We were fortunate enough to get out of the city last weekend and do some hiking. It was a much appreciated chance to enjoy some new scenery and stretch our legs. (We walk plenty in the city, but its different to go for a hike than it is to go for groceries or, say, a potato samci.)
This particular outing was organized by Sasha, the school librarian/physician, who you've all met before. She was the one carrying her little Anita around in a snow storm back in September. About a dozen of us school staff (local and foreigners alike, some with their kids and spouses) met at 8:00 to depart. We started hiking after a drive that reminded me more of 395 than anything else I can come up with. Different, and much more populated than 395, but similar nonetheless.
Arriving at the trailhead (a small dirt road off of the side of A365), we started hiking at 11:00. We wandered up a small drainage which turned into a short slot-canyon. This is flash-flood country, and the sediment wash patterns were there to prove it.
After a while hiking up the wash/slot, the canyon opened up to some very cool formations. We all traipsed around and took in the sights. Eventually, we ended up near the top, over-looking the canyon we'd come up. A quick look at Google Earth (coords. 42.599377,75.797124) will let you know that there are many canyons just like the one we were in if you keep hiking west. We only saw one and part of another. All told, it was a splendid day.
After we returned to the van/bus (vus?, ban?), it was determined that we should all go to see the Burana Tower. We're glad we did. It was pretty cool. Built about 1200 years ago in the city of Balasagun, it is now a historical site. The legend is that a king was warned that his daughter would die at 18 years old. He stuck her in the tower to protect her, but she died at 18 when some of her food was contaminated. The pictures are level, but the tower is not (any more at least). Apparently it used to be taller. It's pretty sweet, and I'll be honest, I was pleased with the light that was striking the tower when we were there. It was after hours, so we couldn't go to the top. Someday, maybe someday.