Friday, August 30, 2019

swearing it all off

I lost ten kilos in 2017, going from 126 kg (278 lbs.) to 116 kg (256 lbs.) over the course of 26 days on the path. While I walked, I was burning 5000-6000 calories per day, so I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, and what I wanted was bad-for-you food. My time in France last year, however, taught me that I can lose weight at a far faster rate if I eat and drink better. When I was in France for two weeks last year, I walked nearly every day, ate only a single meal a day for most of that time (with no random snacking at all), and when I did eat, it was only good, balanced, homemade, family-style food, not the crap I'd normally eat (e.g., fast food, fried pork cutlets, etc.). Result: I lost six kilos in only two weeks.

So I'm thinking that, if I followed "the French regimen," so to speak, I could lose closer to fifteen or twenty kilos on the upcoming walk. This will mean sticking to water, and/or sugarless teas, as my main source of fluids, and it'll also mean eating decent Korean food at regular Korean restaurants as opposed to buying sandwiches, chips, candy, and kimbap rolls from the local convenience store. I'll be honest: it's not a pleasant prospect to swear off sodas, fruit juices, candy, fast food, and junk food: I love these things and am probably addicted to them. But if I could do it in France, I can do it for this upcoming walk.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

total distance: now that's more like it!

I had thought the total distance of my upcoming walk would be 570-some kilometers, mainly because I'm planning to skip all the certification centers this time around, which I thought might cut down my overall mileage. Turns out that that figure was an error caused by some bad data-entry: the formula inside the spreadsheet cell where my total distance was being calculated didn't include the first two days of the walk! Duh. So I corrected the problem, and my new distance total is 635.77 km, which makes more sense, and which also includes a couple extra kilometers walked on the very first day. The official distance of the Four Rivers Path is supposed to be 633 km. By skipping the cert centers, I'm not saving much distance at all, and by walking an extra 5 or so kilometers on Day 1, the total distance evens out to approximately the official distance. Woo-hoo!

puzzling out Day 1

Here's a map that shows there's actually a rail station close to the starting point of my walk (click to enlarge to its 1000-pixel width):

Above, you see the large information box indicating the Cheongna International City Rail Station, which is on the Gonghang Cheoldo, i.e., the Airport Rail Line. One stop away, to the east, is Geomam Station (검암역, not visible on the above map), which is a bit more than three kilometers away from the Techno Motel (also not visible above), where I'll be spending the night. So the plan is to walk out to Geomam Station as early in the morning as I can, take the train a single stop to Cheongna, then walk about 2.2 kilometers to the Gukto Jongju's starting point (the blue map pin, way over at the extreme left of the map). This is going to add a bit more than five kilometers' walking to my route for the day, but I'm not complaining: I've walked nearly 60 km in a 24-hour period, so doing 34 km or so will be nothing; if anything, it'll be a good, robust start to the walk.

Taking the train out to my starting point will save me the usual W22,000 fare I normally pay: cabbies always take a circuitous route from the path's starting point to the Techno Motel; the rail is much more direct.

Day 1 logistics: solved and sorted.

Paul Carver's maps: open-sourced for y'all!

[NB: This is less of a walk-related post and more of a side note.]

E-friend* Paul Carver (a.k.a. Daeguowl) very kindly sent me some PDFs of bike-trail maps. These maps show routes shot all throughout South Korea, including an immense route that's making me drool: taking the "U" shape of Abe Lincoln's beard when seen from the front, this giant trail goes from Incheon down the west coast to Gwangju, then across the south coast to Busan, then up the east coast to about Gangneung. It's got to be close to 2000 kilometers, and there's no way I can do the trail as long as I'm employed and have to answer to a boss. I'd basically have to quit work, set up a Patreon or GoFundMe page, then train like hell to do the longest walk of my life.

