December 29, 2017

 If you've ever hiked the Laugavegur trail in Iceland, you were no doubt blown away by the beauty of the landscape, and it was probably pretty clear why it's a world famous hike. But if you're like me, you may have been a little bummed out by just how many people you were sharing the trail with; it can be downright crowded at the campgrounds around the hiking huts. There's no permitting system for the popular trails in Iceland, so every year you can expect that it will get a little more crowded. This isn't strictly a bad thing; you get to meet lots of interesting hikers from all around the globe, plus there are well maintained facilities along the trail, and there are always folks queued up at the river crossings to point out the consensus safest crossing routes. And of course there's the stunning scenery that brings all those adventurers to the area in the first place. But with all those people around, it just never quite felt like the adventure that I was looking for...

But I am here...

January 27, 2017

This is Part 2, go back and START HERE.

OK, where were we? Ah yes, the four of us had finally reached the upper plateau on the East Rim Trail. It was so much cooler up there. It was downright pleasant. It really had the feel of a different place altogether. The vegetation was quite different, and the view was too. There wasn't anything to see if you looked up anymore.

 Jeff took a video while waiting for some of use to catch up. Here it's also spliced together with another from Sunday.

When we reached the next fork in the trail we split up. Ellen and I continued on toward Cable Mountain to find a good campsite. Jeff and Zach took a detour to check out Stave Spring. At the Visitor's Center the day before they weren't able to tell us if the spring was dry or running; they didn't know but they were skeptical. But we had used up a whole lot of our drinking water already. It was going be a little scary if there was no way to get more. So what was the verdict?

 Yes! It wasn't coming out fast but...

December 29, 2016

I am not a Vegas person. I had once held out hope that I might never see it at all, but alas that dream ended this year when one of my annual trade shows was held there. I decided that I would at least use the trip to get out and see something great in one of Utah's amazing National Parks. At two and a half hours by car, Zion is the closest to Vegas and seemed like the obvious choice. After doing a little research I discovered that I had just missed the free-for-all opening date for booking camping permits in June by two days (this bad karma would be paid back in a few months when I booked a 2017 trip, but that post is coming later). There are all kinds of amazing things to see and do in Zion; some of them, like the Subway or the Narrows (from the top down) are so popular that you have to enter a lottery to get a permit. Others, like the reserved campsites on the west side of the canyon, usually fill up on the first day they are available to be reserved, the fifth day of the month - tw...

December 23, 2016

On Friday, our time in the West Fjords was over and it was another day of driving with many sights mixed in. Mark got up early and got some nice pictures around Ísafjörður while the rest of us slept in (we had stayed up until past 2 AM streaming Game of Thrones' "Battle of the Bastards" huddled around an iPad) and packed up the car to hit the road.

Our first pit stop, just a short drive from Ísafjörður, was Súðavík, a very small town (Pop: 212!) and home of the arctic fox center. Súðavík has a sad history; in 1995 an avalanche killed 14 people and most of the town was declared uninhabitable in winter due to the ever-present danger. The entire town was basically relocated a little bit to the south, out of harm's way. Any buildings that remained are rented out to tourists in the summer but left empty in the winter.

We got to see an adorable, napping arctic fox, as well as this cute little library in a phone booth. Then it was off to the next stop...

 Behind the Arctic Fox Center in Súðaví...

October 22, 2016

Last weekend I decided to head to upstate Pennsylvania by myself to check out "peak foliage." It had been a while and I was getting the camping itch (AKA the "get away from civilization" itch.) I used the excellent and always reliable Mid Atlantic Hikes site to pick a good weekend hike and settled on one I had been wanting to try for a while, the Loyalsock-Link Loop with a visit to the Haystacks. The Loyalsock Trail is a 59.3 mile trail through the Loyalsock State Forest and is a popular 4 or 5 day through hike. This particular hike picks up the Loyalsock Trail in Worlds End State Park and follows it about 12 miles out to the Haystacks, a popular summer swimming hole with some very odd looking rock formations in the Loyalsock Creek that look like... wait for it... haystacks. This hike then returns to the park via the Link Trail on the south side of Loyalsock Creek.

Loyalsock Creek behind the snack bar (a good place to wait for your breakfast sandwich to be ready)

On the morning of Satur...

