Hey-oh! So two weeks ago, after recovering from what shall henceforth be known as Plague Death, I decided to take my—still recovering—body out for a spin. On Friday, the sun was out and the day was a perfect upper seventies with a nice breeze. Our staff meeting ended early and I had a whole afternoon to myself. So I decided I wanted to climb a mountain.
My target: Feng Huang Shan (Phoenix Mountain). This is the mountain that has lights along its upper ridge that glow different colors at night that kind of look like the dorsal spikes of a dragon. Anyway, it’s pretty and my Chinese teachers told me it was free and gave me some vague directions to the entrance.
I almost walked past the entrance. It’s just a sweeping set of stairs with a little landscaping around them pressed right between a small side alley that leads to homes and a restaurant. I mean, there might be a sign, but I can barely read pinyin, definitely can’t read Chinese characters.
Once you get past the building though there’s more decoration like some rocks with characters on them that might be a poem, or the name of the mountain, or telling people not to litter. I don’t know. You go up a little more and the stairs become a staircase and on the railing are the zodiac animals and peonies and birds. There are a handful of ornamental trees that break up the monotony of stone, but not much. It didn’t look like it was going to be a very interesting walk because those first few levels are mostly stone and concrete.
But once you get up to the first landing you’re already pretty high. Aside from the occasional car horn you can’t hear traffic or people. I moseyed up to the next level and found a small side path. Bingo. I took off down that like a hound on a scent. The little path was cool and shady and smelled so wonderful. You have no idea how much you miss the smell of grass and trees until you don’t smell them every morning. The one thing I miss the most about home is opening the windows and smelling dirt and grass and dew.
The little path brought me back around to the main staircase. If ever there was a Stairway to Heaven, it’s this damn thing. I figured the little trail I was on would get me to the top eventually. Nope! That was just a little side expedition, if you want to get to the top you need to climb the stairs.
I don’t know if you know how many stairs there are to the top of a mountain, but it’s a fuck-ton. My gods. And there are no trees. It’s just you and sun and stone and concrete and a fervent wish for an escalator.
I had to stop and enjoy the scenery a couple times, but I finally made it to a little oasis. There’s a small park-type thing about halfway up with benches and big shady trees and restrooms. It was nice to walk more than two steps without having to step up a stair, but it was pretty obvious I wasn’t at the top. I wandered about in the maze of little paths trying to find the accursed staircase.
I stumbled out some gates and found a road with nothing and no one on it. It was really weird because where Feng Huang Shan is, I’ve walked all around this area and I’ve never come across a road that came up the mountain. Because if such a goddamn road existed I’d have taken that and not those bullshit stairs.
I was a little hesitant to explore too far because there were several signs around, but none that looked like they said Keep Out, but I can only assume that a Chinese Keep Out sign looks like a European/American one. Thankfully, a couple came down the road that didn’t look like they were on any official business so I assumed it was safe to explore that direction.
And I found it! Just beyond the curve in the road were a small parking lot and a section of a giant city wall that one of my CTs told me was there. Past the city wall is a new looking park area with beautiful rose bushes planted all over the place. The place smelled amazing. All the roses were scented and there were only a handful of people there so it was quiet enough to still hear the birds. Two of the men there were flying kites. They had these contraptions on their chests that looked like boat wheels. They were really serious about their kites. And from this park you can see the whole city. Yan’an is really cool, people. They way its built between these mountains and the river. It’s awesome. Hard to appreciate from ground level, but way up high where you can see how the streets wind and how the buildings work like Tetris, it’s amazing.
But I wasn’t done! There’s a watch tower still standing on the section of the intact wall. And of course there were stairs to get there. And after a hundred more fucking stairs, there’s a steep ramp to climb and then you’re finally at the watch tower, the highest point on the mountain.
There were two other people up there with me but the three of us were content to stare out at the city. And just when I was thinking I could stay up there for an hour or two I heard it.
I had hope for probably twenty minutes that the rain would stay one mountain over where I could see it already falling. And then the sun disappeared. And the wind kicked up. And the thunder was louder.
I started heading back down. It was about five o’ clock and I still had to figure out if I wanted to make dinner or get something from a street vendor. I usually try to be in bed before ten on Friday night because Saturday night I rarely sleep more than a couple hours. So the more sleep I get before the weekend starts the better off I am.
Anyway, most of the pop up storms we’ve had have been over and done with pretty quick. I knew I was going to get wet, but I wasn’t overly concerned about it. A few sprinkles, maybe a little more, but I figured I’d be dry before I got back to my apartment since I had about an hour walk ahead of me.
Haha! No. I made it back to the staircase that would take me to the street and it was like someone turned on a faucet. I was soaked through in less than five minutes. And of course, I was on the stretch of stairs without even a flower to hide under so I just put in my headphones and trudged on thinking it would end soon enough.
When I got to the street it was still raining so hard the street looked like a river. Still a half hour walk ahead of me and I have fully come to terms with the fact that it is going to rain the whole time. So I bought some cherries from a little side shop and some cookies from my favorite bakery.
Walking into my apartment block the rain started to lesson to sprinkles and by the time I got up to my apartment and had my socks rung out the sun was out. Pretty sure I pulled a muscle when I rolled my eyes. But, I did make some tea and cobble together some leftovers and binge watch The Daily Show for a couple hours and eat cookies. So, rain and all, it was a pretty good evening.