Monday, June 5, 2017

Day 28: Expect sheep.... everywhere!

Before heading to Snæfellsjökull National Park, I had to do the morning chores, which includes feeding the orphans. We have a visitor in the orphan group, it is a little moorit lamb that has an abscess on her hind fetlock (equivalent to our ankle). Snædis has been tending to her out in the field for the past week because we have not been able to capture her mother and get her to the barn. Her mother has been enjoying out attempts to catch her and at the sight of Helgi she would jump and get all excited for the run she is about to have. The little lamb progressed to where she was no longer standing and crawling around the field, so Snædis made the executive decision to just bring her inside and leave mom outside. It was not hard for the lamb to acclimate and she already enjoys human attention, so it worked well for her. The younger two orphans have been forcing themselves on the older ones and they have begrudgingly started to allow it. The lost orphan has stopped trying to nurse off of the others but continues to be the outsider. 

The little spotted mouflon has made his way into the orphan clique and is seen within the group... sometimes, other times he has disappeared into their bellies and fluff.

Here he is before he disappears into the fluff

An update on the little lamb that I brought in, along with his mother and sibling (not without a chase). We have given him a big shot of vitamins (including Selenium) and I supplement his nursing with a bottle and he is doing much better. He still needs to build up his hind legs muscles (they had atrophied from him not having the energy to get up), but that will come with more time.

Our little Stevonnie has moved into the middle barn, which is a bit more open so she makes it a point to visit each group in their pens in the morning by running up and down the feeder.
"Good morning, just checking on the neighbors."
I finished up with the morning feeding, packed my bags and started the drive to Snæfellsjökull National Park. The main attraction is Snæfellsjökull, which is the center mountain that has the large glacier on top of it (the translation of Snæfellsjökull, is "the glacier". My goal was to get up there and touch that glacier. 
The glacier is seen during the drive.
Before I actually got to the park, I had to stop and get some food. Because it was a holiday here the grocery stores were closed so I had to stock up at a gas station. I stopped in a little town outside of the park that was on the ocean. I noticed a land mass off the coast, that land mass was Greenland! 
I edited the photo a bit so that you can see the outline of Greenland just below the cloud line.
Once stocked with plenty of water and snacks, I headed to get a trail map and head to my first trail. This park is absolutely stunning, looking up at the mountains, waterfalls, and lava fields make all of your problems seem insignificant. It is no wonder this place was the inspiration for the book "Journey to the Center of the Earth", and called one of the most magical and a powerful energy source for many people.

 I definitely felt that energy as I started my first hike. One of the things noticed on the trail map was a lot of trails are not marked, and some trails were described as "indistinct". It is a good thing this place has no trees so I am able to orient myself as I walk on what I think is a trail. There were many passing rain clouds, so it was a day of fleeting sun and random rain showers, but that did not stop me. My first hike was to a volcano across lava fields. These lava fields were covered in a thick carpet of moss, making them difficult to move through. What made me nervous was that the lava field was not solid ground. The lava rocks are very porous and there are many holes and spaces where the rock underneath was swept away. 
The stacked lava field

The lava field I had to get through to reach my destination

I was about an hour in and noticed just how disorienting these fields can be. The trail was barely there and as you look for the path, everything just blends in. I could at least see my destination and look back and see the parking lot sign where I left the Lancer, so I forged my own path. It makes the carins that were put in place for Iceland's first travelers make so much sense.
Do you see the trail? (and this was a particularly defined part of the trail)

I finally made it to the base of the volcano and started my ascent, about half way up I noticed a clump of wool dangling from a shrub. Some sheep also wanted to hike up a volcano just like me apparently. After some rather scary walking around the lip of the volcano, I reached the peak! 
Yes, you walk along that ridge

The center of the volcano from the peak. What was weird (and maybe this is my basic knowledge of geology) but there was a round rock in the dead center of the crater. 
I wonder if there is a prize inside?

I made a circle around the top and circle around the base of Búðaklettur crater before heading back to have a late lunch on the beach. The beach is still part of the lava field and the rocks and rock formations are black. This beach is called Rávik beach.
Helgi's "Going out" boots are holding up nicely

Lunch with a view

I was prepared to take on Snæfellsjökull. The trailhead was a bit far so the majestic Lancer and I headed to the mountain. Again, we were bombarded with threatening signs.

 I assured Lancer we would only be going to the trailhead and parking there.
The beginning of the road looked innocent, so we started our drive.

Innocent looking road

As we turned a corner on the road, it became steep, very steep. It was so steep the Lancer's wheels started to spin on the loose gravel and I could feel the car's descent. One of the many scary parts of this road, is there are no guardrails, so if a car starts to slip off the edge, too bad. It got its traction and somehow we kept moving forward. This steep incline was paired with an equally as steep decline. It felt like a roller coaster as the front of the Lancer tipped forward so I could see the road going straight down. As I white knuckled the steering wheel, all I could think was "brakes don't fail me now!". It only took one more sharp incline and their was the trailhead. I was already profusely sweating from the short drive there, so I was warmed up and ready to go. Because I had arrived late to the park, I chose a trail that would take me straight to the glacier. I could not climb up the glacier because that requires a very well trained guide given the chances of a crevasse. My goal was to get to the edge of the glacier. Throughout this whole day, I have not passed another hiker until about halfway up the trail I was passed by a group that looked like they stepped out of a North Face catalog, decked head to toe with hiking gear. I, on the other hand, have jeans on, boots that are a bit too big and at that point a rain jacket tied around my waist and a 2L water bottle in my arms. It made me feel a bit inferior but more motivated to meet them at the top. After a grueling hike, I had made it! 

Right next to the glacier

Touching a glacier!

After a long break on the top to take in the view, I made my way back down the mountain to Lancer. I checked my phone to see how how many miles I had hiked and the two trails together were about 14 miles! (Of course, there was a lot of hiking trying to rejoin the trail, or make my own trail). I still had some energy left to go to see Rauðfeldar Canyon. (This place seriously is an energy source!).

 As I was walking up to the canyon I noticed something in my periphery. 
What I noticed is on the upper left hand side (Do you see it?)

Let's zoom in
See them now? Those are sheep! 
I am so amazed at the athleticism of these animals. They were up there being shaded by the ledge of rock. This was a steep incline, those breaks in the grass are rock slides it is that steep. I showed Snædis and she shrugged because this is normal Icelandic sheep behavior, to see just how far they can go. After having a good laugh about the rock slide climbing sheep, I made my way into the canyon. This thing is so tall I could not get it in one picture. A really nice Swedish woman saw me struggling to get a photo of myself in the canyon and offered to take a photo. She looked very professional leaning, squatting, even putting one leg on the wall while she took photos. I thanked her immensely and when I looked at the photos later, she took 25 pictures of me with a weird out of focus glow on my body. I look like a ghost haunting the canyon. Nevertheless I have a picture, now double the height of the photo below and you have the height of the canyon. In order to go farther in you have to do a bit of rock climbing to avoid the running water. I was able to get a few meters into the canyon before I reached my maximum at rock climbing and made my way back to Lancer.

As I made my way out of the park, I was blocked by more sheep.

My instinct was to return them to their flock, who were dozing on the side of a mountain. I got both of them back and drove away thinking I did a good thing. As I look back in my rear view mirror, I see they went back into the road. 
I was tempted to drive another loop around the park to just look at it one more time but my body was starting to feel the total 17 miles of hiking and it was getting really late.

I was really sad to leave the park having more trails and mountains I wanted to see. This park is huge and I think it would take multiple summers to see what this park has to offer. 
I arrived home to take a much needed shower, some advil, and get some sleep.

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