Klyucheraya River, Chukotka | Day One

Aug 22, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

Expedition trips like this often seem to me to be a series of vignettes—of images that are only loosely connected. We hop from place to place in a region, along a course line, but the stops we make are sometimes so varied and so different from each other that they seem like photographs that got dropped into a drawer and mixed up, so that they come out in random order. Today felt particularly like that, largely due to the fog.

We woke and looked out our windows to see…nothing. It was as though someone had hung light gray sheets over all the glass. Nevertheless, the scout boat went ashore, and in due time we navigating the Zodiacs through a narrow entrance into a lagoon and landing at the edge of (what we assumed was) a vast expanse of tundra.

We set out on various walks, and the swirling fog revealed various images. Colorful tundra…a rushing river…gorgeous hills rising all around…magnificently ripe berries…sandhill cranes flapping along in their prehistoric way. But one image that will be forever graven on the memories of all those who got there was the Gil’mimyl Hot Springs.

There was no sign for the place, and no trail to get there. There was just hot water pouring out of a hillside just above the river, a sort of a box dug out of the ground next to it with a bit of decking around it, a plank bench supported by two whale vertebrae, and some very shaky stairs down to the river. But the water was deliciously hot in the pool, and bracingly cold in the river, and the whole experience was wildly fun. The steam from the hot tub rose to mingle with the mist above our heads.

Back on the ship the fog closed us in—the sheets came down over the windows—foiling our plans for whale watching. But later in the afternoon we sailed out of the fogbank and into clear, calm weather, and glorious views of the Chukotka coastline—our final vignette for the day. Tomorrow will bring another series of images and experiences, and I for one will try to be open to all of them.

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About the Author

Kevin Clement


Not many people can say they live year-round inside Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park (the actual number is about 10), but Kevin Clement is one. He also lived for many years in Denali National Park. Nowadays, however, he spends most of his time guiding ecotourism and adventure travel trips on all seven continents.

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