Monthly Archives: August 2016

North Iceland

I finished the first segment of my clockwise journey around Iceland with my fellow “Ring Roadies”: Amy, Ginny, and Ingrid. We drove up along the west coast in beautiful sunny weather, and then encountered more typical rain as we headed east.

8/24/16 – Sunny Skies

My friends joined me this morning. It took us a while to get our rental car, a Citroen, thanks to a faulty printer at Thrifty and new fangled features, such as an automatic parking break and temperamental push button start that took us a while to master, after first figuring out how to switch the control menus to English.

It didn’t take us long to drive up to Saelingsdalur on the west side, in spite of stops along the way to admire the views. We stayed at Hotel Edda, a former boarding school now used for field trips during the school year. We dropped our bags in our dorm rooms, took a stroll through the grass-covered hillside, and had a delicious vegetarian dinner in the dining room.

8/25/16 – Whale Watching

Ingrid and I headed to the hot pool as soon as we woke up and had it to ourselves. It was the perfect spot to watch the sun rise over the hills; we ignored the organic matter that rose up as we walked on the mossy bottom. We met Amy and Ginny at breakfast, which included what I’ve since learned is typical: hard boiled eggs, several types of bread (sometimes homemade), yellow cheese, sliced ham, yogurt, granola, cottage cheese (delicious), homemade jam (raspberry, rhubarb, and/or marmalade), sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, sliced fruit (apples, oranges, and/or bananas).

We stopped in Blonduos on our way to Akureyri and enjoyed a damp stroll through this small town on a fjord. We had a picnic lunch and took pictures of amazing mushrooms.

Our room wasn’t ready, so we left our bags at the front desk and headed over to the dock to find our rib boat for a whale-watching trip that far exceeded our expectations. The narrow boat can take twelve passengers and there was only one other besides the four of us, a man from Kuwait (quite a weather change for him). Geared up in floatation suits, which helped protect us from the chilly wind, we sped about 20 km out through the fjord, towards the Greenland Sea, and saw about a dozen Humpback whales. It was an exhilarating ride and we were all beaming afterwards while enjoying a Thai restaurant, where I negotiated extra veggies in my curry.

8/26/16 – Geothermal Wonders

It took us all day to reach our next destination, Lake Myvatn, because we made a variety of stops along the way – Goðafoss (beautiful waterfall), pseudo craters, Icelandic horses, Hofdi (fantastical landscape), lava fields, and Namafjall with lots of smelly steam and mud pots. It rained lightly on and off throughout the day. We’re staying in a great place, Eldá Guesthouse in Reykjahlid, luckily in one of the buildings with a guest kitchen and common area. The air in the whole town is sulfur scented; it subsides from my awareness until I turn on the faucet.

We walked over to a nearby café where I had an expensive salmon burger – all food is expensive in Iceland, it’s hard to find any entrée for less than $25 and it’s easy to pay much more.

8/27/16 – Waterfalls and Hot Springs

After breakfast, we drove northeast to see Dettifoss, considered to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe (one in Norway has greater average water flow, but is half the height). Our 2.5 km loop, over black lava paths in the rain, included Selifoss, a smaller, scenic waterfall.

We had lunch, mostly leftovers from breakfast, in the deserted common room at our hotel, then took a short drive to the Myvatn Nature Baths (Jardbodin). There we enjoyed a relaxing few hours in the silky blue water wandering from hot spot to hot spot. I felt totally renewed, especially after my first good beer in this country: Einstök Icelandic Toasted Porter.

After a welcome break at our hotel, we fixed backpacking food for dinner, supplemented with fresh spinach, then took a walk over to the Reykjahlid hotel for a glass of wine. (Alcohol is only sold in special stores – far and few between outside major cities – and restaurants). Ingrid and I also ordered desert: rhubarb pie and ice cream. The pie was more like a delicate rhubarb newton, but delicious.


I flew to Iceland three days ahead of my friends so I could explore the area in and around Reykjavik before we embark on the Ring Road.

8/20/16 – Getting Here

I managed to take a couple short naps during my eight-hour direct flight, though my rear and arms went a bit numb thanks to the lack of padding on discount Wow Airlines. Though bare bones (they even charged for water – what’s next, a fee to use the bathroom?!), the plane was clean and got me here safely.

8/21/16 – Walking Reykjavik

The FlyBus dropped me off at 6:30 a.m. I was able to leave my bags, but couldn’t check into my Airbnb until noon, so I went walking, and pretty much continued walking all day long under overcast, drizzly skies. According to my phone, I covered more than a dozen miles, though it didn’t feel that far since I did it in pieces and Reykjavik is relatively flat (by SF standards at least). I walked up to the famous church that looks like basalt columns, down along the waterfront, and through old town. Along the way, I visited all three branches of the Reykjavik Art Museum and sampled my first Icelandic hot dog, a popular fast food here. There is construction everywhere, a mall and hotel near the harbor, and plenty of generic mid-rise apartment buildings. Some are colorful, but many seem quite dull for a town which frequently has grey skies. I ended my day, after getting settled into my tiny room and showering in geothermally heated sulfur-smelling water, with a yummy fish dinner.

