Saturday, April 22, 2017

Walk Thoughts #43: how Day 1, Leg 1 went

Seeing as I'm in an expensive love motel, I'm taking advantage of both WiFi for my phone and the desktop Windows machine that comes with my room. This won't always be the case, so be ready for some messy-looking blog posts whenever I have to blog straight from my phone.

Embarrassingly, I was out of the apartment two minutes after my scheduled blog post appeared. My walk, which my pedometer generously claimed was 23 miles long, became a new personal record of 474 minutes' activity (7.9 hours) and a whopping 45,153 steps. While that's awesome, it's important to remember that my backpack slowed me down, decreased my stride length, and eroded my step rate (down from about 102 steps/minute to 95).

As parsimonious as I think my pedometer is when it comes to measuring distances, I think Naver Map may be even more so. I was supposed to cover only 17.31 miles today; my pedometer reads 23.06 miles, and it felt like that many miles. Did I measure wrong? Day 1 is the only day for which I didn't use the "find route" function on Naver Map: I measured the distance manually, using Naver Map's "ruler" function (it works, for the most part, like the ruler for Google Maps). Did I mis-measure by that much? I seriously doubt I could have erred on the order of nearly six miles. That's ridiculous. It could be that the ruler under-measures distances. It could be that I truly was sloppy with the ruler. I don't know, and I don't care, since this is the only day for which such speculation is relevant. For Days 2-23, I used the "find route" function, so we'll see, henceforth, how accurate that function is. Tomorrow's walk is supposed to be 17 miles as well; I already know that that figure doesn't include the long walk back from downtown to the river's edge, so let's say 20 miles.

It also didn't help that the signs along the way—the ones showing the distance to places like Paldang Bridge—also seemed inaccurate. True: I threw off my own timing by taking several much-needed breaks along the way (my pedometer noted eight hours of activity, but my total time from home to here was almost exactly nine hours), yet the signs still seemed off when I was walking for long periods without stopping. Upshot: I no longer trust anything that claims to measure distance. Instead of arriving at my anticipated "between noon and 1PM," I arrived at the Baro Hotel around 2:20PM.

Those frustrations aside, it was a great walk. The weather was absolutely perfect, starting off cold at 5:17AM, then rapidly warming up. As I walked along the Han River, I was passed by peloton after peloton of bikers. Two American guys passed me, one of whom exclaimed, "That's a big pack!" when he saw me. Dude, you have no idea: you should have seen me in 2008. A few friendly Korean bikers would call out "Hi!" or "Hello!" when they came close enough; two ajeossis gave me a thumbs-up and called, "Fighting!" as I passed them. No one tried to engage me in conversation, which is probably for the better.

The trail changed character often. Saying simply that I'm "walking next to a river" does nothing to express how varied the scenery can get. I was serenaded all day long by birds; Korean magpies (ggachi) were out in force, as were those obnoxiously cooing birds whose name I don't know. But rising above them all today were the squawking cock pheasants, which lined the Han and the Namhan, singing their awkward songs to beg for sex (well, I'm guessing it's mating season, and I may be right), sounding for all the world like the coughing, dying engines of tiny clown cars (or their ah-ooh-gah horns). Meanwhile, the protean trail beneath my feet varied from asphalt to rubber to concrete to dirt-and-pebbles. There were a few hills, but nothing horrible for a walker. As I said before, it's the Saejae portion of my walk where things will get real.

I eventually broke out one of my two Costco trekking poles. It performed well. On a more tragic note, my chest strap broke off yet again, as I knew it would because it's a betraying bastard, and the only part of my otherwise-awesome Gregory backpack whose design I seriously question. I bought my pack in 2008; I wonder whether Gregory has fixed that problem in its subsequent models. My current pack is close to dying, and since I'm brand-loyal to Gregory, I'll be checking out the new backpack models after this trip is done.

While sitting down for a break at one point, I saw a mass of carp gathered in one spot across the water. They seemed to be... how should I put this... frolicking. Do fish like carp have a sense of play? I know octopi do.

Toward the end of my walk, I regretted not having slathered on some sunscreen. I have a very mild sunburn (most of my walk occurred before the sun was too high in the sky) on my face and forearms, but knowing me, I'll burn, then peel, then tan. The sunlight will recharge my freckles (which are the source of my superpowers), and a tan will eventually show up everywhere else. I can thank my non-Korean genes for the freckles, which Koreans generally consider ugly. I can thank my Korean genes for the upcoming tan. Thanks, Mom.

By the time Paldang Bridge loomed large, I was ready for the day to end. But I still had to walk downtown toward Hanam City's city hall; that took a while, and I had to bust out Naver Map on my phone to navigate properly. I found the hotels that Naver had marked for me... but they were all love hotels that didn't serve overnight clients until after 10PM. (Love hotels, geared toward sex, often charge couples by the hour.) The nice lady at the Baro Hotel heard me out re: hiking all the way from Seoul and really needing a room, but she told me that, because it was Saturday, an especially busy day, the requested room would be more expensive than it would be during a weekday. I was too tired to say no, so I paid for my current room, selling a piece of my soul in the process.

I have now showered and washed my clothes, which are hang-drying. I've taken my meds, but strangely, I haven't laid myself out on the bed yet. I'll be doing that soon.

Since I can't repair my popped chest strap, I'm going to have to find another solution for shoulder-strap pain, and that's probably going to come in the form of folded-up washcloths tucked under the straps. I'm also a little worried about my hip belt: I may need to punch new holes in it sooner than I expected: during today's walk, I cinched the belt down to the eleventh hole, and I have only two holes left. Once I start losing weight in earnest, this is going to become a major problem. Same goes for the other leather belt that's holding up my pants. But those are problems that I'll deal with as they become urgent.

For now, I'm taking things day-by-day, and doing my best not to over-strain myself. I'm weirdly reassured that, if today really was 23 miles, then I'll have no problem tackling the 23-mile walks at the end, on Days 19 and 21. Assuming Naver Map's "find route" function isn't lying. I'm paranoid about that.

My phone was down to 32% by the time I got my hotel room. That gives me a good idea as to how much power I'll use on an average day of hiking. I'm also realizing that I may not arrive at my destination as soon as planned: I may, in fact, be nearly two hours late, depending on my rest breaks, fatigue, and other factors. This is a markedly different hike from the one I did in 2008, so I'm learning as I go.

Expect another barrage of pics and impressions tomorrow. Day 2 takes me past my first certification station, so I'll be placing my first stamp inside my Moleskine. Stay tuned.

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