Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Crescent Lounge

Peaceful morning at the Regent Beijing. Our hiking adventure along the Great Wall has come to an end. Last night we dined on Imperial cuisine in Beihai Park before retiring to the comfort and elegance of the Regent. Looking forward to the next adventure!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mutianyu Great Wall

We finished today's hike at the Mutianyu Great Wall, another restored section of the wall. At hike's end, the descent from the wall to the valley floor was accomplished quickly via a toboggan.

Jiankou Great Wall

The Jiankou Great Wall threads its way along this craggy ridgeline. Can you believe it? We're looking at it and can hardly believe its there! We're on our way to the Mutianyu section of the wall.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Approaching Gubeikou

Here's the final stretch of the wall before reaching Gubeikou village. The section of wall between Jinshanling and Gubeikou traverses more gentle terrain than the Simatai to Jinshanling section so the ridge-top undulations of the "trail" are less severe.

Jinshanling Great Wall

Another perfect day! We are trekking along the wall from Jinshanling to Gubeikou. The "Tower with Five Holes" is to the left in the picture.

The Ming Wall

The section of the wall from Simatai to Jinshanling was largely constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries during the Ming Dynasty. It's an impressive feat of architecture and walking along it is a thrilling experience!

Simatai to Jinshanling

Fabulous weather again on our hike from Simatai to Jinshanling. We walked on the wall itself for most of the distance.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Huangyaguan Great Wall - Unrestored

The second part of the hike was along an unrestored section of the Huangyaguan Great Wall. We hiked alongside the remnants of the wall on a good path portions of which traversed old farming terraces. The hardwood forests and rolling hills reminded me of the Blue Ridge in the fall. The remains of watch towers stood as testimony that this section of wall was once a much grander edifice.

Huangyaguan Great Wall - Restored

From Huangyaguan ("Yellow Crag Pass"), the Great Wall ascends steeply into the mountains on either side. The wall here is beautifully restored and quite impressive to behold! At the end of the restored section west of the pass, we came upon the "Heaven's Ladder," a steeply ascending stone staircase that carried us to the top of the crags that frame the pass of Huangyaguan.

Food as Art

Every meal's a spectacle! In Beijing, we dined on "squirrel fish," a fried fish smothered in sweet and sour sauce and made up to resemble, well, a squirrel! Our lunch in Zunhua near the Eastern Qing Tombs was decorated with a melon sculpture. On the menu were spicy shrimp, fish with pork and Chinese cabbage, fish head stew with pancakes, pork with green onions, fried pear and red bean dumpling. A feast!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

En route to Qing Dong Ling

From our hotel in Qinghuangdao, we hopped on the Jingshen Expressway heading for the Qing Dong Ling ("Eastern Qing Tombs"). Six lanes and high speed from Qinghuangdao all the way to Beijing! Due to road construction activities near the town of Zunhua, we took a detour passing through small villages...a glimpse of rural China!

Dusk Falling on the Great Wall

Evening light burnishes the stone towers along the Dongjiakou Great Wall as we descend toward the village of Chengzhiyu.

On the Wall Again

Another view of the Dongjiakou Great Wall. The autumn colors enhance the scene.

Watch Tower

A close-up of one of the watch towers on the Dongjiakou Great Wall.

Dongjiakou Great Wall

Today was a crystal clear day as we walked the wall at Dongjiakou. Here, the descendants of the wall-builders still live; they maintain the access paths and path atop the wall for visitors. This is a lovely and less-frequented section of the wall.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nearing Sandaoguan

The Great Wall snakes along the ridges as we near the end of our day's hike at Sandaoguan. The mountains are grand and lovely with great slabs and pillars of granite. They are mountains whose beauty is at the level you'd expect in a national park! The autumn colors are wonderful! Note the watch tower at the upper right of the picture. That's where we're headed!

Jiao Shan Great Wall

Today we hiked the Jiao Shan Great Wall to Sandaoguan. The first hour of the hike was along a restored section of the wall that ascended steeply up about half way up the peak of Jiao Shan. This portion of the wall looks like the wall most people imagine when they hear the term "Great Wall"--brick surfaces, watch towers with crenellations. Most of the wall, however, is "wild," and unrestored and in various states of repair. Here's wilder section we traversed en route to Jiao Shan. Walking on this section of the wall is not like walking on a sidewalk; it's a true hike by any definition!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wall Walking

After the visit to Laolongtou we started our hike on the wall--the segment from Laolongtou to Shanhaiguan. On this segment the wall is a grassy berm rising up to 30 feet above the surrounding agricultural fields.

