I’m reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time and today in Ninghai (宁海) I felt much like Frodo (I’m even wearing a khotan jade ring (田玉) from Xi’an, albeit with a different purpose.
Ninghai (宁海) is a small city in Zhejiang (not to be confused by Haining (海宁) in the same province), but also a huge county with loads of mountains, rivers and creeks. @AshinChina calls it the unspoiled version of Moganshan (莫干山).
I was looking for mountains near Shanghai and Burbex Brin suggested this hike to me. Just a few days ago he produced a video about an abandoned village in the middle of the hike. I also passed through it and even met the watchman, but I wasn’t as brave as Brin to dig through the ruins.
The hike is fantastic though, whether you investigate rickety stone buildings or not. The first kilometer has paved roads but it quickly becomes wilder after the first peak. This is where all the families turn around: ahead is still a good ten kilometers of trail.
Sometimes the signs are missing or not clear. For this, the app “两步路户外助手” is actually super useful (if you don’t mind the constant ads). It also has thousands of hikes anywhere in China.
The hike was ~4 hours but it felt much longer because every segment of track told its own story: segments full of bamboo, grain, tea fields, trees; Tiny villages, tombs, farms. Parts that reminded me of my hometown.
I saw a huge snake and birds that a local (from the video I shot) identified as black eagles (林雕), but not 100% sure because they’re rare here.
The hike starts at the Miaoxiang Temple (妙相禅寺) and ends in the stone village of Xu Jia Shan (许家山). But as usual, the best part is the bit in between.
What struck me the most is the absence of all the city noise which we hear all the time. Ninghai is only a two and a half hours high-speed train trip away from Shanghai, but it’s a million miles away from all its hassle with meetings or fashionistas, PCR tests & looming lockdowns.
Which is why we walk.