Iceland (VIII): Egilsstadir and Hengifoss (Northeast)

Half way through the 12-day trip in Iceland, we had already climbed the Glymur, the once highest waterfall  before another higher fall discovered in highland; visited Goðafoss, the historically important waterfall, and Dettifoss, the largest fall by volume discharge.  In northeast of Iceland we were ready to cross off one more waterfall from the list–the Hengifoss.

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After Dettifoss, we got back to the Ring Road and continued east to Egilsstaðir.  We passed boundless barren land, it was striking! Deep black soil stretched as far as the eye could see, it felt like driving on the Moon!

As we got closer to Egilsstaðir, the land turned interesting again, more waterfalls and green field and hill.

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We stopped by this bridge before entering Egilsstaðir.

Egilsstadir7Egilsstaðir is the largest town in the east Iceland, we found a pretty pond by the roadside for picnic lunch.

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After the break, we headed to Hengifoss, the third tallest waterfall in Iceland, second to Glymur.

Hengifoss is an hour drive to the south of Egilsstaðir.  We caught a glimpse of the waterfall in the distance when approaching from road 931.  However to reach the bottom of the waterfall we got to hike 2.5 km.  It was very pleasant hike, we could glance the top of the Hengifoss from the trail.

The add-on bonus along the trail was this waterfall, Litlanesfoss, at 1 km mark.

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Look at the vertical columns! Formed by rapid cooling of hot running lava hit cold water million years ago.

 

It was supposed to be an easy hike, however it turned into an arduous trek.  Starting at 1.5 km mark, it rained, then it poured!  People were moving in the opposite direction to get off the hike.  We trotted on.

Only eyed to the ground in front of us, we kept moving forward and upward.  By the time we reached the base of the waterfall, my lens was wet and foggy. The landscape got so muddy and slippery, but we were on cloud nine!

We made it! Thank God for water-proof jacket and pants, and hiking sticks! And never gave up too early!

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They say if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, just wait for five minutes.  So true!  The magic happened on our descending, the sky cleared up again.

Another bonus of the hike was the Lagarfljot Lake, we failed to notice it climbing up in the rain.  The long skinny lake shined under the sunlight, like a silk belt.  Legend said a monster lived, still lives, in the lake.  Someone even posted a video on YouTube to prove it.

The sunshine made EVERYTHING looked better. Oh, the joy!

Iceland (IV): the Snæfellsjökull National Park (West)

One of the highlights of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula was the Snæfellsjökull National Park.  There are only three national parks in Iceland, the Snæfellsjökull NP is the small one in the west.  It is a must-see in my opinion.

We drove to the Snæfellsnes peninsula from Borgarnes. The scenery was stunning.

Every turn provided photo moments!

Mountains and no-name waterfalls.

Our plan for the morning was to visit three coastal towns–Arnarstapi, Hellnar and Londrangar and hiked in those areas.

We reached our first destination, Arnarstapi, in about one hour.

Arnarstapi was like a paradise on Earth! The beauty of her coastal cliffs blew my mind!

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I’d let the pictures do the talking…

This monument was to represent the guardian spirit Bardur Snæfellsas, the legendary deity of Mt. Snæfell.  According to the Saga, Bardur Snaefellsas was a descendant of giant and men, local people believe his spirit live in the Snaefellsjokull, a volcano mountain covered with glacier.

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From Arnarstapi you could hike to the next town Hellnar along the striking coastal trail.  We didn’t want to come back to get our car, so we only hiked half way, then drove to Hellnar instead.

I have no idea what Hellnar means in Icelandic, but the pebbles, the caves and the rock patterns down there were from a different world!

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The daredevil inside of me decided to walk to the top of the bridge.

The view was stunning, but I had to come down before the vertigo turned my legs to spaghetti noodles!

See the path between the red house (a nice local restaurant) and the blue house, that was the hiking trail to Arnarstapi.

Our next stop was Londrangar Basalt cliffs.

You could hike all the way to the lighthouse.

