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Adventures in Burkeland - Tuesday, 02 May 2017
A little working family on a little hobby farm.
 
 Tuesday, 02 May 2017

05/02/2017 09:38:15 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback

The early light of being way far north finally lulled us out of bed around 8 this morning, which was perfect because the viewing deck at Hallgrímskirkja (the church right across from our hotel) opened at 9am. Once again we enjoyed our free breakfast at the hotel, said good-bye to the Hótel Leifur Eiríksson and ventured out for our last day in Iceland. Hallgrímskirkja is the highest building in Reykjavik, so the viewing deck of the church offer the best views of the city. We got there a little after 9am and found a little sign that basically said, "If we haven't gotten here yet to receive money, please just leave about 900KR each and go on up." I love Iceland. The trust... the simplicity... the baffled crowd gathered around the sign wondering if it can really be that easy. On top of the church it was not only beautiful, but someone, even more windy (which was hard to believe possible). We read the signs, admired the views from all sides, and returned to the lower levels before we froze to death!

The only other item on our to-do list for the day was shopping. Neither of us are big shoppers, but we had avoided picking up things for the kids, family or ourselves until we'd seen what different place had to offer. Now it was time. We took a few hours to stroll down the main shopping streets like we had the first day, but the reality is that most shops have exactly the same things for sale. And nothing was jumping out at us. On the advice of a few websites, we decided to try a different approach and headed to Kringlan, the largest shopping mall in Reykjavik. And we discovered where the locals go! The mall included some standard shops (Subway, The Body Shop, etc.), but Flying Tiger was our favorite. We probably spent an hour there! Of course it's also fun to just see the locals in action and window shop a bit, so this last minute decision turned out to be a really interesting addition to the trip.

Shopping done we returned to Reykjavik for some fish and chips! After strolling around a bit we finally settled on Icelandic Fish and Chips, located near the bay. Everything was a la carte, so we ordered two different types of fish, sides and sauces for our final Icelandic meal. Super-yummy!! And a bit bitter-sweet. It was time to head for the airport.

 

45 minutes later we were returning our car to the rental place - doors in tact. (Thank, goodness!)
The owner of the company was the only person around, so he offered to drive us back to the airport. It took about 15 minutes and along the way we got him started chatting about tourism in Iceland and the overall economy. Apparently, 3-4 years ago they had around 400k tourists visit. This year they are anticipating 2.5M! By comparison the entire population of Iceland is 330,000 (about twice the size of Salem). There are a lot of conversations going on about how to manage the numbers, but essentially the economy of Iceland tanked around 2007 and tourism is what brought it back. So it needs to be managed, but also continued. (I'm not sure if that means we were part of a growing problem, or part of a solution!?) I do know that basically EVERY attraction we visited had construction going on to accommodate the crowds anticipated this summer. We also read blogs with detailed descriptions of how to find trails and sights that were "unmarked" only to find parking areas and marked trails there when we arrived. So not only are they recognizing some of the issues, they are taking steps towards resolution at a much faster pace than we would likely be able to take in the states. It will be interesting to watch Iceland in the coming years to see what other adjustments they make in order to balance livability and local culture with the throngs of tourists who want to catch a glimpse of this intriguing little island.


05/02/2017 09:37:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Monday, 01 May 2017

Up a little later this morning... yesterday was a long day! Our original plan was to be on the road by 8, but our eyes may have opened a bit closer to 8:30. And then we still needed to pack things up.
So instead of a trip to the grocery store with things we could bring back and cook for breakfast, we threw our bags back in the car and hit the grocery store for breakfast options we could eat while driving. Luckily we've discovered this amazing yogurt-type stuff called Skyr that's absolutely delightful! Especially the vanilla flavor. Combined with a granola bar and an orange, we were quite happy.

Our first stop of the morning was just around the corner (and one of the places that made us understand why doors occasionally blow off cars in Iceland): Reynisfjara beach and the basalt columns of Hálsanef.
We'd seen the black sands at Vik the night before, but this is the more famous beach around the corner, and includes an amazing cliff made of tall columns and old lava flows that almost seem to move while you're watching them. The jet black sand, combined with the grey sky and white waves, gave the strange feeling that you were standing in the middle of a black and white movie. We turned away from where all the tourists gathered near the basalt columns and tried to take some pictures of the desolate beach stretching the other direction. It's hard to believe they are color photos!