Anyway, thoughts of such a long walk are still nebulous. In the meantime, for those who read Korean, and even for those who don't (because I assume you can understand maps, whatever language they're in), I'm providing links to Paul's PDFs, here and here. Click, open the PDFs, and download them to peruse at your leisure if you want. If nothing else, you can look at the lovely pictures of the various bike paths and dream about clear air, a big sky, and friendly Korean fellow travelers—because meeting people is part of the experience, too.

Many thanks to Paul for his generosity.

*For those who don't recall or never learned this, I use the term "e-friend" to describe friendly acquaintances whom I've never met in real life but only know from online exchanges.

Monday, August 26, 2019

another piece falls into place

My Survival Tabs have arrived, although not in the form I suspected. I had thought I was going to get a large pack with tons of tablets in it, but instead, I got lots of tiny packets, each with four tablets in it:

The purpose of these tablets is merely to keep me alive during the four days of camping that I'll be doing on the trail. Each little packet contains 240 calories of energy, plus assorted nutrients like Vitamins A and C, calcium, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, folic acid, Vitamin B12, iodine, Vitamin B5, and zinc—not to mention protein, carbs, fat, etc. Above, you see only six of the eight packets I'll be taking along with me. Since I've got eight packets, I'll be eating two packets' worth of Survival Tabs every afternoon that I'm camping. This won't amount to much energy or nutrition, but it's written in the product literature that Survival Tabs are for exactly that: survival, and nothing more. In theory, I could survive walking without food (but not water) for two straight days, but that's an insane risk to take for a short walk across a small country. So the tablets are a sort of insurance, a way to keep my body going without fear of fainting or black-hole-style bodily implosions.

At some point very soon, I'm going to stuff everything into my backpack and take a shakedown cruise, a several-hour walk just to get out the kinks and see what it's like to hike with the pack on my back. My major worry is that the Gregory's chest strap, whose stupid design hasn't changed since 2008, is going to pop off after only a day or so of use. Luckily, I've still got my spare strap in case that happens. I've been tempted to nickname that strap Molasses, but thus far, I've resisted the dad-jokiness of the pun.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

backpack weight: a hopeful conjecture

In 2008, when I had no experience whatsoever with true distance walking, I overpacked my backpack, just like Reese Witherspoon's Cheryl Strayed in "Wild." This is apparently what all rookies do, so I now chalk it up to a necessary, character-building phase: people who insist on learning by making their own mistakes—instead of listening attentively to their elders—have little choice but to fuck up rather often, and that's what I did. My pack weighed an agonizing 60 pounds (27.2 kg). At the start of that 600-mile walk, I weighed around 300 pounds. Over the course of the hike, I did shed a few unnecessary items, but I mostly lost weight—around 50 pounds. That still meant that my feet were supporting nearly 300 pounds even toward the end of that walk. I'm surprised I didn't end up with worse foot problems than I did.

Fast-forward to 2017, and I've now applied many lessons learned from 2008 to the trans-Korea walk. I still ended up with a nasty blister that stayed with me the entire length of the Four Rivers Trail, but my backpack, at its heaviest, weighed only about 18 kilos (39.7 pounds), and that was only when the 3-liter hydration bladder was full. That weight went steadily down as I ate my way through my food supply. By the end, my 2017 pack weighed around half of my 2008 pack. As the proverb says: pack what you need, then chuck half.

I haven't done a dry run for this upcoming walk yet, but I'm hoping my pack will be even lighter, now that I know what I won't need to be carrying—namely, food. Taking MREs last time was a huge mistake: each MRE pack weighs in at a horrific 750 grams (1.7 pounds) or so because nothing is dehydrated. Even the dried food weighed a few ounces per pack, and the sack of Soylent that I carried with me—and never used—was a full pound (453 grams). So despite the wisdom I'd gained in 2008, my 2017 walk had its share of logistical mistakes.

