ENVS kicks off the semester with a pre-orientation program

At Riverside Park

At Riverside Park

For the first time the ENVS program offered a pre-orientation program centered around the water quality in Hartford’s public parks. However, students will not only explore Hartford’s rivers, they will also get an opportunity to sample some of Hartford’s restaurants. As it turns out, our program was the only one that did NOT treat their participants to delicious Mather food, but took them to Riverside Park for a nice little barbecue. Joan forgot the veggie burgers, but luckily she was the only vegetarian of the group, and we fed her plenty of watermelon and potato chips.

Members of the Class of 2018

Members of the Class of 2018

Some of the younger members of the Class of 2018

Some of the younger members of the Class of 2018

Tomorrow the students will explore several of Hartford’s parks, hike up to Heublein Tower for lunch, and take the first water quality measurements.

2014 Iceland Pictures

at Alftavatn

at Alftavatn

Just before he went off on his (very well deserved) vacation to Maine and New Hampshire, Christoph managed to get most of his pictures organized and put them on-line.

Go and check them out here.

If you would like to share your pictures – either send them to me (and I’ll turn them into a web gallery) or, even better in this cloud based day and age: add a comment to this post which includes a link to your images._30

Gray is the New Black: Epilogue 4 – back to Höfn and on to Mosfellsbær

Waiting for our super jeep - Illikambur

Waiting for our super jeep – Illikambur

Lutz decides to hitch a ride with us back to Höfn this morning, so we hike back up the steep trail to Illikambur and wait for the super jeep. This time we’re picked up Gulli, who drives a Nissan Pathfinder with gigantic tires. Sissi, our driver on the way in, had a Landrover with pretty big tires, but this monster is actually hard to get into.

View south from Illikambur

View south from Illikambur

Into the river we go!

Into the river we go!

... and (hopefully) out the other side.

… and (hopefully) out the other side.

Big tires make for faster cars :-) and we cruise back to Höfn, where we set up camp in out old spot, in no time. Not much has been happening since we left. Höfn celebrated its annual Lobsterfest, so the campground had quite a few locals with their campers, the town was decked out in orange balloons, and a few drunk people were sobering up on the lawn next to our tent. That was pretty much it.

Not much change in the harbor of Höfn.

Not much change in the harbor of Höfn.

We have lunch at  Kaffihornið (free Wifi and excellent dinner options as well), visit the local pool, where we hang out mostly in the hot pots, and enjoy a lobster roll down by the harbor. Icelandic lobster is OK, but I have to say: Maine lobster is way, way better.

Hafnarbúðin - home of our lobster dinner.

Hafnarbúðin – home of our lobster dinner.

Vatnajökull late at night

Vatnajökull late at night

We have a second dinner with Lutz before heading out for one last stroll through town. The clouds cleared a bit and the light over the glacier was most impressive. The next day we take a taxi to the airport and descend back into the clouds of Reykjavik. With no specific plan we drove out to Hveragerði, but saw Egill, Alex and Sieglinde’s truck parked by the side of the road. They were sitting in a local dive enjoying meat soup, and since it was raining we wasted no time and joined them for a big bowl and unlimited coffee.

Egill parked in front of Littla Kaffistofan - home of excellent meat soup.

Egill parked in front of Littla Kaffistofan – home of excellent meat soup.

After a few hours we head out to Hveragerði, but bad weather and a lousy campground make us return to Reykjavik and on to Mosfellsbær. Here the campground is not much better, but we’ve already set up camp, so we decided to stay. Luckily, the nearby Hotel Laxness has a bar and we spend most of the day watching the World Cup.

Lupines started this bolg, so lupines shall end it... ... sunset in Mosfellsbær .

Lupines started this bolg, so lupines shall end it…
… sunset in Mosfellsbær .

The trip to Ljónsoræfi was a success despite the rain. Trails are steep at the south end, but if one starts in the north and ends near Höfn it should be more than doable. The hike leads through plenty of Arctic terrain and has great views of the glaciers. Our three days felt a lot like the Laugavegur 30 years ago, so we might have a change in venue when we return back to Iceland three years from now.

back to Víðibrekkusker

 

Gray is the New Black: Epilogue 3 – Víðibrekkusker

For the first time in two weeks the weather is really nice. Not just a hint of blue somewhere near the horizon, but real sunshine for most of the day. We are celebrating by climbing Víðibrekkusker, the mountain on the other side of the river.

Waterfall on Kollumúli

Waterfall on Kollumúli

Icelandic killer sheep ambush.

Icelandic killer sheep ambush.

An impressive dike along the way.

An impressive dike along the way.

As expected, the path starts out pretty steep, but zig-zags around the mountain and we gain elevation pretty quickly without too much effort. The views are stunning, and we enjoy the nice weather. Lunch on top of the mountain turns out to be an almost unpleasant, warm affair. It’s a good day to work on our tan.

About halfway up Víðibrekkusker

About halfway up Víðibrekkusker

The peak consisted of rather sharp gravel.

The peak consisted of rather sharp gravel.

On the way down we ran into a herd of reindeer who eyed us suspiciously before disappearing over the next ridge.

Reindeer ambush.

Reindeer ambush.

Jon high above the Múlaskáli hut...

Jon high above the Múlaskáli hut. ..

... and crossing the Öxarfellsá on the wobble hanging bridge.

… and crossing the Öxarfellsá on the wobble hanging bridge.

The evening turned out sunny and warm. Múlaskáli gets its water through a long black pipe from high up in the valley, and the sunshine warmed up the cold water in the pipe. We all enjoyed a free warm shower. Nigel told us about the Egiilssel hut, which is very nice, while Lutz spent the day hiking up the Tröllakrókar. We all had dinner on the deck.

Sheep trails on Kollumúli

Sheep trails on Kollumúli

We enjoyed the sunshine while it lasted. Later that evening clouds came rolling in from the South, making for good photographs, but promising another gray day for tomorrow.

Evening clouds.

Evening clouds.

back to the Tröllakrókar
onwards to Höfn and Reykjavik

Gray is the New Black: Epilogue 2 – Tröllakrókar and Egilssel

on our way to the Tröllakrókar

on our way to the Tröllakrókar

Today’s weather is not bad – not bad at all. The clouds are high, it is not raining and there are a few shreds of blue sky. We head out for a day hike to the Tröllakrókar, a series of impressive hoodoos. While already there we also plan to check out the trail to the Egilssel hut, one of the huts along our planned  Ljónsoræfi. So far the hiking was pretty rough. Trails are faint, maps are bad, and the slopes are steep. We’re trying to figure out whether we can do this hike with our students in three years when we intend to return to Iceland.

the famous Tröllakrókar, gigantic hoodoos that formed in volcanic tuff

the famous Tröllakrókar, gigantic hoodoos that formed in volcanic tuff

Now, let's see, what's for lunch? Dried fish, bítafiskur, more dried fish, ahhh, here we go: chocolate!

Now, let’s see, what’s for lunch? Dried fish, bítafiskur, more dried fish, ahhh, here we go: chocolate!

The ascent is steep, we fist follow the river along a sheep trail before we ascent the scree slopes. With day packs it is not too bad, with students we’d go the other way, so even with big packs it should not be too much of a problem. Around noon we arrive at the Tröllakrókar. Christoph takes pictures, while Jon has lunch.

Nigel, who proved to be quite a character, decided to do an overnight hike to the Egilssel hut. We meet him at the Tröllakrókar and, since he is noot the best navigator in the world, we accompany him across the ridge until the hut is in sight. The mountain tops are still covered in snow and Christoph’s boots get soaked once again.

Nigel and Jon at the Tröllakrókar

Nigel and Jon at the Tröllakrókar

On our way to Egilssel

On our way to Egilssel

Frozen lakes and ...

Frozen lakes and …

... patterned ground on our way to Egilssel. We are definitely in the Arctic!

… patterned ground on our way to Egilssel. We are definitely in the Arctic!

Soon we cross a big snow field from where the path to the hut is obvious. We bif Nigel goodbye and return to our hut at Múlaskáli.

More frozen lakes (in June) and the hut at Egilssel.

More frozen lakes (in June) and the hut at Egilssel.

The evening brings a few new guests to the hut. First we watch a lonely hiker descend the trail from Illikambur. He is slow, and Jon predicts he is a German photographer – no idea where he comes up with that. Well, Lutz is German, but he’s just slow, after spending the last two days hiking in from the ring road.

The first batch of 200 sheep and 580 lambs.

The first batch of 200 sheep and 580 lambs.

The sheep are old hands and have no problem crossing the bridge.

The sheep are old hands and have no problem crossing the bridge.

Next come a bunch of sheep and their shepherds. The sheep get trucked and make their way down the steep trail from Illikambur. We get to talk to the shepherds, who encourage us to use the hut – for free, Iceland is expensive enough …
They also consider an empty flag pole a wasted flag pole, and since they didn’t bring an Icelandic flag …

No empty flag pole no more ...

No empty flag pole no more …

back to our first day at Múlaskáli
onward!

Gray is the New Black: Epilogue 1 – to Múlaskáli

downtown Höfn during rush hour

downtown Höfn during rush hour

Things are definitely happening in Höfn. Its claim to fame is that it’s one of the few (only?) good natural harbors on the southern coast of Iceland. It has a town hall, a public pool, a small fleet of fishing boats and a few bars. After an hour of strolling through the town we’ve seen it all and start recognizing the locals.

Höfn harbor

Höfn harbor

We continue our quest for the best hot dog in Iceland and so far the local Olís station is the clear winner. We have three dogs each and wash it down with some fine 3.5% Tuborg.

The next day at 9AM we meet Sissi our superjeep driver from Fjallastakkur, who takes us to the trail head at Illikambur. It was definitely worth the money! We cross an impressive river, which would have been a major pain to cross on foot. Lauren would have had a blast!

View from Illikambuur back towards the coast.

View from Illikambur back towards the coast.

The trail down to the Múlaskáli hut.

The trail down to the Múlaskáli hut.

Taking advantage of a warden-less hut.

Taking advantage of a warden-less hut.

After an hour we arrive at a small parking lot at the edge of a deep gorge. From there it is a short 30-minute walk to the hut at Múlaskáli. We share the hut and campsite with Nigel, a 50-something year old hiker from Hull in England. Since there is no warden or caretaker at the hut we set up our tent between some birch trees. The hut has a beautiful, flag-less flag pole and for the first time our Trinity flag flies high and proud for a photo op before we move it closer to our tent.

No need to start an international incident: the flag goes into a birch tree by our tent.

No need to start an international incident: the flag goes into a birch tree by our tent.

In the afternoon we go on a short hike up a nearby mountain. The weather is not particularly bad, but the clouds are low and the trails start out steep. With only a light daypack it feels like flying up those mountains.

View across the valley.

View across the valley.

Jon finds a new chair for his office.

Jon finds a new chair for his office.

No, we are not lost, but one member of he expedition is taking a long time to take photographs, leaving plenty of time to ponder the map.

No, we are not lost, but one member of he expedition is taking a long time to take photographs, leaving plenty of time to ponder the map.

We make it almost to the top, but reach the clouds and snow just below the summit. Since the inside of every cloud looks pretty much the same we turn around and return to our camp site.

Öxarfellsjökull, a small glacier coming off the Vatnajökull ice cap.

Öxarfellsjökull, a small glacier coming off the Vatnajökull ice cap.

Waiting for the photographer - again...

Waiting for the photographer – again…

Scree slope at the angle of repose.

Scree slope at the angle of repose.

At camp we explore the hut, which is very nice, cook dinner, plan tomorrow’s hike and go to bed early.

Making good use of the Múlaskáli hut.

Making good use of the Múlaskáli hut.

back to the regular trip
still not enough? onward to day 2 of our Ljónsoræfi adventure

Gray is the New Black: Days 11 and 12 – Reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja in the rain

Hallgrimskirkja in the rain

Back in Reykjavik we have a full day to buy presents, wool sweaters, watch soccer games (surprisingly Columbia is still in the World Cup) and do laundry. Funny enough, even without a program or schedule we still run into most of our group while they are enjoying the city. It’s a small place after all. Very small indeed, on his way back to the campground Christoph runs into yesterday’s bus driver. Jon Cameron and Christoph catch the early bus into town and head to the Laundromat Cafe for breakfast and doing laundry.

Troll training wheels.

Troll training wheels.

After spending three hours on breakfast, extra coffee, and two loads of laundry Jon helps Sarah and Lauren to find the sweater of their dreams. Otherwise the day passes without any great calamities, disasters or excitement.

Ugly and expensive houses along the seashore.

Ugly and expensive houses along the seashore.

More lupines!

More lupines!

However, on our way to the bakery Jon and Christoph discover two additional hotdog places near the swimming pool and an entirely new dog: Tröllapylsur – Glútenfríar – gluten free troll-sized dogs. Cameron where are you when we need you…

troll dogs - gluten free

troll dogs – gluten free

The dogs were brats in a hot dog bun, with sauerkraut and hot mustard. Not bad, not bad at all. However, Pylsuvagninn í Laugardal still reigns supreme!

We also discovered a slushie brand that is unlikely to make it in the States.

Krap in two colors ...

Krap in two colors …

On our way to the airport we made the obligatory stop at the Blue Lagoon. The water was great, the silica peel did wonders for our skin and Puffling’s diving exercises almost got Cameron and me into trouble. in the locker rooms…

Puffling practicing his diving skills.

Puffling practicing his diving skills.

From the Blue Lagoon Puffling, Cameron and the students headed back to Boston, while Jon and Christoph took a gigantic plane to the town of Höfn, where they endured a few more days in rain and cold to plan our next Iceland trip.

Our jumbo jet to Höfn.

Our jumbo jet to Höfn.

Flying across the gravel spit at Höfn.

Flying across the gravel spit at Höfn. Look at that resuspended sediment on the Atlantic side. You bet you’ll see that slide again in ENVS 112L this fall.

Finally some space in the tent! It's amazing how much space Puffling took up.

Finally some space in the tent! It’s amazing how much room Puffling had taken up all these days.

back to day 10

For more about Christoph and Jon’s trip to the wilds of Ljónsoræfi stay tuned for the epilogue.

Gray is the New Black: Day 10 – back to Reykjavik

Puffins in the Mountain Mall

Puffling in the Mountain Mall

Throughout the hike Cameron brought a stuffed puffin along. Despite sharing a tent with Cameron for the past nine days Christoph hadn’t really noticed – until now. The little guy’s name is Puffling, and let’s just say Puffling’s life turned quite a bit more exciting today when he went on a few photo shoots with our expedition photographer. Too bad Cameron was keeping a close eye on Puffling during our last day in Reykjavik. Just imagine the possibilities…

...  staying cool - really cool ...

… staying cool – really cool …

... keeping an eye on Christoph's solar panel ...

… keeping an eye on Christoph’s solar panel …

... Nooooo, puffins - don't jump !

… Nooooo, Puffling – don’t jump !

... inspecting the showers ...

… inspecting the showers …

 

ladies man - oops ladies puffin and ...

Puffling – ladies’ man – oops ladies’ puffin and …

... intrepid explorer

… intrepid explorer

Our bus was expected to pick us up at 3:30, so there was plenty of time for some hikes, exploring the surrounding areas or some more hot spring soaking.

Brennisteinsalda

Lauren and Cassandra on top of Brennisteinsalda

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

the Mountain Mall

The Mountain Mall

Well, turns out the bus was supposed to pick us up at noon, so after our hikes, trips to the Mountain Mall, naps etc. we quickly broke camp and off we went, back to Reykjavik. Good ol’ Puffling made sure we didn’t get lost and Lauren enjoyed the numerous stream crossings.

Back to Reykjavik.

Back to Reykjavik.

We did the obligatory photo stop at Hekla, had a few hot dogs and Icelandic chips and arrived in Reykjavik later that evening.

Still no eruption !

Still no eruption !

Back in Reykjavik: Sarah's giving me "the look". Am I in trouble or what?

Back in Reykjavik: Sarah’s giving me “the look”. Am I in trouble or what?

Soon afterwards, most of us head to the English Pub (to watch the World Cup, of course), while Christoph meets his old friends Alex and Sieglinde and does what he does best: talk, talk, talk.

back to day 9
onward to day 11 and 12

Gray is the New Black: Day 9 – Hraftinnusker to Landmannalaugar

Cassandra and Lauren waiting for the group to get ready.

Cassandra and Lauren waiting for the group to get ready.

group shot in front of the Hraftinnusker hut

group shot in front of the Hraftinnusker hut

We got a late start today. The hut was just a tad crowded and we intended to let the British Army go first. However, they were not the most organized breakfast crowd, so we had plenty of time watching them pack, spill their breakfast over their sleeping bags and finally head out. A few minutes later we followed suit. Jon led us over the pass into the clouds.

off to Landmannalaugar

off to Landmannalaugar

Lia - birthday girl

Lia – birthday girl

It was Lia’s 21st birthday, so we serenaded her on top of the ridge amidst the clouds. I think by that time we had eaten all of the cake, but later that day Cameron gave her “the best birthday present EVER”: a shower in the campground.

one of the many hot springs along the trail

one of the many hot springs along the trail

Soon we passed through the Stórhiver geothermal area and a few snowy ridges later the clouds lifted and we could almost see the hills of Landmannalaugar.

photobombed !

photobombed !

The giant lizard: First view of the lava flows at landmannalaugar

The giant lizard: First view of the lava flows at Landmannalaugar

crazy-colored hills and ...

crazy-colored hills and …

... steam vents in the lava flow

… steam vents in the lava flow

As usual, the last miles took a bit longer than expected, but soon we saw the hut and famous hot springs, passed the hut and set up camp at a big gravel plain. Not the best campsite but FINALLY THERE!

two happy professors

two happy professors

Yes, that really is blue sky in the back!

Yes, that really is blue sky in the back!

The Mountain Mall, two school buses retrofitted into a store with adjacent cafe, did a brisk business with beer and Pringles. Later that afternoon we soaked in the hot springs which made us (almost) forget all the rainy miseries of the previous days.

Yes, the sun did shine for more than twenty minutes!

Yes, the sun did shine for more than twenty minutes!

back to day 8
onward to day 10

Gray is the New Black: Day 8 – Álftavatn to Hraftinnusker

Lauren all bundled up.

Lauren all bundled up.

Group shot in front of the new Álftavatn hut.

Group shot in front of the new Álftavatn hut.

Just because we had an hour of somewhat nice weather last night did not mean that the weather got better. This morning it was all gray again. We had a rainy breakfast, stopped for a quick group shot at the hut and then we were on our way. Today’s hike was not particularly long or difficult, but it would bring us up onto the Jökultungur plateau and we would spend a lot of time in snow and fog.

On our way to Jökulltungur.

On our way to Jökultungur.

Sarah was sure happy that we ordered nice warm fleece hats before the trip.

Sarah was sure happy that we ordered nice warm fleece hats before the trip.

Soon we reached the steep slope of Jökultungur and we slowly inched up the mountain. Several hikers on the way down warned us that it would soon turn very muddy – they were right.

Déjà vu: up to Jökultungur

Déjà vu: up to Jökultungur

As soon as we reached the geothermal field the trail become very clayey. Heavy wet boots got even heavier, the clouds dropped lower, and we hiked through a wonderland of fog, steam, mud and snow.

Hot springs in the mist.

Hot springs in the mist.

Lia pondering her next steps.

Lia pondering her next steps.

selfie time!

selfie time!

Soon, however we left the mud behind and reached the home stretch: the long snow-covered plain that leads up to the hut at Hraftinnusker. The GPS claimed it was less than three miles, but it could have been forever. The clouds hung low, and visibility was rather poor. We followed old tracks and went from trail marker to trail marker.

rest in the clouds

rest in the clouds

Hiking across a snow bridge.

Hiking across a snow bridge.

Luckily the snow was still deep enough that many of the annoying gullies could be crossed easily. After an hour or so we finally saw the hut sitting on an obsidian hill.

almost there

almost there

We had reservations, but the wardens had bad news for us. The hut was severely overbooked. He expected 70 visitors for about 50 beds. However, we did pretty well: all the students had one big room, and the professors slept out in the hallway.

Our room in the hut

Our room in the hut

hanging out at Hraftinnusker

hanging out at Hraftinnusker

We shared the remainder of the attic with a bunch of Brits, and considering how many folks were squeezed into one small space, we spent a rather restful night.

good use for our flag

good use for our flag

back to day 7
onward to day 9