Mývatn Nature Reserve, part 2

The Mývatn group at the (tippy) picnic table outside our food tent. We'd just given our new plastic cups distinctive markings with electrical tape. Form meets function!

The Mývatn group at the (tippy) picnic table outside our food tent. We’d just given our new plastic cups distinctive markings with electrical tape. Form meets function!

We headed out late one night to catch the sunset... this photo was probably taken around 10:30 p.m.

We headed out late one night to catch the sunset… this photo was probably taken around 10:30 p.m.

 As the sun began to sink, the mountains behind us blushed pink.

As the sun began to sink, the mountains behind us blushed pink.

Beautiful lava pillars... somehow they reminded me of Stonehenge.

Beautiful lava pillars… somehow they reminded me of Stonehenge.

And the show begins...

And the show begins…

Is this amazing or what???? This was probably close to midnight.

Is this amazing or what????
This was probably close to midnight.

Group photo of the sunset watchers, including the hood of the Isuzu Trooper on which my camera was resting.

Group photo of the sunset watchers, including the hood of the Isuzu Trooper on which my camera was resting.

 

Back to work! The footpaths through these lava flows needed some work, and again we answered the call. The black lava in this photo is the most recent flow in Iceland- about ten years old.

Back to work! The footpaths through these lava flows needed some work, and again we answered the call. The black lava in this photo is the most recent flow in Iceland- about ten years old.

We were once again widening, flattening, and removing rocks. We also replanted turf into places where people walking off the path had damaged the vegetation.

We were once again widening, flattening, and removing rocks. We also replanted turf into places where people walking off the path had damaged the vegetation.

July 29, 2005
I had what I hope will be an indelible memory yesterday. We had good weather again, and most of the group went to Dimmuborgir to continue working on those paths, but Phil, Chas and I went back to Krafla to work with Bergþóra and her sister on the boardwalks. We were driving out there, and the sun hadn’t yet burned off the morning chill and “Beautiful Day” by U2 was playing on the Jeep’s stereo. I felt so lucky to be there and to see it all sprawling out before my eyes, sun shining and Earth slowly growing and heaving and boiling far beneath our tires. Tiny specks of life fortunate enough to exist for one glimmering moment in the universe… yet it was the moment, not the universe, that felt infinite.

What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
Don’t need it now
It was a beautiful day
–U2

 

This is in the parking lot of Krafla, a geothermal power plant. We built footbridges here to be placed through Leirhnjúkur, a nearby geothermal area like Hverir. The existing path goes through the hot areas and becomes slippery when it rains. Careless people do get badly burned there. The plan is to reroute the path around the hot spots with footbridges leading up to a viewing platform, so that people can see the area without walking through the center of it.

This is in the parking lot of Krafla, a geothermal power plant. We built footbridges here to be placed through Leirhnjúkur, a nearby geothermal area like Hverir. The existing path goes through the hot areas and becomes slippery when it rains. Careless people do get badly burned there. The plan is to reroute the path around the hot spots with footbridges leading up to a viewing platform, so that people can see the area without walking through the center of it.

A ranger's dog, Romeo, inspects the sturdiness of our work.

A ranger’s dog, Romeo, inspects the sturdiness of our work.

We were able to build many more sections than we were able to lay. Some of the routing will need to be decided after evaluating the washout areas during heavy rains. At one point, we were walking around this area with Bergþóra, and she carried a section of rebar, which she pushed into the ground every few steps. After sinking a few inches into the ground and being pulled right back out, the end was nearly too hot to touch. At one point, as we neared the edge of the hot areas, she poked a hole in the ground and when she pulled the rebar out, steam started puffing out of the hole. "I think we would not be clever," she said, "to dig too deeply here." No kidding.

We were able to build many more sections than we were able to lay. Some of the routing will need to be decided after evaluating the washout areas during heavy rains. At one point, we were walking around this area with Bergþóra, and she carried a section of rebar, which she pushed into the ground every few steps. After sinking a few inches into the ground and being pulled right back out, the end was nearly too hot to touch. At one point, as we neared the edge of the hot areas, she poked a hole in the ground and when she pulled the rebar out, steam started puffing out of the hole. “I think we would not be clever,” she said, “to dig too deeply here.”
No kidding.

Not a bad spot for a lunch break.

Not a bad spot for a lunch break.

This flag was flying in Húsavik, the little port town where we went whale watching and had a nice dinner. Húsavik is also home to the world's only Phallilogical Museum. I'm not making this up. The museum's, err, "donors" range from blue whales to... well, I don't know, a bunch of other animals. I didn't go in.

This flag was flying in Húsavik, the little port town where we went whale watching and had a nice dinner. Húsavik is also home to the world’s only Phallilogical Museum. I’m not making this up. The museum’s, err, “donors” range from blue whales to… well, I don’t know, a bunch of other animals.
I didn’t go in.

Húsavik's church

Húsavik’s church

One of the other whale watching boats we saw out in the ocean. We also saw dolphins and a minke whale, along with hundreds of sea birds.

One of the other whale watching boats we saw out in the ocean. We also saw dolphins and a minke whale, along with hundreds of sea birds.

I also got to go horseback riding through the pseudocraters along the lake. Icelandic horses have some of the purest bloodlines in the world. Since the Vikings first settled on the island, no horses have been allowed to enter Iceland, and any horse that leaves is never allowed to re-enter the country.

