Day Three ::
tried to wake us up so we could have our breakfast and be ready to
go on the trail by 10:00 AM. However, we were so tired from our hike
the other day that we failed to get up the first couple of times
that Igor tired to get us up. We did finally manage to get up but
instead of leaving at 10:00 AM we left an hour and a half after we
were supposed to, which would haunt us latter. But we were pretty
lucky that Igor got up early and did manage to get a fire ready and
cook our breakfast – kasha, of course. What would we do without him?
I guess that we would have been even later and we would have gotten
lost as well. The trail was pretty well marked, but there was a
place where we went off the main trail to go to the Southern part of
Our first main
stopping place was on this nice level semi-tundra field. After
having traveled through all that mountainous area the other day, it
was a nice place to take a break, emotional as well as physically.
was explained to me that it served another purpose as well; the park
used it as helicopter landing field in case of an emergency. Well it
is at least good to know that in case of a serious emergency there
was a place where we could be evacuated. But as I left the area I
felt that I was leaving the last escape route that I would see on
the rest of the trail. The next obstacle in our way was this broken
bridge that crossed the Big Chivuirskii river. Half of the support
for the bridge broke three years ago and so far has not been fixed.
Igor was kind enough to cross the bridge several times carrying our
backpacks across for us; again, it was really smashing of him to do
that. We managed to cross unencumbered by our backpacks without too
much difficulty. But I was quite careful when it was my turn.
I guess that I
should say a couple of words about the scenery itself, since I am
being a bit cynical about this trip. It is quite diverse and we seem
to have traveled through many different terrains. Yesterday I was
quite amazed at the many different types of scenery that we passed:
alpine forest, taiga, alpine tundra, and back to taiga. This day it
seemed to be mostly forest, either taiga or alpine.
since we were walking along the river most of the day, it was quite
cliff-like since it was a steep valley that was forged by the river,
and the trail hugged the rim of the banks for the long periods of
time. So imagine walking in a deep valley with a forest surrounding
you. On one side the tops of the mountains peeking through, and on
the other side there is a fast moving river with water so clear that
you could see the deepest parts as if it were only a few inches
deep, and in the distance there are mountains untouched by man. I
tended to lag behind the group for 2 reasons, the first and most
important to me is so that I was able to whip out my camera and take
photos of the beautiful scenery. I happened to be the trip's
unofficial photo recorder; I took about 800 photos on the trip. The
second and actual reason I lagged behind the main group so often is
because I was quite out of shape and not used to the altitude.
However, one of the main drawbacks to this deep river cut valley was
that there were many places along the trail where we either had to
climb over either rocky patches that ran parallel and even into the
river or walked along alluvial deposits which were very cliff like
and was like walking a mountain goat path. Even a couple of times
Igor carried our rucksacks over difficult patches for us,
we could cross without the extra weight and unnatural center of
gravity that the baggage gave us.
We came to a place where Igor told us they did some work a few
months ago in summer as part of LAT's contribution to the Great
Baikal Trail. It was a nice new bridge; in fact there was evidence
of the old bridge right underneath the newer one, and the new bridge
was quite an improvement over the older one. After crossing the
bridge we came to a place that was another rest stop, another site
where the LAT team worked this past Summer. This stop had a nice new
picnic table and a good view of the mountains and river.
While we were
doing some resting, Igor did some investigation around the site. He
found this can with clear evidence that "The Bear" had gotten into
the can. Apparently, last time Igor was here he buried some cans of
food so in case of an emergency the next time he was around and
needed some canned food it would be available. However, it was not
buried deep enough and "The Bear" apparently got into the food.
traveled the entire trail, I've noticed that "The Bear" gets blamed
for quite a lot that happens on the trail. Several of the nice
wood-burned information signs along the trail we saw were
demolished; again "The Bear" was responsible. Every time we came
across a tree in the middle of the path that was recently uprooted,
it was blamed on "The Bear." Or once when we saw a big pit near the
path it was "The Bear" who decided to dig the pit. Well, fortunately
enough, we were able to survive the entire trip without encountering
After we left
the last rest stop, we went up this really steep part and then down
this really steep part of the path. Once we got back down to river
level, Igor had us ditch our packs and he took us to this secluded
place off the beaten path. He called it his secret part of the
trail. It was a gorgeous scene right on Big Chivuirskii river: There
were mountains in the background, the Sun was shimmering off of the
water just right, and deep fast moving crystal clear water was
running over large boulders with a rock cliff on one side of us.
