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Sunday, August 6, 2023

CSU Trial Gardens

We made it to our annual visit to the CSU Trial Gardens. We typically go the last weekend in August, but that has been a little too late in the past years. Besides, we won't be in town that weekend, so we decided to go early this year. The other reason we went early this year was because we had an unusually cool August day which is why we picked Sunday to go to the gardens. We're usually sweating during these photoshoots, but not this time.

The flowers weren't in peak bloom yet, so maybe it was a little early, but there were still plenty of gorgeous flowers to photograph. When they're in peak bloom might have been affected by the enormous amounts of rain that we got in early spring and continually through the summer - which is unusual. In fact, it had rained just prior to us getting there and we were hopeful for some good rain droplets on the petals. But with the rain came heavy clouds which affected the lighting and made it hard to shoot. The rain also drove away all of the insects which was good for not being eaten by mosquitos, but bad for photographing the bees which always makes photos more interesting. We ended up not photographing for very long because of the poor lighting conditions. Maybe we'll go again this year during different conditions.

RudbeckiaSymmetricalKatie in the GardensLittle TeethBlack Stems and LeavesUnexpected BugBright Centers

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Perseid Meteor Shower

We haven't been getting out to do nature stuff in a little while. Knowing we wouldn't get out on Sunday, we decided to drive up to Rocky to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. Katie proposed the idea to me, and I was surprised since she likes to be asleep by 9 pm on most days. But we hopped in the car a little after 7, got to the top of Trail Ridge Road around 9, and hiked on the Tundra World Nature Trail a half-mile to the top of the Roger Toll Memorial before sitting and watching the stars for an hour. We didn't get back home until midnight. Being out that late isn't something either of us could recall having done together.

Even though it was a very short hike, it was still nice to have gotten out and done something in nature. Rocky Mountain National Park was a great spot to watch the stars, although you could still make out quite a bit of light pollution from Loveland. The light pollution helped with getting my focus set right and wasn't in the direction that we were looking for the best meteors, so the light pollution didn't both us.

We were seeing one shooting star about every other minute. Upon looking at the images, there were meteors in almost every 10-second photo that I took which seemed crazy to me that we didn't see that many. But most of them were quite faint, and my camera was picking up on stuff that we couldn't see with our eyes. But since I had my camera on a tripod with a remote trigger taking photos one after another, it makes for a cool time-lapse. This photo shoot makes me want to do more astrophotography in even darker areas.

A Boring PlaneGreen-Yellow-RedMountain Silhouette

Monday, August 21, 2023

First Day in Iceland

We got into Iceland early with our plane landing at 5:30 in the morning. There was a little bit of confusion trying to pick up the rental car but we got it figured out and we were out of the airport with a car by 7. Stopped at a cafe and had some breakfast and coffee which was quite good. Katie pushed her luck and had some bread which ended up being the wrong choice and made her quite sick in the middle of the day, but the sickness passed and didn't ruin the whole day. Combines with eating gluten and bouncing on F roads made for a little bit of a bad first mid-day but she powered through it.

Our first stop was driving on some F-roads to try and get to the Hafnarberg sea cliffs. We had a little bit of time to kill before our reservation at the Blue Lagoon, so we did a little bit of exploring. The road (F road Sandvikueslooi) was unbelievably bumpy and a lot of fun getting jostled around in the car. We didn’t actually make it to the cliffs because we had nowhere to park (and you're not supposed to park along F roads), So we turned around and went to Sandvik beach instead. The beach was completely empty which was really nice to be alone since we were just traveling and constantly around people. The beach itself wasn’t that great, but it was neat because the sand was black.

Next, we went to the Krisuvikurberg sea cliffs which we took a much smoother F road to get to. We drove through a pasture of sheep to get there which was really cool and exciting to see the first of many sheep sightings. I didn't get any photos because I was driving, but I slowed down to let Katie take some photos. The cliffs were also completely empty which was great. The cliffs themselves were gorgeous, but there wasn't a lot to do other than just get out of the car and look at them.

After getting an early lunch, we went to the Blue Lagoon as a first-day relaxing activity to try and get accustomed to the time change. We were a little underwhelmed with something that is one of the 25 wonders of the world (according to National Geographic). Don’t get me wrong, it is a nice hot spring and nicer than many commercialized hot springs that we've been to, but calling it one of the 25 wonders of the world feels like a massive overstatement. We kind of expected this going into it and still had a good time, but isn't something we'd recommend. We came to Iceland for nature, not for commercialization.

In the evening, we walked around downtown Reykjavik and did a little bit of shopping. We were both completely exhausted and ended up being awake for over 36 hours since neither of us could sleep on the plane. We went to bed early in hopes of waking up a little more refreshed to start our first real day of hiking. Our hotel was right in downtown Reykjavik which was a cool spot but it wasn’t a very nice hotel. I think it would have bothered us more if we weren't so tired - we just needed a place to sleep and freshen up, and this horrible hotel worked fine for that.

