We start off at a small village*, stopping for a quick look at a 300-year-old performance stage and a temple before a dirt road out into the hills behind the village. We'll follow a slowly ascending path through the countryside, passing an isolated shrine and pine tree at a pass on a low ridge.
* If we’re not allowed to walk through the village we’ll hike around on a side trail.
From the shrine we hike down through fields to Longevity Village, and we’ll follow dirt streets through its outskirts, walking past donkeys and old stone houses on the way to the chestnut orchards in the surrounding hills.
From this village there are several trail options. Sometimes we hike over to the Silver Pagodas, sometimes we hike on to East Water Valley Village. Today we’re going to head off on our Mines and Pines trail, one of our old favourites.
We’ll hike farm trails through the orchards, aiming for the narrow track that will take us up to the top of a big hill. This track is part of our Mines and Pines hike. On our way down the other side of the big hill we’ll first see the pines, and then we’ll get to the mines.
The trail that leads down towards the mines and quarry is not commonly walked, and gets very bushy during summer.
We’ll emerge from the pines to find the top of the old mines track. On our way down to the quarry at the bottom of the hill we’ll pass closed-off mine passages and the piles of tailings from the old digs. The trail flattens out, and turns into a gravel road that joins the main road through the village below the Silver Pagoda park. Before we get to the road, we’ll take a turn and head back into the hills, following a road up a valley to a clearing, up and over another smaller hill, and then down towards the abandoned villages.
The two villages emptied out around the turn of the century. A large quarry at the foot of the valley kept getting bigger, and eventually expanded to cover both sides of the only road up the valley.
We’ll see the remains of the stone houses as we walk through the villages. In the right season there are pears and hawthorns to be had, as the old orchards of the villages still bear fruit. At the end of the valley we’ll join up with our old Tomb Raiders trail and head back into the hills before we reach the giant quarry.
Joining the old Tomb Raiders trail we will walk up a valley, passing well-built terraces on the way up to a pass. From the pass we follow a trail along the hillside, aiming for a lookout point from where we can get excellent views of the broad valley that contains the thirteen Ming Tombs.
From the lookout, we’ll follow a trail down towards two of the closed Ming Tombs, passing a small dam on the way out to the end.