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Mountain peaks grew higher and lusher as our driver headed through a tunnel, ascended a freshly paved road, and stopped abruptly at a driveway. After two hours on buses and 45 minutes in a taxi, we were a world away from the crowds of dusty, frenetic Beijing. My daughter, Laura, and I climbed out of the sedan as our driver carried our bags, refusing to take a tip. He left us standing before a handmade sign that said, “Great Wall Box House — Breathe, Smile, Go Slowly.”
We exhaled as instructed, smiled, and walked down a gently sloping brick pathway to the hostel where we were staying. We passed a garden, tall with crops that would yield ingredients for our meals, and entered a courtyard.