Where the Lost Dogs Go to Play

Many of you tuned in to my post, A Short Love Story, a post about a puppy we adopted off of the streets of Jordan, and the tragic end of her life. It was a tough experience, but it did not end in Jordan. I like to think that there was a little bit more to her story that ends in Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon. For many of the dogs I have known, this is the place where their stories end, at least, the part I know.

My in-laws have a house that is hidden in a corner of the forest in Central Oregon, not far from Black Butte. Before I moved overseas, my wife and I would load up the car, and travel from Denver to here with our dog at the time, Bear. It is a great place to unwind and relax, and Bear loved it. There were plenty of places for him to roam, the wildlife always kept him on his toes, and it smelled of fresh pine. In other words, it was the perfect place for any dog. It was fun to watch him on the car trip over. He hated being in the back of the car, and would mope about the whole time, but as soon as we would get close to Black Butte Ranch, he would sit up and start to sniff at the air. I could easily say that it was his favorite place in the world.

When he passed away in 2014, there was only place that we could think of to spread his ashes. We took one more car ride across the country with him in the backseat, except this time he did not raise his head up to sniff the air as we got closer to Black Butte Ranch. We found a nice tree to spread his ashes at, and I like to think that he is now running through the forest that he loved so much.

Since then, I have been a part of spreading the ashes of other dogs from other members of the family. The backyard of the house has become a playground for all of these dogs and for most of them, this was their favorite place to be, so why shouldn’t they spend the rest of eternity frolicking here.

I was never able to bring Suji out to this special spot because she was not given that much time on this earth, but I would like to think that she would have really loved it if she was ever given the chance. So when we were thinking about a place to spread her ashes, this was the obvious choice. We could have found some place in Jordan to spread her ashes, but the places that came to mind did not lend themselves to a place for her to jump around and play with other dogs, so we started the long process of carrying her ashes halfway around the world to lay her to rest. It caused some fun moments at airports, but we eventually were able to make it, and introduce her to a couple of friends of ours in the process. I am happy to have done it too, because it gives Suji the happy ending that I know she deserved.

Rest in Peace, Suji, and have fun playing in the place where all the lost dogs go.

Camper Van Tips for Iceland

One of the best ways and also most common ways to enjoy Iceland is to get a camper van and drive the Ring Road. Along the way, there are many campsites where you just park your van and then just camp for the night. Some of these campsites are right in the heart of some quaint Icelandic towns; whereas, others are out in the middle of nowhere, and no matter where you go, you will always run into crowds. Despite this, there are things that you can do to make these crowds more manageable, and the time that you spend at these campsite more enjoyable.

Be Early

This is the most essential tip I can give, especially if you are coming from some other place than Europe. There are a lot of Europeans in Iceland, and they are pretty much already adjusted to the time zone. They are on vacation and want to take advantage of the ability to sleep in a little bit later than usual. Because of this, the camps don’t get moving early in the morning, but around 9 o’clock, things start to get busy in the kitchen and bathrooms. Considering that there are limited burners, and showers, this means if you start moving around this time as well, you will have a harder time accessing these things. It is amazing how easy these things are to access if you are up and moving as late as 7 o’clock. 

It adds another little extra bonus. You will be pulling out of camp before everybody else which means that you will be getting to the sights earlier as well. Sometimes you will be at extremely busy locations all by yourself until the middle of the day which makes it feel like you are truly in the wilderness that is Iceland.

Another bonus to this practice is that you will also arrive at the next campsite before everybody else. There are many times that we showed up at our campsite at 5:30 or 6 and basically had our pick of the sites, but by the time 8:30 rolled around, the campsite was so full that we would have ended up at the worst spot available.

Buy Pre-Seasoned Meals

We spent some time at home before we left getting a couple ramekins together with the spices that we thought we would enjoy the most when we arrived in Iceland. On our first day we ran to the grocery store to buy some food for the trip. We thought that we would have to find various meats and then prepare them at the camp at night. On a whim, we picked up a couple packs that were already marinated. They cost about the same, and little did we know how good they would be. We liked them so much that we bought more of them and were pleased each time. The best part of these pre-seasoned meals were the fact that they made cooking exceptionally easy.