This time, though, I'm going to be walking the exact same path. My feet are chronically achy these days, but they're tougher, and I think that, once I strip the pack down to the bare minimum, the weight ought to be no more than 12 kilos, even with the hydration bladder topped off. That's about the weight of a two-year-old—quite a step down from carrying an adult female Labrador retriever in 2008. There will be some extra material in the pack this time around, mainly clothing for cold weather, but that should only be a matter of ounces. And what are mere ounces compared to the pounds of supplies I won't be carrying with me?

So that's my conjecture: my pack will weigh 12 kilos or under when I finally do a dry run. I've got my brother's hand-held baggage scale with me this time, so I can take a pretty accurate reading of my encumbrance. And with my new, invulnerable leather belt in place, I'll be able to tighten the hip-belt assembly so that the pack's entire weight is resting on my sizable hips.

Did I mention how excited I am to be doing this again?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

route map

Here's an updated map that shows the route I'll be taking (same as in 2017), as well as the now-completed east-coast route that I hope one day to walk. That route's official name is the Donghaean Jajeongeo-gil (동해안 자전거길, i.e., the East Sea Coastal Bike Path, found here).

To review: my path will begin in Incheon (인천), pass through Seoul (서울), turn south to follow the South Han River (남한강), continue south along the Saejae Trail (새재길), then go for 300-some kilometers along the Nakdong River Path (낙동강길). If you look closely at the map, you'll see that the Nakdong River portion is labeled as 389 km long, but you can also see that it begins somewhat away from the Saejae Path, i.e., I don't pick up the Nakdong trail at its starting point. This is why I say "300-some kilometers."

ADDENDUM: Paul Carver (Daeguowl) writes in to tell me the above map is out of date, but for my purposes, it shows the completed east-coast trail (finished in 2017, the year of my previous trans-Korea walk), which is what matters. Paul emailed me a slew of PDF maps of all sorts of biking/walking routes, so I now have possible routes coming out of my ears—plenty to occupy me for the rest of my life in Korea, however long that might be.

mischief managed

For my upcoming hike, I've bought two new cell-phone batteries that I must now break in. I also have a small camp brush to help with cleaning up my bivy sac after a night of camping, and I've got a cheap trowel for digging cat holes (for when I need to poop at a campsite; I prefer to cover my mess up).

Regarding the question of eating nothing while camping: I've decided that it would indeed be crazy to starve myself while burning 5000-6000 calories per day, so I've once again ordered those weird little Survival Tabs so that I'll have at least some food-based energy to metabolize while I'm walking the long miles.

The weather from late September to late October is, according to, going to go from cool to downright cold at night. At the beginning of my walk, temps will be a daytime high/nighttime low of 70s/50s Fahrenheit (20s/teens Celsius); by the end of the walk, those numbers will have gone down to the 60s/40s Fahrenheit (roughly 18-ish/7-ish Celsius). Since three of my four camping days will be toward the end of my walk, I'll need to be extra careful about keeping myself warm at night—especially my feet. My sleeping bag does a good job of keeping my body warm, but there seems to be very little insulation for my feet. I used to own a pair of knitted "booties" (for lack of a better term) that provided plenty of warmth; I don't have them anymore (or they're in my self-storage unit in Virginia), so I might have to buy insulating footwear here, either at a store or via GMarket.

And that's really about it in terms of equipment and prep. I've got a revised version of my checklist; it's all ready to go. For the moment, the only real prep is my conditioning: I've begun walking the staircase route along the Yangjae Creek again; for the moment, I'm doing only five tall staircases, but I'll soon expand back out to my old routine of fourteen stairs, with the occasional super-long route comprising thirty-three staircases. In 2017, I started my walk at 126 kilograms, which is roughly where I am right now; if I can peel off a few kilos before the upcoming trek, I think that'll make life much, much easier on my back, knees, and feet.

