Most people have a “secret trail” that they like to go to when they run out of ideas for where to hike. It’s the kind of place that is probably not so secret. For me, it is a sort of “back pocket” trail for when conditions are not right for my go-to trails or they just seem too far away and my motivation limits my choices to within a certain radius.
I would not call it my favorite trail, necessarily. There is no impressive waterfall at the end, nor a gaily bubbling stream along the trail. There are no impressive landscape views of Mt. Rainier. The trail is not even remote by any means. You could spy houses just a few feet from the trail in some areas and the occasional sound from construction vehicles drown out the woodland noise for most of the hike.
It does, however, slake my thirst for greenery and the sensation of solitude for those days when you just need a quick fix. I also love the different kinds of mushroom you run into along the trail. It also has a little bit of an incline, just enough to test your lungs. At the end, you arrive at an old stone fireplace, the only remnant of a cabin erected a long time ago by the land owners. It makes for a nice spot for a sit-down snack of cheez-its and fruit.
You can certainly keep going further down the trail to explore the rest of the woods. I have yet to do so, after visiting the spot at least 3 times now. Perhaps on my next visit, when the need to unplug seems too overwhelming and better opportunities are lacking. For now, I will continue to keep this trail in my back pocket for when I need it most.
After the usual breakfast fare of bread, dried meats, egg, and coffee, I packed up and headed out to my next waterfall.
One wonderful thing about Iceland is there is phone coverage everywhere. I relied mostly on my phone for driving directions since day 1 and even in the seemingly middle of nowhere, I was able to find a phone signal with a decent data speed. It has been really handy especially when trying to figure out where the next gas station is.
My waterfall of the day, Godafoss, was quite the package deal. Aside from the big waterfall, there were smaller ones downstream that were also worth seeing. The area was a web of walking trails and you could spend half the day just traipsing about up and down the paths.
I was able to find a path going down to the main waterfall that I could get close enough and be right by the water. Just as I got there, I got a video call from my mom. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and ever available cell service, I was able to show her around and gave her a courtside seat to the waterfall.
I was able to hobble a little better on my ankle but after a couple of hours walking the trail, it was beginning to ache so I decided to rest in the car. It was still too early for lunch so I decided to forego the nearby restaurant and drive to my next stop. I could probably just live off of my car snacks until I got to Akureyri.
On the way to Akureyri, you have two choices. You can take the long way around the mountain or you can take a shortcut under it. The GPS, being in the habit of guiding me down the shortest path from point A to point B took me under the mountain. It was quite a long tunnel and took me a few minutes to get from one end to the other. I didn’t find it unnerving until I got to the outskirts of town and sat down and found a map that made me realize where the tunnel went through. I have finally decided I do not like long tunnels at all.
It was lunchtime when I got to Akureyri so I decided to fill up the car and grab something to eat. I was also able to find that a nearby museum was open so after having lunch, I decided to visit it. There is also a historic tourist stop close by that I have been reading. Before heading down there, I found that there was a turf church about a half hour’s drive from town so I decided to head there.
Saurbæjarkirkja is a turf church built in 1858 in the Eyjafjörður region of Iceland. It is one of only six turf churches still in existence in Iceland today. There is a small cemetery right next to it. Across from the church, there is a compound with a few buildings that look like something you would find in a sheep farm. The area appeared to be a bit isolated and was giving off a “Silence of the Lambs” vibe for me so after taking a few photos, I decided to head back to town. There’s a local museum I was hoping to see before it closed for the day.
The museum was an interesting one. The upper floors had modern art installations while the lower floors and basement were dedicated to the town’s history and seafaring articles. I am not a big fan of modern art so after I did my regulatory passing glance of the upper floors, I headed down to the history section. There was a lot of interesting things to see.
Seafarers back then (and probably some folks these days) were a superstitious lot. They believed the ocean was filled with enormous sea monsters, each one more scary than the next. As if the constantly rolling sea, bad weather, and even worse food from the galley weren’t enough to make life at sea unbearable, there is also the daily threat of being eaten alive by a kraken. The stress would probably drive me to drink on a daily basis.
Life on land was no less interesting. Judging from the display, town life had its struggles as well. I always found it interesting how people were able to thrive without today’s comforts. Despite being a bit removed from the rest of Iceland, Akureyri flourished into a bustling seaside community.
Chessy wanted to play general storeWaiting for the mad hatter and the rest of the gang
Entrance to the museum also included access to the nearby Nonni’s house and the chapel. The house was very interesting. There were no other tourists around so I had it all to myself for quite a while. Going through the cramped rooms and tiny hallways I was able to get a glimpse of what life was like in the 1800s. I could only imagine living in that house in the winter with no central heating, no insulation in the walls, no Amazon grocery delivery, and only the heat from the stove and layers of scratchy wool clothing to keep you warm. It makes me appreciate the creature comforts most of us take for granted on a daily basis these days.
Nonni’s houseMornings were for coffee and… basically the whole coffee process took all morning
The chapel was a small one, perhaps just the right size for a tiny community back in the 1800s. It was a nice, quiet spot for contemplation. After a quick photo op, I spent a few minutes sitting inside and enjoyed the solitude before heading out to my accommodations for the night.
Spending a few minutes in quiet contemplation
It was still a couple of hours before check-in time so I looked for a bookstore or cafe to hang out. Luckily, there was a place that had both. I bought some books and spent the afternoon at the cafe with a slice of cake and some coffee to stave off the afternoon slump while reading a paperback.