Basically, it made us feel like we were eating something good instead of the ramen and hot dogs that seem to be the typical fare that is found in Iceland. They do cost a little bit more, but if you buy your food at Kronan or Netto, these meals will not break your budget. We still squeezed in the cup of noddle of hot dog every once in awhile, but this made our meals in Iceland so much better.

Park Close to the Facilities

This one goes hand in hand with being early. If you are moving an hour or two ahead of the crowds, this means that you will arrive at your next campsite before everybody else, and get your pick of where you want to stay. Some camps have some amazing views with them, and they are great places to sit, have a cocktail, and enjoy your dinner. And on nights where the weather is going to work with you, these are going to be the places where you are going to want to park. However, Iceland weather is unpredictable. There were many nights on the trip where we went to sleep with the sun shining, only to be woken up in the middle of the night under a wind storm and a torrential downpour. Of course, it worked the other way as well.

When the weather is great, traveling in a camper van is fun and exciting. When the weather is terrible, living in a camper van is a challenge. The nice thing about most of the campsites is they have facilities where you can get out of poor weather. Some of them are bigger than others, and it is not fun to make the trek there through this inclement weather. This is even worse when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to use the facilities. I would suggest trying to find that place that gives you the amazing view, but also allows you easy access to the facilities, especially if you know that weather is the going to be terrible that night. It won’t make it better, but you will have to deal with the weather for shorter amounts of time.

Run the Heat before Bed

A lot of the features of the camper vans run on batteries. In this modern age where people are always looking for ways to charge their devices, and the fact that you will want to run a refrigerator all the time to keep some of your food cold, it means that you will have limited power that you can tap into. Some of the camper vans, such as the company, Happy Camper, supply a battery that charges with the spinning of the tires. The guy that rented the car to us, told us that it should give us enough energy to keep the heat running all night long, but we discovered that this wasn’t actually necessary. This isn’t the heat that comes out of the front console of the car, instead, it is a big blower right under the bed that just cranks out hot air. It does take a little bit to warm up the whole car, but once you get the car heated up, it takes some time for it to cool down as well. Because of this, if you run the heat for an hour before bed and you get some good sleeping bags, you should have enough heat to keep you comfortable for the whole night.

The reason for this is quite simple. If the battery for your van dies, you are not moving further on your trip. Though there are a bunch of people at the campsites that could help you if this becomes a problem, this might not always be the case. We did run into a couple of people out in the middle of nowhere whose battery had died, and luckily we had some jumper cables to help them out, but in one case, they had been there for quite some time. The rental companies do give you a number to call if you do break down, but there were a couple of places where we ran out of cellular service. The bottom line is that you do not want to get stuck in the middle of some place because you wanted a toasty camper van instead of power in your battery.

Enjoy the Sun while You Get It 

Part of the reason that we decided to go to Iceland is because we had a friend a couple of years who went, and the pictures she brought back with her were stunning. She had sunshine for the ten days she was there and she was smiling underneath the warmth that it brought.

This summer, we were constantly told that Iceland was experiencing the coldest summer that it has had in thirty years. We rarely saw the sun, and there were many days where we were under five different layers, including rain gear, to go see the sights in the wind and rain. We were excited when we saw the temperature reach 4 degrees Celsius, or about 40 degrees in Fahrenheit. It did not prevent us from having a great time while we were there, but it was a much different experience than the one enjoyed by my friend.

With this in mind, when the sun did come out and we had those warmer summer temperatures that Iceland usually has during the summer, it was an amazing experience. It did not always last long, so when the sun did come out, we made sure to get out of the camper van and enjoy it. Iceland is one of those places where you have to take advantage of what is given you, and when you do that, those moments will become your favorite ones on the trip.

