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Climbing the Eorimok Trail

3 December 2008 One Comment

Making mountainous metaphors
Story and photos by Jessica Wallace

Near the top of the trailYeongsil was the first trail I climbed. That is, the first trail I climbed on any mountain, ever. I’m from the Canadian prairies – we’re not big on mountains.

I picked Yeongsil because it came highly recommended over Eorimok, boasting valleys to shout into and a view of the city stretching to the ocean, while Eorimok was mostly hidden by forest.
At this point, I’m halfway through my first teaching contract, and I’ve climbed each of these shorter trails a few times. I’m here to officially cast my vote for the underdog.

I prefer Eorimok.

After much careful consideration, I’ve decided it’s the love of a good metaphor that won me over. To explain, I must firstly make a confession. For me to work the same job for an entire year has been almost beyond comprehension until now. My issue here is not with the actual job, it’s with the fact that, even if I want to, I…can’t….quit.

Starting out

And so begins a morning hike up Eorimok. The forest itself is beautiful, especially with leaves in varying stages of decomposition layering the pathway. I often forget the beauty, though, instead focusing on the steep, forever-ascending staircase and the way every muscle fiber in my body resists me.

There isn’t much talking in the forest, despite the large weekend crowds. Just communal labored breath. I pass a map, showing the tiny distance I’ve traveled in relation to effort exerted. When groups behind me pause to look, I can’t help smiling at the mixture of laughter and pitiful groaning between words I don’t understand. We’re in this together.

But then, just as my lungs feel about to burst, as I’m debating a long nap on a rock beside the stairs, it happens.

The forest is gone.

The final stages

It’s as if the phrase “out of the woods” was inspired by the Eorimok trail. On one Saturday morning, a large group of university students was waiting at this point for their stragglers. I was met with cheers, meant for the people walking behind me, of course, but I accepted them anyway. The hard part was over.

And now, I have passed the halfway point in my teaching contract. It’s been a long six months, but, even though I didn’t hear any cheers as I moved into the second half, I feel different. I feel like I’ve already accomplished something.

I’m halfway there. The second half of Eorimok is out in the fresh, mountain air – a gradual slope, more suitable for conversation and celebration. Yes, I have to watch my ankles on the rocky path, and yes, it’s still climbing a mountain, but soon I can see the top. It’s close. So close I can taste the chocolate bar in my backpack.

I vote for Eorimok because it brings two immense rushes of satisfaction, and for me, it breaks the lesson in commitment into two easier to handle pieces. Well, the first part is admittedly difficult. But hey, it’s over – and there’s a contract to complete.

Eorimok Trail

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