Near the parking lot was the unobstructed view of the Mt. Snaefell.

If you are interested in the rest of our journey through Snaefellsness Peninsula, please check my previous blogs.

About West Iceland:

(1) We stationed in Borgarnes for two nights while touring the West Iceland, which saved us two hours of round trip per day since we didn’t stay in Reykjavik.  Our Airbnb in Borgarnes was lovely.

(2) Since it was late July, the sky was not fully dark at 2:30 am (below top right) and the Sunrise at 4 am (lower right).  An eye-mask is a must if you want to get some sleep since the Icelandic curtains were not blocking any light.

(3) Our first day’s itinerary included hiking the Glymur,  Hraunfossar and Barnafoss and Krauma thermo bath at Reykholt.  And we had Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Viking sushi tour in Stykkisholmur on the second day.  Because sushi tour was in the afternoon at 3:30, we had to sacrifice Djúpalónssandur Beach and Skarðsvík Beach.  In retrospect, we could have made it if we got up an hour earlier, but we were on vacation…

Iceland (I): Hiking the Glymur, the Highest Waterfall in Iceland

We just got back from 12-day trip in Iceland.  What a BEAUTIFUL country! If you love nature and outdoor, and photography, Iceland is for you!  

We just got back from 12-day trip in Iceland.  What a BEAUTIFUL country! If you love nature and outdoor, and photography, Iceland is for you!  For a country only the size of Virginia State, Iceland is packed with stunning beauty! In 12 days we circled the whole country along the 800-mile Ring Road, starting from the capital Reykjavik going clockwise to the west, the north, the east and ending at the popular south.

We hiked the Glymur waterfall (or foss in Icelandic) on the second day, it was a highly anticipated hike! 🙂

There was a description of the hike at the parking lot, and the signs were well posted at each critical turn.

The hike was flat but scenic on the first mile.  It was an easy strolling until we reached an open cave.  Through the cave opening we spotted the Botnsa river, this was the river we would trail along to get to the foss.

The glacier water from the Botnsa river was so clear and refreshing.  We filled up the water bottle, we would need it soon.

IMG_8110Both banks of the Botnsa river lead to the foss, however the right bank offered a better view of the foss.  A rope and a wood log were installed to help the hikers to cross the river.  The water was REALLY COLD!

After the river crossing, the path took a turn to strenuous ascension.  I had to hold on to the rope, it was quite steep.  At some area, we hiked on the narrow dirt path right along the dropping cliff! I don’t know about you, but looking back down to the river we just crossed, the cave openings looked like a pair of eyes, watching us…

Soon we spotted the vapor from the waterfall in the distance. With the waterfall in front of us, we kept going, up and up.

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Occasionally we paused to see how much we had accomplished. Can you spot people crossing the Botnsa river way down there?  The up right corner near the fjord was where we parked our car!

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In the following hour, we hiked and climbed.  Can you see the tiny people on the top of the cliff on the right? We would be in their position, soon!

For most part of hiking, the waterfall was in view except a few zigzag sharp turns we lost track of it. Again ropes were there to assist the hikers, very helpful!  Some no-name waterfalls were spilling here and there.

Almost there!

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And we did it! We conquered the Glymur, the highest foss in Iceland, Hooray!! Look at the people on other side of the falls, we decided to join them.  We found a shallow area and trod across the Botnsa river again, this time at the upstream of the Glymur fall!

Beware plodding across the Botnsa river, the water was not as shallow as some suggested: it came all the way up to Arthur’s knees and to my thighs!

Now take a good look at the waterfall at this side of the bank before descending.  It was all worth it!!

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After another long hour, we finally saw that open cave! So happy to see that pair of watchful eyes again!

IMG_1919 The whole hike from the parking lot back to the parking lot took us 4 hours to complete.  It was four-hour well spent!