Back in the car for just 20 minutes or so and we found ourselves at Sólheimajökull glacier, where we had originally been scheduled to hike for the day. Turns out you can actually hike right up to the glacier (and onto it, if you are inclined to do so without a guide). So despite our canceled hike, we really had a good time playing around where the outer fingers meet rock that the retreating and advancement have cut through the years. The blue ice was beautiful and clear. The patterns in the larger glacier were, again, almost alive with movement. We ended up staying here for well over an hour, although we had expected it to be a quick stop.



Another 15 minutes down the road is one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls: Skógafoss. At this point we were, admittedly, a little done with waterfalls. They're absolutely beautiful. And Iceland has done a good job of making each different by cutting steps to the top of some, and paths behind others. But here's the thing: we have all those things in Oregon too. So super-cool, but not a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Instead of spending a ton of time with the hundreds of other people climbing to the top of the falls, we drove around the corner to the Skógar Folk Museum that was highly recommended by Guðrún, our Airbnb host the night before.
Yes. This was what we had been looking for to make the trip feel complete. And (baffling!?) almost none of the throngs nearby at the waterfall made their way over. 

The museum has three parts:
1. The folk museum which offers a huge variety of tools and implements used for fishing and farming, as well as artifacts dating back to the viking age. This was a great way to walk through the history of Iceland and the development of it's people and culture.
2. An open-air museum that features rebuilt turf houses give you a glimpse into the atmosphere of how Icelanders lived through the centuries.
3. The museum of transport, which tells the story of technology and transportation and its development in Iceland in the 19th and 20th century.

We spent WAY more time here than we'd allotted, but SO worth it!

One stop left in the day so we hit the road to our Day 3 hot spring (yes, we scheduled one each day!): Reykjadalur  or "Smokey Valley".
Scott and I had both been looking forward to this hike. We read about it on all sort of blogs (here, here, here, here... you get the point). The hike takes at least an hour and roams into the mountains, through a geothermal area. Steam comes out of the ground all around you as you hike through streams, past waterfalls and alongside pools so hot they're boiling. But here's the catch. It was really rainy hard when were were there. (As in, we're from Oregon and we still thought it was raining hard.) And windy. WINDY. A couple times I forgot to stand with my feet shoulder width apart and almost got blown over. So, although we were passing all of the beautiful things, we were also soaked to the skin. Through our thermals, wool sweaters and down coats. But you only get one chance to hike Iceland, right? So we went on!

Finally, we arrived!! We got to the boardwalks and noticed something strange: there was no one there. Scott stepped off the side, removed his glove and dipped his hand into the stream and it was COLD. Wait, what?! Apparently the hot springs could not keep up with the rain that day. A phenomenon that was NEVER mentioned in any of those blogs above! But we were not to be defeated! Despite the other (smarter?) people turning around and going back, we were going to do this. We hiked upstream a bit, beyond the boardwalks. Normally this area was deemed "too hot", but it turns out with the rain it was about right. Of course, there was still a catch. Changing out of three layers of clothes, including wool socks and hiking boots, while standing in the open air is, well, VERY COLD. And frankly, nearly impossible.

BUT WE DID IT!

And then we had to change back. Dear Lord. I really don't recommend ever trying to put on wet thermals in the pouring rain and then hike for an hour, although after about 15 minutes they did start to work like a wet suit - warmed by body heat as we hiked! Finally back at our car an hour later we rewarded ourselves with coffee and dessert at the trailhead cafe (purely by the grace of God they actually had a sugar and gluten free option).
Wet completely through we headed back to Reykavik for our final night.



05/01/2017 09:36:47 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Sunday, 30 April 2017

We were up early and out of our room with our bags in the car before the hotel started serving breakfast at 7am. Food is SUPER expensive, so we enjoyed the quick free breakfast before setting off on the Golden Circle drive.

