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The Small Valley of Geysers

A replica of a smoking field

Dachnye Hot Springs. The name of this place makes it sound like it’s as easy to get there as to go to a country summer house (“dacha”) - to relax and bask in the warm thermal water. But there is a second name for this place for tourists - The Small Valley of Geysers. This is a pretty good alternative for people who cannot afford to fly to the Valley of Geysers, which costs more than forty thousand rubles.



The route to the Dachnye Hot Springs, which is south of the Kamchatka Peninsula, is not easy and in some places even severe. By the end of the summer there is a beaten path, but at the beginning of the season the road almost doesn’t exist. My transportation to the destination was a custom-built off-road vehicle. The passenger cabin, in general, was pretty comfortable, though. It took about 4.5 hours of shaking and jumping over bumps in each direction, with only one stop at the observation deck for a view of Vilyuchinsky Volcano.

It’s always crowded there, because everyone wants to go outside and stretch their legs. You can even buy a cup of coffee at a coffee truck. But the coffee truck is not always there. On a fine day, Vilyuchinsky Volcano shows its snowy slopes and a perfect cone - it is very beautiful. You hardly draw such amazing views in Photoshop! A lot of photos are taken there, it seems that this is the most photographed point on this route.

People build stone pyramids everywhere for good luck - probably a volcanic one. By August, there is a whole field full of stone pyramids. 

 

From the parking lot to the Small Valley of Geysers it is about a 30 minute walk, past the hissing fumaroles, acidic streams, some multi-coloured boiling puddles, and strange green plants. There are many of them in the Bear Thermal Field - a perfect place for an open 'chemistry lesson’ - where 'students' can watch a lot of experiments of Nature.

  

Then you have to cross a large snowfield that is right in the riverbed between two green shores.



The route leads past the Mutnovsky Geothermal Power Plant, the largest in Russia. The small valley of geysers is half a kilometre away. The presence of such a construction so close to this amazing natural attraction minimises its impression though. Everywhere you look - you see the power station's buildings. From this point of view, the Big Valley of Geysers wins over the small one. However, optimists can easily adjust. Everyone else needs to forget about pictures of virgin untouched nature. It’s touched and equipped. They say that before the Geothermal Power Plant was built there were 4 groups of hot springs in the area: one of them cooled down, and two were destroyed due to construction. 

A small 'boiling' valley is the ‘volcanic garden' of the Mutnovsky Volcano, which is located at the foot of the Skalistaya hill. From a distance, the smoking field can really be taken for geysers emitting steam. But the thing is that there are no geysers here. This effect is created by hot gases escaping from the ground and passing through the waters of cold springs. And these fountains look very similar to geysers. But there is no need for a typical visitor to understand all these earthly processes - everything is boiling and smoking - what do you mean it's not a geyser?



In addition, unlike the Valley of Geysers, where you can only walk on wooden paths, you can walk around wherever you like in the Small Valley of Geysers. You can look closely at mud and volcanos pots, and observe steam and gas streams. The only limit is your own sense of self-preservation. The streams are spraying boiling water, so there is a danger of scalding - the temperature reaches 95 ° C, the steam columns are also very hot.



The active field of the Small Valley of Geysers is quite large. On the right steep slope, there are many fumaroles and steam emissions, on the left side there is less activity. There are about 1000 volcanic activities in total.



In this strange place, from the point of view of evolution it seems that nothing should grow, yet an incredibly beautiful flora floods the entire valley. There are a lot of flowers - the only thing is I don’t know their names. Nettle grows as high as half of a human body: to wander through such bushes is guaranteed to burn your hands. I tried to identify some types of flowers when I returned to the hotel. I identified: Platanthera Kamchatica, Cladonia (cup lichen), Agrostis pauzhetica and Okhotsky Fimbristylis (the last one should be used as a tongue twister to determine one's level of drunkenness).

 

After plenty of walks in the steam and breathing in hydrogen sulphide, it was time to head back. Remembering the long road to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, I sighed: five hours in the upgraded off-road vehicle is still hard.



Summarising this trip: hiking to the Small Valley of Geysers is a rather weak alternative to the Valley of Geysers. But in general, if you want to witness volcanic activity, without climbing high up onto volcanoes, this option is very good. In addition, your photos will still turn out to be excellent.

The Four Seasons of Russia project is supported by the Russian geographical society www.rgo.ru 
A trip to the Small Valley of Geysers is recommended by the Russian Geographical Society.

You can buy a tour to Kamchatka on the website "Russia Discovery" www.russiadiscovery.ru
   

Also read about Kamchatka:
Mutnovsky Volcano on Kamchatka: How I climbed into the crater of an active volcano
Trekking to Vachkazhets Mountain range
Kuril Lake: something about the life of bears and humans
The Valley of Geysers
Avacha Bay
Volcanoes of Kamchatka
Climbing Mount Camel
Translation: Irina Romanova, Instagram: @astrabella1

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