Old favourite! Last year, after us having not done this hike since 2017 or thereabouts, Big Boss Huijie gathered a crew of locals and spent 8 hours cutting through an overgrown section to open up this hiking trail again.
The mountains in the north of Pinggu District are big enough to hold villages up in hidden valleys. Many of these villages are partially abandoned due to lack of water, or because the valleys have been leased by businessmen hoping to turn the area into a park.
Our walk begins from the entrance of one of these parks – we'll stop to buy tickets for you, and then head on in, passing the big hotel they've built. Maybe this time there will be some people staying at the hotel! On previous visits we've only seen hotel staff hanging about.
We start off following a concrete path up the valley and into the hills. It's a scenic walk up the valley, and the path is bordered by trees and hills, with large rocks and boulders that are said to have a volcanic origin.
Further up the valley we'll start to see some of the old villages – there are quite a few hidden in the hills, and some shouldn't really even count as villages, with just a few houses clumped together.
After passing through some of the smaller settlements, we'll reach a larger hamlet – perhaps ten houses, and a big water store. Up until this point the hike will have been fairly easy, a long gentle climb on good footing. But from this village, we head up into the hills, following a fairly rough hill trail up to the remains of some Great Wall.
During the war, the Japanese army forced residents in one of the villages to destroy a nearby section of the Great Wall and carry the bricks down to the village as a demonstration of loyalty to Japanese forces. That's where the name of the hike comes from.
We'll climb up on to the wall and stop for a lunch break. If you've got a bit of extra energy we'll take you up to the remains of a big round tower – just a pile of stones now, but perhaps part of the wall that the villagers were forced to pull down.
After we're all rested we'll head on, following a trail that's half on the wall, half off the wall. This area is all forested and fairly overgrown, and sometimes we need to scout around a bit to see where we're supposed to be walking!
We follow the general path of the wall until we reach the valley that marks our turn off, following an old field path through fallow, terraced fields, passing abandoned stone houses on the way to a concrete road that marks the upper bounds of another of the parks in the hills.
We'll pass modern buildings that look like they were supposed to be part of a hotel, and walk down towards a lake. This is usually where this hike finishes, but today we're adding another six kilometers, following dirt trails and concrete roads past several tiny valley villages. We'll walk through valleys and over ridges to finish with a walk out through a terraced chestnut orchard.
On the way to the end we'll pass a village with an interesting back story. The village is named Paomachang, which roughly translates as ‘horse running field’, as in a racecourse.
It’s said that this area was used for roughly that purpose during the Jin and Liao Dynasties (between 900–1200 AD), a place for the war horses to run about.
This is one of Beijing Hiker’s apocryphal stories, and we’re now not sure from whom we heard it! It’s an interesting story though, and as we walk by we’ll see if we think the area would have worked well for racing horses.