This hike follows the first half of our Big Black Mountain hiking trail … but backwards. And instead of finishing by the side of the road, we’ll add on another hill and take a stroll around the restored and recently re-repaired Yanshou Temple (if it’s open to visitors).
We start off at the car park of the Water Great Wall scenic area.
The scenic area is responsible for much of the GDP of the villages around here, with inns and guesthouses and restaurants catering to visitors.
But originally the main source of income here was farming, and the hills and valleys around the scenic area are still full of chestnut and walnut orchards that are still actively cultivated.
The first part of the hike follows farm tracks and trails up into one of the valleys just outside the scenic area.
The lower part of the valley is served by a narrow, slowly rising concrete road, which is used by villagers and their three-wheeler trucks up to load up with the harvested nuts every September.
Farther up the valley its steeper, and the narrow concrete road turns into a dirt track that winds its way up through the terraces.
Eventually the hills get too steep for more terraces and trees and the farmers’ tracks finish. This is fairly typical in Beijing—the main orchards are on the flatter ground near villages at the bottom of the valleys, and the orchards extend up into the marginal land, ending when the hills get too steep.
What’s also typical is that there will be a narrow path up and over the steep hills, leading to the orchards – and then the villages – on the other side of the mountains. These tracks were used more often back before the roads were built and everyone got cars. These tracks are not used so often any more, and usually only by hikers like us!
Our climb over the hills is steep to begin with, and starts to zig-zag through a brushy area as we near the pass. We’ll stop at the top and look back for views of the Great Wall over the Little West Lake.
The trail then heads down on to the Big Black Mountain side of the hill, coming down a dirt path and then on to a concrete road that leads down to one of the villages in the area.
Before we get to the village we’ll turn off the main track and hike over a couple of smaller hills to find Yanshou Temple.
We don’t know a whole lot about Yanshou Temple. For a long time it was just ruins around an ancient and gnarly pine tree. The initial round of repairs started around about 2007, and we started seeing (and hearing) monks from about 2012. After not visiting for a long time it seemed the temple closed for another round of repairs, and we’re looking forward to seeing what we find on this visit! If the temple is open to visitors we’ll take a look around, and we’ll also
offer the chance for extra exercise with a climb up to a lookout point above the temple grounds.
(With the current Covid restrictions we expect the temple will be closed. )