September 21, 2015

Take a (Korean) Hike

Guest post by Jan Bono

Crabby is still in blog-slacking mode; she swears she is working hard on her novel-in-progress, though with her obsessive tendency to rewrite, and the distractions and demands of even her easy life, the pages do not seem to be piling up very fast. But be assured she is having fun, and continuing to plod along, and she will eventually complete the damn thing--which she will then try to wheedle you all into reading. Gosh, how you must be looking forward to THAT fine day! 

However, even with Crabby gone AWOL so much, Cranky Fitness simply will not die. Crabby is very grateful for the help of guest contributors to keep things going until Crabby gets her act together better as a blogger. So this week Cranky Fitness contributor Jan Bono is up to bat again, with another tale of her far-flung fitness adventures.  Jan is author of Back from Obesity: My 252-pound Weight-Loss Journey”and you can get it in print or as an ebook on Jan's smashwords page) --Crabby.

My American friends living in Korea are avid hikers. And so, apparently, are the vast majority of native Koreans. Naturally, during my visit in June to this lovely country, I joined right in, although hiking the hills of Korea to stay fit had never crossed my mind when I packed for my trip!

Our first Sunday in Seoul, Don and Chris, both 60, Don’s mother Miriam, 82, and I, just a week short of 61, took the subway out five stops from the Hagye station toward Dobongsan. We were headed for Bukhansan National Park, which offers a myriad of well-maintained hiking trails.

Notice that both Dobongsan and Bukhansan end in “San.” In Korean, “San” means “Mountain,” although these landforms seemed more like foothills to someone like me, raised in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Nevertheless, these “towering hills” looked exactly like the hills in the opening credits of the TV show M.A.S.H. (So much so, I found myself occasionally humming the theme song, much to the chagrin of my hosts. How weird my mind works!)

We exited the subway, crossed a very busy street, and started a rather steep ascent along about half a mile of paved road. We wound up and up a hill inundated with sporting goods of every type piled high on tables in small market booth tents and/or stalls crammed on both sides of the street.

For all the world, it looked like we’d stumbled into the middle of one continuous outdoor REI Sporting Goods Store! There were neon-colored jackets, pants, gloves, hats, walking sticks, backpacks, fanny packs, socks and tennis shoes!

Don, Chris, and Miriam already wore backpacks and sturdy hiking shoes, but before we got to the trails’ headway, Miriam bought a safari-like hat and an aluminum walking stick to help her balance on the uneven terrain to come.

But I was the odd-woman out—definitely looking like the unprepared American tourist I was.

Intermittently interjected between all this blindingly bright commercialism were food stalls, primarily selling gross-me-out-seafood like eel, anemone, sea slug, smoked and reconstituted hake, octopus, squid and lots more, including what might have been hopelessly overcooked smoked pigeon.

My visual sensors went into some gear well beyond overdrive. Masses of Koreans wore layers of hot fluorescent conflicting colors and wild geometric designs. There were literally THOUSANDS of these walking stick-wielding fashionistas! Oh my!!

(Note: Near the top of the shopping area, we stopped for take-out coffee, and I got a sweet potato latte. Delicious, and I’m pretty sure it qualifies as a health food.)

Emerging from “Western Capitalism-at-its-finest Mall,” we headed off into “the mountains.” The paths were well maintained, but there were some rather tricky and severe inclines and declines covered with loose gravel. My knees gave me fits, my friends asked numerous times if I wanted to turn back, but I was determined to keep on truckin’.

It was 86 degrees that day, but a soft breeze and plenty of shade trees kept us from feeling the heat.

For a quarter mile or we climbed in relative silence beneath a canopy of beautiful deciduous leaves arching above us.

Then surprise! the trail widened slightly and there, tucked into a small picturesque valley/meadow was a gorgeous Shinto Shrine—definitely a photo op! I took lots of pictures, grateful for the brief rest I got while snapping them, and then we happily headed back out along the trail.

I suspect my friends took it easy on me, the tenderfoot of the group, even though I told them at the onset I wanted no special treatment. Even Miriam, 21 years my senior, was apparently in lots better shape than I was, and it was a little embarrassing, to say the least. Before we finished the loop back around to our starting point, we encountered two more temple/shrines nestled into the woods, both smaller than the first, and not quite as ornate, but definitely a delight to see.

We completed the “easier loop” in a couple hours, and if my kilometer to miles conversion math is correct, we covered less than three miles on the wooded trails, which sure seemed like a lot more. For my friends, it was just “a Sunday walk in the park.” I was just happy our efforts were liberally interspersed with numerous stops to gawk at both the natural beauty and the shrines, along with “hydration breaks,” which was code for me sucking down water like there’s no tomorrow.

Now despite the fact that I normally would not choose hiking as a Sunday afternoon fitness activity, I was certainly well-rewarded for my efforts this day, confident that I burned off that luscious sweet potato latté in the process, and then some.

But don’t think I’m going to go right out and buy the appropriate wardrobe to do more hiking. At least, I'm not sure I'm bold enough to wear the hiking wardrobe apparently the norm in Korea!


  1. The pictures are lovely, Jan! Sounds like a great hike and I am glad you made it. I am not a shopper, but all those bright colours might have enticed me to purchase at least a hat.

    1. Yes, Kimberley, I am also attracted by bright colors! I think I must have been a magpie in a former life!

  2. Lovely. Actually, they have the right idea with all that color...easier to spot you if you are lost. :)

    1. LOL! I was on color overload, and afraid that everyone looked just alike in all that neon!

  3. What a fun adventure! If i ever get to South Korea, i'll have to bring hiking boots.

  4. I am so jealous. Not of hiking in Korea, though that would be nice, but of feet that aren't painful. Since I've been to the orthopedist and have been using padding on my bad foot, getting through the day at work has been easier, but walking for pleasure is still not attractive. Walking is My Favorite Exercise! [whine]Not fair![/whine]
    Mary Anne in Kentucky


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