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.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Thinking of Sunsets

Our summer to date has been quite bittersweet.  We had the trip of a lifetime in Iceland (more on that very soon), but we returned to sad news all around.  First, Beverly Murray passed away, suddenly, after feeling a headache for most of the day. She collapsed at 5:00 pm, and was gone by 11:00 pm, at the age of 86.  I spent my youth playing tennis on the tennis court in her back yard, which she and her husband, Bob, so freely shared. My parents spent every summer gardening with her, knowing that if they didn't keep their rows in top shape, they were out. (Bev loved a beautiful and well kept garden).  She raised five tremendously successful and wonderful children, loved horses, and had the highest pain tolerance of any person I have ever known.  

Thirteen days later, her husband Bob, a Korean War Veteran and tireless supporter of every ambition I ever had, developed appendicitis.  He went under anesthesia, and never came out, passing away at the age of 88, having just seen everyone he loved at the funeral for his beloved Bev.  He was interred on July 3rd, 2017, beside her. Bob was a pilot who flew 100 missions in the Korean War in 86 days. Many of his squadron mates never achieved that milestone, dying in the service of their country before they could return. Bob vowed to live life to the fullest after that, and did so, graduating from Harvard's business school, becoming a successful business man, and a pillar of our little community. He was also one of my dad's best friends.  The United States Air Force honored Bob by having two F-35s fly over his grave on July 4.  It was quite a site to see.

Within a week of Bob's passing, Kim Burningham, Bountiful High debate coach and wonderful public school teacher, passed away after a very short battle with liver cancer, the same disease that took my dear friend Marilyn Muir Jager, whom I had gotten to know so well in Mr. B's classes so many years before.  He was one of a kind, dedicated, tireless, patient, calm, and unyielding in the things he knew to be right, a great example to all those he taught so well.  I was lucky to have him as a teacher.  

It is a hard thing to see that the world hurtles forward leaving such good people to the mists of memory.  Bob, Bev, and Kim all lived on Canyon Crest Drive, between my home and my best friend Doug Folsom's house.  I can't tell you how many times I went up and down that street, but it was home to me.  And now it is a home that feels far too empty, missing something fundamental to its very essence. Doug's parents have also passed on, and I can't imagine anyone who comes after in these places will understand the magic of this little community of kind neighbors. It was a Camelot of sorts for me, a place of good, hard working people, with solid values, who were honest and kind and faithful, who supported each other and went about doing good, filled with hope and believing both in dreams and in the goodness of other people. I hope, for the sake of the country Bob courageously fought for, that somewhere a few more of these magical places remain. I don't know whether they do, but I know that this one is passing below the far horizon, and I am feeling it.