We spent over $200 on food on the first day alone. We knew this place would be expensive but weren't quite prepared for it to be as much as it has been. But despite that, we haven't been holding back from enjoying any of the food that we wanted to try. We had 2 different lamb dishes and 2 different fish dishes today. The first lamb dish for lunch was in Grindavik at Haj Hollu and was okay but very dry. It was slow-cooked which explains the dryness but it was at a nice restaurant and the cod dish there that we also had was absolutely fantastic. For dinner, we went to Skal in downtown Reykjavik which was a food-court-style area with upscale restaurants. There we had lamb steaks and Atlantic char. This lamb was incredibly tender and delicious and the Atlantic char was equally as terrific. The alcohol was expensive here, Katie got a drink at Skal that cost 3,000 isk ($23), which was the same price as the lamb steaks. It's crazy to think that one drink is equivalent in price to a good cut of meat here. We found 2 different dessert places that evening. The first place was ice cream which was in the same food court area, the second place was crepes which had a gluten-free option for Katie.

Mud MasksBlue Lagoon DrinksLunchGlutenHallgrimskirkja CathedralWindyKrisuvikurberg sea cliffSandvik BeachCats of Reykjavik

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

First Day on the Golden Circle

We woke up at 8 after sleeping nearly 12 hours. It felt good to sleep and that helped a lot with resetting our internal clocks from the jet lag, although it ended up taking another 2 days for the jet lag to finally wear off. We wasted no time and packed up to head to the Golden Circle.

We left Reykjavik and our first stop was a quick 2-mile hike in the Þingvellir National Park to see our first Icelandic waterfall: Oxrafoss. We picked this one first because it was facing Northwest so it would be lit up in the morning. We got to the parking lot, which was right off the Golden Circle to find it was jam-packed with tourists. That's because this "hike" wasn't really a hike and the waterfall was less than a quarter mile from where we parked. This turned out to be an incredibly touristy activity because of how accessible it was. Although Oxrafoss was beautiful, the amount of people and the lack of it being an actual hike didn't really give us as much joy as a true hike to a waterfall would have given us. But that’s okay, we were still a little but jet-lagged and needed something easy to start our first real full day in Iceland. Hiking around this area resulted in a 2.5 mile hike with a couple hundred feet of elevation gain.

We left Þingvellir and headed 45 minutes to Laugarvatn for some lunch because that was the closest town that had food. We didn't plan out the day very well in that respect - we should have brought food with us. After that, we backtracked again towards Þingvellir to go hike to Glymur waterfalls. This is a little longer of a hike coming in at 4.5miles and 1300 feet of elevation gain. That combined with the fact that it's a little further away from the Golden Circle made us hopeful that it would be less busy. And it was, although there were still maybe 50 cars in the parking lot. But the trail was big enough that it wasn't too bad with all the people.

The hike started off with us putting on real hiking attire. The first cool thing in the hike that made us happy to be on a real hike was passing through a keyhole. It would have been easy for the trail makers to have us go around but I appreciated that we went through it. After crossing the river shortly after the keyhole we started steeply ascending where we got absolutely stunning views of Glymur the entire way up. We kept stopping at all of the outcroppings to get photos and catch our breath.

Both Katie and I were happy to have done the hikes today in this order for two reasons: first because we did the crappy hike first and the real hike second so the disappointment of Oxrafoss wasn't as bad. Second, the lighting was perfect for both hikes, which is something I planned out that morning. The only bad thing was the backtracking and wasting so much gas. It would have been at least an hour less of driving to have done these hikes the opposite way, but to have perfect lighting was worth it.

We went back up towards Laugarvatn to get to our hotel for the next 3 days, a cute cottage called Úthlíd Cottages that had a full kitchen and a grill on the patio. Before getting there we stopped and got groceries so we could relax at the cottage after a long hike and also to save a little bit of money since Iceland is so expensive. With Katie's gluten intolerance, we wish that we had stopped at a larger grocery store in Reykjavik to get some gluten-free foods, but we'll be able to make do with the food at the smaller grocery stores in the towns along the way. So far, the hardest thing to figure out is what to pack for lunches on hikes. The grocery stores sell a lot of sandwiches for this, but that doesn't work for Katie. Luckily we found a great gluten-free brand that’s sold in larger grocery stores that worked well for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but it took us a few more days to find that as an option.

The lighting here is weird, the sun stays so low on the horizon all day. It rises in the East, swoops to the South, then sets in the Southwest. And then even in the middle of the night, you can see the glow from the sun that’s just below the Northern horizon. It's weird looking at the sun at noon and seeing it so low, but it created for unique lighting that was never too harsh.

