over the Baekdu Daegan range, taking me away from water sources like rivers. There might be creeks or rills along the way uphill, but it's better to trust in Murphy's Law and assume there won't be any convenient succor from Mother Nature.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Walk Thoughts #14: I have to walk on that

Weirdly, my left foot hurts just as much but is showing no blistering or purpling. I'm able to walk without limping too overtly, but I don't think I'll be doing my creek walk tonight. Will more likely switch to building-staircase work.

I've had blisters like this before, and I've found the best thing to do is simply to walk on through them. There's a lot of nonsense literature out there about moleskin and so on, but I find that Mother Nature is enough of a self-correcting system that you can just keep on walking whether the blisters pop or not. If they pop, just don't mess with them.

Had you asked me yesterday afternoon whether I'd be able to stand 20-some days in a row of hiking that might produce such blisters, I'd have been tempted to say, "Hell, no." Today, after a day's rest, I can answer in the tentatively affirmative. I might be limping slowly by the end of each day, and a projected six-hour walk might stretch into ten hours (of walking plus taking breaks), but as long as I can rest for most of a day between walks, I think I'll do just fine, and my feet might even toughen up as we go along.

Brian had floated the idea of wearing walking sandals yesterday; it's a thought, especially for my pinky toes, but I'd be concerned about all the grit getting under my feet while on a dirt path (a few stretches, yesterday, were dirt paths); pebbles and grit can produce a much more distracting pain than blisters can.

One project for this week: get my shoes stretched—both my New Balances and my Rockports.

UPDATE, 9PM: I'm walking more or less normally, despite the nasty fellow in the above picture. You can indeed get used to the pain, which dovetails with what I remember from my 900-kilometer walk in 2008.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Walk Thoughts #13: today's long walk

Some estimated stats:

Walk time: approx. 4.75 hours
Walk distance: approx. 14.25 miles/23 km
Total steps: approx. 28,500

Damage report:
      • blisters on the balls of both feet
      • blister on right pinky toe
      • achy feet in general
      • achy lower back
      • raw, sensitive crotch

Things learned:
1. This was a good shakedown cruise during which I learned some of the ins and outs of my CamelBak-knockoff water bladder (a prettier term is hydration system).
2. I absolutely need a new battery for my cell phone: my current ancient battery is in the midst of a cascade failure. I was supposed to go out and buy batteries and a portable charger today, but I collapsed and went to sleep instead.
3. My awesome New Balance walking shoes are perfect for two-hour walks, but they get tight in the toes as my feet swell during longer-than-two-hour walks.
4. We didn't make seven hours today, which had been my goal, but nearly five hours turned out to be quite enough.
5. If my lower back is responding this way to a light encumbrance, I need to be cautious about how I handle heavier encumbrance (35 lbs., 16 kg).
6. For long walks, I definitely need to get back to wearing my Spandex biker shorts to avoid the constant chafing of the inner thighs and nethers.

I began sincerely to wonder whether I'd even have the pain tolerance to withstand 20-some days in a row of this sort of walking. It's funny, too, because today's walk was largely on level ground: hills that stymied me on a bike were barely perceptible as hills when on foot. I suspect I'm going to have to reorient my training program to account for the need to toughen up my feet, and I may have to take my shoes to a shoe guy to get them stretched. Shoe stretching is apparently common and easy to do; there are, in fact, plenty of in-home methods for doing it, but I'd rather get a pro to reshape my footwear.

Brian and I met this morning at National Assembly Station way out in Yeouido, the same station where I get off to do my KMA gigs. My travel companion was as athletic as I expected him to be; I was the slowpoke during our walk, but he politely restrained himself from walking at what I'd guess is close to a natural pace of 4.5 or 5 miles per hour (I mosey along at a human-standard 3 mph, unlike most Koreans, who walk at Brian's speed).

We began at 7AM by walking toward the National Assembly building; the guards there let us through so we could walk across the property and out the back in order to swing by one of those bike-path "certification centers." Sure enough, we found it:

The term "center" seems a bit pretentious for a one-square-meter patch of ground that contains little more than a seedy, phone-booth-like structure. Still, it made for an interesting landmark, after which we continued east along the Han. Brian's vigorous-yet-restrained pace kept him slightly ahead and me slightly out of breath, but it was a good workout. While my phone had power—which came and went the entire hike—I pinged our location a few times to provide some idea of our pace.

