Hiking the Great Wall

Hiking the Great Wall
Originally uploaded by paulbrockmann.

Some of my friends seemed to think posting shots of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City as my last entry before going on my seven-week vacation was a bit too predicable (you know who you are, Gary), so I’ve decided to speed the posting of these shots I took on a wonderful Great Wall hike yesterday. The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan on the Yellow Sea northeast of Beijing, to Jiayuguan in Gansu on the edge of the Tarim basin, 2700 kilometers to the west. The earliest sections (not near Beijing, I think) date from the Warring States Period, between 481 and 221 BC. The wall as we know it today was fully restored and re-built or built in the early 1400s, the early Ming period when Beijing was the new capital of the empire.

Around Beijing are many restored sections of the wall, where authorities
have fully and carefully restored extended sections so that tourists can
come and visit and get a sense of what the wall was at its height. All the
tourist and travel brochure shots you’ll see are most likely taken at one of
these sections, like Badaling, Simatai, Jinshanling or Mutianyu. True confession: I’ve not yet been to any of those sections. I’ve only done hikes like this, either around or on top of some of the older and more decrepit sections. Some time I’m sure I’ll go to one of the big-name sections, but for now I love the wall as I know it, crumbling and atmospheric, running along the ridgeline in the steep, rocky hills around Beijing.

A few notes on the next three shots: one is shown through a cherry tree, just to note that spring is finally slowly arriving in Beijing, and hills may be a touch less brown and gray in the next few weeks; another shows a crumbling tower on a rise, with a clear section of wall on a ridgeline in
the hazy background: that’s the restored Mutianyu section, and there’s another view of it with an explanation just afterwards. The other shot you have to look at fairly closely, to see the nubs of the towers along the ridgeline. Note that the wall seems always to follow the ridgeline, for good defensive reasons. This hike is called the 15 towers hike, because we pass 15 old watchtowers on our hike along the wall.

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