The Wild Wall: Unrestored Ruins

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at MuTianYu 慕田峪
Click on the link to read about the wall's historical and geographical significance, as well as to provide some context to this page.
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Finally, after a lifetime of "one day...", the day came and we climbed the Great Wall of China.  Well, not all of it obviously. 
6,000 km from the deserts of the Silk Road to the Sea, the wall was built in many sections by many dynasties as part of national defense system through 2,200 years. The part we visited today is MuTianYu, 79 km north of Beijing. Twenty km long, it has 22 beacon towers and was first constructed in 1568 on top of an old wall that was itself more than 1,400 years old. In 1988 it was restored to its current state.
There are what feels, and may well be, thousands of stair steps, and the original Ming dynasty steps were so steep that I had to occasionally use hands and knees to get up. My legs ached, my lungs burned, and I could hear my own rasping breath. It was all worth it though - the vistas took away whatever breath I had left: mountains beyond mountains with the wall climbing up ridge after improbable ridge into the mist. It made me want to pack some gear and go walk along it, following all six thousand kilometers. Sheven's new friend Raj on the wall told us someone actually did and it took eight months. We arrived at the perfect time of the year too - not crowded, clear, crisp air, and the leaves still turning color. We walked (climbed) east along the wall until the restored section ended, then we climbed past the sign that says "Keep Out" and walked out to the final, unrestored wildly overgrown beacon tower before the wall crumbled beyond navigation on foot.
We're going to be so sore tomorrow. Good thing we have good hiking boots. Agree we chose the right season to see the Great Wall. Lots of fall colors, trees themselves made it worth it. Amazing random stair depths to acomodate the landscape. Craggy hill tops, scary angles. Wall is more like a network of walls, lots of branches and towers. You think you see where you're going up on the ridge ahead and it turns out to be an extension of the wall that isn't restored and you can't go on unless you climb over the sign that says "Keep Out." You can tell from afar where there are bushes hanging out the ruins. The little villages at the base were good to see too.