Hiking right

So here's the first thing you gotta remember about hiking in South Korea: the country is 70% mountain, which means most hikes involve going up, up, up, and just because there's a well-worn trail from thousands of hikers passing through there every year (the Koreans do love their hiking) doesn't mean that it's going to be an easy one.

I'm getting used to all the climbing, because visiting just a simple temple or other sightseeing spot that's only 1 or 2 km from the trailhead usually involves some uphill work. Two thoughts keep me going when I get tired:

  • It's all uphill now, which means it'll be all downhill later --- yay!
  • If that old man/old woman/kid can scramble up and down this trail, so can I, dammit.
Today I went up Birobong, a peak in Sobaeksan National Park. Not many old men or old women on the trail, though there were a couple of boys with their dads. But it was the downhill-is-faster theory that betrayed me. The trail was pretty rocky, so coming down was a little tougher to navigate in terms of finding firm footholds. Now I understand why my Lecaf sneakers previously attracted concern from other hikers (a couple of them gestured at the shoes today too): while they're certainly comfortable, they simply haven't got the right traction and support for slithering down rocky paths.

I made it down okay, but next time I'll remember to wear my other shoes. In the remaining three weeks of my trip, there's one more national park on my must-see list and I might do a little extra hiking on my own around Seoul.

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