Atlee’s First Time Tent Camping- Valley of 10,000 Smokes


I think it’s safe to say that Atlee’s first campground wasn’t the typical campsite you would bring your 2-month-old to. In fact, sometimes I dreamily wonder if she would win the “youngest child to ever visit” award. Even if she wouldn’t, it still makes me a little smug with pleasure that her first camping experience was in the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, a place very few Alaskans have the opportunity of going to, and a place it took me 29 years to get to.

Pride for my child aside, the barren valley in Katmai, known as the Valley of 10,000 smokes, was formed by the violent eruption of the Novarupta volcano, the largest in the 20th century. According to the NPS website, this massive eruption occurred in 1912, sent ash 20 miles high, pushed out pyroclastic flows at more than 100 mph, and dramatically transformed an area of 40 square miles, formally known as the Ukak River Valley.

Our first attempt to get to the Valley early in our trip had been thwarted by a string of bad weather. We waited for the weather to improve with friends in Naknek, found a dead walrus near Egegik, then discovered the weather had finally cleared enough to head inland to the Valley.


So, we made our first entrance into Katmai, an area known for its large bear population, with a 2-month-old baby, and a stinky walrus head strapped to the wing. I’m sure if a parenting book ever had the slightest idea that this might be a possibility, they would have definitely added it to the “what not to do with a newborn” list.


The waterfalls that flanked the head of the valley made up for any lack of color in the lake. The strip Woodsen found to land on was short relative to our heavy plane and the squirrely wind, so we circled a few times before deciding to land.


The weather in the Valley wasn’t spectacular, so we decided to make camp and pray the forecast, which predicted only partly cloudy for the following day, was accurate. We flew to the head of the Valley near the Mageik Lakes (although, I didn’t know that was where we were at the time, and we only found the silt-laden lake), and quickly submerged our stinky walrus head in the water to try to subdue its horrid fragrance.


We set up camp and made dinner. And by “made” I mean we heated up water and ate Ramen 🙂 Our go-to camping meal.



Atlee was a fan 🙂

Woodsen and I aren’t big on collecting baby “stuff” but I think we both would agree that one of our best purchases, and a Craigslist one at that, was the red x-large PeaPod by KidCo. pictured in this photo. It is compact when collapsed and pops open quickly and is ready to go.




Near our tent we found remnants of the previous visitors campsite.



The rest of the evening we explored the area around our campsite.





Atlee slept well and we woke up to a thin layer of fog that quickly burned off to reveal bright blue skies, perfect for exploring the valley.









Because of the unpredictable wind, Woodsen decided to make two trips out in the airplane.


Attlee, ready for her plane ride/nap. Time to go explore this unique valley!