8/22/16 – Golden Circle

I rented a car with GPS and drove to see Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions, collectively known as the Golden Circle. The weather was perfect for photography, a beautiful, changing mixture of sun and clouds. I walked several kilometers at Þingvellir National Park where the European and North American tectonic plates meet, got splashed with warm water at Geysir, was awestruck by the volume of water in Gullfoss (“foss” meaning waterfall in Icelandic), and took a stroll around the Kerid crater shortly before sunset on my way back to town.

8/23/16 – Horseback Riding

After breakfast and a leisurely morning stroll, I was picked up in a van and transported to the Íshestar Stables where I went on my best horseback ride ever. The small, hardy Icelandic horses have a couple gaits not commonly found in horses: tölt (same footfall pattern as walk but faster) and skeið (a.k.a. “flying pace”, close to a gallop). Both paces are smoother and more comfortable than any I’ve experienced. Great horses, combined with fun guides and beautiful volcanic scenery made for a wonderful time. In what seems to be typical weather for Iceland, we had a mixture of sun and rain, so the provided raincoats came in handy.

Art and Hiking in the Rockies

I’m home from Colorado after attending an art class near Aspen and visiting a friend, Lynne, for a bit of hiking in one of my favorite mountain ranges.

Aug 1-5 – Art Class

 I attended a five-day Photo Encaustic class at Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass. This is an amazing place with a dozen or so classes offered at the same time. I stayed in a dorm and ate delicious food in the cafeteria every day. The studios are open 24 hours a day, so it’s a chance to live and breathe art making with a group of like-minded souls. I took a walk before breakfast each morning, two days with blue sky, two with clouds, and one in the fog. Except for meals, I spent most of my time in the studio until bedtime.

8/6/16 – Rained out of the Maroon Bells

Lynne picked me up from the ranch last night. We checked into our hotel and had dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern, a causal place with a variety of food. Though the forecast wasn’t promising, we got up early and got to the Maroon Bells trailhead before sunrise. The rain started shortly after we headed out and without adequate rain gear we turned back. (This year is the first time I experienced morning rain in the summer here; usually the storms wait for the afternoon). We headed early to Lynne’s family condo in Fraser, stopping to buy ponchos on the way. They came in handy when we got caught in a thunderstorm while walking over to Winter Park for dinner.

8/7/16 – Byers Peak (almost)

When we woke up, we were thrilled to see blue sky (not what last night’s forecast called for), so we embarked on a tough hike, fulfilling Lynne’s dream to re-climb Byers Peak (12,800’) after thirty years. Unfortunately, the Forest Service moved the trailhead back a couple miles, almost doubling the distance and increasing the elevation gain to 3000’. We rented bicycles to ride up the fire road to the original trailhead, though we ended up walking at least as much as riding. We locked the bikes to a tree, and then hiked up along a narrow, root-filled trail to the ridge below the peak. We took a lunch break, then continued up the last mile. It was exhausting and the gathering clouds were making me nervous, so I turned back about a half-mile short of the summit. I strolled down to just above timberline taking pictures and admiring the view while Lynne continued to the top. Based on the pictures she showed me afterwards, I would have loved to be up there, but I wasn’t up to it at that altitude. We were happy to have the bikes at the end, covering the last mile and a half in minutes. Start to finish, our ride/hike took about seven hours.

8/8/16 – Rocky Mountain National Park

We spotted one distant moose, then came across a herd of elk on our way up Trail Ridge Road. That was exciting. We could hear the cries of the young ones who still had a few spots. We reached the top of the park in time to take a few pics before the rainclouds returned. We cancelled our planned hike and instead drove back to Monarch Lake where it wasn’t raining. We covered this four-mile loop in about an hour and a half; it’s amazing how much easier it is to hike (and breathe) on a relatively flat trail at “only” 8,400’.

We then stopped by to see Lynne’s brother, who lives up here part time, and picked up her dad to bring him back to the condo. He recently turned 90 and told us stories from his many visits to this area over decades. Though he now lives in San Francisco, he heart is still in Colorado.

8/9/16 – Home Again

I took one last stroll, down to the river along a new highly-switch backed trail, then spent the morning sorting photos and packing. Lynne drove her sister-in-law and me to Denver; it takes about two hours (outside of peak time). It was a great coincidence that we had flights departing 15 minutes apart. Lynne and her dad stayed in town to meet someone for dinner. My flight on Virgin America was much more comfortable than my flight out on Frontier.