How can I describe today? Will try my best and hope I convey my experience.
The day started when I woke up at 6:30. Slept in my one man tent. I know I do not have many more days camping out. I am glad I experienced this way of living but it is not for everyone. Met Kip and Kevin in the dining tent for some coffee. At 8 breakfast was served. I will truly miss Natalia’s amazing breakfast. She is a true magician. I specifically love her pancakes and put caviar on it. The only way to really enjoy pancakes.
At 9 will left for a very bumpy ride to the trail head of the trail to the caldera. It took about thirty minutes of bouncing up and down to arrive at the trail head. We were told that each way would be three hours or three miles to the caldera. I did not know what to expect. The first question is where do you find a caldera? It is the crater of a volcano and you have to hike up the volcano to the caldera. We started at the trail head. The Kamaz could only go so far. Up we went. Over ice fields and areas of large volcanic rocks and boulders. We were constantly rising with some flat areas. I followed Dmiitry like a mother bear and her cub. He helped me go up some areas that had forty five degree inclines and were full of sharp rocks. I began to shed my clothes. First the gloves, then the woolen hat and finally the winter jacket. The more we walked the sweatier I got. I grabbed Dmitry’s hand often as we climbed an endless series of inclines and ice fields. Finally Dmitry pointed to an area where I saw smoke rising from the earth. That was our final destination. We finally reached the last segment of the hike. Straight up. When I saw it I wanted to just sit in a big boulder and cry.Dmitry grabbed my hand and pulled me up. We finally reached the crest. I had done something that very few people my age would ever do. My heart was filled with accomplishment and joy. What I saw was truly amazing. We were facing an active volcano. Smoke was constantly coming out of the earth creating different patterns. We were up close and witnessing this amazing spectacle. I just starred at what I was looking at and grabbed my camera. I could not stop clicking. How fortunate I am to witness the strength and beauty of nature this way.Dmitry and some staff set up lunch on the ground. I just wanted to absorb all the beauty I was witnessing.
After resting and taking pictures for about one hour, we decided it was time to make our way back. I could tell you that the return trip was worse. We were going downhill many times and it was much easier to fall. Also, my quads and knees started to ache. Dmitry constantly grabbed my hands and helped me down. It seemed like the hike would never end. I fell twice during the hike. Got one scratch on my leg, but otherwise did not hurt myself. I could tell you that this was one of the most difficult things I have ever done to take unique pictures. As I descended down I started to dream of the Kamaz and sitting down. Without Dmitry I would have never made it and witnessed something that will always remain in my memory.
I finally saw the Kamaz in the distance. That beautiful Kamaz waiting for me. When I arrived at the Kamaz I gave the driver a big hug. I forgot to mention we were all using two walking sticks each. Without these I would not have been able to accomplish this feat.
My pants were filthy, my shirt was full of sweat and my feet were swollen as I climbed onto the Kamaz. The drive back was bumpy but I didn’t care. I was dreaming about a tent shower and a chair.
We arrived back at Camp and Natalia had done her magic again. Hot borsch was served. It was so good. I just sat and consumed Natalia’s borsch and felt spent.
Dmitry set up my tent shower. I took off my dirty, sweaty clothes and let the hot spray of water consume me. I got dressed in clean clothes and barely made my way back to my tent for a nap. It was 7:30 PM when I awoke. I was stiff and it seemed like every part of my body was screaming.
Dinner was served at 8. I could not eat. Had some wine from Georgia. That’s in Russia. Tasted quite different. A campfire was then started outside and I starred into the flames thinking of how I had challenged myself and what I had seen today.