later asked our guide why there wasn't a sign that pointed out this
area to the rest of the trail hikers. He replied that he had thought
about putting up a sign to point out the area, but he was afraid
that if he did put up a sign that he would never be able to catch
fish there again. After we left, we hiked for a bit more before we
had a late lunch on the trail on a former rock slide. At some point
after lunch, while navigating the many alluvial deposits, I managed
to twist my ankle pretty badly. It did manage to slow me down even
more than I was before. We eventually moved a bit away from the
river and got into some normal ground towards night time.
We made it to
another way stop on the trail, but we did not have long to rest
there, as we had to make it to the next way stop so we could spend
the night at the cabin that was located there. However, it was
already getting dark and the way things were spaced there was a good
distance to go before we would get to our cabin that night. I even
put away my camera after this stop, so I was not tempted to take
more photos that would slow me down even more. We ended up walking
the last bit of the hike that day in pretty dark conditions; again
that was not good for me going along this uneven path with a sore
ankle in darkness.
fact, I happened to lose the sleeping mat that I had attached to my
rucksack, somewhere during this last stretch of the trail. This was
unfortunate, as I slept on a wood plank without any padding beneath
me for the rest of the trip. At some point during this last bit we
took the southern part of the trail, and it was good that we had our
guide to point that out to us, because we would have missed the
turnoff in the dark. Once we got to the stop with the cabin, we
still had to unpack our stuff, get a fire going and fix up dinner.
Luckily this stop had a bunch of precut dried wood waiting for us,
so we did not have to search in the dark for dry firewood as we did
the previous night, and again Igor took care of a lot of the food
preparation stuff. By the time we got into bed we were exhausted.
But at least we managed to convince Igor that we did not need the
stove in the cabin heated up to the uncomfortable levels that we
experienced the previous night.
Day Four ::
day was our day of rest, well sort of. We were able to sleep in on
this day a bit, because we were not going too far. And in fact we
would be spending the night at the same cabin, so when we were on
the trail this day we did not even have to lug all of our rucksacks
along with us, although we did fill up one with our warmer clothes
and food for lunch. The plan for the day was that we were going to
backtrack a bit and take the Northern part of the trail to where it
met up with the Lakinshina River. And supposedly we could see the
omul' swim upstream to mate. (As luck would have it, this was the
unique time of year when this endemic fish swam upstream to mate.)
If you were paying attention to this narrative you would know that
we already encountered omul' once before, on the dinner plate when
we were at Galena's and Alexander's guest house. Anyway, omul' is a
salmon-like fish found only in the waters of Lake Baikal, and
apparently the Lakinshina River during mating season, and it is
considered a delicacy among the locals. I cannot rate the taste of
the fish compared to other fish, as I do not really like fish all
that much, But I can say it tastes the most unlike a fish that a
fish can taste, and it was surprisingly good.
we had a kind of leisurely breakfast and then left on our day hike.
We backtracked a bit to get back to where the northern and southern
part of the trail split. Actually it was interesting to see the path
we walked yesterday, only this time in the daylight. For instance
there was a bridge crossing the Big Chivuirskii river we did early
on our hike that we crossed last night, and I can tell you it was
quite a different experience when there were low light conditions.
The "bridge," such as it was, was this thin tree that was chopped
down and lying across the fast moving river, and it had 2 really
thin metal cables for hand holds, as you can see in the photo. In
addition the bark was skinned off most of the tree, making walking
the bridge even more slippery.