Bring Slide Sandals

This tip goes closely with the place where you park, and enjoying the sunshine. You will spend a lot of your time in Iceland wearing hiking boots. It is the safest way to see a lot of the sights, and they do keep your feet warm. But when you get to the place where you are going to stay for the night, you are going to want to take these boots off and stretch those feet for a little bit. During these moments, you will want your feet to be as free as they possibly can. This is where slide sandals come in. They don’t necessarily need to be slide sandals, but something that you can easily slide on and off.

There are added bonuses to having shoes like this with you. If you wake up in the middle of the night, and have to go to the bathroom, it is a lot easier to slip on these sandals and run off to the facilities than spending the time putting on your shoes again. They can also be used in the showers. All of the showers that I saw were always well maintained and clean, but this did not mean that you wanted to take a shower in your bare feet. The slide sandals give you that little extra protection, and they always dry off quickly. If you bring a pair of these with you, you will find that you will use them more often than you would have thought, and you will be happy that you have them with you.

Shower When You Arrive

Anybody who has ever spent time in hostels in Europe knows how busy the showers get in the morning. People tend to line up just so they can look their best for the day ahead of them, and there are times when you will wait a good hour before you can get your turn. Iceland campsites are no different. I was really surprised at the amount of people I saw making sure that their hair was perfect, and they looked good in their hiking gear. Didn’t they know what they would be doing the whole day? They would be hiking, sometimes in bad weather. They would not look good at the end of the day, so what was the purpose of standing in line to try to look good in the morning? Also, there were not that many showers to share in the first place. Some of the campsites only had one shower to share which made the lines longer and harder to endure.

When I first started on the trip, I was one of those people waiting for the shower, but as the trip progressed, I learned something. When I made it to the campsite, the showers had just been cleaned and nobody was waiting in line to take a shower. I also felt dirty from the day of running around seeing stuff, and really wanted a shower at that time. It made more sense to me to take the shower when I first arrived at the campsite instead of waiting in the morning and battling the crowd. It was not as if I was going to dirty myself while I was at the campsite, and I could wash away the grime of the day. I was also ready in the morning to move, and we beat the crowds because we were able to get out of the campsite that much quicker that everybody else. I am not saying that this is the way you should do it for other European countries, but I found that it worked best for Iceland.

Traveling Iceland in a camper van is an adventure, and the best way to see all of the sights on your own terms. It took me a little while to figure out how to make it work, and I hope these little tips help save you some time and pain as you figure out your camper van when you get to Iceland. It will give you the adventure that you are looking for without the trial.

Two Days in Tucson – Arizona

So far, the theme of this summer has been cold. Part of this I expected; after all, I did travel to Iceland. I was expecting the cold there, but I wasn’t expecting to participate in the coldest summer in thirty years. When I finally arrived back in the United States, I was expecting the warmer weather that is normally associated with this time of year, but I landed in the Pacific Northwest which was experiencing the wettest and coolest summer they have had in recent history. I was walking around in jeans and hoodies for the week that I was there, hoping that some day I would be able to switch over to shorts and spend some time at the pool. I finally got fed up with all of it, and decided to hop on a plane and fly down to Tucson, Arizona where I knew that I would find some sun.

So I might have misled you. The trip was not as spontaneous as I made it seem. It was part of the greater plan this summer as I hop all over the place. Two friends of mine were retying the knot, literally because they are both rock climbers and they made it part of the ceremony, because they had gotten married during Covid lockdown, and they wanted to have a more traditional ceremony with their friends. Of course I went down there to participate in this celebration. I would add pictures of the event because it was a big reunion with a bunch of people I used to work with in South Korea, but due to privacy reasons, I have decided to not share them with you.

That still does not mean that flying down to Arizona is not what I needed this summer. This time of the year is a thawing period for teachers and students alike, and I had not had those moments where I could let the sun do its work. Yes, it was extremely hot down there like you would expect from Arizona during this time of the year, but instead of running to air-conditioning to stay comfortable, because of my recent experiences with the weather, I embraced the heat.