A Korean friend of mine says he's itching to try some distance walking, so we're going out this weekend to do a five-hour trek from Yeouido to my place, then maybe we'll do a longer walk two weeks after that—possibly a segment hike somewhere along the Four Rivers path, or possibly a new-to-me segment (8-9 hours) along the Gangneung-to-Busan Gukto Jongju. Any excuse to get out and walk long.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

it has arrived!

My belt-hole puncher has arrived!

Can't wait to get home and hole up my new belt.

on batteries and clothing

If I'm not mistaken, one of my cell-phone batteries dates back to 2013, back when I purchased my current cell phone. At this point, my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, is showing its age: it's gotten finicky about which plugs it can charge with, so I find myself having to drag around my 2017-era portable power supply, which no longer recharges three full times: it can barely make two full recharges. I'm not worried about the portable charger, though; two full recharges will be enough to get me through two days in a row of camping. I am, however, thinking that I ought to replace at least one of my phone's batteries. One battery, as mentioned above, is six years old; the other is two years old and already showing rapid power drainage as I use it all day long. The older battery drains down to 10% power, then shuts the phone off: that's how old and decrepit it is. At the very least, that battery needs to be tossed and replaced.

I'm hoping that cold weather won't be an issue when it comes to battery-power drainage. I'll be starting in late September, when daytime temps will be warm, but nighttime temps might be slightly cooler. By the time I hit mid-October, night might actually be cold, and that's when I'll be doing three out of my projected four days of camping. I suppose I can just keep my power supply physically close to me as I sleep, and during my walks, if the day is cold, I can house my tech inside the chest pocket of a jacket.

That's one major difference between a spring hike and a fall hike: the need to dress in layers, which means the need to bring along extra clothing. Not tragic: I'll be taking along a poncho, my blue windbreaker from last time, and a light-but-fluffy insulating vest that was a gift from my ex-boss. Given how much stuff I won't be taking this time around (think: food, as I won't be eating when I'm camping, so yes, there will be a point where I go two days without food), the addition of the vest won't be onerous at all.

Monday, August 12, 2019

life improves

After a month of working with an insufferable temporary coworker (she'd been kicked out of her teaching position and given thirty days' notice to leave, during which time she was to work in R&D while looking for employment elsewhere), my life suddenly improved the moment she left, which was this past Friday. Over the weekend, two items I had been desperately seeking for months suddenly appeared before me, like magic, in my apartment: (1) the hand-held baggage scale that my brother David had given me last year, and (2) a mini multi-tool that is 100 g lighter than my full-size multi-tool. The scale turned out to have been hiding in plain sight on one of my bookshelves, and the multi-tool had been hiding inside the various folds of my new backpack. I had periodically searched for both of these items since at least the beginning of this year, if not before. Now, with my vile coworker gone, I was suddenly able to find these items as if they had been calling out to me. Maybe this was the cosmos's way of rewarding me for not having taken a baseball bat to my coworker's skull. Working with her did require nearly infinite forbearance. I'll write more on this later. Maybe.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

2019 Incheon-Busan Walk: the puzzle of Day 1

Just thinking out loud, here...

I'm in Seoul, but on Day 1 of my upcoming walk, I want to start in Incheon. Normally, I prefer to be out on the path before 6 a.m., but I don't see how I can do that on Day 1. If I take the subway out to Incheon Station, then take a cab from the station to the start of the Four Rivers path over at the Ara Canal West Sea Lock, I won't be starting the walk until after 7 a.m. The sun will be high in the sky by that point, even in late September.

Maybe that's the only way to do it, though. If I'm an hour or two late in my schedule, that won't be tragic: I'll still get plenty of rest at the end of Day 1, probably at my usual EG Hotel near the Gayang Bridge in western Seoul, or at one of the motels across the street from the hotel. The end of Day 2 is going to be a little weird: I'll be overnighting in my own apartment, which now becomes yet another waypoint on the road to Busan (itinerary).

So, yeah, maybe there's nothing for it. I'll simply take the 5 a.m.-ish subway out to Incheon Station, arrive around 7 a.m., take a cab from Incheon Station out to Ara Canal West Sea Lock, and begin my ramble a bit before 8. I've had late starts before; they didn't kill me.

