Better than New Sock Day

August 24, 2006

I know, I know… you’re saying, what could possibly be better than New Sock Day!? To campers and backpackers with sporadic access to washing machines, not much can compare to putting clean, fresh socks on your feet and tossing the manky ones into the farthest corner of your tent.

The answer is Northern Lights! I saw them last week for the first time, and then again last night around midnight. We’ve been having hot, sunny days and cool clear nights, which are ideal conditions for seeing them. So far I’ve only seen one color, a really pale green, but I have three more weeks to see more. They stretched across the sky and undulated, fading out and coming back and pulsing like a tv channel that almost comes in, but not quite. The best way I can describe them is like a watercolor painting that’s been left out in the rain. I don’t have any photos yet because I couldn’t tear myself away to go back to my tent and dig out my camera.

Last week a German tourist was killed while exploring an ice cave near Landmannalaugar. When we passed through the hut on our hike, I saw a handwritten note tacked to the bulletin board warning that the ice caves are unstable and everyone should stay out. Unfortunately, not everyone did.

I’m in a little library in the north and have the right combination of access to USB port and operating system, so I’ll attach a few pictures.

The first is of a worksite where we’re building boardwalks and a viewing platform in a geothermal area. We need to keep people away from the bubbling hot mud and scalding steam vents- they draw tourists like moths to a flame. It’s been an ongoing project that I also worked on last summer, but this year we’re seeing real progress. I expect I will be working at the site again in September.

There is also a bizarre but funny case of translation… Sometimes words that are considered rather coarse in the US get used in Icelandic translations, with amusing results.

Ok, well I hope this finds everyone happy and healthy!
shannön

Leirnjúkur sees a lot of tourist traffic every year, and people are injured every year, sometimes very badly, because they don't stay on the marked paths.

Leirnjúkur sees a lot of tourist traffic every year, and people are injured every year, sometimes very badly, because they don’t stay on the marked paths.

I had to laugh when I saw this...

I had to laugh when I saw this…

One of the long-term challenges of our platform work is the corrosiveness of the soil. We dug up all kinds of different colors, resulting from different concentrations of minerals. A supplier said the galvanized steel brackets we were using in the framing would dissolve in about seven years, but we're hoping he's wrong. Besides, our budget has limitations, and doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing.

One of the long-term challenges of our platform work is the corrosiveness of the soil. We dug up all kinds of different colors, resulting from different concentrations of minerals. A supplier said the galvanized steel brackets we were using in the framing would dissolve in about seven years, but we’re hoping he’s wrong. Besides, our budget has limitations, and doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing.

The finished framework had each foot resting on an inset cement pad.

The finished framework had each foot resting on an inset cement pad.

All of our materials- the cement pads, the lumber, the nails, the tools- had to be carried up this path to our worksite throughout the day. When it's dry, it's a bit like walking up lumpy stairs with seething steam on either side. But when it's wet, the mud is like walking on grease- extremely slippery and yet somehow very sticky. In fact, on wet days, each step would enlarge your boot with a coating of mud, so your feet got heavier and bigger as you went up. Toward the upper left corner of this photo, you can just make out a pile of lumber and materials.

All of our materials- the cement pads, the lumber, the nails, the tools- had to be carried up this path to our worksite throughout the day. When it’s dry, it’s a bit like walking up lumpy stairs with seething steam on either side. But when it’s wet, the mud is like walking on grease- extremely slippery and yet somehow very sticky. In fact, on wet days, each step would enlarge your boot with a coating of mud, so your feet got heavier and bigger as you went up. Toward the upper left corner of this photo, you can just make out a pile of lumber and materials.

Now let's play a game called "Find the Frenchman." Christophe took a nap during lunch and demonstrated his hobbit-like ability to blend in with the lava.

Now let’s play a game called “Find the Frenchman.” Christophe took a nap during lunch and demonstrated his hobbit-like ability to blend in with the lava.

As we worked on the platform, summer faded into autumn and the rich green landscape started to take on a golden glow.

As we worked on the platform, summer faded into autumn and the rich green landscape started to take on a golden glow.

This was my perspective during a few days of making cutouts in the decking so I could bolt the handrail posts to the support structure.

This was my perspective during a few days of making cutouts in the decking so I could bolt the handrail posts to the support structure.

While our effort felt massive, from an uphill viewpoint the platform doesn't seem so big. We were also piecing together the boardwalks coming in from the left and above to connect to the platform. The black lava is from the most recent eruption in the area, which ended in the 80s.

While our effort felt massive, from an uphill viewpoint the platform doesn’t seem so big. We were also piecing together the boardwalks coming in from the left and above to connect to the platform. The black lava is from the most recent eruption in the area, which ended in the 80s.

Same viewpoint, facing the other direction. The black rocks in the foreground are also part of that recent lava flow.

Same viewpoint, facing the other direction. The black rocks in the foreground are also part of that recent lava flow.

Recent enough to still be steaming a bit...

Recent enough to still be steaming a bit…

Look at that gorgeous platform! This is what it looked like mid-September, when we packed up our tools and headed back to Reykjavík. It is somewhere around 80 square meters in area.

Look at that gorgeous platform! This is what it looked like mid-September, when we packed up our tools and headed back to Reykjavík. It is somewhere around 80 square meters in area.

Hammer nails long enough in bitter cold, gusty wind, and rain, and you're bound to have some mistakes. Some of us had more than others. And in the UK, they're not called "owies" or "booboos"... they're "hurties". I quote a coworker: "Sometimes it's nice to bang your fingers with the hammer, because it makes you forget about everything else that's sh--."

Hammer nails long enough in bitter cold, gusty wind, and rain, and you’re bound to have some mistakes. Some of us had more than others. And in the UK, they’re not called “owies” or “booboos”… they’re “hurties”.
I quote a coworker: “Sometimes it’s nice to bang your fingers with the hammer, because it makes you forget about everything else that’s sh–.”

If we look exhausted, cold, and beaten down, it's because we are.

If we look exhausted, cold, and beaten down, it’s because we are.


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