A lot of my time down there was spent attending wedding events, so I do not have a lot to talk about outside of those moments, but I did have some time to wander around the University of Arizona campus and the area surrounding it. I have always found it strange to be on a college campus during the summer months because they do not have the energy that you can find during the school year. It is a beautiful campus though, and if I was ever going to make a movie about an evil dean that is not giving a group of misguided youth their fair shake, I would think about filming it here during the summer. Otherwise, I got to enjoy the great restaurants around the campus, and got that much needed vitamin D for the first time this summer. It made me feel that slower pace I have been looking for all summer, and it was great.

I know that it was a quick trip, and I was able to bring some of that sun back with me to Oregon, and they are starting to experience the same type of summer that I have been looking for as well. I hope that you are getting the same kind of summer as well, and it is allowing you to shed the problems and worries that we collect during the colder months out of the year, and you are allowed to go out and enjoy the outdoors a little more right now. Maybe what all of us need is a couple of days down in Tucson to get that feeling going for each of us. I know it was what got me in the summer mood for this first time this year.

Sleipnir’s Footprint – Asbyrgi, Iceland

Iceland is definitely the land of canyons and waterfalls. Most of the time they are together to create a dramatic landscape, but in the case of Asbyrgi, the Shelter of the Gods, it is just the canyon that creates the unique formation. Rising out of the tree covered area are two foreboding cliffs that together create a horseshoe. There is the large cliff that curves around a smaller one. 

The story behind this formation is that Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir once planted one of its giant hooves at this spot. For this reason, there are two of these amazing cliffs and a canyon there for anybody is Iceland to explore. And this is a great place to explore.

First off, there is a great camping facility that can be found there, so people can take a couple of days to explore the region completely if they want to. The facility takes in the camper vans, and tents, has showers, and clean bathrooms, sports WiFi, and even has laundry facilities for those who are running out of clean clothes on their long voyage across Iceland.

There are also three great hikes for different skills levels that should please anybody. The easiest one travels on the floor of the canyon and takes anywhere between a half an hour to an hour depending on how long you want to enjoy the duck pond that can be found at the end of the trail. The second longest one takes you on top of the small rocky outcropping in the center of the horseshoe. It will take you to the top of this outcropping and give you some amazing views. It is easier to make it to the top than you would think as well because there is a path that will take you up there without any problem. The longest hike will do the same thing, but it follows the path of the outer cliff and is a lot longer. I did not do this hike, but I was told that it takes anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to accomplish and it will return you back from where you started.

Asbyrgi is not on everybody’s list of places to visit on a trip to Iceland, but if you find yourself in the area, it is worth the stop. It might even be worth an overnight stay, giving you more than enough time to explore all of the nooks and crannies of this unique geological feature. It is one of those quiet places in Iceland that surprised me that more people did not travel to, but I was really happy that I made the time to get out there. You should make it a part of your itinerary as well.

Three Weeks in a Camper Van

My first major trip that I took was a fifty day exploration of Europe. My wife and I loaded up small backpacks and travelled to ten different countries in that short period of time. This was before the superfluous cellphone, so we had to hunt down internet cafes to keep in touch with people back home, and find directions to our next hotels. It was a fast-paced experience where we spent only a couple of nights in each of the many towns and cities we visited. We stayed in hostels, small hotel rooms, and even once at a grandmother’s spare bedroom. It was a great experience, but by the end of it, we were both exhausted.

This was when we were a lot younger and filled with an excess of energy. We have since gone on a lot of other adventures around the world. Some of them compared to the same pace, especially earlier on in our travels. As we grew older, we realized that this crazy pace was a great way to see a lot of things, but we could not keep it up for too long. We have since decided to take a different approach to our travels. It has been more of staying in one or two places for longer periods of time, and really getting to know what those places have to offer. But when you take a trip to Iceland, this is not the way to see it. We couldn’t just sit in one city and take small day trips if we really want to see all that it has to offer. Instead, we went for the option that more people took when visiting this faraway country, we rent a camper van and went roaming around to see the various sights while sleeping in a different camp ground every night in order to make sure we were able to cover all the ground. It forced us to go back to that go-go-go kind of travel that we left behind in our younger days, and it reminded me of the benefits and disadvantages of traveling this way.

