The blog took a break while I was moving, finding an apartment, and acquiring a job in Boulder, CO. Now that everything has settled down the posts will continue as the snow begins to fall outside my window. Onward and upwards with the adventures!
Day 4 – Alongside the river to Vik – 4/19/2015
With our campsite along the river we could see a church in the far distance. After packing up things we headed over to checkout the Church and it turns out they had a visitors area with artifacts from long ago as well as the original foundation in place 50ft from the current structure.
After viewing the church we headed off the Þingvellir national park since we didn’t spend much time at it yesterday other than just gathering information. After taking in the tectonic plates and reading up on the history of the place we decided to go off trail a bit and hike in-between the North American and European plates which was amazing.
Right before leaving we checked out a nearby waterfall. I swear this place, Iceland, is constantly bleeding with water…. everywhere…. in great abundance. And now onto another waterfall, Skógafoss!
Skógafoss was truly amazing, mostly due to the fact that you could hike in behind the waterfall where all sorts of colored moss and allege were growing. It was just a stunning waterfall under the most perfect of weather conditions.
Back on the road we stopped at a vista point for the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that erupted in 2010 contributing to mass air-traffic disruption which you can read about here.
Next stop up was the black sands beach with some cool basalt rock formations. After being sandblasted on the beach we were off to Vik where we’d find a nice spot to camp high up on a knoll overlooking the town.
Day 5 – Vik to Skaftafell – 4/20/2015
I woke up to the bustling of others packing up their stuff and decided to lay there with the black sand forming to my back like a tempurpedic bed. It was quite nice. And, based on how fast we all got back up the previous night I knew I had some time. So I lazily woke and cooked up some breakfast in the tent as a nice drizzle was coming down outside, quite peaceful.
As I was packing up Steve came back up and we took a stroll up to the top of tiered cliff that we had been camping on. A large community of birds had made their home on the hillside so we took a bit of time for observation and photography. Down at the car Aaron and Nathan were waiting so we quickly packed the suv and headed off. Of course stopping for vistas along the way our destination today was Skaftafell where we’d camp. One notable stop was to admire the vastly covered moss landscape. Walking on the stuff is such a great feeling that we stayed for a bit.
Arriving in Skaftafell we checked out the visitors center and got some info on the camping regulations, with it still being early in the day we signed up for an ice hike which is pretty much what it sounds like. Walking on a glacier. I don’t mean to downplay it but with it being nothing new to me I was just along for the ride. Obviously it was a cool experience none the less. For myself it was something along the lines of a campfire. All campfires are cool, fun to make, enjoyable and never get boring but once you’ve seen one you’ve seem them all to some degree. For glaciers I pretty much feel the same way, their all unique yet the same.
We donned some crampons and were off! Overally we’d make one large loop on the Svínafellsjökull glacier. No injuries but one older asian lady did keep trying to cut in line which isn’t something to do when on a slippery ice shelf. Just imagine giving the general public spikes in the feet and axes in their hands, scary. One reason why I question if I want to be a guide or not. The day finished off with the “opportunity” to take pictures against a sloped ice wall as if one were ice climbing, pretty funny. I didn’t take them up since I’ve been actual ice climbing but it was a fun experience for everyone.
After the climb we were all soaking wet from the rain up on the glacier. With morale low the group decided on getting a hotel room in Skaftafell and so we did. Running out of chances to camp! We ended the night soaking in a hot tub in the basement of the hotel.
Day 6 – Skaftafell to Höfn – 4/21/2015
Today we would be visiting a basalt waterfall, Svartifoss, located in the Vatnajökull National Park. The weather was far better than the previous day which meant for easy trekking out to Svartifoss. While trekking out to the waterfall, what did we come across?, why another waterfall! We stopped to admire it and Steve got uncomfortably close to the edge. Maybe my monthly reading of the “Accidents in North American Mountaineering reports” has made me rather risk adverse in situations without ample protection, or I’ve just gotten old, but I can see why the park service puts up ample signage around these areas 🙂 It was a rather short hike out to Svartifoss and well worth it, the columns were other-worldly and we stopped to take a fair number of pictures while other tourists were accumulating.
We took a different trail back to the car which led us up to a nice meadow overlooking <cite mountain> blanketed by clouds and rainfall. We stood in an open meadow next to a sun-dial admiring the views of the ocean opposing jagged cliffs, odd land formations in the sea, and the largest mountain in Iceland behind us obscured by clouds. While hiking back out we came across an area used for gutting and cleaning out game which was marked and designated as a fragile area.
