~3 hours from Vladivostok
Hiking and Nature
Fall has arrived in Vladivostok. The temperatures have begun to dip well into chilly territory, and the leaves are turning their bright hues. But inside the city doesn’t offer too much in the way of seeing fall beauty, so I had to get out over the weekend to experience some natural beauty. Shortly after I arrived in September, VGUES’s international student coordinator, Svetlana, introduced me to a fellow outdoor enthusiast. Her name is Tatyana, and beyond being a kind friend, she has let us accompany her on several of her adventures. The most recent adventure was to Falaza Mountain.
Falaza Mountain is well outside of Vladivostok and the trip out offered a more rural contrast to everything that I’ve seen in Russia thus far. Old wooden houses with small garden plots are a nice change from the uniform apartment buildings that stretch across Vladivostok’s hillsides.
Although we made the approximately three hour trip to the nearby town of Anisimovka by car, the train does also cover the route, offering an alternative way to reach the mountain.
Our hike began gently climbing alongside a creek called Smolny. At several points along the way we came across small waterfalls which offered pleasant spaces to take a break, eat a snack. One could even take a swim in some of the creek’s deeper pools had the weather been warmer. But we didn’t come to relax by the creek. We had a mountain to climb.
After crossing the creek, we started on a steep ascent that led us almost directly up the mountainside. I had initially assumed that we would follow a trail to the top, but as I soon learned, we had taken the difficult route. In other words, no trail.
We emerged onto a hillside covered with what looked like the leftovers of a dozen avalanches. Rocks of every size and shape, only rarely broken by a small patch of trees or undergrowth, stretched upward as far as the eye could see. As we nimbly stepped from rock to rock, I asked my fellow SRAS student, Joshua, if he knew Russian for “mountain goat.” He didn’t know, but we kept climbing.
Of interesting note is that compasses do not work properly on Falaza because of the type of rocks that cover the mountainsides. Even more curiously, the strong magnetism has affected how the trees grow. Dead wood, sans-bark, reveals a spiraling pattern extending vertically along the entirety of the former trees.
At long last, we arrived at the summit. Small patches of snow, nestled between rocks and underneath the scrub bushes indicated the altitude we had achieved. About two dozen other people were also at the peak, taking photos or warming themselves around small fires. Our group of five found a place out of the wind to eat lunch and relax for a well-deserved break.
Falaza’s 4,196 ft (1,279 m) summit offered wonderful vistas of the Primorye countryside. The clouds that hung in the air when we started had partially cleared by the time we reached the top, giving us glimpses of the Sea of Japan toward the south and other sections of the mountain chain that extends northward along the Russian coastline.
On the descent, we followed the actual trail. Although still somewhat steep, it followed a more traditional route underneath the tree canopy, offering more enjoyment of the fall foliage. By the time we returned to the car, our excursion had consumed the whole day, and we didn’t get back to the university until after dark.
Although the trip made for a long and tiring day, it was absolutely worth it. We got to see our fall colors, got to breathe the crisp fresh air, and escape from the bustle of the city for a good time with great friends.