06 December 2010

Lake Baikal

The list of superlatives for Lake Baikal is as long as the lake itself, (636km). Baikal is the deepest, oldest and second largest lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's fresh water and is home to nearly 1200 endemic organisms, including the world's only freshwater seal, the Nerpa.

Do all of these unique qualities make Lake Baikal one of the world's best hiking places?

Unfortunately not.

There are basically three small sections of shoreline that are walkable, out of thousands of kilometers, despite the years of hard work by the Great Baikal Trail Organization.

Kristin and I had trouble fining a suitable route for a week-long hike. The rocky shore is narrow and often blocked by mountains that drop straight into the lake. So, trails need to travel inland through thickly forested hills and mountains. When the man-made trails end, the real wilderness begins. The terrain and plant life make it really difficult to hike off-trail. Route finding is also hindered by a lack of general hiking information and good topo maps.

Jack Sheremetov, the owner of Baikaler Hostel, was a great resource. Even though we weren't staying at the hostel, he talked with us for a long time about backpacking possibilities. He gave us contact info for a friend who had a remote cabin on the shore, and followed up with emails to make sure the trip was a success. Very cool.

So maybe Baikal isn't the best place for hiking in the world. Baikal is a wonderful place to visit with beautiful, raw nature - the vastness of the lake made me feel tiny, but that I was also a part of something much bigger.

Kristin and I still had a wonderful, if challenging, backpacking adventure. We backpacked for several days and didn't see any other hikers. We enjoyed the amazing fall colors and quiet down time.

We also dreamt up (or at least I did) plans for a crazy traverse of a very remote section of the lake, a fully self-supported adventure that would require intense hiking and pack rafting

Until then, I have the satisfaction of knowing that we spent some quality time with Lady Baikal, in all of her majestic beauty.

We started the hike in the village of Bolshoi Goloustnoye, which is located at the delta of this, its namesake river.

Cowaflage, brought to you by the creators of mona-flage.

The Bolshoe Goloustnoye delta is in the background.

Cool-weather hiking was refreshing and the colors were simply spectacular. I kept warm with light fleece gloves and my MontBell Thermawrap Parka.

Give me internet access and a solar panel and this could be home for me!

Good trails so far . . .

Cooking dinner and enjoying sunset.

These flying bugs landed us nearly every minute that we were hiking through the forests. The bugs clung to our clothing, hair and our neckline. They seemed like ticks on steroids and were quite annoying. We found out later that they weren't ticks, luckily, but that there is a problem with ticks in early summer.

The challenge begins: bushwacking through dense undergrowth and climbing over fallen trees, while navigating uneven ground on a steep hill.

You can always find something positive if you know where to look.

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6 Months Ago: La Paz, Bolivia

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