An Icelandic Adventure: Where Fairies Come From

A Little Longer, Trips
Cramped Up Iceland Hills3
Seljavallalaug – Iceland’s Oldest Pool
We were awake early and snuck by throngs of tourists to steal breakfast from the hotel we didn’t stay at.  With at least a bit of Skyr and some pickled herring in our stomachs we got in the car to find the fabled hot spring swimming pool, Iceland’s oldest, Seljavallalaug.
The dirt road we decided would bring us to the trailhead, ended up being the right one on our too small map and when we got out of the car there was still a bite to the air as the sun hadn’t made it around to where we were yet.  The scenery was a construction site, rocky with a bit of water flowing through and a seemingly uncaring man wearing an Icelandic wool sweater operating a front end loader, still this had to be the spot.  There were two guys on enduro bikes, who had come from the same place we wanted to head to and they assured us we were in the right spot but that the pool was having some maintenance done by a few local volunteers that pressure wash it once a year.
We made our decision to walk in and check it out regardless of construction, or not; after all those guys could be lying, trying to keep tourists like us away from their local swim spot, hope is a curious thing.  As we turned to find the path in, an old Black Lab comes up to say hi, she is greying around the mouth and friendly as can be with quite a bit of slobber to go around.  Immediately after introducing herself, she is on the trail beckoning us to follow and so we we’re off following our doggy guide to the oldest pool in Iceland.
Rocky black construction, gave way to rich vibrant green hillsides and cliffs surrounding the valley we were walking through and the trickle of water we had seen in the flat before the trail turned into a river.  The morning was still and the air still cold, but this place was almost spiritual; calm and borderline solemn, justifying Icelandic folklore of fairies and trolls.  Our four legged tour guide took us up and down hillsides, knowing every which way to get around obstacles and as we approached a medium sized creek crossing, noticed our struggle and brought us lower to an easier place to get across.
Growing closer, the ground emitting the scent of sulfur and steam that only comes from the geothermal, we rounded a corner to see the old pool; built into the hillside, some of the concrete crumbling but still there, and three men in oil gear pressure washing as we’d been told.  The pool was empty and we both felt the pang of disappointment despite knowing this prior to our walk in.  We took a photo or two, gave the guys a wave and with that followed our friend back to the car, over obstacles, creek crossings, and appreciating every bit of the sun now warming our cold faces and the glowing green hillside behind us.

Cramped Up Iceland Guard Dog1

cramped up seljavallalaug

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Cramped Up Iceland Guard Dog

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Cramped Up Vik

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Cramped up jökulsárlón

Cramped Up Jökulsárlón 1

Cramped Up Iceland Hills

This post was featured in Volume 1: Issue 2 of Lay Off The Iodine’s Analog Companion.
All photos in this post taken on Canon AE-1 on 35mm film.
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Last Dip of Summer

Trips, Weekends

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir drinking beers

Utica Round Two – Chill Hard and Car Camp
We drove and we drove, down dirt roads until they got too gnarly, around in circles trying to find the spot that suited us, stopping, getting out, looking around, getting back in, and moving on.  We eventually found the spot we needed, threw our gear out, set up the hammock, stripped down and jumped in; while it was still swimmable, it was cold, we could tell that the dog days were gone and they were taking summer with them.
We cracked beers and cracked jokes, lazing about on the rock rim of the Utica Reservoir (no boats this time), and when the sun started to fall, retreated to the insulated camp we had set up, protected from the cool breeze by a stand of trees and some boulders.  Dinner was prepared, sweaters were donned, and we scarfed on camp fajita’s as the sun dipped into the water saying goodbye to summer.
As night came on and the fire gave us some warmth, we talked of how we hadn’t done enough this summer. We hadn’t gotten out enough, were too busy with work, with obligation, responsibility, and everything else, kicking ourselves in the ass as we watched our prime season slip from our grasp.

