A Few Days á Suðurlandi, Day 3: Hiking in Skogar

This three day driving trip has now stretched on for, like, four weeks on this blog, so sorry for dragging it out everyone. But I think the wait will be worth it because the next stop on our trip–after exploring the black beaches at Vík–was back at Skógar, a very tiny “town” on the South coast which happens to boast a very big, incredibly beautiful, waterfall.

When I came to Iceland with my mom in April this year (a pre-Big Move, post-grad school celebration trip), we also drove South and this was one of my favorite stops along the way. At that time, while my mom waited patiently below, I climbed up to the top of the waterfall and tip-toed out on a totally not-safe-for-tourists ledge to play chicken with the fear of death (and to watch some pretty birds). But we didn’t do any actual hiking that time. Since I’d spied a trail head at the top of the waterfall, though, I was eager to actually go do a little further exploring this time out.

Mark and I started, obviously, by standing at the base of Skógafoss for a few minutes because as you may have gleaned from my previous posts, there are like a million waterfalls in this country, but they are all amazing, and they all have their own particular character and, yes, personality. I really, really like Skógafoss, and I’m going to go ahead and say that it really likes me, too, because it was in particularly fine form when we were there this time around. The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful–we actually had to take our jackets off pretty early on because it was too warm–and we were greeted at the base of the waterfall by three or four very clear, very full rainbows.

Another way to account for the many rainbows–one which perhaps conflates several unrelated folk traditions but nevertheless doesn’t include a natural site being happy to see me (I really need a dog, guys)–is in the legend of the settler Þrasi who is said to have hidden a chest of gold behind the waterfall. So yeah: pot of gold = lots of rainbows, right? That’s got to be the reason.

After getting our fill (at least for the moment) of all the rainbows, Mark and I scaled the cliff climbed the staircase to the top of the waterfall to start our hike. The hike we took followed part of a very famous trail called Fimmvorduhals which runs from Skógar to the mountain ridge Þórsmörk, which is popular with backpackers in the summer months. (There are a variety of huts and cabins stationed along the hike–some of which are pretty snazzy for hiking accommodations. I’d love to stay in a Volcano Hut for a few days in the summer…)  Anyway, after climbing the very, very steep dirt path and then the metal stairway to the top of Skógafoss (probably the hardest part of the hike right there) we climbed over a ladder that is mounted on a barbed wire fence and went on our way. (Don’t worry: this fence is to keep the sheep in, not the people out.)

Even if you’re not looking to hike the full trail, you can get a really good hike here if you just walk for two hours and then turn back around. This short jaunt is a not-too-taxing, but incredibly beautiful, stop-every-six-seconds-for-photos kind of hike. A hike which I will now take the initiative of re-naming, Viking-style. (They seriously named everything, those guys.) So, I hereby christen this hike:

The Hike of 100 Waterfalls

(And almost as many rainbows.)

 

Although I think we both would have liked to keep going, our hike came to a natural end–in terms of light and landscape both–on a flat, rocky, barren mountaintop where we sat and had a picnic of cheese sandwiches and trail mix before heading back to the base of Skógar.

I’m going to just post a few highlight photos from our walk below, but I’ve archived all of the pictures I took from this walk–all 105 of them–over at the new and shiny Eth & Thorn Photo Archive. So if you want the full experience, take a look here.

1.

Looking down from the top of Skógafoss

2.

3.

That’s Eyjafjallajökull in the background there. Looks so peaceful now.

4.

5.

6.

In less than two hours, it looked like we had traversed the whole country side. You could see all the way down to the sea from where we were standing.

7.

8.

Mark said that when soil or mud freezes under the surface and then cracks up, it is called “frost heaves.” I have never heard of this, but I believe his Mainer expertise. I just thought it looked pretty cool.

9.

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