Cake, coffee, and a good book. What more do I need?
Tonight’s bed is in a guest house that is part of a horse farm. It’s about a half hour drive from town in the Skagafjörour region. As I was getting out of the car, I was greeted by the owner’s adorably friendly dog. There were no restaurants nearby so I figured I would spend the late afternoon exploring Akureyri and have dinner in town before turning in for the night.
Pre dinner onion ringsWhen in a fish town, you order fish
Dinner was at a gastropub I noticed while I was at the bookstore. Seeing as it was a seaside town, I figured I would try the local fish. Food was scrumptious as usual. I would have loved to have a second beer with dinner but since I will be driving back to the guesthouse, I decided against it. I figured the day’s adventures would be enough for an easy send off to dreamland.
I woke up on my second day on the (Ring) road with dawn filtering through the curtains. I slept with the window open and nodded off to the feel of cool mountain air last night. My ankle was starting to feel better. I had less pain with walking. Hopefully I won’t end up hobbling around all day. I did not have very many stops to make and the town I will be spending the night in also has local sights to offer. I packed up my stuff and got dressed for breakfast.
The original breakfast club
Breakfast was a buffet of local breads, cheese, and cured meats. There was also fruit and boiled egg. I filled up on breakfast and pocketed a couple pieces of fruit for my lunch and spent a few minutes looking around in the lobby and reading area. I had explored the hallways of the guesthouse yesterday and inspected the antiques on display all over the second floor. It turns out this place was formerly a schoolhouse.
After checking out and loading up my stuff in the car, I was back on the road. Just a little ways down from the guesthouse I came to a bridge. The sun was just beginning its climb. The morning light peeking through the clouds treated me to a beautiful view of the lake where my dinner from last night had come from. I just had to stop and look around. Chessy even had a little photo shoot among the local flora.
Mornings are for coffee and contemplation, and random photo shoots along the road
I made my way to one of the popular falls along the main road: Seljalandsfoss. I had visited the place before with friends as part of a tour we took during my last visit. I wasn’t able to go behind the falls at the time as our stop was a short one. This time, I can spend as much time as I wanted exploring the area. It was still early in the day so there were not very many tourists milling about yet. You can even see the top of another waterfall further up the trail.
Gljuifrabui peeking over the canyon
You can walk the trail up to the waterfall, continue on behind it to the other side, and keep walking further down the trail to the other waterfall, Gljuifrabui, which empties into a canyon, before circling back to the parking lot. The path behind the falls was wet, muddy, and slippery and my ankle is still a mess. What could possibly go wrong? I managed to avoid another injury as I slowly climbed around behind the waterfall with the rest of the early sightseers. I was able to get close enough to the canyon down the trail before my ankle started to protest. I decided to save this one for the next visit.
SeljalandsfossThe struggle of a waterfall chaser: water droplets on the camera lensBehind the scenes
My second stop for the day was another popular tourist stop so I decided to hightail it over there before the tour buses began arriving in droves. Skogafoss is another well-known waterfall in South Iceland. I had also visited this one before but just like the previous stop, there was not enough time to look around. I was able to get close enough to start worrying about getting my camera drenched with glacier water. I kept having to wipe my lens and tuck my camera under my jacket. Between the drizzling rain beginning to get heavier and the splash from the falls, I was impressed my poor camera survived the ordeal and still works to this day. As I was making my way back to the car, I saw one savvy tourist with a plastic shopping bag around her camera secured with a rubber band. I made a mental note to add a plastic bag to my kit the next chance I get.
I had a closer shot but all you would see would be water
I skipped going to the Skogar Museum and the plane wreck. The former I had already visited before, the latter required a long walk and my ankle was not quite up to the task. A few weeks prior to my arrival in Iceland, part of the basalt columns in Reynisfjara beach had collapsed and that section of the beach was closed to tourists. Since I had also been there before, I decided to skip that one as well. I will make sure not to miss them on my next trip, however.
Brooding is a semi-permanent mood here
I arrived in Vik in the early afternoon. Vik is a quaint little town that is slowly gaining popularity since most of the tour buses stop here for lunch before heading back to Reykjavik. Icewear, the popular purveyor of woolen goodies in Iceland has a factory and store here. There is also a black sand beach here where you can see the pillars off the coast of Reynisdrangar and Reynisfjara. After checking in at the hostel, I decided to explore the town and head to the beach for some pictures. It was still a little early for dinner so I decided to do some shopping at the Icewear store. I hear wool hats make great gifts. Also, I was on the hunt for yarn. I had always wanted to knit myself an Icelandic wool sweater.
Chessy shopping for souvenirs and living their best viking lifeA meat and potatoes kinda girlThis certainly is not Olive Garden
Dinner at Sudur Vik restaurant was quite a feast. I had the lamb (of course) with potatoes and the soup of the day. It was all washed down with the local beer. Before heading back to the hostel to bed down for the night, I made a quick stop at Vik i Myrdal Church, also known as Reyniskirkja. I had glimpsed the church on my last visit from afar as our tour group was stopping for lunch and the photos I had taken of it then did not do justice. I needed redemption of another kind.
Reyniskirkja as it watches over the townGood night, Vik
At the hostel, with the lights down and everyone in my room getting ready for bed, I was able to snap a quick photo of the town below me. The night lights of Vik will do just fine for tonight.