Monday, August 14, 2017

Albion Basin Redux -- Just Because

I am posting a few last photos of Albion Basin at Alta Ski resort here, just because it should be remembered by more than one post -- its wildflowers were so spectacular this year. On this particular (hazy) evening, we saw a moose on the way in, and then all this, just an hour from my house. How can you not love good old Utah?  It is a Pretty, Great Place, as the slogan goes, and I think the Utah Travel Commission should get a truth in advertising award.  Enjoy.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Epic in Iceland Again, This Time with Serious Waterfalls

As we left Thingvillir National Park and headed towards our next destination, a couple of things about Iceland became very clear: First it is filled with water. Streams run everywhere to the sea from the rains that come so often and the glaciers that cap this magical land.  Second, it has a unique beauty that can be jaw dropping.  Take, for example, the stream in the picture above -- an otherwise everyday stream running under the road, except that it was lined with giant lupines as far as the eye could see. If you look closely, you can also see shades of purple on the hillsides in the background -- fields upon fields of lupine were up there. Where else does that happen? I don't know if it does, but I for one have never seen anything like the concentration of Lupine we repeatedly found here. Just amazing.

Our next stop was Geysir, the home of the original, the place that gave every other one its name (Geysir is an Icelandic word).  It is no Yellowstone by any stretch (nowhere is -- that place is special), but it was fun to see.

Here is the fam standing in front of the original, which hardly erupts anymore. Fortunately, its very close neighbor, Stokkur Geysir, is explosive about every ten minutes, and the surrounding hotsprings are filled with flowers.

And below is Stokkur in action. Unlike Old Faithful, when it goes, it is one, quick, sudden blast skyward, no slow building bubble to tower of water. That makes photographs tricky, but I did get one.

As we left the parking lot to head to our next destination,  we spotted this amazing vehicle below.

There are a lot of these in Iceland (Jasper Swenson, eat your heart out!), and I had serious car envy the whole time I was there. These cars ford rivers, cross tough terrain, climb mountains, etc. and they are built for it, without a doubt!  The Landcruisers were especially awesome. One day . . . .

On the way to our next destination, Keegan met a soul brother on the side of the road -- look at that hair/mane combo, it is a perfect match.  Icelandic horses are beautiful and unique, but their most distinct feature is the mane on their head, looking like stoic rebels all.

The next destination was mighty Gulfoss, an amazing waterfall that for some reason was really hard to photograph--perhaps because of all the mist in the air reflecting light in odd ways just messed up my sensors, I don't know. I was very disappointed in the results, but have posted some here to give you an idea of the place.  Here is the fam standing in front of it.

And and unobstructed view. The people standing on the upper left hand side of the photo give you some sense of perspective.  It is a seriously large fall.

The photo above is looking down into its maw, and the photo below is Alden and Keegan contemplating that churning abyss.  Typical of Iceland, not a lot of protection from going over the edge. Glad they stayed back a ways.

Just downstream from that, I took a photo to show how ridiculous the water color is (the above photos don't do it justice).  Black lava and glacial water -- pretty crazy combo!

From there, we headed down and east along the southern coast of Iceland, to Seljalandfoss, one of our favorite stops on the trip.

Here is the family in front of the fall. It doesn't look that big from this distance, but there is a reason we are wearing the heavy clothing (besides the fact that it was generally chilly).

You can actually hike around behind the fall!  Even this photo doesn't do it justice, but Keegan, who was ecstatic, ran to the fall like a boy possessed, he was so excited to be so close. He is that little red spot in the photo below, arms outstretched, soaking it all in (so to speak he he). Gives you a little perspective on the size of the thing.

Then, suddenly, the wind shifted . . .

and it was as if Monte Python appeared, shouting "Run away!"  It felt like a hurricane in that blast of wind, and we would have been soaked to the bone without all our rain gear on.

Fortunately, the sun came out as we departed the cavern behind the fall, revealing wildflowers, falls, and water galore along this beautiful cliffside.

It felt so magical, we spent a great deal of time wandering about, not wanting to leave, and feeling that we might never have an experience like this again.   Finally, it was getting late even by the long day standards of Iceland, so we bid a fond farewell to Seljalandfoss.

Notwithstanding the late hour, we headed toward Skogafoss, our campground for the night and beginning of the next days activities.  I'll close with some of the scenery we saw in the very late evening on the way there.

Safe to say it was another day of epic adventure in Iceland!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Epic Is Another Word for Iceland

So we headed to Iceland this summer, about five years after I first started pining to go.  Good thing it took that long -- that place is expensive enough that it took about five years of savings to pull it off! :-).  That said, it was worth every penny.  It is a photographers paradise, unique in every respect, uncommon beauty and adventure everywhere. There simply is no other word besides epic to really describe it, much to the joy of my little viking in training (at least judging by the length of his hair!).

