Tag Archive | Hiking

China Hiking: Exploring the “Wild” Great Wall

enhanceRF4UUKDDWe hear that the Great Wall is inundated with tourists. We didn’t miss them a bit, as we took two days away from Beijing to explore the “wild,” unrestored sections with China Hiking.

Transportation to and from the Lama Temple subway station, all meals, basic camping gear, and an English-speaking guide were all seamlessly provided. We backpacked in the tents, sleeping bags and pads, (all provided, including the backpack), in addition to a change of socks and underwear, headlamps, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Meals were plentiful, fresh and local – and quite tasty! Dinner was a delightful catered buffet, delivered by a local kitchen in the village below.

Most photos you see of the Great Wall are restored sections: broad paved roadways, where you can imagine horsemen and carriages moving along the wall, where the hordes of tourists now stroll. These “wild” sections are not reconstructed, and are often vegetated, including fruit trees, possibly seeded by wildlife visitors. Without the reconstruction efforts, you get a better look at the different construction methods used during different time periods.

The Jiankou section, our first day’s hike and camp-out, was originally built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and restored in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The dolomite foundations make for a stronger, higher and steeper wall.

The second day, we hiked the Gubeikou section, also known as “Winding Dragon.” Originally built in the Qi Dynasty (550-557), this is the oldest section of the Great Wall.

Specific details about this particular hike can be found here.

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As other posts attest, we like camping beyond the developed campground. This trip was far better than we imagined: two thumbs up for China Hiking!

Moving On

We had considered adjusting our itinerary so that we did spend the night at Thousand Island Lake – the original destination for our first night – but the weather was holding, our energy was good, and the bears (so it seemed) were plentiful. By moving on, we would avoid the crowds, as we were now moving from an established trail to a cross country route.

We headed west to the end of the lake at the base of Banner Peak, and then turned south towards a low pass the would lead us to Garnet Lake.

River Trail

Many trails junction at Agnew Meadows, including both the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and John Muir Trail (JMT).  There is also a pack station there, so there are hikers, backpackers, cars, horses and mules.  The campground is closed for clean-up from a windstorm earlier in the year, otherwise there would be even more “traffic.”

Our route was based on a trip posted by a Tahoe area photographer: http://tahoelight.com/blog/2009/08/minaret-lake-thousand-island-lake-backpacking-loop-and-landscape-photography/  While their trip took four nights, we stretched ours out into five nights.  We knew that weather and adjustments to altitude could affect the trip, and we didn’t want to be “in hurry,” as that’s how many accidents happen.

We found our way to the lower “river trail,” which follows the San Joaquin River to its source: Thousand Island Lake. This is a maintained trail, so we are grateful to not have to skirt or climb over all of the fallen trees from an earlier wind storm.  We encounter plenty of hikers coming down the trail, and several on their way in.

But, we are keeping our eyes on the weather as we climb towards the pass.  The clouds are gathering and the temperature is dropping.  If we are going to get rain like yesterday, we need to find a stopping place that could also function as an overnight camp.  We know we are less than two miles from the lake, but it doesn’t appear that we would be near water until up on top.

We stop at a spot near the trail and near the river.  It’s clearly a camp: there are several “hearths” and there are even two large tin cans with wire handles at one of the hearths.  Steve rigs the fly, and we pull out our sleeping bags to wait out the rain.

We wait. We nap.  We wait some more.  Near nightfall, we decide that we need to eat, even though we really aren’t hungry.  Looks like we are here for the night, and not at the lake.

We’re still in the pines, so we know that there is a good chance for bears, especially because we are at an established camp.  We put the two bear-resistant canisters of food far from us, and in a location where they won’t roll down into the river if discovered by bears.  Steve puts rocks into the two tin cans and places them at the head and the foot of the fly.  The rattle should wake us up and startle any nocturnal visitors.  We brought a can of “bear spray” but it would better if we don’t have to use it.

It continued to rain into the night.  Steve had to become his own engineer as the water started to pool on the ground near his head.  Sometime in the night, I woke up to see stars.  Maybe tomorrow will be a less rainy day.