First off, it is important to understand that there is a lot to see in Iceland, and if you stay in Reykjavik you can see a lot of cool stuff, but you will miss out on even more. Yes, many people see Iceland this way, but getting the camper van opens up those far away places that can’t be reached for on day trips, and adds the potential for more adventure. It allowed us to get off of the beaten path, and leave a lot of the tourist crowds behind. We were still able to see all of that cool stuff around Reykjavik, but go beyond that to the farther reaches where sometimes it felt like we were the only people that had seen that sight.

It also set us up for a lot more adventure. They come in various packages out in Iceland. There are the obvious ones where you go to visit one of the various sights and take the short hike to get out there, but there are those other one that only happen to you because you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Some of these adventures were fun for us; whereas, others are ones that we will look back on and laugh about. My favorite one would have had to have been being chased by an over-protective ram that was looking out for his lambs as we wandered close by in a large field of grass. It was never dangerous, but it forced us to take a longer way around so we did not disturb their grazing.

The food also offered other kinds of adventures. Most of the time, we were only able to afford fish and chips or hot dogs if we went out for a meal, but there were other times when we splurged on a good meal. My favorite had to be in the port town of Seydisfjordur where we ate at a fusion sushi restaurant which is often considered the best sushi restaurant on the island. I went thinking it would be like any other sushi restaurant that I had been to with the really fresh fish that they are able to find on the island, but they do things a little bit differently there. I was able to get a couple of great rolls, and there were some Korean dishes available on the menu, but the one item that we could not miss was the Hot Rock Sushi. A long time ago, the chef found some great volcanic rocks that they heated up with a gas torch. They then gave us some raw fish that we cooked on the heated up rock. It was different, but worked really well with the traditional soy sauce and wasabi.

Another dining adventure came outside of the town of Olfus called Ingolfsskali. It is housed in a traditional Viking longhouse and just by entering it, I felt like I was walking into the story of Beowulf. The place does not only offer great food, but it has a place outside where you can participate in axe throwing and archery. We weren’t allowed to take part in this feature the night that we were there because of the high winds at the time, but I am sure that there are enough times that you can see people throwing axes outside.

The food they serve is traditional Icelandic fare with silverware that looks as if it was recovered from the sight. They have many fish dishes as well as beef and lamb. There are definitely two types of crowds that make it to this restaurant. The earlier crowd is more of the family crowd, but things get a little more rowdy as the night progresses giving the longhouse even more atmosphere it deserves.

The influence of the Vikings is found everywhere on the Iceland as well. Some of them are authentic; whereas, some of them were created for movie sets, sometimes used, sometimes not. One was built by a movie studio next to Stokksnes black sand beach for a movie that was never completed. It still stands there and is open to the public to explore. Though I know that it has been built recently, it still feels authentic as it sits next to this otherworldly landscape.

It is that otherworldly landscape that is the real feature of Iceland. There are thermal-pools, waterfalls, cliffs, and beaches made from ground down volcanic rock. Everywhere I went, I felt as if I was a part of some movie set that was designed for another planet or another time. It is easy to see why so many movies and television shows are filmed out here, and the people of Iceland take advantage of it. There are many place where I felt as if I was in another story, instead of traveling around this country in the far north in nothing but a camper van.

The landscape would never take off a chance to remind me that Iceland was created from two continental plates converging together and creating a lot of volcanic activity in the process. All of the lava rock and black sand that is found everywhere forms unique formations when in hits to cold north Atlantic water. It creates these unique formations such as square columns, and lumpy fields of moss covered rocks that look like something out of Middle Earth. It makes the travels from each place just as exciting as arriving because it make you wonder what it is you will really see.

This is includes the waterfalls that are all over the place. Coming from Jordan where water is a precious commodity that should be conserved, it jarred me to see so much water. After the first day in the country where I saw waterfall after waterfall, I thought I would get tired of seeing them all of the time, but this was never the case. Just like the landscape, there are so many different kinds of waterfalls that each one that I visited was its own kind of experience. It made me think that maybe this island should have been named the land of waterfalls instead of this misnomer that it has been given.

