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Monday, 01 May 2017

Beyond Skógafoss

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A misty breeze blew into our faces as we approached the base of Skógafoss. The thundering waterfall in Iceland pours a huge volume of water off a cliff as high as an 18-story building and can be seen from the main highway a kilometer away. Tourists traveling the Ring Road find it an irresistible stop. For my friend and me, it marked the beginning of our run on the Skógar trail.

We hiked up the stairs to the top of the falls weaving through throngs of people wielding selfie sticks and tripods. A short distance beyond the upper viewpoint of the falls we clambered over an A-frame step ladder through a fence and found ourselves in the company of a few sheep in the quiet realm of the Skógar trail.

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Our plan was to run 20-25 kilometers toward Þórsmörk and turn around to come back before the afternoon rain. Rapid fluctuations in the weather conditions of Iceland make even the two-day forecast marginally reliable. Since the route is devoid of trees and subject to sudden onset of freezing winds blasting across the nearby glaciers, we carried layers and rain gear along with our food and water. We navigated using a maps application on our phones and a paper map and compass for backup.

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We had camped the previous night in the town of Vik instead of at the base of Skógafoss where tents were crowded into an open grassy area. In the evening, the campground shelter was a hive of activity as people sought refuge from the wind and rain. Tables were crowded with open laptops, lit backpacker stoves, and small stacks of dishes; strips of electrical outlets sprouted a variety of plugs and wires that led to phones and tablets. People were sitting, sipping hot drinks, cooking, reading or waiting patiently their turn at the sink or microwave. A multitude of languages mixed together in a common hum.

The vibe in the company of other campers was uplifting; on the trails, though, we preferred solitude soaked in the tranquil energy of earth. Though the Skógar trail is a popular hike in Iceland, people were few and far between and the soothing sound of water rippling, crashing, streaming, and splashing in ever-changing rhythms dominated our senses as we ran and hiked the rolling terrain on the ridge above the Skógá River.

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The sheep were a source of amusement; they were loaded with unkempt wool, fat and sedate, yet bleated across the river like a bossy playground teacher shouting “Hey!”

The Skógá river could be an art exhibit specializing in cascading water; there were tall narrow shooting falls, short wide stepped falls, thin blanketing streams, and low tumbling rapids. Emerald green towers stood as islands forcing the stream to flow around them; narrow winding canyons hid the water in their depths.

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Last modified on Monday, 01 May 2017

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