Monday, October 7, 2019

Day 10, Leg 8

Something had been nagging me about my itinerary's calendar, and today, I finally figured out what the problem was: in the spreadsheet's "date" column, I had somehow skipped from October 10 to October 12. This is why my "day number" column was only showing 27 days, not 28.

While such a clerical error pisses me off, this works to my advantage because, Dear Reader, I now have an extra day to play with. So I'm using that extra day to spend another 24 hours here at Baek Un Park Yeogwan in Chungju City. This will give me time to rest and figure out my next few moves, and I'll be able to eat lunch at a decent hour today, without feeling either rushed or exhausted. As a bonus, by spending an extra day here, I have now validated my tee shirt's claim that the walk will take 28 days!

You can't imagine how ecstatic I was when I realized I could eat lunch at noon instead of in the mid-afternoon (i.e., when lunch is basically dinner). Life on the trail reduces itself to the simple things, like filling your belly when your belly wants to be filled.

And that's another reason to do long walks like this: it's a way to come back to one's primordial priorities, to reorient one's off-kilter life and re-experience basic joys as well as basic sorrows. The sorrows are good because they, too, help you regain a proper perspective.

Take hills, for example. Hills can play with your head: you think you've finally topped a rise, but when you round the bend, you see that there's yet more hill waiting for you. You get frustrated and discouraged, but this is all a function of your expectations, which don't correspond with reality. So little by little, with each successive hill, you begin to train your mind to accept each rise, and to wait humbly for the hill to reveal its own plans for you in its own time. You stop expecting, and in so stopping, you stop feeling frustrated. Instead, you have faith that the path you're on will run its proper course and guide you to a good end. Accept every hill. There's a life-lesson in that.

So those are some of the thoughts I'm thinking as I lie in bed, typing away on my phone, waiting for the arrival of the lunch hour. It's raining outside, but the forecast is for a string of nice days after the current nastiness blows over. I feel a bit as if I'm cheating by sitting out the opportunity to walk in the rain, but in all honesty, I'd rather be warm and dry and philosophizing than out in the shit right now. Wouldn't you?

ADDENDUM: yesterday, toward the end of my walk, a guy suddenly stopped his bike as he was passing me, and after quizzing me about my trek, he asked to take a picture with me. He ended up taking one pic of me and one selfie with both of us in the photo. My legend continues to spread. Someday, after I'm long dead, Koreans will speak in whispers about the ghost they occasionally see along the Four Rivers bike path: a large, fat man with a backpack, trudging from nowhere to nowhere, aglow with moonlight despite there being no moon, his ectoplasmic trekking pole tapping the ground as he passes silently by.

That would be a good death. Good enough.

ADDENDUM 2: I just realized that my current stopping point represents the approximate one-third mark on my journey: about 210 km. By the end of tomorrow, I'll have arrived at the beginning of the Saejae portion of the trail: so long, Han River! Now that I've been through the Saejae path, I know it's not the monster that everyone warned about. "Ooh, but it passes through the Baekdu Daegan mountain range!" the pearl-clutchers squawked. Yeah, it does, but it has only maybe two major, ass-kicking ascents, and I was able to trudge up the worse of the two without stopping, so I can't say I'm worried this time around. Still, it's true that things will get a bit more difficult overall from here, and conditions won't smooth out until I'm pretty far along the Nakdong River portion of the trek. Stay tuned.


  1. There you go, a nice little windfall. Well-earned and well-deserved.

    I hear what you say and understand what you mean by "accept every hill." But it is okay to still bitch, moan, and curse under your breath until the summit is achieved, right?

    Enjoy your day of leisure and noon-time lunch!

  2. Sure. I bitch and moan all the time.

  3. Buddhist meditations from the trail. Nice.