Training for the Appalachian Trail on the Great Wall of China

Hello! My name is Paul (trail name Tank). Long story, but because of life-changing events, I took a job here in Beijing China for 1 year. It’s been great, in fact, it was too good an opportunity to pass up but I am looking forward to returning to the USA and putting hiking the AT back on the front burner. 

Many would-be AT hikers are in the US gathering hiking gear and doing a few shakedown hikes on local trails. Me? I live and work 7,118 miles from the AT. 

I moved here from Houston, TX, which is very flat, just like here in Beijing. So how can I train for the Appalachian Trail? While Beijing is flat, just to the North of Beijing there are mountains – hence the winter Olympics – and The Great Wall of China.

Paul at the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China (万里长城; pinyin: Wànlǐ Chángchéng) is a series of fortifications built along the edge of the Mongolian steppe; spanning 13,170.70 miles in total. But NO, you can’t see The Great Wall for space! I know. I am totally bummed too.

The extra-steep inclines in places can make the AT look like a cakewalk. Much of the existing Great Wall has been rebuilt because it is Old – VERY old.

Several sections of the Great wall were constructed as early as the 7th century BC. Later on, many successive dynasties built and maintained multiple stretches of border walls. The best-known sections of the wall are from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

I have hiked in several sections of the Great Wall – some are more touristy and crowded, and some are what they call Wild Walls which are in disrepair and are far less busy. You can even camp at some sections of the great wall! Viewing the wall in different seasons has been a great passion of mine. Spring, Summer, Fall, and now covered in snow. It is truly amazing and if you can see it at sunrise or sunset, even better. That’s a great reason to do some camping near the wall!

I will continue to enjoy these challenging hikes as I train for the Appalachian Trail. I will miss the Great Wall when I leave here in a few months, but I am looking forward to immersing myself in the woods along the trail.

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Comments 2

  • Jasper B. : Jan 21st

    Hey Paul!

    With you being a flip-flopper starting in April, and me being a normal ol’ NOBO-er starting in late February, there’s certainly the potential we may meet along the way. Anything’s possible. 🙂 (Also we’re both hammock people. Whoohoo!)

    I really enjoy immersive/non-traditional performance, so your acting at Universal sounds like so much fun. I hope you enjoy your preparation from afar, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing your experiences along the trail.

    • Paul Shearman : Jan 21st

      Jasper, thanks for your comment. I hope we do get to meet up with each other. You will undoubtedly have your trail legs and loads more experience than I do by then, so I can draw on your experience, especially with the hammock. I will need all the help I can get.
      I am looking forward to chatting with you (hopefully) on the trail. All the best.


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