Mývatn Nature Reserve

We visited a place called Hverir soon after arriving at our campsite. It's a geothermal area where you can walk around and actually see the heat coming to the surface from the magma plume that formed Iceland. The whole area had a very strong sulfur smell, as did all the hot water in Iceland.

We visited a place called Hverir soon after arriving at our campsite. It’s a geothermal area where you can walk around and actually see the heat coming to the surface from the magma plume that formed Iceland. The whole area had a very strong sulfur smell, as did all the hot water in Iceland.

An mp3 file would be better than this photo... the ground here was hissing quite audibly, like when you flick a few drops of water into a frying pan.

An mp3 file would be better than this photo… the ground here was hissing quite audibly, like when you flick a few drops of water into a frying pan.

The general rule is if it's bubbling, boiling, or steaming, don't touch it. That goes for this mud pot here, bubbling and plopping and churning like a kid blowing into the straw in his milk carton.

The general rule is if it’s bubbling, boiling, or steaming, don’t touch it. That goes for this mud pot here, bubbling and plopping and churning like a kid blowing into the straw in his milk carton.

Pretty flowers!

Pretty flowers!

This pile of rocks was steaming constantly, and the steam had that warm, wet, rotten egg sulfur smell. Mmmm, delightful!

This pile of rocks was steaming constantly, and the steam had that warm, wet, rotten egg sulfur smell. Mmmm, delightful!

July 20, 2005
We’re at the campsite in Mývatn now, right on the lake. It’s beautiful and stays light enough that I can read in my tent all night… odd. There’s a sign in the bathroom next to the sinks that says “CAUTION HOT WATER IS VERY HOT”. They’re not kidding. An easy way to learn curse words in a variety of languages is to stand by the sinks and wait for people to wash their hands for the first time… they always crank that hot water handle and then burn themselves. Considering you can look outside and see cracks in the ground that are spewing geothermic steam, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. Chas suggested that the sign read, “Water from the Center of the Earth. What do you reckon?”

There was a little mountain overlooking the Hverir area, with a wonderful footpath built by past BTCV volunteers. This photo was taken looking up the mountain from the path.

There was a little mountain overlooking the Hverir area, with a wonderful footpath built by past BTCV volunteers. This photo was taken looking up the mountain from the path.

Looking down on Hverir and the parking area

Looking down on Hverir and the parking area

Nice view!

Nice view!

The path continued over to this mountain, I think, that was hiding in some low-lying clouds.

The path continued over to this mountain, I think, that was hiding in some low-lying clouds.

This volcanic crater, called Hverfjall, is a very recognizable part of the landscape and also the site of our first assignment

This volcanic crater, called Hverfjall, is a very recognizable part of the landscape and also the site of our first assignment

There were two footpaths up to the rim of Hverfjall, and one of them was past its prime. Our job was to erase the path as best we could by digging it up and smoothing out the profile that the path had cut into the crater. A new path would be opened that followed a more natural line in the crater's topography and which would be less visible from afar.

There were two footpaths up to the rim of Hverfjall, and one of them was past its prime. Our job was to erase the path as best we could by digging it up and smoothing out the profile that the path had cut into the crater. A new path would be opened that followed a more natural line in the crater’s topography and which would be less visible from afar.

This is the inside of the crater, as seen from the rim. The tephra crater formed about 2500 years ago and is about 1 km in diameter

This is the inside of the crater, as seen from the rim. The tephra crater formed about 2500 years ago and is about 1 km in diameter

Iceland sprawling out away from the crater (also taken from the rim)

Iceland sprawling out away from the crater (also taken from the rim)

 The path cut pretty deeply into the surface of the crater, and we need to move a lot of lava to cover it up.


The path cut pretty deeply into the surface of the crater, and we need to move a lot of lava to cover it up.

We worked at Hverfjall for three or four days, and had decent weather most of the time. Some cold rain, a few misty clouds, but a fair amount of sunshine, too.

We worked at Hverfjall for three or four days, and had decent weather most of the time. Some cold rain, a few misty clouds, but a fair amount of sunshine, too.

July 20, 2005
Today on the crater, one of the assistant rangers asked where in America I grew up. I said Michigan, and then explained that it’s the state surrounded by the great lakes. Heck, there are plenty of Americans who don’t know where Michigan is, how would an Icelandic park ranger know? But he nodded and said, “Oh yes, I know Michigan. Home of the white rapper.”