OxararfossFlowingPeopleCurch in the ParkRandom PulloffThrough the KeyholeIn the KeyholeGlymur WaterfallSelfie with GlymurA Little Bit CloserGreenGlymur Waterfall Water Source

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Touristy Day in the Golden Circle

Still a little jet lagged, we woke up at about 9 am and had a slow start to the day. Today was marked as a rest day, although any of the days in the golden circle could have been switched around to be our rest day. We decided to spread out the rest of what we were doing in the golden circle over the next few days in this day so we weren't doing quite as much all at once, so today was the touristy day. We did two things, both right off the side of the road, but we still managed to make them both a decent walk. Neither were really hikes (even though they’re tagged as such on my blog).

The first thing we did was go to Strokkur Geyser. Just a 10-minute drive from our cottage, we got there pretty quickly around 10 am after eating some Skyr yogurt and granola for breakfast in the cottage. Everyone said that Skyr yogurt was something not to be missed, but it's just a creamier Greek yogurt which isn't that special. A gluten-free breakfast is difficult enough, but yogurt and granola are usually a safe bet. However, most granola in Iceland had barley and/or rolled wheat in it. Despite this, Katie ate it anyway and did fine. Maybe because it was small amounts or maybe because it wasn’t formed into actual gluten yet (like it is in bread). But by the end of the trip, Katie was tired of eating Skyr and granola every day for breakfast.

Strokkur Geyser was interesting. We'd never been to a Geyser before, so we didn't know what to expect. Before getting to the geyser itself, it was interesting learning about how they work and why they do what they do from signs posted around the area, but even then we were under-prepared for what to expect. We got the geyser and everyone had their phones out waiting. We figured the geyser eruption would be something we would have time to grab our cameras and take a few photos of, but we were wrong. The eruptions were just a few seconds long, and you had to have your camera up to your face ready to take the shot. Luckily, this geyser erupts every 5-10 minutes, so we didn't have to wait long between eruptions, but holding the camera still and waiting for that long was a little bit treacherous. But dispute that, we managed to get a good couple of eruptions in at the geyser itself before hiking up to a spot where you could see it from above. But we're not here for geysers anyway and although they're neat, this was a touristy thing that was worth stopping for, but not super exciting for us.

We had lunch at the Strokkur Geyser area which was jam-packed with tourists. Since this was a touristy spot to eat, the food wasn’t very good, but it was better than some other touristy food spots I've eaten before. If we had been a little more prepared, we could have packed a lunch, but that wasn’t something we figured out how to do until a little later in the trip.

Next, we went on to Gullfoss waterfall. This is also right off the side of the road, so we parked and walked along the walkway with 50 million other people. The Gullfoss waterfall was significantly better than the Strokkur Geyser in terms of what we came out here to see. This one was absolutely worth stopping at and we were happy we did, even if it was busy. We just don't ever see that much water from where we're from, so seeing unquantifiable about of water like that is incredibly interesting to us both.

We then went out of our way to go to a Samkaup Strax grocery store in Flúðir to pick up just a few extra supplies for the next couple of days. To our surprise, they actually had a (small) gluten-free selection at this store, so we got some gluten-free bread and some peanut butter and jelly for us to be able to pack a lunch for some of our upcoming hikes where we need a more substantial lunch. This was a great win for us since even finding granola bars without gluten in them had been incredibly difficult to find. We also picked up some ice cream from that place since we have a freezer at the cottages.

Went back to our cottage and got there around 4 in the afternoon. We did some laundry by hand and hung it up on a clothesline, drank some wine, and grilled some potatoes and hotdogs with ice cream for dessert. Even though it doesn’t sound like a fancy dinner, having a grill for food prep made this the best (away from) home-cooked meal we had on the trip.

StrokkurStrokkur From AboveGullfossRainbow over GullfossBest HotdogsDinnerUnmelted Cheese

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Waterfalls and Volcanic Craters

The day started off quite early, not on purpose but because we finally got over the jet lag. We woke up in the 5 o'clock hour and started our day slowly by making it to the Brúarfoss trailhead. When we were planning our trip, there was only one trailhead for this hike, but just this summer a parking lot opened up right next to Brúarfoss. We decided to do the original hike which led us along the river which showcased a total of 3 different waterfalls. The trail was, according to AllTrails, a 4.2-mile hike with 1,500 ft of elevation gain. That elevation gain had us both worried because of how tired we felt after hiking Glymur Waterfall while being jet-lagged a few days prior. But AllTrails lied to us and this hike only had 250 feet of elevation gain (but still 4.2 miles). Having seen the 2 other waterfalls along the way, Hlauptungufoss and Miðfoss, we were glad we didn't just drive to the Brúarfoss parking lot. Since we started early, we hardly saw anyone and had Hlauptungufoss all to ourselves, and that waterfall was incredible. Miðfoss was a decent waterfall but not as far of a drop or as fast-moving. Brúarfoss was gorgeous and spread out, but I think I liked Hlauptungfoss the best, which is ranked based on beauty and lack of other people. Brúarfoss didn't have many people there, but it's not as special when you see someone drive up and walk over with almost no effort and take the same photo as you. The coolest part about this hike was how blue the water was. It was a crazy pretty blue color.