Our first stop was þórufoss, a bit off the beaten path, but an easy addition when you have a rental car. We were the only people there (which we would appreciate later in the day when we caught up to the tour buses) and it was a great way to start our exploration outside of the city.

Next, it was time to scratch that ongoing national park itch at Þingvellir National Park!
We got there right as it was opening and enjoyed a quick walk through the visitor's center, before strolling down through the hiking paths.
The site hosted Iceland's parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries and also boasts Þingvellir Church, ruins of old stone shelters and the Prime Ministers "summer home", which is really just used in the summer to host political gatherings. It was a beautiful and interesting stop! You can read more about some of the activities that took place at the Þingvellir site here. The site also has another great example of the crack forming between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America.

Our next stop was a hopeful one: we had read about an amazing waterfall called Bruarfoss with crystal blue water. However multiple sites said it was difficult to find the right place to park, as well as the trail leading to the waterfall. We allocated an hour in our plan, crossed our fingers and said a prayer. And it worked! Definitely an discrete trail and a very muddy path, but we found our way to the bluest waterfall I've ever seen!



Still on schedule we made our way to the Geysir Geothermal area, which is a lot like a mini-Yellowstone!
In fact, "geyser" derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb from Old Norse.
Bubbling mud pots, steaming ground and a few geysers make up the small area. The main geyser is larger than Old Faithful, but has been dormant for some time.
Strokkur geyser goes off about every five minutes, and we saw it "gush" a number of times while we strolled around.

Just beyond Geysir, was Gullfoss - our final official stop on the Golden Circle drive (there are other sites people include, but these were the ones we prioritized). Another beautiful waterfall - this time a double, that flows directly into a crack in the earth.

At this point we headed south, planning to spend the last hours of the afternoon on a hike to a hot spring located in the mountains. Along the way I received an email from the guides that were supposed to take us on a glacier hike tomorrow saying they had to cancel due to high wind and rain being forecasted. Well, heck. Some quick regrouping and we decided to switch the hike planned for today, with the one we were going to do tomorrow since that one was more on the way to our stop for the night. So we threw the itineraries out the window (figuratively), we made our way to
Seljalandsfoss and it's walk-ably close neighbor, Gljúfrabúi.

Gljúfrabúi actually turned out to be one of our favorites in a place where waterfalls start to feel a bit like cathedrals in Europe. ("There's *another* amazing one...") While many people debated whether to wade through the craack into the cave, Scott took off and, of course, I had to follow. Inside, where the water falls, was amazing. Wet, but amazing. The the only source of light came from the hole where the water flowed in, making for a bit of a surreal feeling. After wading back out we decided to try our luck with climbing the rock that blocks the lower section of the waterfall. Suffice it to say some of the climb involves chains that have been added to assist with the climb up the face (or around the side) of the wet rock.
We don't have a lot of pictures because:
A) We were hanging on for our lives
B) We promised my parents we wouldn't die while they were watching the boys and we didn't want proof we had attempted this climb.
For the record, we were successful:)

Still going strong we headed for our last major stop of the day:
Seljavallalaug pool
The pool was built in the hills of southern Iceland in 1923 as a place where children could learn to swim. It captures the water from a nearby hot spring, making it possible to use year-around. (Although many people who entered while were there clearly expected it to be much warmer then it was.) A small stream towards the back, in addition to a pipe in the corner from the main spring, turned out to be the places to be. This was definitely one of my top five experiences from the entire trip. I loved this little pool and hated to have to leave just a short hour later.

At 6:30pm we were back in the car and headed to Vik, our stop for the night. We arrived at our Airbnb just after 7pm, checked in and headed out for one final walk to explore the tiny little town, find some dinner and see the famous black sand the southern coast is known for. The sun finally set about 11pm and so did we! Another great day in Iceland!

Pictures from our Golden Circle day are posted here.

Things we've learned so far:
1. foss = waterfall
2. vik = Bay
3. Þ = "th" sound
4. ð = "d" sound
5.
æ = "ee" sound
6. We are very grateful for all the sites that recommended waterproof hiking boots. We've passed many people trying to navigate mud and streams that we just trekked right through.
7. The time Scott put into figuring out how to get us a phone was well spent! We've chatted with the boys, texted pictures and actually got the email that canceled our hike tomorrow!