Despite all of this amazing scenery and things to do, there is an important thing to understand about seeing Iceland from a camper van; it is not an easy experience. It is the perfect way to get from place to place and not worry about where you will be staying in the evening, but it is a small confined space. It can be hard to move around it, and with the ever changing weather, it is not always to best place to escape from it. This form of travel is for the sturdy, the romantic, and the youth of the world. It is a challenge that changed me for the experience, and one that was not always easy. My advice to anybody that wants to see this country through this kind of experience is to do it while you are young, and it will become one of those trips that you will never forget. It gets a little harder to do the older you get, and at moments, I was not having the fun I would have had in my youth.

Despite this small warning, Iceland in a camper van was a trip that forced me to transcend the simple, comfortable life that I had become accustomed to. I will always look back at this trip with fondness, and I will never forget all of the amazing things that I was lucky enough to see. It was the true adventure that I had not had for a long time, and it reminded me of what holidays could be like. I think on my next trip, I will go back to that slower pace, but every once in awhile, I think it will be important for me to get out there and try something new because these are the kinds of events that change us for the better. I am glad for this adventure, but I am also glad that I am back in a nice, warm home where I do not have to live in such a cramped space. The three weeks in a camper van made me appreciate that simple fact even more.

Thanks Iceland.

Dettifoss, Iceland

I think about all of those science fiction movies that I have seen, and I always wonder where they find such alien landscapes. It is not as if movies have advanced far enough yet to fly across the universe to other planets so they can film there, and I know that it costs a lot money to create a world digitally from complete scratch. So far, the only movie that I can think of that has done this with any amount of success has been James Cameron’s Avatar. Every other science fiction movie has to find locations somewhere on this earth that to the casual viewer would still transport them to another planet.

I remember watching the opening sequence of the movie Prometheus, and thinking that the place they were at could not be real. There is no way that a waterfall could be that big, and there is not a place on earth that could have a rocky landscape as the one depicted with the odd designer. It had to be digitally created, and if they did so, they did a really good job with it. Well, I soon discovered that I was wrong about it, and there is a place on this earth that looks like it belongs on another planet. Who knew that I would find it in Iceland?

On the high plateau a little north from the Myvatan area lies Iceland’s second largest river, Jokulsa a Fjollum, and a short fifteen walk across a bleak landscape that looks like it might be on Mars will take you to this immense waterfall, Dettifoss. Once there, there are many different platforms and locations to take in the majesty of this sight, and it is definitely worth the trip.

If you do go, there are a couple of things that you need to know about the location. 

When I was there, it was pretty warm outside, and I was getting a little hot on the walk over to the river. As soon as I got to the river, the wind picked up, and there was a constant spray from the waterfall. This made for cold and wet conditions. You will want to wear layers of clothes and make sure that outer layer is waterproof. 

Because of the constant spray of water coming from the river, the path can be at times muddy, and the rocks can be slippery. You will want some good footgear that will prevent you from slipping and falling.

Lastly, the area breeds these tiny bugs called midges. They don’t bite, and they aren’t even that big. But there are a lot of them, and during the walk over, they were constantly flying into my face, into my eyes, and even up my nose. In other words, they were extremely annoying. If you stop at any of the convenience stores at any of the gas stations before you get there, you should be able to buy a head net. They will keep all of the midges out of your face, and make the hike over more enjoyable. Yes, they look goofy, but if you are planning to explore the Myvatn afterwards, you will want these hair nets because the midges are all over the place there. When you get closer to the river, the wind and spray keeps the midges away, so you can get those pictures that you want, but until then, they really help with you sanity.

All in all, Dettifoss is an incredible waterfall, and worth the side trip for the hour or so that you spend there. So if planning a trip to Iceland, make sure to add this place to your itinerary. You won’t regret it.

The Golden Circle – Iceland

Pinvellir National Park

There are three different ways that people come out to experience Iceland. The most adventurous get a four wheel drive and dive into the interior of the island where made roads are inaccessible except for a couple of months out of the year. Others rent a camper van and travel around the Ring Road, hopping from one campsite to another. But the most common way that people experience Iceland is to find a place in Reykjavik, and go out on day trips from there. The place where most of them end up at is called the Golden Circle. It is a place where there are many sights to take in, and you can still make it back to your cozy hotel room for the night.