September 26, 2016

On Wednesday, June 22th, our only real task was to make it from Patreksfjörður to Ísafjörður and hit a few stops along the way. Iceland was playing Austria in Euro 2016 that afternoon with a chance to advance to the knockout round, so we were hoping to reach our destination in time to catch some of the game on TV with the locals. After our staying out so late the night before, we slept in and hit the same restaurant (there are only two in town) for lunch and, more importantly, free WiFi. A few dozen Instagram posts later, we were on the road.

This was set up to be an easy, relaxing day. We only had to cover 170 KM and we had all day to do it. The weather was gorgeous. We drive around a fjord, go up and over a mountain, enjoy the beautiful views, drive around another fjord, stop at a hot spring or waterfall, etc. Can't go wrong. That all went up in steam as we got to the top of our first steep climb and realized that our rental car had completely overheated. That lovely view above is the...

September 2, 2016

Tuesday, June 21st began with a wake up call around 6 AM to break camp and pack our stuff; we had a 7 AM bus to catch at Básar out of þórsmörk. (Forgive me as I continue to mark the time everything happened on this day, it was a looooong one.) We were tired and sore and some of us even managed to nap on the extremely bumpy ride to Seljalandsfoss, where we had dropped our car two evenings before. The bus ride took almost two hours to cover about 20 miles. This is the infamous F249, the one road that the rental car companies tell you you're not allowed to drive on even if you rent the Jeep with the big tires and high clearance. There are too many river and stream crossings to count. It also might be one of the most beautiful drives in Iceland; it follows along the back side of Eyjafjallajökull with great views of the glacier and countless waterfalls.

When we reached Seljalandsfoss around 9 AM, we did what we could to freshen up. We still had 8 hours of driving ahead of us today before we...

August 26, 2016

Mark, Lisa, Ellen and I arrived in Iceland very early on the morning on June 18th. Jeff was not with us; he had jetted off to Germany a few days earlier to run a Tough Mudder with... you know what, it's a long story and he can write about it his own damn self if he wants. The point is, he wouldn't be joining us until Sunday evening.

After grabbing our rental SUV (there were some complications, I may write a whole post about the car), we set off for our first stop, the little waterfall-filled valley Gjáin. It's about a two hour drive from the airport, past the famous volcano Hekla and situated between Landmannalauger and Geyser. The first thing we noticed is that there were huge fields of purple flowers everywhere, something we had not seen on our previous trips to Iceland. They're called lupins or lupines and they cover huge swaths of open fields in Iceland in late June. Really incredible to see. There were even lupines growing right up to the very edge of the roads.

 Having to drive tw...

August 4, 2016

On Thursday, June 23rd, we took a West Tours boat trip to the Hornbjarg. It's hard to know what to refer to this place as, exactly. The Northernmost peninsula of the West Fjords is a huge nature reserve called Hornstrandir. This large peninsula has smaller ones jutting off of it. We traveled to one of these. The bay/fjord is called Hornvik. The huge cliffs are called the Hornbjarg. The sub-peninsula itself is called the Horn, maybe? Or else it doesn't really have a name. In any event, I end up using the terms Hornstrandir - Hornvik - Hornbjarg - Horn pretty much interchangeably. Below you can see a map of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, with the Hornbjarg circled, along with the route of the boat trip from Ísafjörður.

This is about as far north as you can get on the main island of Iceland. The Latitude is 66.46 degrees N, just 7 miles south of the Arctic Circle. There are no permanent residents in the Hornstrandir (although there are a few houses used as vacation homes in the summer) a...

July 22, 2016

Details and Picutres (mostly pictures) recounting our completion of the Fimmvörðuháls hike on June 20, 2016.

The journey starts on Sunday, June 19th, where Mark, Lisa, Ellen and Dickey wait at the airport for Badger's flight from the German Tough Mudder he had run the day before. The flight is delayed, but we don't mind; we're enjoying our coffees and bumping to the EDM at Joe and the Juice. Finally Badger arrives, but well after he should have joined us in the coffee shop, there's no sign of him. Then we get the dreaded text: "They can't find my bag....". In no time, we've got the backup plan figured: Dickey will sleep in Mark & Lisa's tent since it sleeps three, and Badger and Ellen will sleep in Dickey's tent. Badger is probably wearing his hiking clothes, so we're good there. He and Ellen can share a sleeping pad but he probably has to buy a new sleeping bag (he was going to anyway!) I really hope he's wearing his hiking boots, we'll never find 12 EEE off the rack in Iceland... when...

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