04/30/2017 09:36:12 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Saturday, 29 April 2017
We made it!
We made it!
We made it!

Our flight landed around 6am at the overcrowded airport. Since Iceland is, apparently, the place to go these days they don't have gates for all the planes so we "parked" alongside other planes that were arriving, walked down the outside stairs into about three inches of snow that had fallen during the night and took a bus to the main airport. Someone from our rental car place found us outside of immigration and an hour or so later we were set free with our 4x4 to explore Iceland! (With a stern warning that the #1 issue with rental cars in Iceland is doors blowing off in the wind. Yikes!)

We ventured through the snow down to the Bridge Between the Continents, which spans the crack forming between the European and North American tectonic plates. It was a quick (and WINDY!) stop and only 20 minutes away from the Blue Lagoon!!


We spent three hours drinking champagne at the swim-up bar, masking our faces with silica and algae and generally enjoying the smooth, 90-100 degree water, while being surrounding by snowy hills (and a few hail storms that blew through). Our first hot spring was incredibly awesome!

All good things must end, and eventually it was time to head into Reykjavik, about 45 minutes from the lagoon.
60% of Iceland's 330,000 people live around the capital city, which makes it just slightly larger than Salem, Oregon. In other words, easy to navigate! (It is also the worlds most northern capital.)

We found our hotel, the Leifur Eiríksson, quickly and set off on foot for the rest of the day. Reykjavik is very walkable! The main shopping streets are just behind our hotel so we explored our way down to the Kolaportið "Flea Market", found the Sun Voyager sculpture and the Icelandic Phallological Museum before heading to Tapas Barrin where we had reservations for an Icelandic Feast!


At this point we had basically been up all night (other than a few hours of sleep on the plane) so we returned to our hotel for the first good nights sleep in two days!
More pictures from our first day are posted here.
04/29/2017 09:18:05 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Friday, 28 April 2017
Two months ago when Scott asked me what I wanted for my 40th birthday I answered, "I want to go somewhere that requires a passport!"
So we're on a plane, passports in-hand, to ICELAND!!

04/28/2017 08:47:36 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Sunday, 16 April 2017

If Scott's current path doesn't work out, his Plan B appears to involve Easter eggs and Sharpies.
Check out this collection he put together for the boys!
  

Mr. C sported a tie and slacks all day. He looked sharp! (And old...!!)
This was about all we saw of Nolan all day, thanks to he and Sadie's general independence combined with an inability to be contained (or sit still). Ever.



And some unexpected cousins joined our gathering! It's been years since we saw Rebecca and Justin's family! Hooray for reunions!
04/16/2017 09:03:37 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Saturday, 08 April 2017
Adding something new to the garden this year... let's see if we can increase our success by starting a few veggies in a greenhouse.

04/08/2017 18:49:32 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Wednesday, 05 April 2017
First mow of the year!
It's been a very wet spring, which means the grass is LONG, but not dry enough to mow.
It let up enough that we can at least attempt to knock the grass down today (even though it's still very wet). Carson was very excited to be driving again!

04/05/2017 18:52:46 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
 Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, Bella came home with a hole in her side
She was acting strange in the morning, but neither Scott or I noticed it before we went to work. Carson was home with Poppy & Nonna and spotted it later in the day.
We watched her for a bit after I got home in the afternoon and finally decided about 4pm that we should take her to the vet before they closed to see what they thought.
As the vet said, "Most injuries are quite a bit smaller than this when people are 'on the fence' about coming in."
Well, heck.

He had to knock her out to the the surgery, which meant she ended up spending the night at the vet. He told us the next day it looks like a puncture wound (like she ran into or fell on something) because it went pretty far back under the skin. Seven stitches and some antibiotics, which means we need to figure out a Plan B for this weekend when she was supposed to be at the kennel.

UPDATE: to Poppy and Nonna for keeping her for a few days!
 
03/22/2017 19:07:50 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #       |  Trackback
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