Ultimately, as we approached the Jamshil area and my apartment, we decided to change plans and head to my place for a fried-rice lunch (Brian ended up kindly giving me his lunch as well: a Paris Baguette chicken sandwich). I had thought we might eat lunch, then head out and check out the Yangjae-cheon, i.e., my creekside route, but we both ended up too achy and unmotivated to continue. For a flat walk, the experience seemed unwontedly harsh on my feet, which is an indication of which body parts actually require more serious training.

Brian turned out to be a great font of information and an excellent conversationalist, so while we had some moments of silence along the path, there was also plenty of banter. I learned a few things about the local flora and fauna; we both had a chance to look with distaste upon a garbage-strewn grassy area being cleaned by a woefully understaffed team of men, but we also passed by plenty of clean, well-groomed areas. I learned some things about Brian's wife and son; his family leads an interesting life. Here's pic of Brian:

All in all, this was a fun—if exhausting—day. It was good to meet someone that I had known for years only through blogging, and I do believe we'll be meeting up again.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Walk Thoughts #12: visualized

Not very far, it seems, but here's the path I biked. I took a slightly different way back, but it came out to about the same distance. As you see, if you double the distance, I got tantalizingly close to 30 miles.

Walk Thoughts #11: lessons

So what did I learn during my bike ride yesterday?

I learned that the Paldang Dam, one of the first major landmarks on the trail, is within biking distance if we assume a pain-free biking trip. It would have been nice to make it all the way out to the dam to see what sort of camping facilities might be around it, but I learned enough to know that, once one gets past the densest part of Hanam City, there are plenty of places along the riverside where a tired traveler can plop down, set up a tent, and rest his weary legs. That's important because, depending on the time of day, I might have to do just that: plop down wherever I am and simply set up camp.

Despite my earlier griping about how hilly the trail was, the inclines won't be bad when I'm on foot. I suspect that the first third or half of the trail won't be too much trouble; it's when I reach the Baekdu Daegan mountain range that things will get dicey. By then, though, I'll have eaten my way through about half of my food supplies, so my pack ought to be slightly lighter.

A quick aside about food: I've decided to order everything—all the foods I covered in Walk Thoughts #1. I'll be using a combination of foods—maybe two MREs, seven or eight Mountain House food packs, a bag of Soylent, and several packs' worth of Survival tabs. Most crucial will be water, of course, but I'll be moving alongside rivers for most of the walk—with a Grayl purification system, no less—so this ought not to be a problem. Upshot: I ought to be able to eat something every day of the walk, even if it's just a handful of Survival Tabs.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Walk Thoughts #10: biked 30 miles; felt like 60

I've seen dedicated bikers on YouTube who easily cover 140 km (87 miles) in a day. My hat is off to them. I haven't biked in about ten years, and today, I think I biked more in one session than I've ever biked before. Despite all that, my distance apparently wasn't all that impressive: according to Google Maps's distance-measuring ruler, I barely biked 30 miles, total, in about 4 hours. I took a lot of breaks, hence the slow pace—but the breaks weren't because I was winded: they were to alleviate the screaming pain in my ass that came from that long-forgotten demon: saddle sores. In fact, there's a lot about biking that I had forgotten, including Murphy's Law of Cycling: the wind will always be against you.

My damn phone ran out of battery power right as I reached my U-turn point, thirty minutes short of Paldang Dam, so I wasn't able to blog my position. Then, hilariously, when I was two-thirds of the way back to my place, my battery power miraculously measured 19%, so I could take a selfie... but I still couldn't blog my position. That's another thing I'll need to take care of: getting a couple new phone batteries plus a portable charger. My current battery is the one that came with the phone back in 2013, so it's old and needs constant charging.

I unwisely wore a coat today; it was probably in the 50s (10-13ยบ C), so I was sweating and dripping snot out of my nose as I groaned along. I hadn't brought anything with me in terms of toiletries—no saline solution for dusty, irritating contacts; no tissue for a runny nose; no bottles of water to sip from—nothing—so I felt kind of guilty when I brought the bike back to the rental place, knowing that those handlebars were now coated in loads of my DNA and bodily flora thanks to my constant face-wiping. You're welcome, guys.