In the afternoon, we decided to go to the Kerid Crater, which is something we had planned to do later in our trip. We decided to stop there because we didn't have anything else planned for the day except a long 45-minute drive (one way) to Selfoss to go to the larger grocery chain store to get some cheaper food for the next few days where we were in a much more remote area. Kerid Crater wasn't anything special, but it was cool to learn about that kind of geology - where a volcanic eruption happened and then the crater collapsed in on itself sealing it back up and then filling with water creating a lake. The pictures were mediocre because of the lighting and because it wasn't all that exciting. But we hiked around that area and went a little north of the crater to find a bunch of lava rock. All sorts of different colors, sizes, and materials. Again, not something super exciting, but this wasn't anything like what we were used to, so we probably looked like over-enthusiastic tourists touching and holding the volcanic rock. But one other reason why we liked doing this was because we were mostly alone - just a few other people, despite being only a few hundred feet from the popular crater itself. It's crazy how many people come to do just one thing (like see the crater) and don't actually stop to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding area.

We're glad we did the Kerid Crater on this day instead of when we had it planned for later in the week. The day we had this planned out ended up being horrible “hurricane-force” winds and rain, so it wouldn’t have happened anyway. Additionally, we had a lot going on the day we were going to do it, so I feel like this makes it a little bit easier to do. I think flexibility in shifting around hikes really made this trip more enjoyable. Going grocery shopping on this day also wasn't planned out, but it was good to go to a large grocery store. We found more gluten-free food for Katie and it was a lot less expensive (although still very expensive by US standards) than any of the smaller grocery stores we have stopped at along the way. For just a few meals worth of food, we spent 12,000 ISK ($90).

Low CloudsHlauptungufossRusshing WaterMiðfossExcited HikerBrúarfossLots of WaterDiving DucksClearer SkiesGrip StrengthWeird MaterialsRedKerid CraterIn the CraterIce Cream

Friday, August 25, 2023

Hikes along the Fossá River

My morning started at midnight trying to capture some astrophotography. I had an alarm set for 3 am, but I woke up on my own at midnight and went outside. It was cold. I was hoping to see some Northern Lights but it was a low chance, only a KP index of about 2. I didn't see anything with my eyes, so I took a few shots and was out there for about 20 minutes, then went back to bed (and turned my 3 am alarm off). Upon looking at the photos through my phone the morning after, there was a faint green streak through the sky. So that was cool to have captured the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, there was a much more spectacular light show that occurred right around 3 am, but since I already went out there and took photos at midnight, I was fast asleep when it happened and didn’t capture it. Even though it was still early in the trip, this was the last night that had clear night skies for any chance at seeing the Northern Lights. Of course I didn’t know that at the time, but it was a bummer to have gotten a tease of them and for them to be out of reach due to cloud coverage for the rest of the trip.

After waking up to start the day, the morning started off with going to Hjálparfoss which was the first of 3 activities along the Fossá River. It was a stop along the way to our other activities and it was a quick stop off the road, so we went there first, even though the lighting on this waterfall would be better in the afternoon. We got there around 9 and the lighting was terrible, so we left and went on to our main attraction of the day: Haifoss. This one was a decent hike and had the amazing waterfall view right at the beginning, which we then descended down to and spent a great deal of time at. The lighting wasn't perfect when we got there, but by the time we left Haifoss, the lighting down in the canyon was near perfect. We were happy to have had sunny skies for this hike because the moisture getting kicked up from the waterfall created a perfect rainbow around the waterfall. Iceland isn’t known for sunny weather, but we got it on this hike for some truly spectacular photos.

Next to Haifoss is Granni, which is another waterfall visible from the parking lot. This one didn't really have a trail to it but we scrambled our way to it anyway. The views and pictures at Granni were not nearly as good as Haifoss, but the adventure was a lot of fun. It included a short rock traverse and a steep muddy scramble. After getting there we took a few photos and turned around to go back to Haifoss for a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Peanut butter was hard to find here, as well as gluten-free bread, but we managed to find both a few days prior which will be our lunches for the next few days while we hike in the highlands.

After that hike, we continued on the dirt road to go to Gjáin, which is an area where they shot a scene from Game of Thrones. That area was a gorgeous hidden gem that we parked at and walked right up to. The lighting was a little harsh, but the area was beautiful. The thing that amazed us was that we were driving through what seemed like a desolate, dry, desert, and then all of a sudden happened upon a river where everything was green and the plants were flourishing. But Gjáin was a really cool place, just off a dirt road requiring a 4x4 vehicle that we were glad to see.

