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Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category

After the Moab Trail Half Marathon, Tara, Brad, Chris and I retired to Milt’s for lunch then repacked for an afternoon rock climbing at Maverick Buttress in Long Canyon.

Brad and Chris tag-teamed a lead up the 5.10 Saddle Sores while Tara and I top-roped after them.

Brad then lead up the neighboring route Texas Two Step and the rest of us top-roped the climb.

Then it was back to Moab where I realized why my climbing shoes had hurt so bad – I’d received a couple large blisters from the trail run earlier in the day.

The next morning Tara and I provided some support (mostly heckling) as Brad and Chris stuffed gear into dry bags and considered swimming across the Colorado River to access a short desert tower. After one aborted attempt without wetsuits, then another where swimming in a strong current proved a tough way to cross. We shuttled the wet climbers up river to a shallower spot.

This time they managed to wade all the way across the river below the Barney Rumble Tower which some interesting hiking, canyoneering and a little bonus pitch of rock climbing allowed them to access and climb.

Since they were now out of shouting range our job heckling was over and we drove on to the Fisher Towers for a beautiful hike.

Next time we come to Moab (for the 2014 Moab Trail Marathon?) we really need to make it at least a 4-day weekend.

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After a night in Escalante cleaning up from our Death Hollow backpack we’d planned to hike out to the Golden Cathedral before heading home. Our plans were spoiled by the political fights across the country and we got the “Sorry kids, Walley World is closed” from a NPS ranger at the beginning of the Hole-In-The-Rock road.

Going with plan B we started the drive home and veered off UT-24 near Goblin Valley State Park to do an 8 mile hike through Bell and Little Wild Horse canyons. Despite a closed sign at the kiosk (this was federal BLM land) the parking lot was full, as was one of the two overflow lots. Even without some other federal lands being closed this is a pretty popular hike.

Most hikers just do an out-n-back up the more spectacular Little Wild Horse canyon, so we started with Bell to ease into the crowds.

Bell ends at a dirt road which connects with Little Wild Horse after 1.5 miles. From this direction Little Wild Horse slowly narrows down.

If doing the loop between both canyons I’d highly recommend doing Bell first, otherwise, I think I’d have been a little disappointed in Bell if we’d hiked through Little Wild Horse first.

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Before leaving Iceland, Tara and I had one final adventure. We boarded a Reykjavik Excursions bus in the morning for a 4 hour ride to Landmannalaugar – supposed to be one of the most beautiful spots in Iceland. We were on the bus since the road there is semi-rough but also includes a few stream fords that generally require specialized vehicles. Once we arrived we were told there was a big storm coming and we should get our tent up in a hurry. Also, a popular 4-day hut-to-hut route that half the bus riders were planning to depart on was closed.

Despite having a rental tent of a brand that Tara and I had never seen before, we quickly had a shelter erected and storm worthy.

Other couples nearby were engaged in a screaming match while trying to keep their tent from blowing away. Tara did comment that the brand of the tent (Helsport) was a little to close to “Hell spot”, a place she probably thought I’d just brought her.

Regardless, the storm brought some wind but wasn’t on par with a thunderstorm in the Midwest or Rocky Mountains. Once it seemed to have largely passed we took a short hike through the lava field above camp.

I spent the hike trying to figure out which mountains were which and forming some tentative plans for the next day (whose weather was supposed to be better).

Around 4am we woke up and the sky was clearing. Tara went back to sleep but I got up and decided to hike to Mount Brennisteinsalda. The start of the hike was the coldest, as I approached by the side of the lava field following a stream. Higher up at the base of the mountain I reached an active geothermal area.

While the clouds were still hanging around the views were amazing.

After two hours I’d made my way back to camp and crawled into bed for a nap. By the time camp really woke up and we’d had breakfast the sky was much clearer. Tara was game for a hike so we decided to do the closer, but higher peak Bláhnúkur.

The hike up when pretty quickly then we descended the far side of the peak on a rougher trail.

Not wanting to wade through the icy stream, we spent a long time walking upstream to make a route through braided channels and emerge on the other side with mostly dry feet.

Back at camp we lounged around for a while before taking down the tent when it looked like it could rain soon. For shelter we jumped on the bus early with 1000 yard stares finally ready to leave Iceland for the next stage of our trip.

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After leaving Höfn we headed north on Iceland’s Route 1. By now I knew the many dangers of Icelandic driving. For starters outside of Reykjavik the road is pretty much only 1 lane in each direction (I think I saw one passing lane once). There’s no shoulder and a handful of people who seem to think that bike touring on this route would be fun. Sheep will graze right by the road and dart into it when you approach. Many people drive in the center of the road way only moving over when there is oncoming traffic (see sheep above). There are many one lane bridges. Some sections are gravel with grades of 12%. Finally, plenty of people seem to think it’s okay to park on the road and walk away from their vehicle to take photos.

Besides a stop in Breiðdalsvík for lunch I think we spent most of the day driving. By the time we reached our farm house outside of Egilsstaðir we were trying to muster up the motivation to drive out to the coast and see a cute town nestled down in a fjord. On the way out of town we figured we’d been driving too much and we should just stop at a little trailhead we saw and take a short hike.

Dinner was low-key and in a gas station (better than you might think, but definitely not lamb and lobster) and we were just excited to get some laundry done and have the guest house largely to ourselves. On the road again the next morning we drove through desolate highlands (you know it’s desolate when you don’t even see sheep) on the way into Mývatn. We did a short hike through a geothermal area as we came into town then stopped at the Mývatn nature baths – hands down the best hot springs we visited in Iceland.

