After non-denominational church at the school on Sunday, we took the subway out five stops in a new direction toward Dobongsan. We crossed the busy street and headed “up” and into Bukhansan National Park, which offers a myriad of well-maintained hiking trails.

But first—when you exit the subway, there’s about half a mile of paved street, leading up and up the hill, which is 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 looks like you’ve stumbled into the middle one continuous outdoor REI Sporting Goods Store! There are neon colored jackets, pants, gloves, hats, walking sticks, backpacks, fanny packs, socks and tennis shoes! And all this is intermittently interjected with 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 overdone pigeon.

Again, my visual sensors were on overdrive. Masses of Koreans wore hot fluorescent conflicting colors my mother would NEVER have let me out of the house wearing! Wild geometric designs—and nothing matched! And there were literally THOUSANDS of these walking stick-wielding fashionistas! Oh my!!

(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.)

We headed off into “the mountains” and there were some rather severe inclines and declines, my knee was giving me fits, but I was determined to keep going. It was 86 degrees, but a soft breeze and 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!

Before we finished the loop back around to our starting point, we encountered two more temple/shrines, smaller than the first, and not as ornate, but definitely a delight to see.

Despite the fact that I normally would not choose hiking as a Sunday afternoon activity, I was certainly well-rewarded for my efforts this day.