The bike rental is a story in itself. I had seen an expat site that listed a bunch of bike-rental spots, but none seemed close to where I lived, and the website itself seemed a bit old and out of date. So I walked up the street to the bike guy I had spoken with a few weeks ago and asked him where I might rent a bike. He pointed me back down the street to a bike shop that I had passed many times when walking home from Jamshil, but to which I had paid little heed up to now. "Tell them I sent you, and they'll give you a discount" my bike dude said. I thanked him and left, then walked up the street to the other bike shop, whose name turned out to be GoGo. Rental for an hour was something like 6,000 won; 3 hours was around W15,000, and a 24-hour rental was W30,000. I knew I'd be needing the bike for more than three hours, so I steeled myself to pay the full thirty thousand.

A little over four hours later, I brought the bike back, my hair all windblown and frozen in place thanks to dried sweat. The guy who took my bike back—the same guy who greeted me when I came in to rent a bike—did indeed give me a W5,000 discount since I hadn't gone anywhere near twenty-four hours. When I thanked him and left the shop, he ran out after me and told me I could rent for several days at a much steeper discount. In return, I asked him if it would be all right for me to come back and talk about what to expect on those bike paths, given my upcoming cross-country walk. He said that would be fine.

So my saddle sores are killing me right now; the crotch-bones are screaming, and I'm dead tired. Biking at my current weight is more of a chore than a pleasure; gravity's downward vector is, like the wind, always against me. Even a slight rise is enough to kill all forward momentum and force me to pump desperately just to move ahead at a crawl. Depending on what stretch I was on, my estimated speed varied from a measly 6-9 miles per hour to perhaps 15 miles per hour on an easy downhill. I found myself grumbling at the ground's unevenness, given that the path was always close to the river: ideally, a river-bank path ought to be as flat as the river water itself. But no.

I have a selfie that I'll slap up soon, but I'm too tired even to think about tonight's exercises—which in theory ought to include jump rope as cardio. I think I may have done enough cardio for one day. I'm beat. Still, it's embarrassing that this was only 30 miles; it felt like 60.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Walk Thoughts #9: exercise

I've been walking again for a little while, but last night saw me do a full-blown, 14-staircase, 21,000-step creekside walk, followed by a short battery of indoor exercises, the list of which you can see here.* If you checked that link last night, you may have seen a slightly longer list of exercises that included forward and reverse lunges. I've now taken those off the list because (1) I could tell I wasn't doing them right, and (2) there was instant knee pain the moment I tried the reverse lunges. I've got squats on the list, so the squats—which cause me no pain—will have to do double duty in terms of building leg (etc.) strength.

I finally engaged in planking last night as well. Managed 30 seconds. I'm pretty sure I was doing the standard forward plank incorrectly, given that I had some pain and strain in my lower back. Form is everything: if you're not doing an exercise correctly, it's hard to derive any benefits from it. Tonight, I'll rewatch some planking videos to make sure I've got the form down. I did, however, do much better with the side planks, which were—bizarrely—easier to do. Maybe it was the duration: I mistakenly did 30 seconds of front planks followed by my mandated 10 seconds of side planks. As you see on my chart, I'm building up to a full 60 seconds of planks, all sides, by the end of eight weeks.

Crunches were fine; I'm starting slow at only 3 crunches this week: forward, reverse, left side, and right side. By the end of eight weeks, I want to be up to 20 reps each. (Back in high school PE class, during the wrestling unit, Coach Taylor started us off with three types of crunch** at 30 crunches each—90 total!) The real embarrassment last night, though, was pushups: I didn't manage a single legitimate pushup in the standard position. I did manage to do a few on my knees, so I may rework my schedule, pulling my goal down from 20 legitimate pushups to only 10—with a promise to continue working on pushups after the walk is done.

There will be plenty of time, after the walk, to expand on the above exercise regimen, but for the moment, I've got to start somewhere, and I've chosen exercises that I think are relevant to the upcoming walk: exercises dealing with core strength, leg strength, upper-body strength, and a bit of arm strength just to round things out. I like how I've spaced out my cardio: MWF for creekside walking, TR for building-staircase walking, and SS for jump-roping. Among the cardio exercises, jump-roping is filling me with the most trepidation because I've been so uncoordinated up to now, but I'm aiming to get through five minutes of interval roping (30 sec on, 10 sec rest; repeat) by the end of Week One. Oh, yeah: for those of you reading my exercise chart, know that the listed goals refer to where I should be by the end of the given week, not to where I should be starting at the beginning of the week.

