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11 Mar 2022

Silver quarter – With the new semester underway, I’ve had a very busy schedule, but last Saturday HJ and I decided to take the day off to celebrate a special event: our twenty-fifth anniversary. It’s kind of crazy to think about, because our twentieth anniversary doesn’t seem all that long ago, and here we are now, five years later. Twenty-five years used to seem like a long time to be married... and I suppose it is, especially when you consider the fact that we’ve lived longer together than we ever did apart. The older I get, the faster time seems to go.

“I think we’re at the point now where grand events are not as appealing as just doing something fun and having a good meal to cap things off.”

Anyway, we didn’t just take the day off—we decided to take our first real road trip of the year. Specifically, we drove out to the west coast, which is only about an hour away. There we took a cable car from the mainland, over the tidal flats, and to the small island of Jebu-do. Here is our obligatory selfie inside the cable car cabin.

We got on the cable car shortly before noon, at what apparently was low tide. You can see the flats in this photo looking back at the mainland...

...and in this photo looking ahead to Jebu-do.

When we had gotten on the cable car on the mainland, they took a picture of us inside the cabin before the door closed. After we arrived in Jebu-do, we had to walk past the photo booth to exit the terminal. Normally, we wouldn’t have bought a photograph, as they generally charge too much for them, but we decided to get one to remember our anniversary trip. We splurged for a nifty liquid-filled frame that has a heavier blue liquid and a lighter transparent liquid, making it look like a sloshing ocean. There are two little floating bits that look like cable car cabins bobbing on top of the blue liquid. It’s cheesy, but it’s something that we can look at and think back to this day.

After exiting the terminal, we headed back toward the road that you can see in the previous photo. Since it was low tide, the road was dry and cars were passing back and forth over it, but at high tide the road floods and the island is cut off (well, except for the cable car, of course, and boats). We decided to walk out a little way from the island to take in the scenery. As soon as we left the shelter of the island, the cold winds hit us like a wall of knives.

This all probably looks very peaceful, but believe me when I say that the wind was merciless. We had taken our masks off at first, since their was no one else around, but we soon put them back on again, simply to keep our faces from freezing off!

As we walked along, we came across a low path to the right, leading out to a large platform on top of which a huge transmission tower was built. The tower itself was not a noteworthy destination, but it did give us another view of the road, the cable car, and the flats.

By this point we were starting to get very cold. It’s been fairly warm these days (today it apparently got up to 18(!) degrees), but Saturday happened to be a very cold and windy day; I think we had a high of about 4 degrees, and that was without wind chill, which no doubt took it down to well below freezing. So we left the transmission tower and headed back toward the island, finally getting some relief from the wind once we reached the leeward side.

Our next order of business was to find some lunch, so we started to walk clockwise around the island. We passed a very large “campground” that had permanent tents and other accommodations that looked like they might be fun during the summer, but we didn’t see much in the way of things to eat. We had our sights set on a cluster of buildings that we thought might be restaurants, but when we reached them we were disappointed to find out that they weren’t. It was then that we had the bright idea to pull out our phones and see where the nearest restaurants were. As it turned out, we would have had to walk quite a ways farther, so we decided to cut our losses and turn around. We sat down on a bench and munched on some granola bars we had brought along to tide us over, and then we headed back to the terminal and got on the cable car back to the mainland. We knew that there were plenty of restaurants right outside the terminal (we had driven past them on the way in), and we chose one that had good reviews. The food—“knife noodles” with short-necked clams and a crispy seafood-and-leek pancake—was good, plentiful, and cheap.

We didn’t have any clear plans for after lunch when we started out that morning, but on the way in we saw what looked like an observation platform built on a hill looking out over the sea. I had searched for an exit off the expressway to see if we could drop in on the way down, but there didn’t seem to be any easy way of getting there. After we finished lunch, though, we looked it up on our phones and saw that it was only reachable via local roads. We decided to stop there before heading back to Seoul.

