The Changyucheng 'Long Valley City' hike starts from the small town of this name which lies at the base of an unrestored section of Great Wall. The village is home to a tree that is several hundred years old as well as a troupe of traditional Chinese opera performers, all senior citizens, whose hobby it is to occasionally act out scenes from famous operas for visitors.
When we were walking through the village we met our local guide who was building a new coffin for his father, while his father is still alive. This is a tradition of Northern Chinese villagers. People are living in this village are allowed to bury their deceased, instead of cremation, preferring to follow the old traditions.
The village has some buildings that were built in traditional architectural style, such as homes, and a few ancient structures, like arched wall gateways, which have been partially renovated.
From this small village we started the hike, heading out to the reservoir which sits at the head of the nearest valley and walking around it to enter the forest at the valley floor. From there, the path at first rose slowly and then turned into a series of switchbacks which climbed out of the valley and up the hillsides, giving the group its first glimpses of the countryside near Changyucheng from above.
The goal and high point of this hike was a Ming dynasty round tower which had been part of the Great Wall complex. This tower sits atop the summit of a hill and provides great views of parts of the Great Wall which stretch along the ridgetops of some of the higher hills nearby. It's also a good picnic spot and a place to relax after a long climb uphill.
From the tower we took a different route back down the village, following a dirt trail down a valley, ending up at the reservoir again.
We also took a look inside the village temple, which is not usually open. On the walls we found the remains of some old murals - lots of photos of those right at the end!