Iceland

Oh, hey, Inland Empire.

I’m gonna do that thing where I write about something that’s not in the IE and you’re not going to leave me annoying, snarky replies, or as I call them the “Actually comments.”

“Aaaaaaaaactuallllllly, that’s not in the Inland Empire. It’s in Iceland.”

Yeah. I know. That’s why I titled it Iceland.

So, I went to Iceland in March, and it was awesome. I spent only 5 days there because work ruined my life and made me come home because I had to do my job. I hate it when I have to do my job. It is very much rude.

Anywho, here’s a summary of the ins and outs.

I mean ins and outs of Iceland. Not my work event. Nobody cares about that.

First, we’ll start with the stuff we saw. At the bottom of the post is more logistical information.

 

The Golden Circle:
The Golden Circle has several spots to see in in southwest Iceland including: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall.

Here’s what happened for us: We landed in Iceland at 5 a.m., spent a good deal of time at the rental car place, and then began driving to the southwest part of the country. We stopped by the National Park which was closed which resulted in us getting yelled at by a park ranger for taking pictures on a bridge. We also visited the Geysir Geothermal area, where I got an itty bitty coffee–the only size they sell in Iceland–and stayed in the car because it was cold and I was wimpy and tired and you can see some dumb geyser in Icleand ANY TIME anyway!

Then… we went to the waterfalls.

First up was Gullfoss, a sight to be seen:

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pic by @trailbot

Then there was Seljalandsfoss

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@notyournatalie at Seljalandsfoss by @nursiechris

 

And then Skogafoss

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pic by @dulcefarts

Plus tons more you see while you’re driving. If you couldn’t tell, “foss” means waterfall. Skogafoss was the most powerful one that you could walk right up to. The water from the fall combined with perpetual rain made me soggy. I was starting to get fossed out, man.

Black Sands Beach:

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pic by @nursiechris

After all the fossing, we stopped by Black Sands Beach where Rouge One was filmed. I don’t really care about Star Wars (that’s right, I said it!), but the beach was very cool, and didn’t have any waterfalls. Definitely worth the trip out.

 

Diamond Beach:

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pic by @sdhiker

On our way to the Glacier Climb on Day 2, we stopped by Diamond Beach, which has black sand and is covered in ice “Diamonds” that wash up on shore. It’s one of those surreal experiences that make you think you’re on some other planet. Definitely a unique place that I highly recommend.

 

That was basically all of the “Free” stuff we did on days 1 & 2. Here are some of the paid tours:

 

Glacier Climb:

What: you hike Sólheimajokull glacier and do an Ice Climb
Cost: $200
Includes: Tour guide and belay; bus travel from Reykjavik (or you can meet on site like we did), climbing gear
Website

This was an awesome trip, and probably my favorite thing we did. Sólheimajokull glacier is actually featured in Chasing Ice and is rapidly melting due to climate change.  Our guide gave us the stats and pointed out a sign where the glacier was in 2010, which, in comparison to where it is now, is staggering.

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pic by @notyournatalie

The day we went we had the pleasure of seeing the sky for the first time we were there, but it was still snowy and rainy, which made for some fabulous rainbows.

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On our way through, our guide showed us how to put on our crampons and ice climb. The crampon part went well. The practicing ice climbing did not go as well.

After a brief orientation, we continued up to the wall we would climb and the guide belayed us down.

I’d been going to the rock climbing gym for months, trying to get my strength up so I wouldn’t fail at this. I thought I was super smart.

The thing about ice climbing though… it’s not like rock climbing AT ALL. You have to basically climb a wall of ice using the equivalent of butter knives attached to your shoes and ice picks in each hand. It’s super cool because you keep hitting your knees on the wall and your hands are in an upward position so it’s cold and they’re also not getting any blood. This might be fine if you’re coordinated, but I am like a turtle turned on its back 95% of the time.

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pic by @trailbot

After about 10 min this was as far as I’d gotten, and my hands were so cold I couldn’t feel anything. Our guide lowered me down and came to get me, but I started feeling strange. By the time we got to where the others were I was disoriented, my breathing was shallow, and I felt nauseous. It took me a second to realize I was having my very first panic attack.

After sitting down, and having four nurses that had taken the trip up with us buzzing around and shouting “GET HER ATIVAN, STAT” over and over and me repeating “Nah, bro, I’m good,” I was fine. I knew just needed to get my hands warm again to have my body calm down and I was right.

While I’m bummed I didn’t make it up, I have no trouble in admitting that I wasn’t successful and no regrets about the excursion other than I did not have proper gloves. Have proper gloves. It will help. And maybe you won’t have a panic attack.

 

Blue Lagoon:

What: geothermal water bath and spa
Cost: $90-$400 depending on the package
Includes: Access to the spa, mud mask and some other stuff depending on what you buy
Website

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I don’t think I can say it any better than how I said it on Instagram.