A few things about the hike:

(1) I am glad that we took the hike at the beginning of our trip.  We followed Rick Steves’ suggestion, going west first driving clockwise on the Ring Road.  We were quite energetic.  If we did south first and Glymur at the end of the journey, it might be a different story.  So keep that in mind when you plan your trip.

(2) Glymur is a little more than an hour in the west of Reykjavik, so it can be a good day trip if you stay in Reykjavik. We did the hike in the morning, when we were done the parking lot was full. So do it in the morning to avoid the crowd.  It took us four hours because we took a few breaks here and there, it could be done in a shorter time.

(3) According to Extreme Iceland, Glymur used to be the highest waterfall in Iceland, with the height of 196 m, until recently a higher waterfall ‘Morsi’ in highland Morsarjokull glacier was discovered.  Because the new #1 is not well known and less accessible (I googled it but failed to find a photo of it),  people still call Glymur the highest waterfall in Iceland.

According to Google, there are more than 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland!!  I am a waterfall fanatic, we also hiked the Hengifoss,  the second highest waterfall (128m), when we were at Northeast Iceland.

Huangshan, THE No.1 Mountain in China

We love outdoors, we love to hike.  Recently I hiked Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain, in Anhui Province in Southern China.  Let me tell you, there is nothing like it, nothing!

In China there is a well-known saying: 五岳归来不看山,黄山归来不看岳. Chinese people like ranking things, here five famous mountains are collectively called the “Five Mountains” with Mt.Tai in the East, Mt. Heng (衡) in the South, Mt. Hua in the West, Mt. Heng (恒) in the North and Mt. Song (famous for Shaolin Kongfu) in the Center.   The saying boasts that after touring these Five you can forget about the rest of the mountains in China; however if you come back from Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain, you can skip the big Five all together!!!

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Really?!! I was skeptical.  I had hiked to the top of Mt. Tai, the head of the Five Mountains, years ago when I was in college.  There was no cable then, I climbed the total 7,200 steps with my dad and my brother. Talking about steep and strenuous!!  There were temples dotted along the way which left the footprints and calligraphy of emperors and poets from various dynasties of past two thousand years. Talking about history! And we saw sunrise at the top of the mountain next morning.  Talking about glorious reward!!

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Well, I spent three days in Huangshan with my college classmates at the recent college reunion. I have to admit I am a new convert.  Huangshan blew me in every way! Check out my photos, if you are still not convinced, make your own visit! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

We average hiked about nine miles or 15 km, 152-floor high, in a day.  To release the muscle spasm, I feed on ibiprofen three times a day! Many thanks to my sister Wendy who brought pain med for everybody.

 

 

 

This is 西海大峡谷 the Grand Canyon of the West Sea. Down down down, it took us a whole morning to go down.  Thankfully there was a cable ride to bring us up!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huangshan is famous with 奇松,怪石,云海,温泉. The #1 attraction is the unique pine trees.

 

 

 

The #2 is the rock formations in all shapes and sizes.

 

 

 

The #3 is the sea of clouds. We were extremely fortunate with the weather.  The first two days were sunny, then cloudy, it rained on our last morning.

 

 

 

If you have extra time, the #4 attraction is the hot springs.

The below chart (L) is our hiking path, it proved to be a very wise design.  Thanks to my brother Chaoyang we did not waste energy on overlapping hike; and the chart on the right lists the hiking time between each sight.

 

 

 

If you want to reserve energy, take the cable up which drops you right in the middle of action, there is still lot of hiking once you get off.

Pack LIGHT.  A pound might feel like a ton after carrying it for eight hours uphill!! I was extremely grateful for my sister Lin who challenged me to a simpler mountain life without makeup and other accessories that I thought were “unpartable”.  You can leave your luggage at the train station or the hotel at the bottom of the mountain, start hiking early in the morning.  If I can live three days and two nights on a light backpack, you can too!  And a hiking stick is a must!

 

 

 


We stayed at Xihai Hotel西海饭店 on top of the mountain roof, an excellent choice both for the service and the location, highly recommended!

 

 

 

Go and conquer the most beautiful mountain in China!!  Enjoy!!!