I also got to go horseback riding through the pseudocraters along the lake. Icelandic horses have some of the purest bloodlines in the world. Since the Vikings first settled on the island, no horses have been allowed to enter Iceland, and any horse that leaves is never allowed to re-enter the country.

Icelandic horses have retained a fifth gait, called the tölt, which is somewhere between a trot and a canter. When the beauty of Icelandic horses is mentioned, it is sometimes pointed out that when the bad ones are eaten, after 1000 years you end up with some pretty good horses.

Icelandic horses have retained a fifth gait, called the tölt, which is somewhere between a trot and a canter.
When the beauty of Icelandic horses is mentioned, it is sometimes pointed out that when the bad ones are eaten, after 1000 years you end up with some pretty good horses.

Goðafoss, which means "Waterfall of the Gods." It is said that when Iceland converted to Christianity, one of the leaders threw all of the pagan idols into this waterfall as a sign of faith.

Goðafoss, which means “Waterfall of the Gods.” It is said that when Iceland converted to Christianity, one of the leaders threw all of the pagan idols into this waterfall as a sign of faith.

Yes, they do sell plastic Viking hats in Iceland.

Yes, they do sell plastic Viking hats in Iceland.

This is one of the steam pipes leading into Krafla. A large portion of Icelandic homes and greenhouses use hot springs and other naturally occuring heat sources in the winter. With 97% of the country's energy coming from hydroelectric and geothermal sources, Iceland has some of the lowest levels of air pollution in the world. (The tradeoff is that you have to accept the risk of the occasional catastrophic volcanic eruption.)

This is one of the steam pipes leading into Krafla. A large portion of Icelandic homes and greenhouses use hot springs and other naturally occuring heat sources in the winter. With 97% of the country’s energy coming from hydroelectric and geothermal sources, Iceland has some of the lowest levels of air pollution in the world. (The tradeoff is that you have to accept the risk of the occasional catastrophic volcanic eruption.)

Another sunset over our campsite

Another sunset over our campsite

Our final excursion was into the highlands, Iceland's desolate interior. On the way, though, we stopped to have lunch at this rest stop along the highway. Nice place for a picnic.

Our final excursion was into the highlands, Iceland’s desolate interior. On the way, though, we stopped to have lunch at this rest stop along the highway. Nice place for a picnic.

Our last stop in civilization, a little town with touristy gift shops, a liquor store, and a nice bakery...

Our last stop in civilization, a little town with touristy gift shops, a liquor store, and a nice bakery…

...and a friendly wooden Viking guy that made friends with Alastair and Becks.

…and a friendly wooden Viking guy that made friends with Alastair and Becks.

Remember that "desolate interior" I mentioned? Here we are. 4WD is required to even be on these roads, which are hours away from help and require the ability to safely ford rivers.

Remember that “desolate interior” I mentioned? Here we are. 4WD is required to even be on these roads, which are hours away from help and require the ability to safely ford rivers.

July 28, 2005
We were on our way to Hvuiternes, bumping along on a rough highland road and packed in like sardines when we saw the owl. It was flying above a small ravine next to the road, which put it at the same height as the muddy Trooper full of volunteers. The owl was riding the wind more than flying, soaring at almost our exact speed so that it seemed to hang in the air next to our vehicle, barely moving except to turn its head and look at us several times. It flew next to us for what seemed like ages, and I don’t know if the car fell quiet or if I was so taken with the sight that my other senses stopped working, but my memory of it is accompanied only by silence. It literally took my breath away, it was so amazing. I never even reached for my camera, instinctively knowing, I guess, that this one would never be captured. I did wonder why an owl was out in broad daylight, but I suppose summer days with 22 hours of sunlight make it hard to be properly nocturnal. Maybe owls get insomnia, too.

This is Hvuiternes, a little mountain hut in the middle of nowhere. It was unbelievable. We spent the night eating and drinking and waiting for the ghost of Hvuiternes to pay us a visit, but she did not.

This is Hvuiternes, a little mountain hut in the middle of nowhere. It was unbelievable. We spent the night eating and drinking and waiting for the ghost of Hvuiternes to pay us a visit, but she did not.

Hvuiternes means (roughly) white river, which is suitable because of the, ahem, white river that flows right next to the hut.

Hvuiternes means (roughly) white river, which is suitable because of the, ahem, white river that flows right next to the hut.

Mountains, glaciers, rivers, and wide open spaces... what a great place to spend the waning hours of our trip together.

Mountains, glaciers, rivers, and wide open spaces… what a great place to spend the waning hours of our trip together.

Group photo!

Group photo!

The next morning, on the way back to Reykjavík, we stopped at Gullfoss, The Golden Waterfall. It is Europe's most powerful waterfall, and quite beautiful.

The next morning, on the way back to Reykjavík, we stopped at Gullfoss, The Golden Waterfall. It is Europe’s most powerful waterfall, and quite beautiful.

Plenty of rainbows, at least when the sun is shining.

Plenty of rainbows, at least when the sun is shining.

"Geysir" is actually an Icelandic word. See, you didn't know you spoke Icelandic, did you? This is Stokkur, which erupts every few minutes.

“Geysir” is actually an Icelandic word. See, you didn’t know you spoke Icelandic, did you? This is Stokkur, which erupts every few minutes.


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