Month: May 2017

Iceland by Car : Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Iceland has dramatic scenery every way you look, but head to West Iceland for a day trip to see scenes straight out of another world.  According to Jules Verne’s novel, its the entrance to center of the earth. That has to count for something, right? Unlike Reykjavik, the golden circle and other popular stops, West Iceland feels very isolated and you won’t be running into too many people.

From Reykjavik, head north on highway 1, the “Ring Road”, you’ll go through a several mile long tunnel and there will be a toll booth at the end. They accept credit cards so don’t fret. Continue on highway 1 to Borganes. Borganes is the last decent sized town along the way, so stock up on food, gas and other goodies. This town is beautiful in it’s own right, and if you got enough early enough start, take the time to explore.

Head west on highway 54 from Borganes. Stop, pull over, drive slow, take in everything the countryside has to offer.  After about 100km on highway 54, turn left onto Útnesvegur. Shortly after, take a left onto Búðavegur for a short detour to an old black church that’s great for photos. Once you’re back on Útnesvegur, head West about 15km to Arnarstapi.

Arnarstapi is a beautiful little Icelandic town that’s great to stop for lunch and wander and explore. When I was there last month there was a fish & chips food truck, it doesn’t get more authentic than that.. except hot dogs. I don’t know what it is about Iceland and hot dogs. Don’t be afraid to stop for gas and grab yourself a hot dog with pylsusinnep (sweet brown mustard), or remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs if you really want the local experience. Both are pretty gross. Anyway, Arnarstapi is a beautiful little town, so don’t bypass. There are a few paths that head down to the water, and along the coast line. Views of the water, mountains, Icelandic homes and some turf houses. There is also a walking path from Arnarstapi to Hellnar if you have the time. Continue on Útnesvegur, it will go around the edge of the peninsula and meet back up with highway 54 on the other side.

Stop at Londranger, a pull of on the left. It’s not far outside of Arnarstapi. There are wider trails that go to the top of a view point, but don’t miss the small dirt paths that hike down and over to the rock formations. This will be the most people you see in West Iceland; dramatic cliffs and rock formations straight out of a fantasy. Hike down the dirt paths to leave the “crowd” (like 20 people), and explore area on your own. Depending on when you go, watch for falling icicles from the rock formations. It sounds ridiculous but some pretty large ones break off and could be deadly.

Just down the road is Vatnshellir Cave, but there is a fee to get in so I didn’t stop. If you’re feelin’ rich & fancy, go for it! But down the way just a little further is Djúpalónssandur beach and is definitely worth a stop. Explore the pebbled beach and mossy rocks for at least a few minutes and some photos. Saxhóll crater Well of the Irish, Svöðufoss, and the town of Ólafsvík are some other worthy stops.

The most interesting stop for me was Fiskbyrgin á Gufuskálum. Just past the Well of the Irish is a small pull off on the right. For such an amazing historical site, I would think this would be better marked, but it can’t even be found on Google maps. Fiskbyrgin á Gufuskálum are the remains of fish drying sheds from the 1500s. This site is said to have the ruins of up to 200 sheds, but there are only a small hanful that are still mostly intact. These sheds are made on small hills by stacking lava rocks, leaving gaps between the rocks to allow for airflow. This let the fish dry rather than rot, as dried fish was Iceland’s biggest export at the time. There are several footpaths that walk around the sheds and navigate around some of the bigger rocks so you can examine them up close.

Don’t miss stopping at Svöðufoss, a quiet waterfall where you won’t find many people. Travel down a gravel road a ways to a decent sized parking lot and a short walk to the falls. You’ll pass some beautiful Icelandic horses, and if you’ve yet to stop for photos or to pet any of them by the point, now is the time to do it. Icelandic horses love attention and will walk to the fence the moment they spot you. They are very short, husky and will love you.

If the sun has not gone down by now, take the time to drive around the small town of Ólafsvík. A very sleepy fishing down. If it’s late in the day, it’s likely everything will be closed and you won’t see a single person.

Don’t forget to eat a hot dog.

Alder Springs Trail

A lot of people have been asking me about the hike I went on recently so I thought I should get the info up for everyone.

First off, the access road to this trail is complete shit. It is clearly not maintained and has large rocks and areas washed away by water.  You’ll need a high clearance vehicle.

To get here: From Sisters, go through town.. veer left taking Hwy 126 towards Redmond (like you’re going to Smith Rock), after about 5 1/2 miles, turn left on Holmes road and follow to the end turning right onto a continuation of Holmes Rd (weird). Go for about 7 miles and turn left onto Road 6360- there will be a sign for Alder Springs Trailhead here. Follow this gravel road for about 5 miles and turn right at a sign for Alder Springs TH. Follow this road until the end (about a mile) and there’s a small parking lot and signs marking the trail head.

This area is known for rattlesnakes and ticks. Also no bathrooms, so just be prepared for that. Don’t ask me for help with any of these things because you’ll prob die. I saw a rattlesnake on my way back up the trail and froze and backed away, went 25 feet off trail to completely avoid it and maybe cried a little. Also my history with ticks is short but a complete failure. I am however pro at peeing outside, but not sure how I can help you there.

Anyways, back to it. This is an out & back trail. The trail is clear and well marked. Near the beginning of the trail there is a detour to go down to “the old bridge site” that dead ends. Continue straight and the trail is flat for a bit and then descends down into the canyon. Make sure you have plenty of water as there is very minimal shade, and your elevation is gain on the trek back out. You’ll pass quite a few rock formations on your way down into the canyon, and there are a few little nooks/caves you can explore or rest in the shade. But snakes.  Once you make is down to the creek you’ll have to cross to continue on. In spring it’s about knee deep and I read in the fall it’s only ankle deep. Do rattlesnakes swim? I don’t want to know. Across the creek is a grassy meadow where you can camp and wade in the springs. Continue straight through on the trail that follows the creek for a little ways. You gain a little elevation for a nice view and then back down to meet up with the creek. At the end of the trail there are large Ponderosa trees and large boulders at the Deschutes River. The trees provide nice shade on the boulders for eating lunch or a nap. There are nice smooth rocks at the rivers edge as well so you can stick your feet in to cool off. The current is a little too rough to swim but there are some calmer areas to wade in.

I wouldn’t recommend this during the summer, but this is a great hike for spring or fall. Leave early to avoid the heat and you can easy spend a better part of the day laying in the Ponderosa Pine’s shade and playing in the river before heading back. I went on a week day and only saw 4 people on my hike, so fairly lightly trafficked. Hike is about 6-7 miles round trip, and fairly moderate when considering the heat and a elevation gain on the trek back… and snakes.