The balmy weather continues and I hope it hangs in there a while yet, for reasons you’ll learn soon.
Also going strong is my streak of UNMITIGATED IDLENESS at work: in four days this week I have done absolutely nothing related to teaching, except to back up my co-teachers in a telephone dispute with a disgruntled parent who insisted that The bike looks well was perfectly acceptable English and that his son therefore deserved one more valuable point in the midterm test.
Man, that was quite a sentence. I’ll just take a deep breath before proceeding…
Yesterday as usual I wandered off at lunchtime and rambled over half of Jangyu. I went to a famed clothing outlet complex, entered and exited three or four outdoor-clothing stores in approximately 45 seconds, and concluded that I didn’t need a thing, especially in purple, orange, pink or red.
I’d had three lattes yesterday, my limit if I am to enjoy some sleep and a lack of heart attacks; suddenly the youngster at 7 Gram Cafe appeared at my side with a fresh cup, announcing that it was “service” (Konglish for on the house). I drank half out of politeness (there was a perfect heart engraved in milk froth; I suspect he likes me)…
..and ran queasily halfway up the forested flank of Pointyhead, the nearby mountain…
..until a cold sweat and rabies-like jitters overwhelmed me and I retreated to the supermarket for a shrimp burger, a strawberry Tornado and supplies for my forthcoming adventure.
I’m good now, but to quote Warren Zevon, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
So…adventure, you ask? Well, as you might have guessed from my title, I’m going back to Sokcho, this time by bus. It’s almost Chuseok, the traditional Korean mid-Autumn festival, and counting this weekend I’ll have five days of freedom. Honestly, the paid holidays that come with this job are sensational. But I have been working hard.
Koreans often describe Chuseok as “Korean Thanksgiving” but I think that’s a stretch given the very specific historical context of the American version. It’s more like the harvest festivals found in numerous cultures. Over here it takes the form of a return to home towns that apparently reduces the entire nation to gridlock, ceremonies to honour ancestors, visits to graves, special food, dances and so on.
Lately I’ve encountered lots of maintenance parties in the hills and forests, wielding weed-trimmers and scythes at ancient grave mounds. Here’a a freshly mown one on Pointyhead yesterday:
It’s going to be a great trip, if the crowds don’t kill too much of the fun. I’m spending Saturday in Sokcho, the town in which, you’ll remember from my Goat Killer Trail saga, I lingered for 20 long minutes after spending a dozen gruelling days walking there.
Next morning I’m getting another bus the short distance inland to…Soerak-San National Park. Yes! At last! Biggest national park in the land, setting for the third-highest mountain, and famed for, among other things, its rugged outcrops…
..as well as remote temples, waterfalls, and gorgeous Autumn colour.
The trees won’t be peaking when I’m there, but should be well underway. I’ll be spending two nights in the park, probably stealthing, since the one campground would have been booked out long ago. There are hotel clusters in the area but I’ll try my luck in the woods. There are also two or three shelters used on a first-come basis; we’ll see.
My goal is to explore both Inner and Outer Soerak-San on Sunday and Monday, and get a bus back to town on Tuesday afternoon, stay the night there and head homeward on Wednesday, giving myself a long day to allow for traffic. It should be an outdoor-photographer’s dream up there — it should also be quite chilly, so I’ll be taking bag, tarp, etc this time.
I don’t know if there’ll be phone reception, but if so I aim to send a couple of short iPhone posts from the hills. I’m really excited about heading back up the coast I know so intimately and seeing at last this fabled part of the country.
Here’s part of my rations:
Fresh bread, bakery items and more fruit will complete the larder. There’s no cooking allowed in the park, and anyway I’m increasingly enjoying no-cook camping.
I know what you’re thinking: yes, I will definitely need more Snickers…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote