Today Prof. Morrison and her students, including ENVS majors Isabelle Moore and Adam Hammershoy successfully banded 6 Black-capped Chickadees. The little black and white noise makers were captured at the Mary Hooker Environmental Magnet School in Hartford. This activity was part of Prof. Morrison’s bi-annual bird banding program that includes 6th through 8th graders at several Hartford schools.
White Mountain National Forest clear-cut soils project
Jon Gourley and his research students entered year two of monitoring soils in the White Mountains of New Hampshire after clear-cutting. Two of the three sites have now been completely cut with hopefully the third cleared by this fall. Justin Beslity and Daniel Hong (both thesis students of the class of ’15) travelled to the Hogsback site on the western slopes of Blueberry Mountain and found what was once a thick transitional forest of birch, beach, spruce and fir to be completely cleared (see photo). Samples from the O and B horizons were taken and are currently being processed for nutrients as well as mercury. The team’s site on the eastern side of the forest in Maine, which was the first to be cut last fall, has the first set of pre and post cut results. They recorded some slight decreases in calcium and aluminum, two critical soil nutrients for new forest growth.
Four months ago the summer 2014 field season started for the Weed Lab crew, and despite what the picture shows (Tracy and Dr. D not pictured) we got a ton of work done at the Knox Preserve in Mystic. All told 850 soil samples were collected, an especially mean feat considering that half the site is densely forested. Most of the summer was spent analyzing moisture, salinity and carbon levels in the collected soils. But twice during the summer we re-visited sampling plots established last fall to monitor plant community responses to the removal of invasive plants by measuring plant species diversity, abundance, canopy cover and changes in the morphology of specific species. We worked hard, had some fun too, and now have a ton of data to start sifting through!
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.
Tomorrow the students will explore several of Hartford’s parks, hike up to Heublein Tower for lunch, and take the first water quality measurements.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the way down we ran into a herd of reindeer who eyed us suspiciously before disappearing over the next ridge.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
At camp we explore the hut, which is very nice, cook dinner, plan tomorrow’s hike and go to bed early.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.