Bucket List Item #21: Hike the Great Wall of China.
The Goal is Not to Witness, but to Experience.
Mountains hold energy. They hold triumph and failure. Mountains are creatures of great depth. I've learned something in this first six weeks of travel. That is that my mountain roots run thick. They are embedded in me.
There is something about being in the mountains, on a mountain, challenged by a mountain, and conquering a mountain that cannot be held comparable to anything else in this life. I left the mountains ten years ago. I ran from them. But the moment my feet embrace the terrain beneath me and my lungs fill with mountain air my soul feels fulfilled.
Hiking to me is a very personal experience. Hiking taught me to enjoy solidarity. It taught me to embrace the unknown. To appreciate discomfort, sacrifice, and having no control. It taught me to always have fun in nature, to run up the hill, jump over the rock, slide through the mud, and gut and gill your own fish.
I've learned that there are many different forms of nature. Some of which, I am still being taught how to embrace and appreciate in the way I do hiking. The essence of a mountain is very meditative. It is soul soothing. Mountains are a holder of spirits. Mountains are a reflection of yourself, your desires, your heartaches, your triumphs.
In anticipation for the Great Wall of China, my non-negotiable was that we must climb the mountain to find it. We must trek the completely unrestored portion, and we must do it without a group. Okay. that's three non-negotiables. 🙄
Allow me to digress. 1) A check mark off a bucket list item must be earned. 2) The purpose is to fulfill an understanding of history, not just to fulfill an ego of having witnessed a Wonder of the World. 3) Nature is personal. Hiking is personal. Being lost in the wilderness and finding your way, finding the peak is personal. Hikes should be taken in the same as meditation, self talk, prayer, or whatever your practice may be. Embrace your personal reflections throughout the journey. Hikes are moments leading toward self discovery and self fulfillment. And the most self discovery is accomplished in solitude.
We chose... Scratch that... [I chose] the Jiankou portion of the Great Wall because of how completely unrestored it is. My goal is not to witness. It is to experience. Everyone's definition of experience is different. Mine is and always has been to venture in the most challenging and the least traveled.
Boulders, look out points, and trails dating back 2,700 years lie as they were last laid by the Ming Dynasty. The mountain scape here is of epic measures. The Great Wall stands at the most narrow and elevated ridges of the range. Trees and brush now cover this portion of the Great Wall. Stepping stones are ground into stones as smooth as marble. Ice on this portion of the wall makes it difficult to both ascend and descend. As you trek through this portion of the Great Wall, you are completely and naturally overwhelmed with the sacrifice the thousands of Ming & Qing people made to build this inconceivable piece of work. Thousands of lives lost. Buried within these walls. These walls right beneath our feet.
The hike was not that strenuous. But it was rewarding. We read several blogs regarding this portion of the Great Wall beforehand, and were anticipating something we could mark as one of our more difficult and treacherous hikes. I'm genuinely content to say it is not the most difficult hike I've been on. That is still yet to come.