Iceland, Day 5

Our last full day in Iceland started in Vik. The weather started out rainy and overcast, so I headed to the beach:

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Eventually, the sun began to break through:

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and then, we left Vik, heading west. We stopped at Selfoss, but instead of waterfall pictures, I have several images of sheep, with which Eva and I were enthralled.

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We were especially impressed with their ability to graze themselves into some precarious positions. Yes, those are sheep on the sheer face of the mountain.

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Iceland, Day 3

Eva likes to have a plan, and on this day, she was on a mission to see the icebergs at Jökulsárlón.  

After leaving Vik, we drove through an flat area with many square kilometers of moss covered rock. We stopped and photographed together for some time. Here is Eva standing in the midst of the mossing area:

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There were pockets of fall color if you wandered sufficiently far:

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from here, we finally made it to Jökulsárlón:

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This is 248 meters deep and the bay is open to the ocean, and the interaction with the relatively warmer ocean water calves huge chunks of ice off the glacier’s end and the resulting icebergs float about in and out of the bay depending on winds and tides. Some of the ice ends up on the black sand beach, leaving little jewels of ice scattered everywhere. 

There’s a seal in the picture below to give you a sense of scale:

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This picture strikes me as funny; almost like we have a fake photo backdrop behind us:

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Iceland Day 2

On our second day in Iceland, we began by bushwhacking up the hill from route 1 to get to the cliff summit by Seljalandsfoss. Here we had a great view of the floodplain from the glaciers above:

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as well as a nice view of Seljalandsfoss from above:

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From here, our plan was to make it to the small mountain peak shown in the Day 1’s post; but unfortunately the river that led to the waterfall was too wide to ford safely and we instead went on a hike up river until it became clear that we were not going to make it across. Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous day and we returned to the car after a few hours of pleasant hiking. For those interested, if you follow the river from Seljalandsfoss upstream, you come to yet another falls that it only visible (from the south) by precariously peering over the edge of a cliff. We didn’t photograph this falls because of this.

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Continuing on route 1, we went to a geothermal fed pool — you can see the steam rising from a leaky pipe leading to the pool:

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After leaving this hike and soak, we continued east and our day ended at Vik, where we camped for the night.

Iceland Day 1: Jet lagged

After flying out of Boston late on Wednesday night, our 5.5 hour flight landed at KEF at around 0700 Iceland time. It was pretty chilly when we stepped out of the airport terminal:

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Then we headed to Touring Cars Iceland (they picked us up at KEF) and rented out motor home. The process was pretty straightforward, and after watching a video of how to use the motor home (including a smiling couple emptying the poop container), we had an actual intro and walk through of the camper. This whole process, while straightforward, took a couple of hours, as there were two other groups renting at the same time as us. The bottom line, is that when traveling to Iceland from Maine, even though the flight isn’t that long, the first half day is mainly about travel and getting set up with a rental car and provisioning with food.

Eva and I then went to Reykjavik for a short walk. Of course, we had to see, at the end of Skólavörðustígur street and in front of Hallgrímskirkja church:

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the statue of Leifur Eiríksson

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and then, after a short walk, we had lunch and headed out of town along the south coast. The wind was rather fierce on this first day, and coupled with severe jet lag, I had a difficult time staying awake while driving east. Eva smartly fell asleep and woke up as we approached the waterfall Seljalandsfoss. Here’s Eva in front of the falls:

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Okay, notice the rainbow? My USM physics students should note that the general brightness inside the bow is greater than outside. Remember why? If not, we’ll derive all of the physics of a rainbow next semester in Physics 375 :-).

It’s cold this first day, but it was the wind that was most challenging. Eva returned to the camper, and I climbed off trail to the top of a cliff for another view of the falls that most people here do not see:

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I was going to continue upward, but the wind was so strong that a scramble up the couloir to the top was not so safe. However, climbing up to this point made it obvious that there was a very nice little peak just waiting to be climbed. When I returned to the camper, I dropped the hint that the next day, we could try to hike over to the base and climb the ridge to the summit.

