Saturday, August 26, 2017

When You Start Your Day At Skogafoss, You Know You Are In a Wonderland

Our second evening in Iceland, we camped just a stone's throw from Skogafoss, and opened our mobile home door in the morning to a view just like this. Welcome to Iceland!  What a great place. The kids charged right into the base of the thing, just to see how wet they could get -- the spray of this baby is something else (pictures were hard to get without drops all over the lens). I'm glad they did, though, it gives you a little perspective on the size of the fall.  Not small.

The little hamlet of Skogar below this fall sits in an interesting place:  right between the massive glaciers covering Eyjafjallajokull volcano (I can pronounce that, can you?), which infamously interrupted flights to Europe in 2010 when it erupted, sending ash miles skyward; and the glacier covering Katla volcano, the most feared volcano in Iceland.

It is so beautiful for being in such a dangerous place.  We decided to get up on top of the fall for a better look.

Which entailed climbing stairs - a lot of stairs. Four hundred forty-four, to be exact, at least according to Alden. (Have I mentioned that I did not see a single non-skinny Icelander? Nope, not a one.)  But the view from the top was totally worth every huff & puff.

Rainbows and waterfalls, green hillsides and blue skies -- what is not to like?  This place was amazing.

We decided to continue hiking up the Skogar river, on the trail that would eventually lead between the two volcanoes and their respective glacial caps, to Thorsmork, literally, "Thor's Forest" a small woodland nestled between the glaciers that is one of the few places in Iceland where you can actually see trees.  We did not make it that far, but even the short hike we did rewarded in spades.

The domed, snow-capped mountain behind me, and which Alden is contemplating below, is Eyjafjallajokull, now calm and serene, a picturesque part of the landscape.

The Skogar was just quintessential Iceland, all the way along. Big volcanic chunks, green moss, bluest of blue water.

That mount in the background is Eyjafjallajokull.  Looks so peaceful, doesn't it? Now you know why people actually settle near volcanos: they seem so harmless and are so scenic -- most of the time.

I don't know if you can see the people walking along it in the picture above, but can you get any more scenic than walking that trail along this river? It was awesome!

We returned, got back in our mobile home and proceeded along the flank of Katla volcano to Solheimajokull, a tounge of the massive Myrdalsjokull glacier/ice cap that covers Katla. 

We were not allowed to venture too far without a guide, but it was fun to stand on a glacier, even if it is covered in fine black volcanic ash.  And as for the coats, trust me, the wind blows down the face of that baby hard, and it is cold.  We were glad to be all bundled up.

From there, we headed around the southeastern tip of Iceland to a place that shall remain infamous in Bailey lore -- VIK, home of the worst weather in Iceland, where every day feels like Hurricane Harvey.  Moments before the picture below, I observed everyone putting on full rain pants and other heavy gear inside our mobile home, and uttered the now infamous words, "I think you're over-preparing for this."  We then stepped out into howling rain, which the pictures do not show, but trust me, it was there, blowing so hard (horizontally in fact) that it was hard to see. The moment below was not really staged, they were just reacting to the wind as I tried to take their picture. 

The grass next to Alden MAYBE gives you some indication of the fierce wind, and why Alden is clenching a post (mostly in jest, but he was light enough to blow away in that wind, even with all of his 86 pounds).

It was beautiful even in the fierce elements, which somehow made it all the more Iceland-like.

If you look close, you can see a skull face on that rock. No wonder this country largely still believes in trolls.

We hustled back to the Mobile Home, and headed north, around the point, hoping to escape the weather. Unfortunately, that would have to wait for another day. More to come  . . . 

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!