The first time I took my daughter hiking without her mother, she was just learning to walk (the kid, I mean!). Because this was a test run, I brought my sister along (now a new mum herself). But the challenge arose from the fact little W was still breast-feeding. My sister’s great, but (back then) she couldn’t help with that. Instead, I had a bottle of frozen milk and my PocketRocket…

Four years ago, before it was crudely rebuilt, I visited Longquanyu, north of Changping and west of Huanghuacheng. Two years ago, I went back, to see whether the wall extended further westwards.

↑ Looking eastwards to Longquanyu and Huanghuacheng

The first thing I noticed was how poorly the Great Wall had been “restored” since my last visit. These two pictures show what I mean, but it’s a story for another time.

↑ “Before” – seen in Spring 2014

↑ “After” – seen in Spring 2016

The question bugging me since my last trip was “how much further does the wall continue”? The easiest way to find out is simply hike along it. So we climbed up the recently restored steps to the tower across the road, ignoring the yell of a worker down below. That tower was the last of the big, classic late Ming Dynasty structures along this route. Instead of a large wall, there was just a low one made of stacked rocks, with no mortar. This building style dates to the earlier Ming Dynasty.

We continued about a kilometer along this wall, which periodically disappeared. At a saddle before a steep uphill section, a path had been cut through the earth, clearly showing that by this point, the wall was no more than stones piled over an embankment. Such construction is typical of pre-Ming dynasties, suggesting that this line of wall may have originally been built some time before. This isn’t conclusive evidence, but there are also other places not too far from here which are almost certain to date to the Northern Qi dynasty. This, therefore, may have been related to that wall and later adapted by the Ming Dynasty.

↑ The wall here was a layer of stones over an embankment.

↑ Close up

Higher up from there, we found more obvious wall again. The question of which dynasty made this wall is answered, probably at least, by the word “Ming”. But it’s not unreasonable to think that the line of the wall may have first been laid by an earlier dynasty such as the Northern Qi. It’s always important to remember that for the Ming, the Northern Qi were conceptually just as ancient – 1,000 years older – as they were for us another 500 years later.

↑ The wall became much more obvious again further up

Carrying the baby up here was not too difficult. She sits very comfortably in the Osprey Poco Plus bag I use. I bought a “chest rig” – basically some military webbing – to carry things that could no longer fit in my backpack thanks to the amount of space my daughter occupies.

The main line of Ming wall – now rebuilt – is off behind us.

We stopped for lunch along the way and kept a careful eye on her as she played in the sun. Later we stopped again, this time to boil some water and heat up her milk. She is still drinking breast milk – which is why being without her mum was a challenge – but I’d brought, and carefully packed, a bottle of frozen milk. A quick dunk in some hot water courtesy of my pocket rocket and the milk was ready. She drank it happily and in one go.

↑ Lunch time!

↑ Milk time!

↑ Learning to take pics with a phone

On the way downhill, she slept comfortably in the baby carrier. By the time we reached the village, she was ready to walk around again. We practised walking in the center of the village, in front of a bunch of old ladies waiting for the bus.

Daddy Daughter Great Wall Days – so far so good.

↑ Practising walking in the village below

↑ The view eastwards towards Xishuiyu, Huanghuacheng and Jiugongshan