Old Dragon's Head

Our journey along the Great Wall started today at Laolongtou ("Old Dragon's Head") where the wall plunges into the Bohai Sea. Sunny skies, clear water, and the smell of the sea!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Temple of Heaven

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests dominates the Temple of Heaven complex. This building was erected in 1889 using Ming construction techniques after the original 1420 structure was destroyed after a lightning strike.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Forbidden City

The Hall of Supreme Harmony as seen from the Gate of Supreme Harmony. The Forbidden City is magnificent! Truly a city unto itself! You can wander here for an entire day and not get everywhere.

Tiananmen Square

The Gate of Heavenly Peace seen from Tiananmen Square. A beautiful day and the crowds were out! Prime Minister Putin is in town.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunny day in Beijing

Sunlight floods the lobby of the Regent Hotel. Windy, clear and cool outside...a perfect day!


Good morning Beijing! View from the Regent at intersection of Jinbao Jie and Dongdan Beidajie.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

CA 992 YVR to PEK

The Air China Airbus 330 preparing for the long haul to Beijing. It's a gorgeous day in Vancouver. All the mountains are visible! What a day to fly!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tarte de pomme

Took a little time to make but well worth it! Farewell dessert in Menton.

Plein de soleil a Sospel

Morning sunshine on the village of Sospel. Last day of trekling from here over the Col du Razet and down to the sea at Menton.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Village perche de Piene Haute

The dramatically situated village of Piene Haute catches the morning sun high above the Roya Valley.

Mont Razet du Col des Termes

The more or less flat-topped Mont Razet (right) rises to the right of the Col de Razet. This is the pass the group will cross tomorrow to reach the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vallon de Carleva

View out over the Carleva Valley looking toward the Roya Valley. Sunny and hot but a nice breeze blowing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

La Grande Randonne 510 commence ici

The GR-510 begins in Breil sur Roya. We will walk from here to Sospel via the perched village of Piene Haute.

Col de Brouis

Lunch stop under pines and oaks near the Col de Brouis looking at the peak of Mangiabo. Sunshine and the fragrance of the Mediterranean carried on the breeze.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ruelle a Saorge

The view from the little balcony of our apartment above Monsieur Bonnet's epicerie in Saorge.

Hameau de Granile

Quiet hamlet above the Roya River between St. Dalmas de Tende and Saorge.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lac Basto sous les nuages

Gray skies prevailed today as we made our way down the Valmasque valley but in between the swirling mists the high peaks revealed themselves.

Bon matin a Casterino

Sparkling weather in the Maritime Alps after a day of rain and gray skies. Here we are hiking up to Fontanalbe from Casterino.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lago di Sorapiss

High alpine lakes are a rarity in the Dolomites and turquoise blue Lago di Sorapiss in the heart of the Sorapiss mountain group is a gem among them.

"Via ferrata" on the way to Rifugio Vandelli, Sorapiss

Now this is a high class via ferrata!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Monte Paterno Loop Hike

The final ascent on the Monte Paterno loop of the finest high country day hikes in the Dolomites!

Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen)

The majesty of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo from the Paternsatel.

Rifugio Lavaredo and the Cadini Group

The Rifugio Lavaredo, as seen from the Paternsatel, is dwarfed by the jagged silhouette of the Cadini group of peaks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cinque Torri

The flower-filled meadows around the pinnacles known as the Cinque Torri ("Five Towers") near the Passo Falzarego.

On the Cengia Martini

Exploring the Cengia Martini at Lagazuoi. In the First World War, the Italians held the Cengia Martini ("Martini Ledge") half way up the sheer north face of the Lagazuoi. The Austrians held positions on the top of Lagazuoi.

Descending from Lagazuoi

Hiking to the entrance of the Galleria Anticima from the top station of the Lagazuoi cable car.

Tightrope in the sky

Making our way to the entrance of the Galleria Anticima.

On the Moon

Amidst the austere lunar-like landscape of the Gruppo Sella.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

La funivia e chiusa!

After our hike to Rifugio Boe, we hiked back toward Sass Pordoi. At the Rifugio Forcella Pordoi we learned that the Sass Pordoi funivia (cable car) was closed due to high winds. So, we descended from the Rifugio Forcella Pordoi to Passo Pordoi on the Alta Via 2 along with our fellow hikers also caught up in the same predicament. Here we are in the parking lot at Passo Pordoi. The Forcella Pordoi is the prominent notch in the mountain wall about 600+ meters above where we're standing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In the Edelweisstal (Valle Stella Alpina)

The Edelweisshutte above Colfosco. Spaghetti aglio olio! Fantastico!

En route Colfosco

Hiking to Colfosco beneath the peaks of the Gruppo Cir. The peak of Sassongher dominates this view.

A meadow made for singing at Passo Gardena

The Gruppo Sella as seen from the trail from Passo Gardena to Colfosco. Oh, what a beautiful morning!