After Gjáin, we continued on the dirt road to head to our lodging for the next few days. But before that, we stopped at the first attraction again, Hjálparfoss. The dirt road we were on literally spat us out right at that waterfall, and being later in the day (around 3), we knew the lighting would be about perfect. The lighting was great, although harsh, so we snapped a few photos and went on to the Panorama Glass Lodge.

The road to get there was rough. Like really rough. The road wasn't technical at all, just very washboard. We drove about 12km on extremely bumpy roads that we were concerned would make the car explode. But we made it. We later found out that the trick to driving on this road is to drive at dangerously high speeds. The faster you go, the less you feel the washboard bumps in the road.

The Panorama Glass Lodge itself is pretty cool and very modern. This was our one expensive hotel to treat ourselves for our honeymoon. The hope was to see some good stars and maybe the Northern Lights, but all 3 nights we were there it was completely overcast.

Milky WayCabin to the NorthOver the FenceIn ShadowThe Path to GranniClimbing TraverseBog StarAt the WaterfallPerfect LightingWild ButtercupLit UpSheep in the CanyonFrom AboveCool Cliff SideGjáinUnknown WaterfallUp CloseGjárfossHjálparfossBasalt ColumnsOur New AccomidationsSmall SpaceThe Bedroom

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Rainy Day in the Highlands

The weather was forecasted to be rainy all day which is typical weather for summer in Iceland, but we were lucky the past few days with having sunny skies. The rain wasn't all that bad, but it was the wind combined with the rain that made a few parts of today unbearable.

Our day started late with relaxing and sleeping in. We finally got up and went to our first attraction: Sigoldufoss. This was a waterfall with gorgeous views that we could park right at and walk up to. Since it was in the highlands, it was quite a drive from the touristy centers, so there was almost no one there which was fantastic. We took a few photos and headed to our first "hike" of the day, Sigöldugljúfur, which is on the same river just a few minutes from there. We turned off the main dirt road onto a smaller dirt road and continued on until we saw a few other cars where we parked and got ready for our 1-mile hike. We quickly realized the road we drove in on was the hike. But we had a 4x4, and it was a road, so it was fine for us to drive up to. But it was funny we just drove there even though you could hike it from the main road.

Sigolduglufur was incredible. It was like a dozen waterfalls that were falling from the canyon into a river. Purely picturesque for sure. The thing I loved about it was that I was able to hike down a little bit to get to the top of the major waterfall. That area, wet with moisture from the river, made that place a really neat oasis. I was fascinated with seeing the water channels which were deep grooves in the ground that you hardly knew you were walking over. Some of the waterfalls in this area were seemingly coming out of nothing.

We entered the Fjallaback Nature Preserve where a ranger handed us a card that told us the exact same thing in about 15 different graphics: don't drive off the road under any circumstances. It was weird because the ranger was just standing on the side of the road at the entrance - no booth or anything - just on the side of the road.

On our way to our hike, we made one spontaneous quick detour to Hnausapollur (Bláhylur) View Point. This area was so windy. The rain had also started for the day and that combined with how windy it was made us laugh the whole time in the sense that we knew we had to laugh about it or we would be in bad spirits because of it. We hadn't experienced anything like that before, but it was an unforgettable moment. We got out of the car in all our rain gear, took a few photos, and got back in the car before we were blown away by the wind.

Our main hike started by hiking to Ljótipollur Crater, then around Nordurnamur mountain, and finally around Stútur Crater. The hike started out super windy and rainy, but we powered through because it was such a beautiful place and we weren't really cold, just slightly uncomfortable. Both Katie and I had decent (although not completely waterproof) jackets on and overall we did fine. After hiking up to the Crater and back down, the weather was a lot nicer to us with almost no wind and just some rain. So it got a lot better after the first mile or about 30 minutes.

The hike was incredible. We hadn't hiked on anything like that yet and we were really glad we braved the weather and went out there. We even saw some sheep on the hike which was cool to photograph them in a very Icelandic scene. The best part about it all was that we passed no one on the trail that we were on. There were people at the top of Stutur Crater, and a few people in the parking lot for Stutur Crater, but no one on our trail, even though this is one of the major natural preserves in Iceland. That aloneness is the reason we hike and we loved every minute of it.

At the end of the day, we drove all the way to Hella for 2 things: gas and groceries. We needed groceries for the next few days since tomorrow we are heading back to the same area for a longer hike, and the day after we have an early start getting on a bus to Thorsmork. So today felt like the appropriate day to drive out of the way to go get some supplies to make sure the next few days would go smoothly.