Back in the car it was time to grab lunch and with food being quite expensive we settled for a gas station hotdog, coke, and fries (approx. $16 USD). This would become commonplace for the trip.
Next stop, the Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon! Breathtaking is the only way to put it and pictures don’t come close to representing it. The ice itself is hundreds of years old, very clear and solid deep blue. The beachside was insanely windy and took a bit of effort to get out to the icebergs which were all congregated on the shore at this point in the year. Towards icelands summer months the icebergs are out floating about with boat tours which go out for viewing.
After a lengthy amount of time admiring the ice formations we left the car and walked across the highway to a convenience store/tourist shop for a hot beverage and scone. I decided to get the traditional scone, it wasn’t all that great, but now I know…. pretty bland I’ve gotta say. At some point we lost AC and decided he must be back at the car so we battled the winds to get back. And we literally did just that, battled the winds. Walking at a 30 deg angle into the winds with eyes as dry as can be it required a ton of effort, should’ve just drove over to the tourist center 🙂
Our destination for the night was Höfn and with it already being late we knew we’d arrive a night. With no great opportunity for dinner we hoped something would be open upon arrival. Along the drive there were some Caribou, horses, and of course some quite interesting landscapes. At one point we stopped at a monument of sorts along the road which was devoted to Sogufero (sp) a John Muir type naturalist.
Arriving in Höfn we found a small restaurant ,Hafnerbudin, which was open and grabbed some awesome burgers there. While having dinner we met up with a girl from Utah travelling somewhat solo around the island. She was essentially with a group and left them for a few days to join back up at the end of the trip. Sounded like a good decision on her part. We all parted ways without exchanging contact info but she was relieved to meet up with another party from the U.S. To round out the night we played some cards and crashed at a sweet guesthouse in Höfn.
- Day 7 – Höfn to Seyðisfjörður – 4/22/2015
Steve and I packed up a bit more quickly than the others so we walked about Höfn and came across the community picking up trash. Not that their was hardly any trash but it appeared to be a requirement for the youth to pick up all debris. If only this happened in the states. I guess one could dream. We all headed back to Hafnerbudin for lunch and upon leaving saw more cool icelandic trucks. Along with one XJ, I’m really curious how 44″+ tires work on an XJ. Today our goal was a guesthouse in Seyðisfjörður located in the east fjords.
While driving along ring road we came across a bright orange lighthouse that we stopped at to get pictures and climb around the oceanside cliffs/rocks. Saw a few sea lions and what we thought was the top of a whale. Onwards from there we encountered numerous classic cars with racing numbers on the driving around the fjord on such a perfect day.
The weather was absolutely perfect today, crisp, cool, clear and of course windy. It’s just always windy. Made a quick stop in Egilsstaðir to pickup some liquor. There’s hardly any liquor/beverage stores on the island so if you happened to find one take advantage! And this pleased AC, the lack of liquor stores is a topic that came up on a daily basis..haha. We arrived in Seyðisfjörður and met the owner/builder of the guesthouse that we’d be staying at. Cool guy and a well built place.
At night we walked around the town, found a world-renowned art school, and played a bit on the schoolyard playground which had a zip-line. I mean how couldn’t you pass that up?
There was a large harbour which was a point of entry for ships arriving/departing from Denmark. It would be pretty cool to connect a trip with one leg being ship transit to and from Denmark/Iceland.
- Day 8 – Seyðisfjörður to Mývatn – 4/23/2015
One objective of the trip was to do a 20mi one way hike through a canyon in the north part of Iceland. Specifically Myvatn. Steve was able to get ahold of a ranger and before he could finish asking them about the trail they blatantly said it wouldn’t be possible due to the conditions. Essentially we’d have to rent a icelandic truck to get to the trailhead at $400/day and the 20miles of hiking would turn more into expedition mountaineering. So with that in mind we ditched the idea of a hike. For the most part it was our last opportunity to fit in a nice hike. So for me it was a pretty depressing moment. More time in the car and less time outside.
With hiking out of the picture our goal for the day was the dettifoss waterfall which was seen in the film Prometheus. While in the town of <town name><lookup> we were looking at the map and decided on taking highway ### out to the falls. One problem, the road was closed. It was closed with a small sign that had been placed in the middle of the road. The weather was alright, not much snow, the road conditions were alright. After much discussion and against my judgment we decided to ignore the sign and head for the waterfall. The condition being that if anything changed slightly we’d turn back. My primary reasons for not going were pretty simple. 1.) The weather can change rapidly and we’ve already seen that. 2.) We don’t really know why the road was closed. The assumption is that it isn’t passable due to snow but it could be anything. 3.) We’re not prepared for enduring the harsh wind/cold if the SUV breaks down. BUT, the group decided against this and off we went.