In the middle of a hot summer, Iceland offered 60 degree highs (lows in the upper thirties), cooling rain, brisk cool winds, waterfalls beyond counting, glaciers, volcanos, a sun whose light never fully disappeared so you had time to get in every adventure, kind people who all spoke english, very fresh seafood, and the most amazing, cool, pure, fresh and tasty tap water on the entire planet. Who could ask for more?

We flew on a redeye into Keflavik, about 45 minutes south east of Reykjavik, where we picked up this beauty from McRent Iceland:

which turned out to be a great decision.  It was surprisingly spacious yet small enough to drive without a lot of difficulty, and as campgrounds are everywhere, and rarely fill up (they are basically big grassy fields where people park anywhere), it provided a flexibility that was well worth the price.  It was a manual transmission, which took me back years, to my early experience driving trucks on Grandpa Aldin's farm -- an added nostalgic bonus for me.

We stocked up at the first grocery store we saw, where we learned that the people may speak english, but their food labels are an entirely different story (mystery meat, anyone?). Actually, most of the food was pretty easy to identify, and they had great milk, normal cereals, pasta, pasta sauce, pancake mix, etc. -- you know, the basic camping staples.  A quick brunch of strip mall salmon (I know, what part of that does not shout "Danger Will Robinson! Danger!" but it was quite good and amazingly fresh), and we were off to our first destination, Thingvillir National Park, about 36 km outside of Reykjavik.

At first, it may not seem like much, but it is literally a place where the world is splitting apart.  The Atlantic rift zone runs right down the middle of the park, and evidence of it is everywhere.

There are similar escarpments on the other side of the lake and broad rift valley, running parallel, and you realize the whole middle part is sinking, to be filled only with lava from the fiery depths.

They actually have a nice path that lets you hike down into the maw of the whole thing.  I felt a little bit like Orpheus or Odysseus, with some of the trepidation that should entail, but it didn't seem to bother the family at all.

Turns out, not surprisingly, that there was no reason to worry -- it is just a beautiful wonderland down there:

And apparently stable enough for the prime minister to have built a summer residence in the place.

It is also the home of the Logberg, literally, "law rock" where every year for a long time starting in 930 AD, the first parliament of Iceland met --really, a meeting of all the vikings, where laws for the upcoming year were voted on, and then read from the rock and assented to by all present, for the governance of their actions in the upcoming year.  Quite civilized for a group of people otherwise known for pillaging and other unpleasant sundries.  Here is a picture of the place, marked by the flag pole.

Not bad for a day in which we didn't really get anything other than plane quality sleep. We stayed in the campground near this beautiful, awesome place, wondering what the next day's travel would bring.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Catherine's Pass and Albion Basin

We managed to gather our very reluctant troop for a mid-morning jaunt to Albion Basin, at Alta ski resort (where I learned to ski oh . . .40 plus years ago), and hiked up the Catherine pass trail, amidst a profusion of wildflowers that had to be seen to be believed. The mid-day light did not allow my camera to do it justice, but I took ton of them anyway, some of which I post below.  The beauty of the world never ceases to amaze me, and that we have eyes to see it is one of the reasons I continue to believe there is a God who cares for all of us.  It was a great day.

 These shots are at the very beginning of the trail, and I was happy to have a reason to stop often. The trail is up there at over 8500 feet elevation, and I struggled from the beginning to catch my breath.  Being out of shape is a downer, but it gave me reason to take it slow and enjoy what was all around me.

The Indian Paintbrush was out in full force in spots, such a bright red in a field of green, it really stands out.

Here is the family hiking up an early part of the trail. It is pretty steep, with sections of relative flat, but largely bounded by wild flowers on all sides, and scenes like the one below.

The kids and Kathleen decided to head back down on a different fork of the trail, which they had heard was really full of flowers. I decided to push ahead up to the pass, where there would be less flowers, but nice views.  Here is some of what the kids and Kathleen found:

And here is what I encountered shortly after leaving them. I really loved this little meadow, at least in part because it was flat :-).

But also because of those cool purple flowers in the background. We had not seen anything like them, so I took out the telephoto lens to zoom in a bit.

Pretty great colors.  After the meadow, you begin a series of steady but manageable switchbacks up to the pass.

Here is the view looking back on that little meadow, and below a close up of some of the flowers along the switchbacks.

 As you reach the top, here is the view that greets you:

Looking down into what I believe to be Catherine Lake, and further on into Big Cottonwood Canyon.

 I sat down to soak it in, and was soon joined by this little fella:

Others were more adventurous. If you look closely at the below, you can see two little dots on the top of what I think is Sunset Peak. Those are people.

The trail up looks steep but doable, and I was tempted, but knew my family would be waiting forever for me if I tried. Hopefully I will be able to come back soon and take a shot. I bet the views are spectacular.

 The trails up high were not as lush as the ones down lower, but still, wild flowers dotted your way all along. What a great place.

As you descend, and find running water, they get more and more lush, until you are surrounded by a profusion of color that just has to make you happy.

At the end, this is the scene that greets you.  Pretty spectacular place.

From there, it was off to see snow leopard cubs at the local Zoo, and then home to collapse.  All in all, a great Saturday.