Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Urban Camping

Camping in the middle of a megacity - a city of more than 10 million people. Impossible? Not at all. Not when that city is Seoul. If you look at the geography of Seoul, you'll see it is bordered by 8 different mountains. This allows Korean folk to get their hiking fix in between their hellishly long hours - be it working, studying, or keeping house.

If you think the last one doesn't involve hellishly long hours, you'd be wrong. Things get dirty here quick! Living here is like living on a dirt road in a house with open windows. You sweep, dust, mop, and wash windows one day - and the next you have to do it all over again. I sometimes contemplate hiring a maid (as my co-workers do) to keep our apartment sparkling clean. However, we're too cheap for that.

But yes, you can go camping in the middle of Seoul. I read about it on the internet. There were no pictures or maps - just one small reference to "campground #5" somewhere near Seoul National University. So, I convinced Jason, Fritz, and Nathan that I knew of a campground on Gwanaksan. Since it was peak season for autumn colors, we decided to try it out.

After a longer than anticipated hike from the subway station, we found the (a) trailhead. We kept our eyes peeled for any signs that would show us the way. Unfortunately, the only signs we came across were 'No Camping' and 'No Fires' signs. Undeterred, we hiked on. After 45 minutes or so on the trail, we began to ask other hikers where the campground was. While I may not know much Korean, I was positive that no one we spoke to knew of campground #5. The laughter, the crossing of arms into an X, and the words "no camping" weren't too hard to interpret. "No worries" I said to the guys, "Koreans aren't really into camping".

After another 20 minutes of hiking, Jason and Fritz left the trail to explore a clearing which turned out to be campground #5. Unfortunately, the campground was surrounded by razor wire and the camp pads were overgrown by about 5 years worth of grasses and such. Apparently the 'No Camping' signs were for real. Jason has never been one to be deterred by trespassing, so he led us back into a creek bed that was hidden from the main trail.

So, we set up our tents, made a fire, and commenced to camp. I'll admit my heart quickened a few times when we heard sirens, and I was quite preoccupied by errant sparks, but it was a good time. I'm not sure the guys will trust me the next time I come up with an idea though. My last one was a hike around a "beautiful lake" which we did on a cold, gray, rainy day. The "beautiful lake" part wasn't quite so beautiful either as there was a freeway overpass right above it. Oh well, I'm sure I'll keep trying.

The hike from the subway station - I have no idea what was so dangerous about this road. It looked fine to me.

Colors on Gwanaksan.

Nathan and I waiting while Jason and Fritz explored the clearing.

Jason and I slept in Fritz's tent.

While Nathan enthusiastically slept in his own.

Group shot with my pretty bag in the foreground.

We took the easy way out and jumped on a bus for the return trip to the subway station.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why - oh - ming

When people ask, as they do often in Korea, where I'm from, I usually pause for a moment to consider my options. Do I say Iowa, which is where I was born? Do I say Arizona, the place I lived the longest? Do I say Minnesota, the last place I lived in the states? Do I say Wyoming, where the bulk of my family lives?

After the pause, I choose one place or another and give a short caveat.

"I was born in Iowa."

"The last place I lived was Minnesota."

"My family lives in Wyoming."

"I went to school in Arizona."

The Wyoming answer always gets a similar response.

"Ah! Hello! How are you?"

"Good. Thank you."

"Where are you from?"

"I'm from the United States."


"Ah no, actually my family lives in Wyoming."

"Miami! Oh nice! Very beautiful!"

"No, not Miami. Wyoming."


"Why - oh - ming."

"Wah - oh - me."

"Yes, Wyoming."

"Where is this?"

"Do you know Colorado?"


"It's the state just north of Colorado. Do you know Yellowstone National Park?"


"Well, it's a beautiful place."

"Ah, good."

However, there are some people I've met in Korea that have actually been to Yellowstone...and boy do they want to talk about it. Kenji, a Japanese man who works at Hansei, went there 10 years ago. He loved it. Every time we talk, he finds a way to bring it up so he can relate his experiences to me. After two years of this, I find myself very busy whenever he walks into a room.

Thinking about this now, I realize that I more often say, "Wyoming" now when I answer that question. I guess it's the whole family thing. As much as I love Flagstaff, I haven't been there in too many years to count. And Minnesota...where a group of wonderful friends are, doesn't seem like home anymore. So, Wyoming it is.

During my visit there this summer, I missed my older nieces. They live in California and we didn't coordinate our vacations. So, I spent the summer playing aunt to my sisters' kids. They span in age from two and a half to eight...and they are lovely. I used to be worried that I would be that strange woman who came to town once in a while and brought presents that were too young for them. Thankfully, our jobs over here allow us to spend a great deal of time in Wyoming in the summer. This means that I have the pleasure of getting to know the little ones and hone my aunty skills for a least one month out of the year. I love it!

Abby didn't waste any time, she started picking on Jason as soon as we got off the plane.

Luckily the Frog Pond was saved from demolition and we were able to take the kids swimming a few times over the summer.

My sister Theresa has a fondness for bowling so we usually stop by the bowling alley once a season.

The kids are cheaters...they used this little contraption. I think I'll use it next time. I tied for the lowest score in both of the games we played.

Dad, Theresa, and Chad

Jaime and Jason chatting it up.

After a few turns with the bowling ball, the kids decided they liked the arcade games better.

Grandma helping the kids pick out balls.

I helped out with Violet and Amelia's Vacation Bible School class this summer. Aren't they cuties!

We camped in the same campground as last summer, but we were missing my parents and the Wollschlagers this year.

Ben and Abby playing in the dirt.

Shoshone River

Reinker Crew

On our hike Amelia got a bit tired, so she convinced everyone to carry her at different times. Not hard to do when you're that cute.

Mike doing what he loves best.


On our way back from camping we ran across this little guy.

I think he was trying to cross the highway, but the crowd of onlookers made him shy and he stayed where he was.

Park County Fair Demolition Derby

My little sister Theresa participated in this a few years ago. Thankfully she's stayed out of it the last few years.

They have a regular derby, a women's derby, and a small car derby. I believe this was the regular round.

As you can see, it's draws quite a crowd.

Storm's coming!

The Wild West Balloon Fest is held in Cody in early August. We didn't have to go any farther than my parent's back porch to enjoy the spectacle.

One guy seemed to have some problems and barely made it over the rooftop of their neighbor's home.

The Wollschlager's welcomed a new addition to their family this year. Meet Lulu.

I can't believe how old the kids are getting. Ava and Ben started kindergarten this year.

Jason and I took a drive up to Pahaska Teepee and came across a moose. Though we usually see one each summer, they're still a treat.

He didn't seem intimidated at all by the numerous onlookers taking photos of him eating dinner.

We took a second camping trip in WY this summer and the Lamascus family joined us.

Amelia and Jessica's youngest daughter, Layla played well together.

Two little tow-heads...Abby and Melody.

I'm pretty sure Ben just got caught on the wrong side of the fence.