*For some reason, Google's sharing link isn't read-only: you can actually alter my spreadsheet data, it would seem. For some odd reason, I can't put up a read-only sharing link from my office, so I'll trust you to be on your best behavior while I wait to change this once I'm back at my apartment. Hmmm.

UPDATE: can't change this from home, either. What's up, Google?

UPDATE 2: all is well. When I signed out of my own account and tried altering the file, I got a "view only" flag. So we're good.

**Those three types of crunch were all forward crunches: (1) feet flat on the ground, (2) knees raised and calves parallel to the ground, and (3) legs fully extended and 90 degrees to the ground, feet pointed at the ceiling. Surprisingly, I got through those. But that was when I was, if you can imagine it, thinner.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Walk Thoughts #8: shopping redux, biking recon, other thoughts

I've got one or two more items I'm going to try to find here in Korea, the aforementioned hanging scale being one of them. Once I've got the scale, I can start weighing my backpack—yes, even now, before I've bought the rest of my gear, so as to give me an idea of just how close to 35 pounds I can get. I know from experience that 60 pounds is doable, but it's a strain, especially on uphill portions of a trail, where my walking speed can drop from 3 miles an hour to barely over 1 mile an hour, especially at the end of the day. Weight and weather tie for first place as the two biggest factors affecting my walking speed; assorted aches and pains, like blisters, muscle cramps, joint problems, and the occasional randomly firing nerve, come a close second. Energy level shouldn't be an obstacle; neither should motivation. As long as I start very early every day, I ought to be buoyed by sunlight, walking six or seven hours a day at an easy pace that should get me from rest stop to rest stop in a timely manner.

I had thought about renting a bike this weekend, given that this was my break, to do some reconnoitering (per Brian Dean's suggestion), but I'll save that activity for next weekend. The goal will be to ride far enough to find the first two or three rest stops along the way, to note distances and locations (and, if possible, the names of the rest stops: that's how I keep things straight in my head), to get a feel for the terrain, and to see what sorts of facilities are actually available at each campsite.*

I'm a bit worried about those portions of the path that are nothing but road. It's easier to end up as roadkill outside of America than inside it (that unlucky bastard killed in Florida notwithstanding); I'm just hoping the road portions of the path have shoulders. As I was taught as a child, I'll walk on the left side of the road to be able to anticipate oncoming traffic.

I've managed to trace the Han River bike path, on my Maps.me app, to the point where it meets the Namhan River bike path. It took me a few times to figure this out, but the reason the path appears and disappears on the map is precisely because it gets taken up by road—my aforementioned fear. I'll be exposed to traffic, I guess, fairly early in the walk.

So what are the four rivers in question? Near as I can figure, they are:

1. Han River
2. Namhan River
3. Geum River(?)
4. Nakdong River

I'm sure about 1, 2, and 4. I'm not sure how much I'm going to be involved with the Geum River, which seems almost irrelevant to the path. The Han flows into a river that, if you go north, becomes the Bukhan River, and if you go south, becomes the Namhan River. The Namhan then seems to flow far, far south until you reach the Nakdong River, with the Geum River joining the path late in the game. On this page (scroll down to the second big map), I see that there's an intervening segment of the path called "Saejae," but I don't see a "Saejae River" listed anywhere, so I suspect the Saejae path serves merely as a connector between two rivers, the Namhan and the Nakdong. Despite the name "Four Rivers," implying "four connected rivers," I suppose there had to be some fudging somewhere.**

Some of the maps on the above-linked page are quite detailed, despite a profusion of cutesy icons. There's a lot to explore on that page alone.

*I get the impression, from many of the bikers' videos, that I won't have much choice but to sleep in a motel at certain in-town stops. Motels are cheap, true, but I recall one person I met during my 2008 hike who disparaged what he called "credit-card tourism," i.e., tourism in which you have it easy the entire time, using your money to keep comfy.

**You might disagree that the concept of connection is implied in the name "Four Rivers," but I disagree with your disagreement because expats who have biked from Seoul to Busan all say something like, "I biked from Seoul to Busan along the Four Rivers Bike Path." Their experience of the path is that it's unbroken, even if the path doesn't always exactly follow alongside a river the entire way down.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Walk Thoughts #7: downtown shopping trip

I was in the Jongno/Euljiro/Dongdaemun area today, doing some outdoor-supplies shopping. Yesterday, I had bought a pocket stove; today, I went looking for items that would be silly to order all the way from the States. I ended up buying a trowel, some cord, and a compression harness for my future sleeping bag. I went into one camping store and saw that the sleeping bags were all priced from W450,000 to nearly W1 million, which was ridiculous.

