Today's leg wasn't that long: according to Naver, it was only 11.74 miles or 18.89 kilometers. The pedometer says I walked 293 minutes, 28,535 steps, and burned 2195 calories, gross.
I left the Nakdan Dam motel around 6:20AM and arrived here, at Gumi Dam, around noon-- a bit more than five hours' hiking if we include breaks. That seems about right, assuming a steady 4 kph pace. I wasn't too tired or too achy by the end; twelve-mile hikes seem about perfect to me: there's a world of difference between twelve miles and nineteen miles; the graph of my foot pain spikes upward logarithmically once we're past Mile 12.
The path was generally level. I'm not really anticipating any mountains or steep slopes for the rest of this journey, but I suppose I could be surprised. In fact, I think I ended up skipping past the only truly challenging terrain of this entire hike-- all the more reason to come back a week after I reach Busan to do the section I missed.
Many riders gave me a thumbs-up sign today. One Korean guy shouted "Wonderful!" in English, and one Latina lady called out "¡Buen camino!" as she biked past me. For a second, I felt as if I were on the Camino de Santiago, where such a valediction is common. (If you want a vivid, travelogue-y feel for the Camino de Santiago, watch "The Way," starring Martin Sheen. It's a good-hearted film with plenty of beautiful shots of the Camino.)
I was pleasantly tired by the end of today's walk, and it was icing on the cake to discover that my pension was as awesome as it was. I stuffed myself on Mountain House beef Stroganoff and two packets of ramyeon purchased from the nearby convenience store. Even though I'm losing weight, I should probably watch the carbs, but I have to admit that my mood at the end of a hike, no matter its length, tends toward Fuck it.
I was contemplating how I'd like to celebrate the final day of my walk, and it occurred to me that I'd like to fill my water tank with my favorite juice: Korean green-plum juice. What's nice about this drink is that it even tastes good when consumed warm-- a factor to consider when I put cold liquids into my tank.
During one of my breaks, I talked with another pair of biker dudes who were doing the long trail. One of them came up behind me, grabbed my backpack, strained theatrically, then declared that my pack must weigh around thirty kilos.
"It's no more than thirteen," I laughed.
"No way that's only thirteen!" he shot back.
The pack is distinctly lighter, especially ever since I got rid of the MREs, which I'll probably never pack on a long hiking trip ever again. Bulky, heavy, and an all-around pain in the ass, MREs must be the bane of infantrymen everywhere. I don't know why the Army doesn't just go freeze-dried with everything. You can freeze-dry anything from coffee to ice cream these days (actually, we've been able to do that for decades!).
Tomorrow will be a monster walk of almost twenty miles (19.86 miles, 31.96 km). That's eight hours of pure walking, plus two or more hours of breaks, for a total of ten or so hours on the road. I don't expect to arrive at the end of the leg until midafternoon.
In the days ahead, I have three more monster walks planned, and I'm seriously thinking about redoing those routes to even out the pain a bit more.
Day 15 (tomorrow): 19.86 miles; inn
Day 16: rest day (planned); inn
Day 17: 16.6 miles; inn
Day 18: 13.6 miles; inn
Day 19: 22.79 miles; camping
Day 20: 11.1 miles; camping
Day 21: 22.98 miles; camping
Day 22: 15.09 miles; camping
Day 23: 23.2 miles; inn
Day 24: rest day (planned); inn
Day 25: 16.94 miles (final day)
Days 19 and 21 are making me wince, as I'll be walking very long distances and resting for only a single night. Day 23 is doable because I'll be walking in the knowledge that I've got two nights at a yeogwan ahead of me.
What if I walked five extra miles on Days 18 and 20 so as to shorten the walks on Days 19 and 21? Easy to say, but where exactly would that put me on the route? Somewhere where I could camp? Somewhere near a town with inns or motels? I need to examine the routes more closely to see what's possible. That's tonight's mission, and tomorrow's.
In flipping back through my Moleskine to look at stamps and review where I've been, I was astounded to realize that events from only a few days ago feel as if they occurred ages ago. My sense of time is warping, and so is my memory. It's hard to remember what I did and where I was three days ago. Without the blog, the photos, and my Moleskine, I'd be lost. I suppose I'm a good example of Modern Man: out of touch with the movements of the stars and planets, out of touch with the weather, unable to think in terms of traditional milestones or to feel the rhythms of nature around him. How about you? Do you remember what you did three days ago? Whom you talked with? What you ate? Where you went? Come to think of it, I suspect that city dwellers, living a segmented, clock-ruled existence, are actually pretty good at remembering such things, and so are people who live out in nature. It's folks like me, transitioning out of the urban world but not quite in the natural world, who have problems with time and memory. It's a weird place to be.