2.143 Smoked Duck with Buchu and Perilla Leaves

-Cycle 2, Dinner 143-
28 (Sat) May 2011

Smoked Duck with Buchu and Perilla Leaves
in Onion-Wasabi Dressing

* * * * *

from some duck restaurant

at an undisclosed location

-Seonjaryeong, Gangwon-

with Cho JH, Kim KH, Lee HS, MtG, Yun YH, and Wife

Exactly 365 days ago, on a trip organized by Backcountry Camping to this same mountain range, MtG and I first met Jinhee and Kiho and Hosup and Yeonhee. From the mouth-watering food at the campsite (see 1.144 Barbecued Yang-Nyeom Galbi-Sal) to the awe-inspiring trek on the following afternoon through the colossal windmill forest along the verdant hills of the region, we shared an unforgettable experience that would propel us toward becoming the closest of friends, along with Ictaek (which is another story altogether), in the shortest of intervals. During the past year, I had dinner with at least 1 member of this group (not including MtG) on 57 occasions, and another dozen or so meetings after dinner for drinks; the number of get-togethers without me among the other members, who all live/work in the same vicinity and don't have families, is probably at least as many; thus, on average, we have met once every three days. And no, we're not quite yet sick of each other.

From left: Jinhee, Yeonhee, me, MtG, Kiho, Wife
[all photos below courtesy of Lee Hosup]

Seonjaryeong (선자령) is a strictly regulated national preserve, where any activity beyond walking along the established trails is prohibited by law and punishable by fine of up to 500,000 won. Even smoking and eating are technically illegal. Last year, we had slept at an estabished campsite located at the base of the mountain and trekked through the course with daypacks the next day.

From the midpoint observation deck, a view of the East Sea (obscured by fog).

On the first anniversary of that trip, we returned to the scene with a plan to make the sequel a bit bolder. This time, we decided to carry our gear into the mountains, find a secluded spot somewhere in the woods, and spend the night in true backcountry fashion.

From left: Kiho, Jinhee, Me, Wife, Hosup, Yeonhee

My wife, who is not a core member of the group, surprised everyone by agreeing to join us on the trip. While she is by now a semi-seasoned car camper, the most difficult outdoor challenge that she had faced to this point was camping without electricity. She had never been mountain climbing or even trekking. And she certainly had never strapped on a backpack larger or heavier than the one she used to carry books in high school. But she came through like a star, never once wavering, never once flagging, never once complaining.

As with last year, the hike up the mountain was spectacular, though somewhat obscured by fog. At the top, the range levels off into a rolling green plateau studded with windmills that generate energy from the ocean winds coming in from the East Sea about 10 kilometers away. In addition to the visual impact of the windmills, the audial and physical sensation of walking under them as they rotate and swoosh overhead is exhilarating.

In the woods, without the collective lights of civilization,
darkness after sunset is immediate and absolute.

The reality of camping far the beaten path poses several practical problems. Water, or lack thereof, is the most serious concern, especially for Koreans who need a lot of it to cook broth-based foods (e.g., ramyeon) and to rehydrate after a long night of boozing. Fortunately, our site was located near a stream, and we had packed a purifier. Another thing is that forest floors tend to be littered with rocks and tree branches and weeds and thorns and mud and all kinds of nature's crap, none of which makes for a pleasant sleeping surface, even with a mattress. And on a mountain, there's also the incline. Fortunately, we found a clearing in the forest that was relatively even and suspiciously free of debris, making us wonder what lay beneath the surface. Insects and other pests can also be a problem in dense vegetation. Fortunately, it was still too cold for mosquitoes, and everything else seemed content to leave us alone. Then again, Yeonhee would tell us the next morning that she didn't sleep a wink after hearing us talk about racoons and snakes and boars and ax murderers and aliens.

In commemoration of last year, Yeonhee reprised her galbi.

All in all, it was the greatest camping experience that I've ever had.

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