SigoldufossPretty Teal ColorSigöldugljúfurSnaking ThroughTall WaterfallsUnderground RiverWindyBláhylur LakeUnearthly LandscapesLjótipollur CraterNordurnamur MountainThree SheepColorful MountainsAnother SheepGrazingThe Trail BackOur HikeOn the Side of the RoadSelfie in Iceland

Sunday, August 27, 2023


We went into the Highlands again for our last day this far North. It was the same area as the day before but went a little bit further to Landmannalaugar, the main place to camp in the Fjallaback Nature Preserve. We started early in the morning and after a 2-hour drive, we got to the trailhead around 9 am. The hike we had planned was to summit both Brennisteinsalda and Blahnukur, but we started with Brennisteinsalda first. It's recommended that you summit just one of three peaks in this area in a day, but we are crazy enough to have done two of them. The views were unbelievable. We had much sunnier weather today compared to yesterday, which is good because you need the sun and the clarity to get good photos of this area. The mountains were such interesting colors, everything from typical brown and green, but also oranges, reds, and blues. It felt like we were hiking in another world.

We summited Brennisteinsalda without any issues and decided we wanted to continue on to the summit of Blahnukur, which translates to Blue Mountain. It's named that because, well, it's blue. Not bright blue, but a blue-green-gray that's really funky. That one was a little more difficult to summit since we practically descended all the way down Brennisteinsalda before hiking back up to Blahnukur. But we had good adrenaline going which helped us through the entirety of the hike.

Between these mountains is a giant lava field from an eruption in 1477 which framed the valley between the two mountains. The perimeter of the lava field was much clearer from Blahnukur than Brennisteinsalda.

Blahnukur was directly behind the sun for most of the hike so even from Brennisteinsalda we didn’t get a great photo of it, but it was the tallest peak in the immediate area which made me happy to have summited it.

We returned to our hotel at the Panorama Glass Lodge for the last night. I was happy to have driven on road 26 between F26 and F225 for the last time. That section is 12km of the worst washboard road I've ever driven on. The first time we drove into the Panorama Glass Lodge we took this road and only went about 40km/hr on it and it was so incredibly bumpy that I was afraid an airbag would go off. The following day we took the road at 80km/hr and the bumps were manageable, but keeping traction was difficult. But the trick with the washboard roads is to go really fast on them. Every now and then, I would need to swerve to avoid large tire-popping rocks in the road which resulted in us nearly sliding off the road a few times because of the speeds we were going. But driving slowly just wasn’t an option because of the bumpy road.

Driving into the preserve was fun today with all the rain from the night before. There were large puddles in the road that I intentionally splashed through getting the whole car soaked a few times. At one point on the way back, we had the windows cracked and another car passing us splashed up water into our car, a dirty lesson that we need to keep the windows shut... Luckily it wasn't that bad since the window was only down about an inch.

Through the Lava FieldThe Sheep in the FieldThe the First SummitSmall PeopleLooking BackColorful MountainsThe Lava FieldSummit of BrennisteinsaldaInaccessible LakeDangers AheadSteam VentsWooden SignsIn the ValleyDifferent LandscapesDarker Soild of BlahnukurSwitchbacksBlahnukur SummitEdge of the Lava FieldColorful Rock

Monday, August 28, 2023


Today we took the bus to Thorsmork. The morning weather was rough, raining, and chilly, and we didn't know what we were in for. Since we were taking the bus, we didn't have many options for what to bring or when we could come back, so it was a little risky going out there with the potential for both of us to be wet, tired, and wanting to be back (but not having means to get back). Our bus ticket to get back was for 7:15 pm, which would get us back to Hella where we would stay the night at 10:15. We knew this was pretty late, but I don't think we fully thought it through when we booked it. The only other time the bus left was at 4 which didn't feel like enough time.

We have a car, but to get to Thorsmork requires multiple water crossings, at least one of which we absolutely could not do in our rental car. The bus left Hella at 8:30 am and got to Thorsmork at 10:30 am. By the time we got to Thorsmork, the weather was clearing up with almost no rain anymore. We think a lot of people must have canceled their bus bookings because of the weather since there were only a handful of people on the bus.

Our planned hike was about a 4.5 mile loop around some of the trails that start at the volcano huts. This area has many trails that all interconnect, so we were constantly checking the map to make sure we were on the right trail. About halfway through, we decided to make our loop about twice as long to go around Tindfjoll Mountain. Before making this fork the views were pretty good but nothing spectacular. Once we decided to extend our loop, the views got incredibly better. We got fantastic views of Rjupnafell Mountain which had incredibly steep switchbacks leading up to it. We joked that we would hike up it but we both knew we wouldn't since we were tired from a killer hike the day before. But as we reached the furthest point of the hike we got amazing views of the glacier. Truly incredible. We were both completely exhausted but we were so grateful that we did this loop because without it, this area wouldn't have been that cool.

We didn't encounter a ton of people on this hike. Not encountering many people makes any hike nicer, even when compared to the beautiful landscape we hiked yesterday in the Landmannalaugar area which was busy (but not packed) with people. There were just a handful of other like-minded people who went out of their way to hike the cool inaccessible stuff. We met 2 groups of Icelandic people who were all very nice, one of whom offered us some cashews and Brazilian nuts. These were the first nice native people we encountered here, not that everyone else was mean or rude, but a lot of who we’ve been interacting with were in touristy areas. But when you're out in the middle of nowhere having a shared experience with like-minded people it brings out the niceness in everyone.