I did fail, however, to track down a hanging scale, despite showing the picture around at several spots in the Jongno 3-ga and Jongno 5-ga areas. Store owners kept recommending different places for me to try and track the device down: a suitcase store, an electronics store up the street, etc. The best suggestion came during a weird, eerie, David Lynch-style exchange with one shopkeeper who spoke slowly and deliberately.

ME: I'm looking for this— (showing pic of hanging scale)

HIM: (pause) This is...

ME: A suitcase scale (gabang chejung-gi, lit. "baggage scale").

HIM: (pause) Ah. Right next door, there's a scale store. Nothing but scales.

ME: Oh, great!

HIM: (pause) But they're closed now. (This was at 4:45PM.)

Upshot: no hanging scale today, but I may go back either tomorrow—although the store might be closed on Sundays—or later this coming week.

Unrelated to the hiking trip, I also bought a clay pot to replace my horrible Daiso pot, as well as—finally—a stone mortar and pestle, which the seller proudly told me was made from native Korean stone. I also bought a second bamboo back-scratcher, which I'm likely to take on the hiking trip with me, mainly for its reversible shoehorn function, but also in case I need to scratch my back after wearing a backpack all day, and/or in case I need to smite any wasps or other pests that buzz too close while I'm seated somewhere.

Back to hiking. At this point, I've found almost everything I can hope to find in Korea. What remains are items I have no choice but to order from the States. An unnamed benefactor who works on base has kindly permitted me to mail items to Korea via his APO address, so I'll be taking him up on that offer soon—possibly as soon as the next two weeks.

This is good: I'll have my gear prepped more than a month in advance of the trip, which will give me a chance to test out my equipment and work out any kinks.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Walk Thoughts #6: food while training

My buffet dinner with Charlie and one upcoming dinner notwithstanding, I'm going to be eating only what's in my fridge for the next little while, then probably relying on a combination of Korean-restaurant food (the good, nutritious kind—not the carby, street-food kind). I've got a mess of veggie leftovers that need to be dealt with, plus four more Ziploc bags of budae-jjigae, plus God-knows-how-much protein and frozen greenery in the freezer. Once I've emptied out what I have in the fridge, the groceries I'll buy—from then until my walk—will all come from downstairs in my building, thus eliminating the need to visit Costco, High Street, Haddon, or any other out-of-the-way places.

The plan will be to make lunch my main meal. I almost never eat breakfast, except on very special occasions, so I'll take in most of my allotted calories at lunchtime. If I get cravings in the evening, I'll munch on things that aren't calorie-dense, like celery or other vegetables. (I saw a nifty recipe for making "rice" out of cauliflower the other day, so that might figure into my diet as well. Cruciferous is splendiferous.) This will help regulate my digestion.

At some point, I'm going to have to switch my training from nighttime to early morning to simulate what I'll actually be doing during my walk. I'm not sure how that will affect my eating habits; that's something I'll have to think about over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Walk Thoughts #5: a Tapp Brothers suggestion

When it comes to dieting, I'm one of those undisciplined people who work best when they're made accountable for their eating habits. In one video, the Tapp Brothers pass along a dieting method they'd heard about from others: use your cell phone to document everything—every little thing—you put in your mouth.

This blog might become an annoying stream of not-so-appetizing food pics as a result, but I think this is an excellent suggestion. There's obviously a bit of the honor system about it: I can still cheat, in theory, by eating and not photographing what I eat. If I commit to doing this, though, I'll feel obliged to be as truthful as possible, and I'll tell you if I decide I no longer want to bombard you with food images.

Starting today, though, I'm going to be uploading pics of what I'm eating. Go ahead—give me shit about my dietary habits. You know you won't be happy unless you can carp like a nagging wife. When I upload a food pic, the post title will be an approximate caloric figure. I'm too lazy to break every eating/drinking session down into carbs, proteins, sodium, etc., so you're only going to see calories. Brace yourself for a torrent of food and drink. (Just so you know: I won't be photographing glasses of water. That'll get tedious fast.)

Oh, yeah: my starting weight is 126 kg. Goal = 115 kg by May 1. I think this is doable.