360 Degree Hike: Langidalur in Thorsmok

Our previous hike attempt had ended in difficulty when the trail became little more than a rock scramble eight feet wide, with huge drops on both sides. We choose correctly and went back down, saving ourselves for more traveling and hiking later.

The next day, we did a short, steep, and gorgeous hike straight up from Langidalur campground.

The trail is relatively easy, if a bit steep. The only exposure to high drops comes at the very end of the trip, and is easily avoided. The reward? 360-degree views of Thorsmok and the surrounding areas and photos that look like they’ve been ‘shopped.

Next up: Westman Islands, Part One

Iceland’s Westfjords: Látrabjarg, The Cliff At the End of Europe

Látrabjarg is a massive cliff that houses the nesting areas for thousands of birds. It also happens to be the farthest West point in Europe. Impressive as the cliffs are (and smelly!), I preferred to look out over the Atlantic in the direction of the Americas. They say that on a clear day, one might glimpse Greenland here. It was not a clear day.

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It was particularly impressive that someone may have well stood in that spot more than a thousand years ago, looking out over the gray waters, and thought:

“Yes, I will go out there into the unknown and have faith that something is there. Something has to lie beyond.” 

 

Not Leif Erikson himself, perhaps, but someone in the unrecorded 400-700 people in his Viking fleet that landed in Vinland (Nova Scotia). There is no indication that any continents lay across that great grey expanse. In the photo above, you can see that the sky and the horizon merge seamlessly, as if it is not particularly important which is which. Or as if they are one and the same.

Whenever I stand on shores like this one, in the footsteps of those who went into the great unknown hundreds of years ago (or thousands!) the thought of space comes to mind. I think of those who went in great discomfort and what must have been great tension across the wide seas that seemed to be infinite at the time, and how easily I now travel above them in what amounts to a flying living room in a metal tube.

I suppose I feel less intrepid than those who went before, and also those who will come after. Space travel, if it does become something that is much more commonplace than now, will probably not be much more comfortable nor more safe than those long seafaring journeys undertaken by our ancestors. I need to go stand on more Polynesian beaches, to feel the full force of the longest and most impressive of the sort of journeys I imagined on Látrabjarg. Those would be the best analog for long-term, untethered space flights that I hope will eventually come for humanity.

But back on Látrabjarg, there were Puffins! Having eaten them a day earlier, it was strange to see them on the cliffs, totally unimpressed with the tourists all over the place. They are so self-assured that we cannot fly that they just pose for picture after picture.

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Well worth the drive to visit this magical place.

Iceland’s Westfjords: The Road Less Taken

Many tourists come to Iceland with the goal of ‘doing the Ring Road.’ They want to drive around Route 1 all the way, starting and ending in Reykjavik. Unfortunately for many of them, this does not include the Westfjords. The place is remote, and even some Icelanders have not visited.

The upper lefthand corner of Iceland holds its own ‘ring road,’ a network of highways, tunnels, and gravel that makes a full loop if driven from Búðardalur. We went North on the first day, ending up in Súðavík. On the we stayed there two nights, and then moved on through to Þingeyri . On the last day we drove to Bjarkarholt Guesthouse, which isn’t even on Google’s maps most of the time. We completed the loop the next day, 1300km later. 

The Road Less Taken is one of my favorite poems, and one which I used this year to say ‘bye-bye’ to my Chinese students. It makes a lot of sense in terms of my life and how I choose to travel, but also in terms of those five days in the Westfjords.

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Here are the pictures I got of this second Ring Road in Iceland. It’s well worth a visit. We went to many hot springs, ate smoked Puffin, and dipped three times in the freezing sea.

The Road Not Taken — Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Boulder Day: A New Holiday

To celebrate being back in Boulder, the land of my birth, I went with my parents to have the most Boulderite day ever on Wednesday! We rolled on our Patchouli oil, put on our Birkenstock sandals, and headed out in the cool rainy May weather.

Our stops for the day:

  • Chautauqua Dining Hall, where I order a brie pizza and 7 Chakra herbal tisane
  • McClintock Trail, to survey the damage from the 2013 thousand-year flood
  • The Trident Cafe on Pearl Street, for Puerh Tea and a look at second hand books
  • Piece, Love, and Chocolate for locally-made truffles
  • Redstone Meadery for free tasters and mead to bring home for our fire ceremony on Saturday
  • Whole Foods’ flagship store on East Pearl Street, for dinner fixings

Boulder really has changed a lot in recent years. Even since I graduated in 2010 from CU-Boulder, buildings are going up all over and places I used to love are no more. I had a sense, walking around in the Trident, that it might not be here when I come back next. It might move on to its next incarnation. Secondhand books might be going away soon, as even a Neo-Luddite like me now has a Kindle.

Boulder changes, and it doesn’t. It’s good to go sample while I’m here!