 

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir lantern

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir fishing

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir lake reflections 2

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir hammock

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir vegetables

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir vegetable prep

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir campchef

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir campchef grilled peppers

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir buddies

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir sweater

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir super moon

Photos in this post taken on Canon Rebel SL-1

Closed for the Winter: Yosemite High Country

Trips, Weekends

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls fly fishing

Hike to Glen Aulin Falls

Out and Back – 12 miles
Saturday – Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin – 6
Sunday – Back to Trail Head – 6
An abandoned high sierra camp and a picturesque waterfall gushing into oblivion.  It’s a quick trip, basically 6 miles each way leaving from Tuolumne Meadows, typically bustling with folks seeing all of the Yosemite high country that they can muster, but not so for us.  For us, this is basically the last weekend of high country backpacking with a weather system promising the rest of California some much needed rain and a good dump of snow at elevation, needless to say Tioga Pass will close.
We park down a dirt road off Tioga road, throw our packs on and get on trail right on schedule; knowing that the distance is short makes the journey light and easy, fun and we are generally excited to be hanging out with friends from the east side.  Making our way in, we don’t see a soul, one of Yosemite’s favorite trails and not one person do we pass heading in, it’s kind of remarkable.  Passing cascades, waterfalls, and iced over puddles, we all fall in love with the day, crisp and in the 60’s, sun out with some cartoon clouds to interrupt the blue expanse of the sky.
Glen Aulin leaves nothing to be desired.  A beautifully lonesome and quiet seasonal camp a couple weeks past it’s close date and now some great friends throwing lines into the water to try and nail one of those little Sierra Brook Trout to snack on before dinner.  As afternoon progresses, we laze about, basking in the sun as we know it will dip into the 30’s this evening.  The sun goes lower and lower until it disappears behind the wall of pine; its instantly cold and the small fire is the only source of heat for us now.  Snacking on our friend’s lucky catch while we wait for dinner to rehydrate, we sip red wine with a whiskey chaser and reflect on good times past, present, and future.
Dinner is backcountry chicken burritos, wrapped in foil, and thrown in the fire to get that extra heat and cheese melt; again we are thankful for a dehydrator back home and the leftover chicken carcass from last week. The night rolls through, the cold sneaks in, the whiskey warms, and voices get louder as the “cheers governor” games get belligerent.  Drown, stir, and off to sleep; warmth in a bag and a high country cool just kissing all of our faces.
Waking up, we linger in our bags, holding on to that last bit of heat until the need to pee is too much and we’ve got to get the day started and confront the cold of the outside as the sun meets the frost and warms the forest. Coffee to melt away the headache that the Turkey 101 birthed in the night and whatever is left for food to put in our stomaches.  Break down camp, pack it away, give it a stretch and make sure no T’s were L’d; we are off, marching from whence we came, up up up and along the trail this time passing a few folks out on a morning day hike in the Yosemite High Country.
A quick one out, and we are back at the car ready to head back to the city, refreshed and relaxed.  The ticket on the windshield could say otherwise, but fuck it.  Note to self: dirt roads off Tioga road are apparently still part of the Tioga Corridor on which there is no overnight parking allowed past 10/15.

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls Trail 2

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls Trail 5

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin fly fish flies

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Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls fly casting

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls fish

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin brook trout

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls Trail 6

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls Trail

Cramped Up Yosemite soda springs rd

Photos in this post taken on Canon Rebel SL1

An Icelandic Adventure: A World of Ice

Trips

Cramped Up Iceland jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon 5

A bit further along and you find the landscape begins to change; lush greens and waterfalls give way to black and in the distance almost inching towards you, your first glimpse of a glacial tongue.  Skaftafell is Iceland’s premiere glacial national park and since ice accounts for about twenty percent of the island’s surface – a huge portion – this ice is not to be ignored, and Skaftafell is a great, albeit crowded, place to kick off.
A quick stroll brings you from vibrant brush and floor to the forefront of Falljökull glacial tongue, and the lagoon it melts into.  It’s immensity, at one time creeping towards us, now recedes, continually gaining momentum and disappearing faster and faster as time trudges forward and our kind does little to reverse the mistakes we’ve made that have brought us to this point.  A conversation for another day.
The chunks bobbing in the lagoon range from baseball size and crystal clear to car size and blue, to pure white and the size of a bus, all from the same place and all ever so slowly getting smaller to feed the lagoon.
As you take this all in, reflect on scale, time, politics, etc… the whipping wind coming off the ice chills you to the bone and through layer and layer you begin to feel it; noticeably fifteen or twenty degrees cooler and somehow fresher than the rest of the air, a bit more pure, a bit more free. Or maybe it’s just cold and that’s how you justify it.  Regardless it’s time to get back to the car.

