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Monday, 01 May 2017

Beyond Skógafoss - Page 2

Written by Kristi Anderson
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At about eight kilometers we crossed the river on a narrow footbridge. A sign was posted near the bridge that showed an alternate “rough” route to the left, indicated in red, and the main trail to the right, marked blue. The map showed the two trails rejoining near where we intended to turn around; this gave us the option to make a lollipop shape out of our course instead of backtracking the entire route. We almost always prefer loops to out and back routes.

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The main trail veered away from the river and became a wide rocky road over a barren landscape. It was “ankle breaking” terrain. The few trekkers we passed seemed absorbed in their thoughts, barely responding to our greeting. As we climbed in elevation, we needed to add layers and gloves to stay warm. August in Iceland can feel like December in the pacific northwest.

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The trail crossed an icy packed snowfield that was infused with volcanic sand; it looked like a giant slab of Oreo cookie ice cream. I was surprised to find decent traction as we walked across it but the incline on the other side was steep and slippery. We encountered a group of mountain bikers descending the black sand and ice; their faces showed adrenaline-crazed expressions ranging from pure joy to sheer terror depending on the skill level of each rider.

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We reached the trail intersection for the alternate return route but before heading back we decided to climb Magni, a cone shaped mountain of red sand. Magni and its twin crater, Móði, formed during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. They are named after the sons of Thor, the god of thunder in Norse mythology. From the rim of Magni we could see volcanos and glaciers across a barren landscape. Clouds limited our visibility but held their own as a sight to see; they surrounded us layered shades of gray, some of them connected to the ground by streaks of moisture.

The alternate trail was well-marked by painted trail posts and weather beaten signs. It took us through far more interesting terrain than the road we ran in on. We picked our way through icy stream crossings, hiked up snow-packed hills, and glided down volcanic sand dunes using monster strides. After rejoining the main trail at the foot bridge we followed the river back to Skógafoss.

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Waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, craters, sheep and black sand define the Skógar trail curiously, the word skógar means forests and I don’t think we saw a single tree. Multi-day trekkers can go 55 kilometers beyond our turnaround point, camping or staying at huts along the way, and winding up at the hot springs of Landmannalaugar.
Driving the full perimeter of Iceland on the 1,323 kilometer (828 mile) Ring Road is a popular way for tourists to see “all” of Iceland. Indeed, there are an abundance of spectacular sights close to the highway. Skógafoss is one. For us, leaving the car behind and traveling by foot offered a more intimate experience of the landscape. Running the Skógar trail was one of the highlights of our trip.

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©Kristi Anderson


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Last modified on Monday, 01 May 2017

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