Local roads are obviously going to be slower than the expressway, but the drive was a nice one. As we neared the observation platform, we started seeing signs for a dinosaur egg site—apparently they had discovered actual dinosaur eggs nearby. The road to the observation platform led right by the site, so we decided to drop in and take a look. There is a small museum on the left that we visited first. Only the ground floor was open, but there we learned that not only eggs but actual dinosaur bones had been discovered here: the Koreaceratops Hwaseongensis (meaning “Korean Horned Face Originating in Hwaseong”). This dinosaur was discovered relatively recently, in 2011, and it was the first of its kind to be discovered—thus the name. I had no idea!

The actual dinosaur egg site is located across the street, in some islands of rock floating in a sea of reeds. We followed the boardwalk out through the golden waves.

Again, the wind was absolutely brutal, but it was mostly coming from our rear. That was fine for now, but we knew that it was going to make the walk back interesting. You might be able to get a hint of how windy it was in this photo—notice how bent the reeds are.

You may have also noticed the observation platform on top of the hill in the distance. That was our next destination. But before that, we still had to make our way out to the dinosaur eggs. It turned out to be quite a walk, but at last we arrived at an archipelago of weathered rock-and-soil islands. There were signs indicating where the dinosaur eggs were located; some of them were difficult to pick out, but the one below was fairly easy—you can see the two rings quite clearly.

For my money, though, this was the best preserved example.

I keep using the image of islands of rock in a sea of reeds, and that’s exactly what they looked like. Walking across the reed fields felt like wandering over a vast ocean and suddenly stumbling upon land rising up out of nowhere. I have to say that it’s probably the most odd and unique geological formation I’ve seen in Korea (well, maybe with the exception of the basalt columns on Jeju-do).

Once we had finished our tour of the dinosaur egg islands, we braced ourselves for the walk back to the car. It was just as bad as I expected it to be, and I had to squint hard in attempt to prevent dust from getting in my eyes. I was only partially successful, and my eyes were so filled with tears by the time we reached the car that I couldn’t even see properly.

It was after four o’clock by then, and I thought that the observation platform might close by five, so we didn’t waste any time making our way over there. When we reached the road leading up the hill, though, we saw that the observation platform was closed for renovations until May. There had been nothing online about it being closed, so we were a little nonplussed. We decided to drive up anyway and see if maybe we could get a view of the ocean from the top of the hill, but halfway up we found the road blocked off entirely. I briefly considered leaving the car there and trudging to the top of the hill on foot, but it felt like a lost cause as it was, and we were honestly wiped out from our walk in the windy reed field. (Seriously. I know I’ve already said multiple times that it was windy, but I’m pretty sure mere words are not enough to convey just how soul-sapping it was.) In the end, we just turned the car around and headed back to Seoul.

We did see some congestion along the way, and it took us a little longer to get home than it had to get to Jebu-do in the first place, but all things considered it wasn’t that bad. Once back in Seoul, we left the car at home and walked out to get some dinner. Actually, the first thing we did was stop at our local to have a beer. Yeah, that’s right—we decided to have a beer before dinner. We figured it was Saturday, it was our anniversary, and we’re both adults, so we could do whatever the heck we wanted. After the beers (some nice lambics), we wandered around in a bit of a daze trying to figure out what we wanted to eat. HJ suggested a Chinese place that specializes in lamb skewers, so we went there and got lamb ribs. The ribs are more expensive than the skewers, but again, anniversary. Besides, the meat is excellent. HJ doesn’t really like lamb, but she likes the lamb ribs at this place. As an added bonus, the meat is grilled at the table over glowing wood coals, and it was nice to bask in the radiant heat and chase away some of the cold of the day.

And that was how we spent our anniversary. Nothing too amazing, but it was fun to get out of Seoul and out into nature, even if nature did seem intent on trying to blow us off our feet. I think we’re at the point now where grand events are not as appealing as just doing something fun and having a good meal to cap things off. Maybe we’ll do something a little more extravagant if we make it to fifty.

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