Southeast Alaska – June 2014
By Chelsea McKenna Hollender
I was lucky enough to get to spend the Summer Solstice in Alaska this year. Soaking up the midnight sun, the views, the kind people, and the wildlife. And of course, landsnorkeling.
Click each picture for the details…
Icebergs are beautiful! We got to handle a piece up close, as well.
Snorkeled for the perfect stones and left a cairn at Exit Glacier, AK.
Vibrant moss lives at the foot of a retreating glacier…
Lupine in front of a glacial bay…
A railroad spike hammered into a tree makes me stop and stare…
A wild rose of Alaska
Summer storms roll across Alaska frequently, leaving great droplets on the wildflowers…
Did you know glaciers leave great skipping stones in their wakes?
Iceland – November 2011
Hello all! While I’ve been a part of this project in the “back-end” for a while, this is my first entry! My new husband and I were recently in Iceland for our Honeymoon. (we were married this past September) We went in November. When we told people our plan, more often than not we got the same question, “Why?!” But as the Mighty Ducks have taught us – Greenland is covered in ice, Iceland is really quite nice!
Why? We love the outdoors, we are adventurous, and we like to do things that not EVERYONE is doing! Don’t get us wrong, we believe places are on a beaten path for a reason – they are great! But Iceland in the wintertime is pretty far off that beaten path.
We spent 3 days out in the countryside of southern Iceland (Suderland) and then 3 days in Reykjavik, the capital city. Now this entire country is the size of Kentucky, and is not even close to full with a population of about 300,000 people. 200,000 of them live in the capital area around Reykjavik.
The rest of the country is composed of small, charming towns along the coast, AMAZING sights, and then un-inhabited central highlands, that, even to us hardened and experienced Montanans, were off limits in the winter. Did I mention the country boasts at least 500 waterfalls as well as geothermal sights to rival Yellowstone?
Iceland is called the land of fire and ice, and for good reason! It is a place of extremes. Towering mountains, that remind me of the Tetons, meet black sand beaches along the coast. The snow along the black sand beaches is blown into patterns by the wind, reminding me of 60’s geometric, black and white styles. Or oreo ice cream. It’s a toss-up. Standing out in the wind, feeling the country be shaped around you is WONDERFUL! As is watching the wind blow while you warm up inside with fresh lamb stew. The history and the food is enough to immerse yourself in for days! Saga centers and reindeer for dinner. Yes. We tried it.
Lava fields dot the country, nearly im-passable by foot or horse, let alone a vehicle, as each lava stone is football to house-sized, and completely irregular in shape. The dark, dark black stone of the lava fields contrasted BEAUTIFULLY (photo on right) with the snow and the blue sky, and several times reminded me of chocolate muffins, the way they spill up and out of the muffin tin and then crack on top.
The smell of sulfur permeates many places, a reminder that mother nature has just started this project called Iceland, and the geothermal and volcanic activity is a part of that. But no where is a clearer reminder of how this earth came to look as it does than at Thingvellir. (Pronounced something like thing-vet-lier. When written in Icelandic, it’s first letter looks something like a P but makes a th sound. Also, ll makes a tl sound. Go figure.) Iceland lies right on the fault between the North American plate and the European plate. These 2 plates are moving away from each other, and the resulting lava flowing upwards through the cracks have created Iceland and it’s surrounding islands. (interestingly enough, in Icelandic, they spell their country’s name Island, but pronounce it as we do in English.)
Now, at Thingvellir, this crust movement is eerily evident, as there are huge rips in the landscape. The most famous one was recognized as a special place early on, as Vikings held their law-making meetings here. You approach this gorge, and step into it. On either side, dark rock towers in columns along the edges, but the bottom is filled with bubbled-up lava, creating a smooth base. It’s a feeling of being between worlds. And literally on some of the newest “earth” in existance! The photo to the left here is one of us inside Thingvellir. They say during the summertime the bottom is coated in grass and wildflowers. That would riot against the black stone backdrop!
We also spent a day on the Snaefellsness Peninsula, which is a long, snout-like peninsula, ending in a mountain topped with a glacier, a series of small fishing villages, and some seriously cool giant legends. (the spirit of a local giant is preserved in the glacier on top of the volcanic mountain at the end of the peninsula!)
In closing, I offer up Iceland as a place not only for some of the most extreme sights and nature-loving activites, but as a place to sky-snorkel. The Northern lights here have you looking up to see what’s happening (especially since when we were there we had about 5 hours of daylight). For this snorkeling activity, I recommend a bottle of wine, a dip in one of Iceland’s famous mineral hot springs, and someone special.
Merry Snorkelling! May you adventure near and far.
Chelsea McKenna Hollender