Lake Baikal
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:: My Trip on the Great Baikal Trail ::
  In the first week of October 2005, I embarked upon a 6 day hiking trip in Siberia to Lake Baikal—the deepest freshwater lake in the world.  At the time I was a participant with the International Research and Exchange Board's (IREX) US-Russia Volunteer Initiative (USRVI).  My particular program, Cultural and Historical Preservation, was sponsored by the US State Department's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.  In short, I was sent to Ulan-Ude, Russia, for 2 months to volunteer for some groups involved in cultural and historical preservation.  Lake Baikal was of particular interest to our program because of its recent UNESCO designation as a World Natural Heritage Site.

The organization for which I was working, Laboratory for Active Tourism (LAT), was one of many groups that had worked heavily on building and maintaining the
Great Baikal Trail, which is really a set of trails surrounding the lake.  These trails are intended both to acquaint people with nature but also to emphasize the need to protect nature from human impact.  The trail for which LAT is responsible is known as "The Path to a Clean Baikal" and is located in Zabaikalsky National Park. The trail is a 33 mile (54km) hike through the Barguzinsky Mountain Range, along the Bol'shoy Chivirkuy River and through many various landscapes.

Our host from LAT, two other volunteers, and I spent 6 exciting days getting to Lake Baikal. Here is a record of some of our experience.

Vegetation on the trail     

Days One and Two

The first day we traveled about 6 hours on the bus from Ulan-Ude to the small town of Ust'-Barguzin 165 miles (265km) to the north. The next Day we started our hike which featured a climb of about 3280 ft (1000m) that brought us to a total hight of 5314ft (1620m).


Alpine trees on the trail     

Days Three and Four

On day 3 we traveled a long distance mainly along the scenic Bol'shoy Chivirkuy river with its many alluvial deposits and steep cliffs. We actually took a little break on Day 4 and took a short side trip to see the Omul' run (A rare fish unique to Lake Baikal).


Lake Baikal at sunset     

Days Five and Six

On Day 5 we finally arrived at the Lake itself. A park boat meet us and ferried us across to the Holy Nose Peninsula, where we relaxed at a natural hot spring. On Day 6 we were taken to the mainland where a car met us and drove us back to Ust'-Barguzin.


© 2005, 2006 Copyright by John Walkoe
This Website was made possible (in part) by a grant from IREX (the International Research & Exchanges Board) with funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the US Department of State. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.