The gravel road was quite nice as we drove at a steady 30 mph and we were relieved that their wasn’t massive snow piles preventing our journey out to dettifoss. The weather had also resided to small flurries and the anticipation of viewing dettifoss was growing. That is, until our car hit what felt like a massively large speed bump. I mean, Aaron and I were sitting in the back of the suv and nearly went airborne as our lower backs took the impact. A bit of an exaggeration but the first thought through my mind was a blown tire. What had happened? I have no better way to describe the road other than to say we ran over a pavement crevasse. A seperation in the pavement by about a foot or so. Our suv had hit the other side, a rather sharp abrupt edge of the road and miraculously we didn’t blow a tire. I got out in the now heavy winds to figure out how we’d get back across and discovered that the “crash” had ripped out all the rubber/plastic underneath the wheel wells of the car. Glad we got all the types of vehicle insurance for iceland! Packing down a bit of snow and slowing proceeding over the crevasse went pretty well and we were back on track, shaken up but back on track.
Back on the road we found the official way to Dettifoss. Yes, that’s right. We got the roads confused and should’ve never been on the closed gravel road. Dumbasses. We made it out to the park via a very nice, wide, newly paved road and trekked for about 1 mile (or less) to Dettifoss in the snow. What a cool site.
We arrived at the nearest town, Mytvan, and the weather had picked up intensity. Heavy winds, lots of snow and ice, and dropping temps. Due to this we got a hotel in the city which Nathan had already been anticipating to stay at due to a back injury previous to our trip. Originally, the plan was for Nathan to drop us off at a trailhead while we hiked 24ish miles along a canyon, he would stay the night at the hotel, and pick us up the following day at the terminus. But, with the weather and the ranger previously discouraging the adventure we decided not to. Along the way to Mytvan we stopped multiple times for the mudpots and steam vents which were very cool to see.
Stopping atop a hill overlooking a cabin and tons of steam coming from the earth a guy rolled up in an older land rover (a common rental for the area). He stepped out wearing tight jeans, a flannel shirt, thick rimmed wooden glasses and immediately we looked at each other and said “He’s probably from San Francisco”. In the first moments of our conversation what did we find out? Yep, an SF hipster! Actually didn’t live that far from me.
So after abandoning the idea of a camping/hiking trip we got some pizza/beer at the hotel and called it a night.
Day 9 – Mývatn to Akureyri – 4/24/2015
Woke up to a very cold morning and wandered over to have some breakfast at the hotel “Lobby”. Coffee machine broke twice during our breakfast but everyone got their cup of joe. Always looking a few days out in advance as to what we’d do a whale trip was on the agenda although it was cancelled due to weather and the ships wouldn’t be running. Bummer.
On our way out of town we looked up at a the rim of a huge crater formation which we were planning on seeing but the road was just too rough to get out there. We essentially needed a land rover or something with much more clearance than our Volvo SUV. Onwards our goal was Dimmuborgin to see the lava formations. Talk about cool!
Exiting Dimmuborgin our goal for the day was a guesthouse in Akureyri (Capital of the North). During the trip we found ourselves going over a mountain pass in nearly zero visibility due to snow. It’s a good thing they have 5ft tall bright yellow posts staked every 15ft or so or else we would’ve had to wait out the storm. I’ve definitely never been in such conditions before. Pretty nerve wracking to say the least. We arrived in Akureyri which is the 2nd largest city in Iceland with nearly 18,000 people. Pretty large with a number of restaurants and bars. Once again we had to call the landlord to get into the guesthouse, if you visit, make sure to have a cell with an international plan can’t stress that enough! Steve and I went out to the nearby bowling alley to grab a beer while Aaron and Nathan stayed back at the hotel. There was a solid turnout at the alley and without a reservation Steve and I decided to grab a beer and shoot some pool overlooking the bowling alley on the 2nd floor. Was a good was to round out the night and look back on the trip thus far. Back at the guesthouse we chilled out and had a few beers while watching some rather odd icelandic cartoons.
- Hydro plant
- Ice Hike
- Basalt waterfall
- Glacier lagoon
- Ship to denmark
- Crashed car
- Massive steam
- Lava formations