But, wait—I just thought of another option: train out to Incheon on the Friday night before Day 1 (a Saturday) begins, stay overnight at my usual motel (the Techno), be out of the motel by 5:15 a.m., then grab a cab out to the seaside. I could easily start my Day 1 walk before 6:30 rolls around. That might actually be the better solution. Yes, indeed.

Friday, August 9, 2019

it's official!

If it weren't for some onerous circumstances at work (I'll write about that in a "frank" post soon, once A Certain Unsavory Coworker leaves our office for good), I'd be celebrating: I finally got word from the HR department that my request for my upcoming vacation has been approved. And that means...


There's so much less to prep this time around since I'm walking the same path as in 2017. I have the luxury of time, and I've already bought pretty much all the new equipment I'll be needing. I've got a nice, new Gregory backpack, which won't be loaded down nearly as much as the other pack had been two years ago; I've got my new leather belt and new walking shoes; I can use my spare trekking pole this trip. I need to review my equipment, especially my bivy sac, which I haven't taken out of its bag for two years. I hope it's not moldy and rotten. It shouldn't be; I cleaned it fairly thoroughly last time around.

I'm thinking about swearing off sodas and other sweet drinks this time around. My time in France last year, when I lost six kilos in two weeks, taught me that I could lose a lot more than the ten kilos I lost over 26 days in 2017. In France, I had Coca Cola only when I visited my friend Dominique's parents for lunch, and that was maybe twice or three times a week. True, I could work my way through most of a 1.25-liter bottle of Coke during a single lunch sitting (and Dom's folks were polite enough not to make comments about my Coke dependency), but that was it: otherwise, I was walking around the marshland or trekking out to Niort, over 40,000 steps away from Dominique's place. Eating good, homemade food also meant I was staying away from junk food, and whenever I retired to my room for the evening, I ate literally nothing (except during the first day or two of my stay, when I discovered a tin of chocolates!). It was great discipline, even if my circumstances weren't entirely of my own choosing.

So applying my France experience to the upcoming walk seems like a good idea. No soda, then. And as for fruit juice: every motel room has a mini-fridge in which you can often find a couple midget-sized cans of fruit juice and/or shitty coffee. Normally, when I reach my room, I'm so tired and parched that I don't give a fuck what I'm drinking, and those tiny cans of blessedly ice-cold liquid are the first things to die. I normally don't drink coffee, but I'll guzzle it on the trail. Upshot: aside from the meager portions of juice that I find in those mini-fridges, no juice for me, either. No soda, no juice—just tea and water. I have a feeling I'm going to regret this commitment, but there's no doubt it'll make life interesting. And who knows: maybe I'll get used to not downing my favorite drinks while I'm crossing the country.

So those are some pre-walk thoughts. I might feel more celebratory when the weekend rolls around, but for now, it feels good to know I'm good to go. I still have a ton of pot-pie filling, so maybe I'll make some more pie crust and bake up some dang pie. That reminds me: I also want to make some Jamaican beef patties. That might be another weekend project.

Monday, August 5, 2019

the mileage doesn't quite work out, but...

I'm thinking that, since I'll have thirty calendar days to do this upcoming walk, I might as well do it properly, i.e., starting from Incheon. According to the milestone at Incheon (see this post and scroll down a bit), the total length of the Four Rivers trail is 632.945 km. I just finished working out, leg by leg, what a true Incheon-to Busan walk would entail, and the distance I arrived at was 571.32 km. That's a 61.625-km difference in measurement. It could be that, because I plotted my route, this time, from lodging to lodging instead of from cert center to cert center, some kilometers got shaved off along the way. That still doesn't explain why there's such a huge difference in total mileage, though. It could be that something, somewhere, got mis-measured and/or miscalculated. I'll keep checking.