Do to the wind and the setting sun, we camped in a far parking lot pointing our camper into the wind, and used informative signs as a wind break. It was a rough windy night. 

Off to Iceland

Tuesday night I am flying to Iceland with my oldest daughter, Eva, to spend a week traveling, hiking, running, and photographing in Iceland.

The last time I went to Iceland I was alone and when I arrived (in the end of March) several feet of snow had fallen, making my initial idea of doing a lot of trail running not possible. 

Also, last time I still was shooting with Canon cameras—which I had used exclusively since my first camera (a Canon EOS 10s film camera) in the late 1980[s. Although the EOS 1Ds Mark III I was using in my last trip functioned wonderfully, it was a tank of a camera, and the high ISO performance was not very good. A few years ago, after reading about the Fuji mirrorless cameras, I purchased a Fuji x100T and was so impressed by the image quality and the compactness of the camera, that I sold all my Canon camera gear and switched completely to Fuji. These cameras are without a doubt, the best camera’s I’ve ever used, and the image quality is far better than my previous “full frame” Canon camera. 

Here’s the kit that I am taking to Iceland: An X100F with the wide angle conversion lens, and XPro2 with 14mm, 23 mm, 35 mm, 50mm, and 56 mm lenses, Also (not pictured) a monopod and a tripod, and 5 extra batteries.

Now I have to finish grading a pile of physics exams, write a Statistical Physics lecture, and then I can enjoy traveling around Iceland  with my daughter.

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Iceland, Post #1

I just returned from my first ever visit to Iceland, a trip I’ve been wanting to take for many years. I had a mixed mission to photograph and run up as many mountains & volcanoes as possible. But, alas, the weather conspired to make real running problematic at best. A day or two prior to my arrival, a blizzard deposited a snow all over the mountains and backroads of southern Iceland, making travel to trailheads via ordinary 4wd not possible.

Of course, if you had one of these, you’d be all set:

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

As it was, I had to drive 25 km on supposed main roads to get to the cottage I rented, and the wind had already begun drifting over sections of the road. When I took the side “road” to the cottage, I got stuck off the road, and had to dig out the snow from under the truck with my mittened hands. Finally I made it to the “R50” cottage (just a name, not an insulation value)—it had a nice view of Hekla:

This is the little cottage "R50" that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It's super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

This is the little cottage “R50” that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It’s super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

The hill on the left looks to be the same height as Hekla, but it’s not; as you can see in the view from a different vantage point:

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)---it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn't even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)—it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn’t even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

My first day, I went for a nice 12km run to explore the first hill; it was obvious that running shoes would be iffy at best due to the ice, snow and steepness as one approached the summit, so I resolved to come back in a day or two with my crampons and ice axe. More about that in another post.

On my second day, I ended up having the good fortune to have picked up two hitchhikers from Reykjavik University—they were headed to Seljavallalaug — a small pool built into the mountainside of the mountains by Eyjafjallajökull (that’s the volcano that erupted in 2010), a fifteen-minute walk (over rocky streams and under basalt turrets) off the end of road 242. I’d have not found this pool if they had not been hitching a ride when I drove by. Here’s the pool:

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920's. I gave a couple of hitchhiking  students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920’s. I gave a couple of hitchhiking students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

and here’s a picture of steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside:

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

On the way back to the “ring road” (rt. 1), I came by this house, and made my favorite image of my trip (click any image to view it larger):

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

A few things I’ve learned about traveling to Iceland: (1) if you come in March or April, bring SkiMo gear (this is an awesome place to ski tour, and sometimes, the only way to cover the distances over snow needed to reach trailheads, (2) don’t even think about seeing the whole island in a week. You need time, and the weather may not always cooperate, (3) Iceland’s weather is like that in the mountains of New Hampshire or Maine, it can be very windy and significantly colder than at the lower elevations.

More in my next post.