The Mountain Where I Met Korea’s Iris Apfel Doppelganger
Subway: Irwon (Line 3)
Distance hiked: 4.53 km (together with Guryongsan)
Beginning my trek up Daemosan, I stop to pick up fallen cherry blossoms. This is definitely an official mountain; I am out of breath as I climb up the stairs. I stop and sit beside an ajusshi, and we share the cookies I brought. He starts to laugh as I say, Himduro chuketa! (It’s hard; I’m dying.) —a phrase I find myself saying more often now, and seems to make the locals laugh. I stand up, say goodbye, and resume my ascent. While I am puffing my way up, I see from the corner of my eye a figure in red going past. It is an ajumma, and a speedy one at that. It looks like she’s not even on a trail, and she knows where she was going. How badass. She stops by a spring and takes a drink, which is how I finally catch up to her. She looks quite like Iris Apfel, fashion icon, don’t you think? At this point, there are two possible paths and I ask her which one to take. She motions for me to follow her, which I did. Instead of the stairs, we take a path on the ridge line, and while I stumble awkwardly, this woman who must be at least 70 years old patiently waits for me. At the top, she sits on a bench and tells me she climbs this and the adjacent Guryeongsan everyday. She asks me where I’m from, tells me I look Korean (as they all do, to which I smile politely), and takes a nap. I say thank you and leave her, descending the mountain only to scale another one a few minutes later.