So we headed
up the northern part of the trail. Igor explained to us why we were
not using the Northern part of the trail to get to Lake Baikal. He
said that in October when there are fewer people traveling the trail
and there’s a greater chance of storms it is better to travel the
Southern part of the trail, because where the North part of the
trail meets up with Lake Baikal it can have high waters if it were
to be stormy.
makes it hard for the ship to meet up with us to rescue us. If we
had gone the North route we could be stuck on the beach several days
until the weather and lake conditions were favorable for the ship.
Also since in October and there are fewer people about, there is
really only 1 boat that would take us, the National Park's boat.
Apparently in the summer, there are a few hotel boats that regularly
cruse the area, so it is easer to pick up a boat to take you in the
summer. But today we would be going a little bit along the Northern
part of the trail so we could see the place where the omul' would be
swimming up stream to mate. As you can see in the accompanying photo
the split of the trails is marked by this red arrow. We would have
missed it last night in the dark if it had not been for our guide.
The trail on
this Northern part seemed to be a bit overgrown in places. Igor said
to us that they plan go back and clear out that part of the trail
next year to make it easier to traverse. I think originally they
were to have done some trail clearing at this part of the trail this
past Summer, but there was some sort of equipment failure with the
chainsaws or something like that, so it got put off for a year. We
did a bit of hiking until we ended up at this scenic bend in the
river. The panorama banner photo at the top was taken there. We
stopped a bit before going on. We stayed on the trail for a while.
ended up at the next way stop, where we took another break and broke
out a little lunch. The site was on a very scenic place, as there
was a nice fall, colored wooded ridges in the distance, and the
Lakinshina river running nearby.
After our rest
break we went up the path a bit, but when it became clear that we
would not see the fish if we continued along the path, Igor had a
suggestion for us. There was another path partway back, but the
problem with that path was that there was a small stream that did
not have a bridge over it. So we would have to cross the stream in
order to follow this better path that ran along the river. Well we
decided to follow his suggestion, and we backtracked a bit and went
along this other path. We made it to the stream, and Igor and I
stripped down to our underwear and carried our stuff across this
stream. It was very, very cold, as the stream was fed with melting
snow from the mountains. Alex decided to roll up his pants and wade
across. After we got dressed we left so Melissa could cross the
stream in privacy. After we all got dressed it we continued a bit
along the bank of the river for a short bit.
our left was the river and on our right was this kind of a golden
meadow with green and orange hills in the background. It really was
a nice place.
Then all of a
sudden Igor got excited. He had spotted something in the distance. I
hadn't noticed anything, but then again I do not usually go fishing,
so I wasn't sure what to look for anyway. Well after we got a bit
closer I did manage to see a whole school of omul' all moving very
slowly. Well I really did not think about it, but of course they
would be moving slowly, because they were swimming against the
current to go upstream. I was shocked at how slowly they were
moving, and how hard it must be for them to swim all this way
upstream to wherever they were going. I mean this river was a pretty
fast moving river as it originated up in the mountains somewhere. We
were there for like 30-40 minutes, and the fish couldn't have moved
more than a few yards upstream in all of that time we were watching
them. It was quite a site to see, as I can really see how much of a
feat it is for these animals to accomplish something like that. Well
Melissa had us do this ritual where we were to throw bread crumbs
into the river, and it was to symbolize all of our bad thoughts and
emotions being excised from the soul. After that Igor tried to make
a makeshift fishing pole with a piece of string and a branch to try
to catch one.
he had brought a fishing net that was all he would have needed to
scoop up a fish or two. I was a bit ambivalent about the whole
matter, I thought it was resourceful of Igor trying to make this
makeshift fishing pole, and I would have been excited had he caught
a fish. However, I was also a bit concerned that catching a fish
that was running, if not illegal, should be at least problematic as
these are endemic fish going off to mate. Igor did not manage to
catch one so there was no moral conflict. On a side note, after
hearing Igor retell the story a few times after we got back I was
able to see the "fish that got away" story in play a few times.
On the way
back across the stream that we had to wade across, Igor was even so
helpful that he carried Melissa across on his back so she did not
have to go into that cold water again. We got back to the cabin at
about sunset. We had a big dinner, as it would be our last dinner on
the trail. We went to bed early, because we had to get going early
the next day.