Friday, August 14, 2009

Hiking To The Hidden Ming Wall

After getting settled in at Wei Ziqi's place (and enjoying the first of a number of delicious home cooked meals, courtesy of Cao Chunmei), it was time to strap our packs on and head up the mountain. Our goal on this first day was to reach a nearby section of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. Now, the Ming Dynasty wall is constructed in the style you are all familiar with, featuring guard towers and walkways that look out over the surrounding hills and valleys.

In this case, though, what we were looking for was not a section that had been restored in all of its centuries-old glory. (Mind you, there is nothing wrong with preservation!) No, we were in pursuit of what others have called the "wild wall."

For my part, I prefer to call such sections the "hidden wall." Specifically, we were on the hunt for a section of the wall that the Earth is in the process of reclaiming. Towers have crumbled. Walkways have disappeared. Where soldiers once stood on watch, grass, bushes, and trees now grow unfettered. The stone wall is, slowly but surely, giving way to the quiet power of soil, water, roots, and wood. Before too long, it will likely vanish from human sight altogether.

As for reaching the hidden wall, we had been told ahead of time that, from Sancha, there is a series of narrow dirt paths that head up to the mountaintop. We were also instructed that is it easy to get lost out there, and that whenever there is a fork in the trail, we should turn to the right. These instructions were right on spot, and we had no trouble, other than the steepness of the climb itself, in making it out to the wall. In fact, the most "difficult" part of the journey occurred right in Sancha itself. We actually had no idea where the path up the mountain began. Feeling kind of like Frodo when the Fellowship of the Ring first sets out from Rivendell, we had to ask Cao Chunmei which way to turn out of her front door. That obstacle surmounted, the journey and the destination both turned out to be every bit as wild, hidden, and beautiful as we could have hoped for...

~Steve

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