Our hike ended at 3:50 pm, and we went to the bathroom very quickly and went over to the bus, even though we didn't have tickets for the 4:00 pm departure. Once everyone was on the bus, the bus driver confirmed that they would switch our tickets for us, which was very nice of them. If we couldn't have done that, we would have had to wait 3 hours at the small restaurant at the volcano huts before having a 3-hour bus ride back in the middle of the night. That was our original plan, but we're glad they were able to fit us in on the 4 o'clock departure. The 4 o'clock departure was an hour shorter because the route was more direct. All of those things made the day a little bit nicer.

The weather on this hike was nearly perfect. It was about 50-60 degrees the entire time, and not really that windy. There was one point a few hours into the hike when we got some misting and strong winds that were very cold and made the views hazy, but that only lasted for about 15 minutes. Otherwise, we had mostly cloudy skies which made for the best lighting conditions for the time of day we were there. Conditions towards Landmannalaugar where we were the past two days looked very rainy the entire time, which meant we didn't have good views looking in that direction, but we were grateful to have been there the day before with sunny weather instead of being there today with bad weather. We really lucked out with the weather today. It was forecasted to be raining all day but it hardly rained at all.

One of the unexpected things on this hike was that we came across a tröllkirkja which translates to troll church. It was in a cave on a particularly outcropping rock that I was photographing quite a bit, unknowing that there was a "church" up there. It was cute to find some troll stuff while at Thorsmork.

Elf OfferingTufted VetchEyjafjallajökullOn the EdgeGlacierTwo Places WeMoss CampionIn teh BrushColorful ValleyLittle MushroomBlack RiverbedPicturesque AlcoveRjúpnafellTröllkirkjaPerfect MushroomThe Fork"Summit" PanoramaRock Climbing In IcelandDescendingGreen with TreesArtic River BeautyFully DescendedLunch in the MountainsSelfie on the Hike

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Rest Day

Today was a rest day for us. Having hiked 3 good hard hikes in a row we were completely exhausted. On this day we also had the longest drive on the whole trip to get to our next hotel, so we decided to take it easy.

The day started by going to the waterfall that we saw the day prior from the bus: Seljalandsfoss. Since we were on a bus, we couldn't stop, even though the evening was perfect lighting on the waterfall. It was morning and it was super washed out, and the parking lot was jammed full of cars, so much that we couldn't even get a parking spot. So we decided to move on and hit this when we drive back which will at least be the right time of day and hopefully have better lighting.

After that, we drove to go hike around the Skógafoss waterfall. This attraction was also right off the ring road but a little bit further away so there were fewer people. It was still packed, but we started by seeing "Iceland's most beautiful waterfall", Skógafoss. It was a gorgeous waterfall, but the lighting wasn't perfect for us to capture the beauty. We had seen more beautiful waterfalls while in Iceland so far, so I'm not sure where this title comes from. It started raining on this hike, and we weren't prepared for it, so we turned around and went back to the car to get jackets since we weren't too far anyway. By the time we restarted the hike, the rain had stopped. This hike starts by climbing a million steps to the top of Skógafoss, and then continued along a gradual incline up the canyon for as far as you want to make it. Since we were tired, we turned around after a little over a mile where we had a snack, saw a few more waterfalls, and then we headed back down. Like many touristy places, the amount of people made this a meh experience, but the further we hiked the fewer people there were so it was nice to be able to get out from the people a little bit.

From there, we kept driving along the coast to get to Vik, where we stopped at the Black Beach overlook on the West side. This area was neat and great viewing, but the lighting was less than ideal so we didn't get that great of photos. We then drove to the Eastern side of the beach where we could actually get on the beach. The lighting was better here and we spent a little more time at this spot.

Next, we stopped at a really cool coffee shop, Skool Beans. It was inside of a bus where you order at the back. It was a really neat experience and the owners put a lot of thought into it. The main reason we went was because the name of it is "Skool Beans Micro Roaster... and Sometimes a Cat!", and Katie wanted to see the cat. Unfortunately, Jeffrey (the cat) was out wandering around and not on the bus while we were there. Since it was late in the day, we got hot chocolate so we didn't have a caffeine rush in the evening. I got white chocolate and fennel hot chocolate, which is unusual to see on a menu, but it tasted delicious.

We made it to our guest house for the evening and cooked dinner. Our room was in Kalfafell, a small little town that is literally just a few farms. it was a nice small place to stay, but we were only there for one night. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, so no chance of Northern Lights.

