Valley of 10,000 Smokes


Our day exploring the Valley of 10,000 smokes started at the head of the valley near the Mageik mountains. We woke up to clouds, but by the time we had packed up camp and Woodsen had flown a couple loads of gear off the short sandbar, blue sky was peaking through the clouds and the sun was high in the sky.

We flew down the valley following winding rivers cut so deep into the volcanic ash they seemed to disappear.fullsizeoutput_35a1


There was no shortage of places to land.


We landed and decided to follow a shallow dried drainage towards the river.


As we followed it the mounds of ash on either side of us began to rise over our heads.





Atlee, unimpressed by it all, took a nap.


We followed the drainage down till we found were that water had once poured out over the bank into the river.

img_6404We retraced our steps and climbed up to the top of the cliffs where we could see the river. The fluted cliffs with the vibrant green backdrop made for quite the view.






We only spent one night in the valley before heading to Lake Clark area then on to the Brooks Range to explore the Arrigatch Peaks. In retrospect, I wish we had spent more time in the valley, but weather hadn’t fully cooperated.

I think that the overwhelming lesson Woodsen and I learned from this trip was that trying to pack too much into one trip, with or without a baby, isn’t fun, and you miss out on really getting to know one area. During this trip we spent time in Drift River, Port Ellsworth, Lake Clark, Naknek, Valley of 10,000 smokes, Fairbanks, Bettles, Gates of the Arctic in the Brooks range, and had planned on ending the trip in Mccarthy. We flew over 1,500 miles at an average speed of 90 mph and even though we had 3wks, by the time day 10 came around I was done. Atlee was awake till midnight, tension was high after long days flying in the airplane, and I was sick of standing up to breastfeed (in all our brilliance we had forgot to pack some sort of chair).

I’m glad I acknowledged I had hit my limit instead of pressing on for the sake of pressing on. In retrospect its obvious why we threw in the towel, what we had bit off was way more then we could chew.

We covered a lot of ground, but in the case of the valley of 10,000 smokes, we left a lot of ground undiscovered. We didn’t get to see the Novarupta Crater, the lake formed when Mt. Katmai collapsed, the warm springs created by the trident lava flows, or Mt Martin.

Needless to say, looking through these pictures makes me want to go back and really take our time exploring the valley. Who knows, we still don’t know where we will be going this summer. Maybe we will find ourselves back in the valley.

One thing I do know is that if we do go back Atlee won’t be napping throughout the whole experience.