Cramped Up Iceland jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon black sand beach crystal

Cramped Up Iceland Skaftafell Glacier

Cramped Up Iceland Skaftafell Glacier river

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Cramped Up Iceland jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon 4

Cramped Up Iceland jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon 6

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Cramped Up Iceland jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon black sand beach crystal 2

Cramped Up Iceland jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon black sand beach crystal 3

Cramped Up Iceland jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon black sand beach crystal 5

Photos in this post taken on Canon Rebel SL1

An Icelandic Adventure: The Ring Road’s Not-So-Secret Treasures

Trips
Cramped Up Iceland seljalandsfoss stairs 3
Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, and the Road There
Now sometimes you have to go to great lengths and distances to be able to find what you are looking for, be it solitude, beauty, immensity, challenge, adventure, etc… Sometimes, it’s right under your nose, right off the road and you knew it, or you didn’t.  These places, these things, sometimes they are crowded by throngs of tourists, but sometimes, sometimes they are yours and yours alone for that moment.
Iceland is gaining ground in the tourism industry, just about every person we ran into before and after was going, had been, or knew someone who was going or had been; this doesn’t detract from an adventure.  Folks say that if it’s crowded, it isn’t worth it or at the very least imply this, we ourselves have done so and it is a constant struggle to not be negative in this way.  Yes, Iceland is busy, there are loads of people around most corners, but it doesn’t take away from the validity of beauty, immensity, challenge, adventure of these sights; they are popular for good reason.
Many things we saw on our trip were right off the ring road, Iceland’s main drag that loops around the island, and they were all gorgeous.  Waterfalls more powerful than you can dream, so strong and rushing down so fast that you can feel their immensity in the blast of mist that hits your face as you approach.  They are surrounded by lush green whose contrast illuminates just how impressive and otherworldly they are.
To every gorgeous waterfall though, there are everyday sites right off the road where, if you pull over, get out, and take a look; you can find the same impressive beauty, the same history, the same country.  So yes, in the end, some places are busy and some places are unknown and under-appreciated, a huge amount right off the road, but they’re all worth your time even if you need to say “excuse me” to get through (or “pardon me” for trespassing).

Cramped Up Iceland seljalandsfoss 1

Cramped Up Iceland Farm church

Cramped Up Iceland Ring Road

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Cramped Up Iceland Ring Road 2

Cramped Up Iceland Farm Buoy

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Cramped Up Iceland Farm pasture

Cramped Up Iceland Skogafoss

Cramped Up Iceland Skogafoss rainbow green

Cramped Up Iceland Skogafoss 2

Cramped Up Iceland Skogafoss rainbow

Cramped Up Iceland Ring Road Farm Turf Roof

Cramped Up Iceland Ring Road Farm
Photos in this post taken on Canon Rebel SL1

An Icelandic Adventure: Reykjadalur Hot Springs

Trips

Cramped Up Iceland Reykjadalur 14

Reykjadalur – 4 miles in and out
Just a few minutes off the Ring Road and a 2 mile hike in you’ll find Reykjadalur, a natural hot spring fed creek, prime for a leisurely soak.  The hike is gorgeous, up, up, up into the hills and then meandering through valley, the greenest of scenery, past bubbling mud pots and steaming holes in the ground ripe with the eggy sulfuric scent that would send some running; all the while the Icelandic sheep just stare, as if to say, “we’re annoyed, but don’t care enough to say something.”
For sure, this place is popular, but not like it should be, not like it would be here in the states.  We arrive and stroll down the boardwalk pathway to the top of the stream, where, we correctly assume it’d be hottest. Past the Germans, the French, the locals, and of course other Americans; but it’s different than being at other sites surrounded by the same folks, there’s a camaraderie here that isn’t found with the folks using pervert lenses at the waterfalls.
We soak, trying different spots high up and down low on the stream, the natural temperature adjustment; to get up and move.  This place is magical, deep green hills, sheep grazing, blue skies and the sun kissing us the whole time.  No wonder the Icelandic folklore centers on elves, fairies, and trolls; why wouldn’t it, the magic of this country is palpable and this is only our first day.