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Hiking the Billy Goat Trail on Father’s Day

This year Arthur’s Father’s Day present was to visit his family in Maryland and hike the Billy Goat Trail.

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Billy Goat Trail is a 1.7-mile section of Great Falls Loop (4.3 miles) along the Potomac River.  According to alltrails.com it is one of the most strenuous trails in the east coast.  There are many attractions along the Potomac River, C & O (Chesapeake & Ohio) Canal National Historic Park on Maryland side and Great Falls National Park on Virginia side are just a few we frequent.

The entrance fee for the C&O Canal Historic Park is $10 per vehicle, good for 3 days. Make sure to first visit the Tavern Visitor Center, which opened in 1830 as an inn.  Imagine to reserve a bed (a bunk) for the night for only 25 cents!  During the weekend the mule-drawn canal boat ride is a popular family activity, see NP website for schedule and pricing.

We began our hike from the canal towpath, which was flat and shaded most of the way.  On our left we counted at least five locks along the canal. This wide open section of the canal is strangely named as “Log Wall”, I am not sure why since the canal bank is full of rocks, no logs.

On our right, the Potomac river, gushing through boulders and bedrocks, glittering in the afternoon sun, was quite inviting.  We saw parents with little children in strollers lingering along the towpath, having a good time.

About a mile into the towpath, the Billy Goat A Trail forked to the right.  The trail turned into a narrow and arduous rocky path.  This section A was what made this trail famous. It was so steep in some areas, we had to get on all fours, hands and knees.  Obviously the trail was destined for an agile mountain goat! 🙂 If not for the clearly marked blue sign, we would easily wonder off track since there was no visible trail, only rocky cleft!

However, our hard work paid off, the reward was the incredible view! And I haven’t mentioned the feeling of appeasing accomplishment! 🙂

When C & O Canal Company broke ground in 1828, their original plan was to dig a 360-mile canal to connect Chesapeake with Ohio River.  Of course, we know the canal never reached Ohio river.  At the time of its grand open in 1850, the canal was 184.5 mile long, getting as far as Cumberland, Maryland.  Coals were carried down on boats from the Allegheny Mountains to Washington DC through the canal.

We stopped briefly at Cumberland, Maryland on our drive back home.  This little historic town, the west end of C&O canal, is worth of a longer trip to fully explore.  We will be back for sure.

Georgetown, Maryland, the east end of the canal. The pictures were taken during Thanksgiving 2015.

So glad that Arthur rose to the challenge on this Father’s Day to tackle the Billy Goat Trail!  Now he has one more thing to boast about. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Lick Falls

Summer is here, it is time to hit outdoor again! Our friend Sarah told us about this hidden jewel, Flat Lick Falls, in Gray Hawk (Jackson county), Kentucky.  Last weekend we decided to check it out.  So glad we did! Thank you Sarah!!

Flat Lick Falls is 43 miles from Richmond, half way between Berea and London, pass McKee on KY-421.  A detailed direction is listed on their website.  From parking lot to the Falls is a short distance, very easy access.

Our first stop was the top view of the falls, then we took a stroll upstream. We were surrounded with lush green and untouched nature.

Across the top of the falls, there was a steep down-send to the base of the falls and pool. In no hurry we took the long route, a scenic and graduate descend, less than a mile long.

We were in the shade the whole time.  The temperature was at least 5-10 degree cooler.

Flat Lick Falls! What a great view! Other than a few people cooling on the left side of the pool, we almost had the whole falls to ourselves.

Facing the falls to our left, behind this fallen tree, Arthur discovered a huge, thin, curvy, free-standing rock, we called it potato chip!

Overall, it was a very enjoyable outing.

We noticed people started to come around two in the afternoon when we were ready to head back.  There was a large shaded BBQ area looking brand-new near the parking lot, and the last mile to the falls was paved gravel road.  Maybe the business is picking up, so make sure to go visit before it is getting too popular (crowded).