I'm posting this from an I Pod, so please forgive it will not be too informative at the moment ;)
The Valley of 10,000 Smokes is a region within Katmai National Park. It is filled wirh ash flow from an eruption of Novarupta in the year 1912. It was the by far largest eruption by volume in the 20th century, and it was a plinian eruption with massive ash flows and a pyroclastic eruption. The ash layers in the Valley reach a thickness of up to 210 meters and the most impressive sight is that the rivers lee and knife creek have already cut deep canyons into the soft ash.
The valley was - after it's first exploration by the National Geographic Society in 1916 - an unreachable and exotic destination, like a cold and arctic Shangri La. The 10,000 smokes were fumaroles steaming almost everywhere in the valley and that must have been an truly incredible sight. Today there are no more fumaroles, but the colors, the ash layers and canyons are really impressive. Most parts of the valley can only be reached by foot and there are not a lot of shelters so you better bring your tent with you. And it's also a valley without water, there are some snowfields where you get water, but mainly you have to carry the water that you need for several days with you. And gear and water is heavy, so be prepared to carry a heavy load. The valley is not thatunreachable any more, most backpackers come by plane via Anchorage, fly - as we did - to King Salmon, watch bears and then take this cool valley bus to the trailhead where you get dropped off in the bush.
So now just a few pictures from the Valley...
That's what the trailhead looks like - you notice the bug net: really essential gear.
The first mile you walk through quite dense vegetation and you always have to mind you're in bear country, so if you're not willing to face a brown bear behind every bend of the trail, make noise. Besides: there is no marked route into the valley, but there are plenty of footpaths you can follow.
When hiking into the Valley, most trekkers follow the Buttress Range which is the mountain range to the right of the picture, and then head to 6 Miles Camp (which is not a 'camp' at all, just a place where you get some melting water from snow fields in the mountains above).
Then the dense vegetation suddenly disappears, you cross a river and there it is: a valley full of ash.
Quite a windy and rainy night in the middle of nowhere.
But it's an amazing valley, with lots of opportunities for pictures!
And a last picture: this guy was just around our tent at night - at day we heard him hauling in the dark, dense wood on the trail... which was a bit scaring indeed... he even came closer in the wood and stories where told of a wolf even following the people...