In town we stopped for lunch at a cafe and ran into the Spanish group again. Then we headed around the lake to the lava field Dimmuborgir to start a hike.

We hiked north to the crater Hverfell, and looped around it’s rim before hiking back.

At over 6 miles it was a long hike for my recently injured ankle, but it held up fine even if I was moving more cautiously and slower than normal.

We then left Mývatn (one of the places that we could have easily spent several days) to the evening’s guest house. Up early the next morning we headed to the northern coastal town of Húsavík for a three hour whale watching tour.

Grey, cold and wet defined our tour and once we hit the swells people started to get sick.

We probably saw as many people get sick as we saw whales (about 6-8 of each), but Dramamine and starting at the horizon kept Tara and I from getting ill.

Still we were both glad to get off the boat and warm up at the end of the tour. We will recommend the whale museum in Húsavík. Then it was back in the car for a drive east across northern Iceland to our last farm stay. On the way we stopped at one more impressive waterfall – Goðafoss.

And one final church in the town of Blönduós.

We stayed at Gauksmýri guesthouse and horse ranch, which was one of our favorites of the trip. Again, we wished we had a couple days to relax here and do some horse back riding. We did at least walk out to their bird hut.

On our final day of driving we stopped in Hvammstangi to buy some food for our next adventure then completed the drive to Reykjavik in increasingly rainy and windy conditions.

Before returning the car we visited the delightfully bloody Saga Museum which gave us an episodic view of Icelandic history.

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After three wet days in Reykjavik, Tara and I were ready to leave town and see more of the country. We’d booked a 6 day driving tour of Iceland through Icelandic Farm Holidays and they’d arranged our itinerary. After picking up the rental car (a VW we promptly called Veronica) and the GPS navigation system (the insistent voice of Samantha) Tara drove us out of Reykjavik initially heading to the north and east. Before long she turned over the driving duties and fell asleep in the passenger seat. This would be our normal operating procedure for the next 5 days – I start driving, enjoying the scenery and Tara falls asleep to wake up whenever I stop the car for something really good.

In this way we drove to Geyser – a geyser so famous it gave its name to all other such features. Unfortunately, it irregularly erupts these days but the neighboring Strokkur was more obliging.

Then we continued to one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls (and that’s saying something in this country), Gullfoss.

After being sufficiently awed by the scenery, we returned to the rural roads to reconnect with the main ring road (Route 1). More waterfalls awaited.

In a few days it would take a really impressive cascade to make me stop the car, otherwise I might have taken several extra days to complete our route.

This evening we’d have our first farm stay, where we were entertained by a group of Spaniards traveling nearly our same route (we’d first seen them at the Skógafoss waterfall earlier in the day).

To start the second morning of our trip we headed toward the town of Vik, stopping on the outskirts to do a short hike to the shore and a view of some sea stacks and arches out on the coast. The nearby basalt columns were also interesting, but watch out for the occasional wave!

We passed up the popular Skaftafell national part for a tractor ride out to the Ingólfshöfði peninsula (the first spot settled in Iceland). After riding across the tidal flats we hiked up a sandy slope for a short loop around the tip of the peninsula spotting thousands of puffins.

Back at the tractor we spotted a seal watching us from just off the beach.

The hike around the Ingólfshöfði peninsula turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.

Our next stop was one I had high hopes for – Jökulsárlón, a lake that receives the terminus of a glacier and is filled with floating growlers, bergy bits and other ice formations. The light was a little flat and the ice chunks further from shore than I was hoping, but still it was a pretty amazing stop.

Still, the fish soup at the cafe was excellent. We finished up our drive to the night’s farm but after checking in decided to head to Höfn, on the extreme southeast of Iceland, for dinner. We’d just missed their lobster festival, but still dinner (lamb and lobster) was fabulous, and I had my favorite Icelandic beer of the trip there.

We also visited the local pool/hot-springs in Höfn, which was quite nice. Then it was back to the farm for the evening.

The next morning we repeated the drive to Höfn, then finally turned north to explore new territory on the east and north of the island.

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Looking for dry trails and to get back into hiking shape Tara and I settled on a drive to northern Boulder County to the Rabbit Mountain Open Space.

We started on the Eagle Wind Trail and saw our first wild flowers of the year.

After completing the Eagle Wind loop we did the out-and-back on the Little Thompson Overlook Trail for a total of 6.5 miles of hiking.

While dry, the area hasn’t really greened up yet and wasn’t as pretty as it will be in another month or two after some rain.

Afterwards we tried Julie’s Thai Kitchen in Lyons which I can’t recommend enough.

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To start off the new year, Tara and I ran the Resolute Runner 5k in nearby Arvada, Colorado. I had written down a goal of running a sub 24:00 5k and was a little surprised when I turned in a 22:17 on this fast course. Guess that’s one New Year’s goal I can check off early. Full race results.

For the rest of the week I kept active, taking part in a ViPR fitness class, putting in some maintenance miles, and hitting the rock gym with Tara (my it’s been a long time since I’ve been climbing). Come Saturday it was time to hit the trails and do a little hiking with Tara and other friends up in Rocky Mountain National Park. We hiked through a series of frozen lakes (Bear, Nymph, Dream, and Emerald) while enjoying the sun and occasional wind-driven snow exfoliation.

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