Putting my toe in the water

Just as the Omicron variant arrived, I was packing my bags for a once in a lifetime trip to Iceland, with my daughter. My first real trip since 2019!

Covid tests were scheduled for home and in Iceland. Then the CDC classified Iceland as very high risk for Covid. But I live in a place at very high risk. Our adventures would be focused on outdoor activities, during the six hours of daylight (10:45 to 4:45). We were both fully vaccinated and boosted so there was no time like the present. Off we went. As I wait for my post travel final Covid test, it was totally worth it.

First of all, just to spend this time with my adult daughter was a gift. In my opinion, we are excellent travel companions. She may think otherwise because I do spend an inordinate amount of time searching my pockets for keys, masks, credit cards, etc. But, in my defense, there were too many pockets because we always wore two layers of pants, and a few jackets to be able to enjoy the outdoors.

We took a red eye and our first stop upon arrival was the Blue Lagoon, thermal pools fed with warm water from the nearby geothermal plant. Although this is a popular tourist destination, it was a fun introduction to Iceland. We applied various concoctions to our faces and enjoyed a glass of Prosecco while soaking.

We stayed nearby for a couple of nights and took day trips to lighthouses, volcanoes, waterfalls, and hot springs while we slept beneath the glow and steam (and sulphuric odor) of the geothermal plant. We soaked in hot springs, including one fed by a geysir behind a fence, nearly every day and had the raisin fingers to show for it.

There were plenty of working lighthouses scattered around the country. This one was on a huge massif with a beautiful view of a stretch of black sand beach. The one below was open and we climbed to the top where a fresnel lens turned.

There is frequent seismic activity in the land of fire and ice, hence the volcanoes and hot springs. This volcano erupted in March 2021 and the lava field has fissures that are still steaming.

We explored a few waterfalls including one we were able to walk under. We also crossed a bridge between two continental plates that are moving apart. We tried to see what would happen to the bridge as that occurs but looks like they will have to dismantle part of it. The movement is a few centimeters a year!

Every village had a church. Sometimes, we couldn’t tell where the congregation would possibly come from.

The real goal of the trip, besides spending time with my daughter and soaking our cares away, was to try to glimpse the northern lights. We had apps with predictions the lights and clear skies. One night, conditions looked good, but not where we were at the moment. So we hopped in the car and drove south to clear skies without ambient light. We saw a faint streak of green in the sky and couldn’t believe our luck. There were the northern lights on our second night. The trip was complete. Hotels offer northern light wakeup calls. We were called once at about 1:30 am but they were gone by the time I got outside and I couldn’t find my glasses anyway. Then we slept in. Easy to do when sunrise is 10:45.

The plot thickened when US international guidelines were tightened mid-week. Luckily we had our departure test within a day anyway. Free, painless with rapid results. And done in a circle of 10 strangers.

The worst weather came on our last day as we explored Reykavik, as much as we could with 70 mph wind gusts and walkways of sheer ice. We checked out the flea market and one of the most unusual museums in the world. Nuf said.

It was such a beautiful country and an easy place to visit even though I never learned a word of the language other than thank you. Takk fryir Iceland for reintroducing me to adventure.

Another day, another rainbow and…NORTHERN LIGHTS!

Rainbow over Jay Mountain

It’s still rainbow season in these parts.   I saw one yesterday, while I walked to work, but didn’t get a good picture.  Early this morning, it was gray, cold and windy so Tim went out to climb a mountain.  While I sipped coffee at home, I saw this out the window.  I ran outside to stand under the electric wires we are burying later this month, so they wouldn’t hog the photo.

This is the photo I didn’t catch last night.  I was in bed when Tim came in from the hot tub to tell me he saw something wierd outside, which he thought might be the Northern Lights.  This has been a dream of mine and I have been prepared to travel to Iceland, Finland, Alaska to see them.  Instead I saw them from my bedroom window.  I decided not to try to get a photo because it would have interfered with my enjoyment of this first encounter.

I have followed the Alaska geophysical site for years and was recently told about the Spaceweather.com site, which is based upon the NOAA space weather prediction data. They have a subscription service you can use to be alerted of “solar activity”.   Northern light sitings can be predicted when there are significant solar flares and other magnetic disturbances.  All I know is I have never seen the Auroral map predictions as bright or as far south as yesterday.  There were sitings and photos in more than half of all U.S. states.

We saw a curtain of red, to the northwest, which moved across the sky.  I was a little skeptical since most pictures I have seen show blues and greens but when I checked it out this morning, I learned the red is quite unusual and appears with very strong storms.  Check your clocks.