I finally decided to pare down my nearly 150 photos to a mere 48. Apologies if this gets boring by the end, but this is my humble attempt to give you an impression of what my creekside walks are like. This particular walk, done on Saturday, April 23, took me a few hours as I tried to find out what lay at the eastern end of the path. You'll notice the change in lighting as the sequence of images moves from day to night. Some of the under-the-bridge photos might look creepy, but this is Korea, where there's rarely a reason to feel unsafe. I never once felt insecure at any point during this walk.
Without further ado, then—
This first picture, below, is of a staircase that's close to Yeongdong Bridge 6 (영동6교), where I normally begin my creekside walks. On my "normal" walks, I rarely go past Bridge 3, but on this walk, I went all the way past Bridge 1. I call this particular staircase "the pebble steps" because of the pebbles set into the concrete.
Next: one of many arched bridges spanning the Yangjae-cheon.
Very often, there's something going on underneath the large bridges, many of which have bleachers and a performance space. In the photo below, a band is setting up. My experience thus far leads me to believe that, in most cases, these performers don't market themselves all that well, so the audience size tends to be small. As I previously blogged, though, it's not just music groups: there are evening aerobic dance classes, too.
Another under-the-bridge shot across the creek:
Another staircase. Most of the staircases are made of wood, like this one. Unfortunately, many of the steps groan under my weight, so I'm always cautious as I navigate each stair. (Note, too, the sign for the restroom. Only two such facilities exist on the north side of the creek.)
The creek can be crossed at many different points by walking across huge, carved stones like these, which are spaced apart to prevent damming.
At the point where I normally begin my walk, the meter marking says "1000 m." By the time I get to about the 2200-meter mark, I've reached the manmade tadpole ponds, and this is the sign that greets me:
Until just a couple days ago, the ponds were swarming with armies of tadpoles. It looked a lot like the ravening "squiddies" from "The Matrix Revolutions": clouds of tadpoles would move with slow deliberateness across the bottoms of the ponds. I hadn't realized just how social tadpoles could be until I saw this for myself. Here's some video that I took that day. Watch the tadpoles wriggle like giant, fatheaded spermatozoa.
This next pic shows one of the several spots where the path splits off, allowing a walker or biker to get back to street level without using the stairs. I think of these splits as a sort of "road not taken":
The tadpole ponds sit across the way from the first major cluster of high-rise apartments along this part of the walk. This is at about the 2400-meter mark:
The walk naturally brings certain travel companions, like this strutting ggachi (magpie):
This next pic, below, is of the Yangjae-cheon Footbridge—what the French would call une passerelle. This is normally where I stop and turn around; the footbridge is at about the 3300-meter mark. On this day, however, I pressed on because I was curious to know where this path might end, especially with mountains ahead.
Finally, a photo of one of the two rest facilities on the north side of the creek:
Another travel companion:
If I'm not mistaken, this next pic is of Yeongdong Bridge 2. I omitted many pictures of the other bridges because I thought they might get repetitive. At this point, we're nearing the end of the well-traveled path. Things will start to become a bit... esoteric... soon enough.
But we're not done with the standard path yet—not by a long shot. Here, you see I've got to walk a long, straight shot:
One of many sunflower-shaped solar collectors along this part of the path:
Then there was this dignified-looking fellow, who seemed unafraid of me:
Another staircase. Traveling east means going ever so slightly uphill, so the staircases get shorter the farther east you go. Close to where I normally begin my walk, the staircases have almost 70 steps; at this point, they're down to around 50 steps.
Too bad we're not allowed to play in this part of the creek:
Sunflower-shaped solar-powered lamps:
Next up is something of a threshold moment: Yeongdong Bridge 1. This is where the path starts to go wonky. You can keep following the water, but the creek now has a different name, as you'll see momentarily. The path itself becomes rougher, and while it's still bike-able, the roughness doubtless keeps away the skateboarders and rollerbladers.
Here's a better look at Bridge 1:
The artwork here made me feel as if I were in America or Europe:
And now, a sign indicating the distance of Cheonggye-san, the nearby mountain toward which I've apparently been heading this entire time. 3.3 km is about two miles, which isn't that far away. As you've noticed by now, though, the light is fading, and evening has arrived. Street lights have started to come on. This is the twilight zone.
Note, too, that I seem to have a choice as to whether to follow the creek on its (presumably) north side or its south side. As I found out, only the south-side path was available: I tried walking the north first, but had to backtrack and take the south-side path.
After backtracking, now on the creek's south side:
I had to take a shot of this because it looked so sad and lame—an attempt to add some "nature" to the surroundings, to make a sewer seem like a mountain stream:
Here at last, we see the new name of the watercourse: the Yeoeui-cheon (여의천).
The walk continues. The sky is distinctly darker now, and little, eldritch fairy lights illuminate the edges of my path, along with lanky overhanging lamps.
Here is a pic of the first of several under-the-bridge sections of my walk. I passed an occasional biker; there were almost no fellow walkers at this point on the trail.
The walk continues: a bit of open sky before I'm under concrete again:
One landmark for those of you trying to follow this walk on Google Maps: the Hyundai and Kia Motors buildings, standing side by side:
Once again, the underworld:
When I think about this trail in its entirety, I'm impressed by how much its character varies from section to section. Hard to get bored.
The sky is even darker now. The path is black asphalt—bumpy and unfriendly to those not walking or on bikes. At this point, I had no idea how much farther the path might go, but as it turned out, I wasn't too far from the trail's end.
Evening slides into night. I've skipped past a lot of the photos I took so as to move this narrative along. At this point, it occurs to me that, in reality, I'm only halfway done with my walk because I will soon have to turn around and walk all the way back.
Cheonggye-san teases me. It's now 1.7 km away, according to this marking, but I've obviously walked a lot more than 1.6 km from that bridge sign (see above) to reach this point.
Time and distance both seem to be moving weirdly now; we're in some weird, interstitial dimension, like a forest in one of Stephen King's short stories.
At least the path is well lit.
Well... it's lit up to a point. Dark enough for ya'?
Ah, the ubiquitous neon cross—tacky sign and symbol of Korean Christianity. I don't know it yet, but my route is about to reach its end. I can't go left past the church if I plan to keep walking toward the mountain, so I go right:
Below: the path after I break right.
This is a road, now; the walking/biking path has effectively ended.
Up ahead: the end of the line. That T-intersection marks the last of the path. I'm basically on something like a residential street, heading toward a main street. I can't see the mountain in the night, but I assume I'm near its foot.
At the T-intersection, looking left:
The restaurant that sits at the intersection:
A final peek down at the watercourse that I've followed from my neighborhood. I could keep on going, I suppose, but following the stream and following the walking path are no longer the same thing at this point, so I conclude that the time has come to turn around and march back to my apartment.
Walking back, I take this shot of the church with the neon cross. It's called the Sae Saengmyeong Church, i.e., the New Life Church. With a name like that, it's obviously Protestant.
Hours later, I'm almost home. Remember how the walk started close to Yeongdong Bridge 6 and went past Bridge 1? This final photo shows the marker for Bridge 6.
...and that's that. If I remember correctly, the walk really wasn't one of my longer treks, by Namsan-walk standards: the step count came out to around 21K steps. Still, it was great to explore the trail to its very end. At some point, I'm going to do the same going westward, although I'm pretty sure that the westward path is going to end at the Han River because the Yangjae-cheon is a tributary.
Hope this photo essay wasn't too much of a snoozer.