Cramped Up Iceland Reykjadalur 11

Cramped Up Iceland Reykjadalur 3

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Cramped Up Iceland Reykjadalur 1

Cramped Up Iceland Reykjadalur 12

Photos taken on Canon Rebel SL1 and GoPro Hero4.

Still Waters: Paddling the Utica Reservoir

Trips, Weekends

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir red kayak smooth waters

Utica Reservoir – California Sierra Nevada
The morning is still with a small bit of haze and a quiet likened to Cape Cod summer mornings skipping across the harbor in our 14 ft whaler.  “The water’s like glass,” I say, as we slip our paddles in and out and push our boats onward exploring rocky inlet after rocky inlet, “how about here?” We dart into a small escape from the larger part of the lake.  Rounding a corner, our boats are suddenly in the midst of a lily pad forest, and we slide up onto the adjacent granite shore with ease. Once up and out, we find our spot, lay out our towels and bask in the Sierra summer morning sun.  “It doesn’t get much better than this,” we exclaim before one or both of us leaps off the rock to break the stillness of the water.

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir topless kayak

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir yellow kayak

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir cliff jump

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir lily pads

Cramped Up Utica Reservoir fast paddle

– Click below for more photos –

Summer Float: Eel River

Trips, Weekends
Cramped Up Eel River Tube Whale
The Eel River holds our summer hearts. Each year the high wall and its deep pools and lone river beach draw us back for long, hot days of dozing and dipping and jumping and beer. The steep trek, loading down everything we can for our one night’s stay, all worth the mildly treacherous slipping and sliding so we can eat, drink and sleep. It’s summertime bliss on the river.
Cramped Up Eel River Tube

Cramped Up Eel River Lounging

Cramped Up Eel River drink fuck fight

Cramped Up Eel River spot

Cramped Up Eel River Tube Cool

Cramped Up Eel River Lounging Bodies

All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.

Mono Lake: Fissures Atop a Hill of Ash

Just A Day, Trips

Cramped Up Mono Lake fissures inside

 

Its dry, hot, dusty, cold, windy, snowy, rainy; unforgiving.  Its big, grandiose, epic, awesome, righteous; spiritual.  The Eastern Sierra kind of rules all of California, reigning over it from the east side and laughing in the face of those in the west who think the trip is too much work; the east doesn’t want you, the east doesn’t need you, and most importantly, the east doesn’t care.
The area in and around Mono Lake is full of secret hot springs, craters, and fourteeners no one has heard of.  It boasts memories of our presence and departure through abandoned towns, mines, cave dwellings and petroglyphs.  This area tells us the story of its history through volcanic shapes and remnants.
The Fissures are a kept secret of the East side; hidden in plain view atop a hill made of volcanic ash just waiting to be explored and treasured.  They are a series of slot canyons 20-50 ft deep and 2-6 ft wide, shaped volcanically telling an intrinsic piece of the geological history of the Eastern Sierras and Mono Lake.  Finding them can be tough but is worth the short jaunt for such a massive reward.

Cramped Up Mono Lake view

Cramped Up Mono Lake vista

Cramped Up Mono Lake mountains

Cramped Up Mono Lake fissures jump

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Cramped Up Mono Lake fissures inside 3

Cramped Up Mono Lake fissures above

Cramped Up Mono Lake mountains 2

Cramped Up Mono Lake fissures plants

 

All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.

Easy Getaway: China Camp

Trips, Weekends

cramped up china camp marsh

There’s a place just north of San Francisco that used to be home to a fishing village of over 500 Chinese immigrants. Before that it was a dairy ranch belonging to a wealthy Irish-American family. And long before that it was the home and hunting grounds of the Miwok people for hundreds of years. After most of the Chinese fishermen left, the land was saved from potential developers, and turned into a protected state park for us to enjoy.
These pieces of land transfer from one hand to the next, serving different purposes for each. Who uses it best? Who deserves it the most? Who should it belong to? Now it belongs to the State, and therefore to all of the people, more or less. Although you can’t use it to farm your cows, catch shrimp, or fully sustain your life anymore, you can use it to enjoy the outdoors, and to be thankful that one more stretch of the Bay’s coast so close to the ever expanding city was spared. Happy Earth Day!

cramped up china camp

cramped up china camp deer

 

cramped up china camp flowers

cramped up china camp wire boardwalk close

cramped up china camp field

 All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.