Retracing footsteps: Bukhansan through Naver

Most people who know both of us know that my friend Andre and I met on a mountain in Korea. Two Minnesotans (and our significant others) who connected on twitter and decided a hike up one of the South Korea’s most famous peaks, Bukansan, would be a good place to meet for the first time. (Plug: Andre is about to tell a great story about the earliest days he spent in Korea, if you live in DC, you should be there.)

I was poking around on Naver Maps (Korea’s version of Google Maps) recently and discovered some neat things about Naver Maps. The first is that they have an “air view” feature which is a 360º aerial of different locations around the country. These appear to be taken from some kind of aircraft and so have a slightly more detailed view of the ground than satellite imagery would. Here is a shot of the newly opened George Mason campus in Incheon while it was still under construction. And here is another of our old neighborhood in Ilsan. After poking around a bit on there and eventually finding a great shot of Bukhansan, I decided to turn on Naver’s street view and see how close I could get to the trail head and it turns out you can get all the way to the peak and then follow the street view photos all the way down the mountain allowing me to retrace nearly the entire hike we did back in 2009.
<!–more–>

On one hand this is super cool. I even found the little restaurant we ate at on the trail once where our table was a grill placed on a rock in the middle of the river, the spot where we were offered shots of soju as recovery beverages, and the trepidatious steps we had to climb to get ourselves, finally, to the peak. But it does force you to ask why we should have photographic documentation of a trail like that.

Will there be people, for example, who skip a trip to Korea because they believe that clicking through a street view map is just as good as climbing the real thing? Maybe but things like this make me curious. After reading a New York Times article about the impossibly tough living conditions in Svålbard, Norway I checked out the Google Street View, which in Longyearbyen might as well be called Snow Mobile Trail View. I hope I’m not the only one who discovers there is street view in a place like that and make an instant commitment to find out what it’s like to live there, meet the people who walk (er, snowshoe) those roads every day, and learn about the work they do. Plus, it’s undeniably cool that Naver and Google are putting energy into a task as insane as mapping in photographs all the worlds roads, trails, and byways.

Minnesota: The north shore, a giant lake, and a lighthouse

Wedding Week part two began with a drive from Madison to Minneapolis followed by another drive in the morning from Minneapolis to Castle Danger, an “unincorporated community in Silver Creek Township, MN”, nestled along the shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior.(1)

Silver Creek is a short drive north from Two Harbors, MN where we stopped for a bridal hair preview appointment. While Danielle was busy I gave myself a quick tour of the city that birthed one of the world’s most innovative companies, 3M.

The company originally called “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing” started in this humble location in Two Harbors.

By the time we made it to Castle Danger there was just enough light for a dinner over last minute wedding planning. From the decks on our rooms we could see infinite darkness stretching across the lake, and looking up countless stars glimmering above. It was the first of what would turn out to be a phenomenally beautiful weekend on Minnesota’s North Shore.

The next morning we decided to go for a bike ride. The hotel rented bikes for free and while none of them were bikes I would buy, they were suitable for the 20 mile ride to Split Rock Lighthouse and back. We headed out on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, a network of 29 complete miles of off-highway bike trail that will one day connect Two Harbors and Grand Marais over 88 miles of bike trail. From Gooseberry Falls onward we rode on one of the newest stretches of trail, stopping along the way to pick agates, visit with boaters, and take in magnificent views of the North Shore.

A scenic overlook from the Gitchi-Gami Trail near Iona’s Beach Scenic Natural Area, MN.

It had been at least 15 years since I was last at Split Rock Lighthouse, and had forgotten its importance to the region. It was built in response to a series of wrecks cause by a large storm that hit the lake in 1910 and was a large motivator to extending the road that became Highway 61 up to Split Rock due to its popularity as a tourist attraction. I have to say the station is something to behold. While there we learned that it was built in such a precarious location that all kinds of clever—and dangerous—methods were used to supply the lighthouse and it’s keepers with basic necessities before the road was built. If you pay the admission you can climb the tower and get up close and personal with its Fresnel lens.

A Fresnel is a type of lens constructed to project a beam of light visible for distances upward of 20 miles. This one is apparently “third order” and the light is officially visible at a distance of 22 miles, though the MNHS reports some fishermen could spot the light from 60 miles north of the station.

By the time we arrived back in Castle Danger, our guests were starting to
trickle in and the full wedding weekend really began.

1. By surface area.