SkógafossTop of SkógafossHestavaðsfossFosstorfufossSteinbogafossBeautiful LandscapeArchWashed OutBlack SandOn the BeachSelfie Before Turning AroundSelfie on the BeachInside the BusFancy Hot ChocolateSkool Beans

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Skaftafell & Diamond Beach

Today we drove up the coast to Hofn. On the way, we stopped for a hike to Svartifoss to look at another waterfall and then to an overlook, Sjonanipa, to look at the Skaftafellsjokull Glacier. The hike itself was moderate, but we were both still recovering from our treacherous hikes earlier in the week, even though we had a rest day yesterday. Since we were closer to the coast, this hike was considerably more humid than our other hikes, and we felt that humidity in the form of sweat during this hike. But overall it was a decent hike but not our favorite so far. The overlook of the glacier was very impressive and closer than we got when we went to Thorsmork, but it still wasn't perfect views. This is a touristy spot any way that had a decent amount of people. Not so much that it was annoying, but we weren't alone like we had been in a few other places.

The waterfall itself was framed by basalt columns which were really cool to look at. The way basalt columns form is interesting, and we had fun reading about the science of them forming on a sign near the waterfall.

One cool thing about this hike is that we encountered some new plants. First, Harebells, which we also have in Colorado. Second were Bilberries, which looked like small blueberries. The Icelandic name for these literally translates to blueberries, but they're not the blueberries we can buy in the store. They aren't poisonous, and we were confident in the plant identification since we had internet on the hike, so we both ate one. They weren't as sweet as a blueberry but tasted very much the same. This is now the 3rd plant Katie has foraged and eaten in Iceland, this one is my first.

Next, we went to Diamond Beach. Despite it being towards the end of summer here, there were still many "diamonds" on the beach. It's named this because of all the ice that gets deposited on the beach. We had a lot of fun picking up pieces of ice and posing them for photography in this spot. It was very touristy, but the views were well worth the crowds. Besides, the crowds were mostly on the beach and not in the water (which is what we were taking photos of anyway).

We had dinner in Hofn at a very good seafood restaurant, Otto Matur & Drykkur. Hofn is known for its fishing, and the meal did not disappoint. I got the Atlantic char and Katie got the Atlantic shrimp. it was an expensive meal, but very worth it.

We made it the furthest North and East at the end of the day today. tomorrow we start heading back towards Reykjavik, which definitely feels like the end of the vacation is near.

HundafossMorning Dew on the HarebellsSvartifossBasalt ColumnsMy GoofballFlowingSkaftafell GlacierBilberriesBoardwalkIcy PhotoSelfie in the LagoonMeltingFunky ShapesPhotographingLagoon PanoramaPretty BlueDiamond on the BeachDead StarfishStokksnes

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Múlagljúfur & Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Since we were staying at the hotel on site we got into the Viking village and Stokksnes for free, so we went in twice. The first time was the evening prior and the second this morning. The day started by going into the Viking village which was cool from a distance, but not great up close. It was still neat to see the Viking Village, even if it's just a poorly done replica anyway. Then we went to Stokksnes and took photos of the Vesturhorn, the same mountain that we had taken last night. The lighting wasn't great, and the lighting was better yesterday anyway, so we didn't spend much time there before heading on our way to the next destination.

We started driving back down the coast towards Reykjavik since we only had a few nights left in Iceland. We were both completely exhausted, so we decided to start the hike we planned to do and turn around after the first waterfall so that we didn't kill ourselves on the hike. The waterfall was in the Múlagljúfur Canyon and it was a gorgeous area. Even though it was right off the main Ring Road, there were hardly any people there, which was great. In our sneakers and without our packs, it was a manageable hike to the first waterfall, despite us not knowing how far that waterfall actually was. However, because of the hiking adrenaline, we ended up finishing the hike which was a very tough hike that packed a lot of elevation gain (1,500 ft) in a short distance (4 miles round trip). I'm not sure how we managed to do it with how tired we both were, but we're a little crazy like that. The canyon itself was stunning. It was really cool at the summit of the hike seeing a waterfall falling out of the glacier. You could see exactly where that water was coming from. It was such a neat hike and a gorgeous canyon in that we were both delighted we finished the hike, even if it left us dead.

Afterward, we kept driving until we made it to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. This one was much more touristy, and a much shorter hike. The canyon itself was okay, but nothing compared to the Múlagljúfur Canyon that we had just come from. That stop was more or less to break up the long 3 hours of driving that we did today into 1-hour chunks.

We got to our cabin for the evening just outside of Vik, made and ate dinner (where the smoke alarm went off even though there wasn't any smoke in the air), and then crashed hard so that we were well-rested for our ice cave adventure tomorrow.

Viking VillageViking BoatHouse Past the FenceVillage CommonsGrass RoofVesturhorn In CloudsMúlagljúfur CanyonLooking BackRiver ForkCanyon SummitGlacier WaterCanyon to OceanGorgeous CanyonIceandic MushroomFjallsjökullFjaðrárgljúfur CanyonPretty WaterFlowing Through the CanyonBunch Of GoofballsSummit SelfieCrazy Gins

August 2023

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