Kerid Crater

I’ll be honest; this was the part of Iceland that I was least excited about seeing. There was something about being among the throngs of people visiting a part of Europe that set me on edge. I have been out in the busiest parts of Europe during the summer a few times before, and there is nothing that gets under my skin more than tourists who are wandering aimlessly among a sea of other tourists who are doing the same. It makes you feel like a silver ball in an active game of pinball. You just bounce around hoping that you will land somewhere safe eventually.

Efistidalur Creamery

What I did not realize was that Iceland is a good sized country with a lot of open space, so even in the places with densely populated tourist sights, it is not as bad as some of the worst places on the main continent. Yes, there were more tourists in this part of the country than the other parts, but we were still able to drive with ease and not get into traffic jams. We were not delayed by herds of tourists trying to get their picture of the next waterfall. In short, the tourist annoyance that you might see in other parts of the world was not really here. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this part of Iceland.

The Great Geysir

There is a lot to see in the Golden Circle, and it is hard to pick and choose what the best options will be. I will admit that some of the sights are a little lackluster. Kerid Crater was a perfect example of this. Basically it is a dormant volcano that has started to fill up with water and create its own lake. It was neat to see, but the fact that they charged 400 kroner to hike up to the rim, it was not really worth the price. If you want to see a better example of this I would suggest Crater Lake in Oregon. On the other hand, the geysers out there were definitely worth the trip. They are very similar to the sulfur ponds that you can find in Yellowstone National Park except for the fact that you do not need to wait an hour for the big one to erupt. It likes to go off every four to eight minutes, and if you hang around long enough you will see it explode.

Gullfoss

I also know that Iceland is the land of waterfalls, and there is a time when you think you can’t go out and see another one, but the one in the Golden Circle, Gullfoss, is the most impressive one that I have seen since I have been out here. This is a must stop on the Golden Circle and it is only a short hike to both of the viewing points without the crowds that you would expect to find at a place like this. Keep in mind that if you go here that you will still want to wear your rain gear because you will still get a lot of spray back from the waterfall.

Another must see is Pinvellir National Park. Historically, it is a cool sight because this is where the oldest parliamentary government in the world was first established. Geologically, it is really cool because it is the only place in the world where you can see two tectonic plates butt up against each other. This is the place where the European continent runs up against the North American continent, and you can see the two plates competing against each other.

Fridheimer

There are also some pretty fun food options out in this area as well. There is the Fridheimer farm which supplies Iceland with all of its tomatoes. You get to eat in the greenhouse next to the growing tomatoes and buzzing bumble bees flying around pollinating all of the plants. Their speciality is a tomato soup with home baked bread. It is served buffet style with all of the coffee you need to warm yourself up. If you come here, you do need a reservation, but it is worth the trip out there.

There is also the Efistidilur Creamery if you are in the mood for ice cream. This is basically a dairy farm that puts together a bunch of batches of ice cream that you can try. Like most gelato places you will find in Europe, you can get one, two or three scoops, and they don’t have to be all the same. When you are done ordering, you can grab a seat next to the window where in the background the cows who supplied the dairy are eat their daily hay. It makes for the perfect atmosphere to enjoy this summery delight.

Basically, I can see why people get excited about the Golden Circle. It is a fun place to spend an afternoon or two, and though I did not like to admit it when I first got here, it is a must do when visiting Iceland. Make sure you add it to your itinerary today.

The Icelandic Lagoon for Everybody – Jokulsarlon, Iceland

I have been told that Iceland was on track for breaking record this year for tourism. A lot of that was due to the fact that a lot of people have planned trips to Iceland for the last couple of years, and have had to cancel due to Covid. Now that restrictions have eased up, all of those planned trips that never happened are being cashed in, and more people are flocking to Iceland ever than before. With that in mind, there have been a couple of places where I have felt like I could have done with a few less people, but it never felt overwhelming like it has in other places in Europe.