WHOA. I’m standing on a volcanic crater in Iceland, and this guy knows my state as the home of Eminem?
Totally surreal.

Looking up the crater at the progress we'd made so far.

Looking up the crater at the progress we’d made so far.

Pretty flowers! Even prettier because they're growing out of a big pile of rocks- only the strong survive.

Pretty flowers! Even prettier because they’re growing out of a big pile of rocks- only the strong survive.

This was the "before" picture, on our first day. The task seemed impossible, frankly. Note the many layers of clothing, coats, hats, and gloves... we started out pretty chilly.

This was the “before” picture, on our first day. The task seemed impossible, frankly. Note the many layers of clothing, coats, hats, and gloves… we started out pretty chilly.

And this was near the end of our last day, during our lunch break. Once the path has been weathered a bit and the finer sediment settles down below the more coarse rocks, it'll blend in better.

And this was near the end of our last day, during our lunch break. Once the path has been weathered a bit and the finer sediment settles down below the more coarse rocks, it’ll blend in better.

I took this sitting on the edge of the rim, but there's not much contrast between the rim (brown and rocky) and the ground hundreds of feet away (green and rocky). At the right edge of this photo, you can see part of a ring of lava formations known as Dimmuborgir, which translates to Dark Castles. During an eruption, a pool of lava formed where Dimmuborgir now sits. As the lava slowly drained out of the pool, steam bubbled up through the magma, cooling it in places, and leaving behind tall pillars.

I took this sitting on the edge of the rim, but there’s not much contrast between the rim (brown and rocky) and the ground hundreds of feet away (green and rocky). At the right edge of this photo, you can see part of a ring of lava formations known as Dimmuborgir, which translates to Dark Castles. During an eruption, a pool of lava formed where Dimmuborgir now sits. As the lava slowly drained out of the pool, steam bubbled up through the magma, cooling it in places, and leaving behind tall pillars.

Dimmuborgir was the site of another pathwork assignment, which included widening and smoothing the paths through the lava formations. We shoveled gravel and dirt, removed big rocks from the path way, and broke apart (as best we could) the rocks that were too big to move. The goal, eventually, is to make portions of the paths accessible to wheelchairs.

Dimmuborgir was the site of another pathwork assignment, which included widening and smoothing the paths through the lava formations. We shoveled gravel and dirt, removed big rocks from the path way, and broke apart (as best we could) the rocks that were too big to move. The goal, eventually, is to make portions of the paths accessible to wheelchairs.

We also got an "off road" walking tour of Dimmuborgir from a park ranger, Bergþóra, which included scrambling up some rock faces, crawling down through some caves, and inching along some rather intimidating dropoffs.

We also got an “off road” walking tour of Dimmuborgir from a park ranger, Bergþóra, which included scrambling up some rock faces, crawling down through some caves, and inching along some rather intimidating dropoffs.

There are similar lava formations off the coast of Mexico, but are not known to exist anywhere else on dry land.

There are similar lava formations off the coast of Mexico, but are not known to exist anywhere else on dry land.

Properly stormy clouds hovered over the place of dark castles.

Properly stormy clouds hovered over the place of dark castles.

But Katherine and I also had some beautiful blue sky to hike beneath.

But Katherine and I also had some beautiful blue sky to hike beneath.

This was a vacation, but it was also really hard work. As it got hotter and the rocks got heavier, our lunch breaks were often accompanied by sleepytime.

This was a vacation, but it was also really hard work. As it got hotter and the rocks got heavier, our lunch breaks were often accompanied by sleepytime.

I took a photo of my tent every place I camped- here's my home right on the edge of Lake Mývatn.

I took a photo of my tent every place I camped- here’s my home right on the edge of Lake Mývatn.

Our campsite was on the outskirts of the little town of Reykjahlið.

Our campsite was on the outskirts of the little town of Reykjahlið.

The campsite had a common kitchen area for campers to use, and not a bad view at all.

The campsite had a common kitchen area for campers to use, and not a bad view at all.

We, however, had our own kitchen- the food tent. We prepared all of our own meals, taking turns cooking and cleaning up.

We, however, had our own kitchen- the food tent. We prepared all of our own meals, taking turns cooking and cleaning up.

Our mess tent... at the moment I took this photo, it certainly lived up to its name. It was also our dining tent, meeting room, and drying rack.

Our mess tent… at the moment I took this photo, it certainly lived up to its name. It was also our dining tent, meeting room, and drying rack.

Wow. (What else can I say?)

Wow.
(What else can I say?)


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