Until this week, if you would have asked me if I wanted to visit the Great Wall again, I would have told you no. Been there, done that, moving on with the rest of my life, thank you. On previous occasions, I had visited the Great Wall with friends and family at several locations, but it always struck me as just a wall. True, it’s old and there is some interesting history, but did I mention it’s a wall? And the steps, well, don’t get me started about the steps. But when my oldest friend and his teenage son came to visit Beijing, a friend I have known since the first grade, I knew another trip to The Wall was in store for me.
We settled on Mutianyu (again) but decided to hold out until a weekday to try and avoid the crowds. In the past, I traveled up on the gondola and then headed up the steps. This time, we took the ski lift and when we got to the top, we headed essentially down the wall even though we had to paradoxically climb up to do so. Eventually, we noticed a stretch of the wall that was abandoned and we immediately agreed we should scramble down onto it and take the path less travelled. After a few hundred meters, we had a wall that actually looked 1,000 years old in the midst of a forest erupting with spring blossoms and new growth. Best of all, we were alone. I’m not sure if it was the sheer beauty of it all, the fine weather, the ruggedness of the wall, or the blessed solitude, but somewhere in there, I found my appreciation of what is, after all, a pretty darn good wall. The toboggan ride down, that was just icing on the cake.