This was until I made it out to Jokulsarlon, a lagoon in the southeast portion of the island that is fed by a connecting glacier. It is a four to five hour drive from Reykavik, and also a central part of the Ring Road. Because of both of these conditions, and the unique nature of the way to experience this lagoon, it is a common destination for anybody that makes it out to Iceland. This is the reason that I felt in the midst of tourist season for the first time since I have been out here.

That is not to say that it is not worth the visit. Here is this really cool geological feature that includes a huge glacier, icebergs, and seals. There is a lot to see out here, and there are many different ways to experience it. You can book a duck boat that will load up a large group of people at the parking lot and then drive them out on to the lagoon. If you are looking for a smaller crowd, and a little more excitement, you can book a Zodiac boat that can get you a little closer to the icebergs and wildlife even though you are still only out on the water for an hour at a time. There are also kayak tours if you wish to add a little bit of a workout to your adventure, and also get away from the crowds a little bit more. There is also a trail that you can hike around the lagoon if you wish to make the experience an independent one.

Basically, there is a way for everybody to enjoy the nature that is out here. Whether you are more adventuresome and want to hike the lagoon or kayak it, or you would rather take a more leisurely way to explore the icebergs by taking a duck or zodiac boat, there is a way for them to get you out there. The bonus for this is that it is accessible to anybody but because of that everybody wants to come down here to check it. Don’t let that deter you though because it is still worth the trip out there, and you will see a lot no matter how you chose to enjoy it.

The Olive Tree

In the courtyard live an old olive tree
Who has witnessed the change of the island.
From the ancient ships from across the sea
To battles fought on the beach’s sand,
It has stood watching ages come and go.
For its majesty, they built a courtyard
To shelter its branches from Winter’s blow.
The shade its leaves provide will act as guard
For this simple table where we will dine
On this culture’s culinary delights.
We will toast her with our glasses of wine
On how her, here now, makes the perfect night.
I don’t know if this was our destiny,
The pairing of us and our olive tree.

A Drive on an Island – Naxos, Greece

I knew that a large portion of Greece was a collection of islands, but I did not know that each island had its own flavor and character. I know that it does not take a huge leap of logic to figure that out, but it is not something that most people would think about until they find themselves traveling between them. I also thought that I would spend my time on the coast of these islands hanging out on the beaches, but when I got to Naxos, I realized that it would be great to spend a day on the interior of the island and explore what it had to offer.

There are many small towns in the interior part of the island with two of the more exciting ones being Chalki and Apiranthos. Both of these towns have their own charm, and are fun to wander through. Chalki was a town that was inhabited by Crete refugees many years ago, and they brought their knowledge of marble working with them. The town is basically made of this marble, and it makes for an enjoyable day to walk through the town and marvel at the architecture.

Apiranthos is more built up than Chaki and sits in a valley floor. At first look, it might appear to be like any other small town in Europe, but its real charm comes in the old downtown area. There are great walking streets with nice restaurants, galleries and shops. But the real appeal of this town is getting out of it. There is a hiking loop that goes for six-and-a-half kilometers. On it, you will be able to find some historic places that you would expect to find on a Greek island though most of them a Greek Orthodox in nature and not the more historic Greek gods that first come to mind when thinking about this country.

That does not mean that there are not plenty of these features left from Ancient Greece on the island. There is the Temple of Demetrius which has been turned into a museum. If you want to go there make sure that you go earlier in the day because they do close up early in the afternoon. We had made it there at 4 o’clock after touring around the interior of the island and they were locking up, but looking at for a distance it looked like a place worth visiting. If you want to look for something free, there is the unfinished statue of Dionysus. It sits in the same place where they were working on it and it is a huge piece of marble that weighs over 60 tons. It is not hard to find and sit only fifty feet off of the side of the road.

Basically, anywhere you go in the interior of Naxos island will surprise you. It is worth renting a car for a day or two if you are out here and checking out all this island has to offer. It is not just beaches and a big city on the edge of an island. The island is filled with culture just waiting for you to voyage out to find it.