Let’s talk about the Blue Lagoon.

It’s man made

It messes up your hair. Bad

It feels relaxing at first

But after you look around for a bit you notice people. Lots of people

People with beers and smoothies dripping into the murky water filled with dead skin cells

It’s soup

It’s beer smoothie soup

It’s people soup

It’s beer smoothie people soup you have to use to wash your face off because you paid for that silica mud mask and you’ll be damned if you don’t get your money’s worth

You spent 90 bucks to float around in beer smoothie people soup

But hey, at least your skin feels nice afterward even if your hair is like Medusa.

…Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan.

Lava Tube Tour
What: lava tunnel Raufarhólshellir, one of the longest lava tubes in Iceland.
Cost:
Varies depending on the length of the tour. Ours was around $70.
Includes:
“microspikes” that are actually yak traks (a.k.a. useless), headlamps, tour.
Website

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Our tour was about an hour and just for the first portion of the tunnel. It was cool with stalactites and mites. Because I was leaving for the airport right after the tour, I made the mistake of wearing regular boots and thin socks and my feet froze to the point that I was incredibly uncomfortable so, if you happen to go during cold weather, don’t, y’know, do that. Also, my headlamp barely worked so in addition to bringing microspikes, you may want to bring your own headlamp.

 

Snorkeling:
What: 
Guided snorkeling tour in Silfra Fissure
Cost: 
$150
Includes: 
Drysuit and tour
Website

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pic by @sdhiker

The group did this tour the day I had to leave to get back to work, so I can’t say from personal experience, but it looked awesome and I will forever shake my fist the god of working for me having to miss this. You get snorkel through the continental divide in glacier water and OMG I am never going to get over not getting to do this.


Kerid Crater

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pic by @nursiechris

Another cool thing that these bastards did without me was visit Kerid Crater which is believed to be a collapsed magma chamber from 6,000 years ago.

The Northern Lights

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Northern Lights by @trailbot

The thing I was most excited about on this trip was seeing the Northern lights. I dreamed of snowy scenes with cabins and green and purple wisps in the sky. I downloaded the Northern Lights app to tell me when to look up.

But here’s the problem… to see the Northern Lights you need to see the sky. Remember mentioning the rain? Well, with rain comes clouds that cover everything. And that app? It basically tells you that if you could see the sky, then you’d see the lights, which isn’t super helpful.

The first night in the city we caught a glimpse of them. Jae took the picture above but it took some heavy saturation to get any colors to pop. The picture is better than what we actually saw.

We had planned to go out the second night in the city, but unfortunately a pub called the Drunk Rabbit got in the way.

Night three we looked at weather reports and drove two hours each way, being chased storms. No lights.

The crew repeated the drive and pray method the final night, when I had left. Still no lights. Le sigh.

 

And there, my friends, is the summary of our trip.

Some other things we did not see on the trip but I wish we had:
Ice Cave
Hobbit Houses
Airplane

…Plus hiking, any hiking at all.

 

Other Helpful Thingies

Plane Tickets: we used WOW Air, which despite what you’re thinking right now, IS TOO an actual airline. And it’s not a bad airline. It’s just that it’s a cheap airline where you have to pay numerous fees.

Like $70 each way for checked baggage.
Or $50 for carry on.
All the food costs money.
If you want to pick your seat, that costs money.
If you accidentally pick a super luxury seat and want to unselect it, you have to call the airline to have it taken off because it “conveniently” gets an error when you try to remove it on the website no matter how many times you try. And you can’t get ahold of anyone when they call, so you decide to @ them on the Twitter. And finally they remove the seat selection, and you’re like “cool” and then you go to pick a seat and accidentally pick one that’s even MORE expensive than the first one you accidentally picked because gold is the $12.99 one, but slightly greenish gold is the $70 one and you just give up and end up paying $70 which results in you sitting next to some dude with the plague.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, WOW Air.

Here’s a tip: Just spring for the upgraded package. By the time you add luggage, and food, and a seat, you’re saving money. And hassle. So just buy the fancy one from the get go. Do it.

Lodging: We stayed at a Hostel in them middle of nowhere, which wasn’t as murdery as it sounds, and a really great Airbnb right in the middle of town. Between the 10 of us lodging cost $230 which isn’t bad at all. You know what was bad, though…?

Food: Dear God almighty food was expensive. People kept telling me food was expensive in Iceland and I was like “Yeah, yeah, I get it” but no, bro, FOOD IS EXPENSIVE. I paid $14 for a quesadilla. From Taco Bell. And don’t ask me why everyone wanted Taco Bell so bad. We’d been in Iceland for three days and they were like OMG TACO BELL! Like they’d been stranded on an island for 10 years with no food and only a volley ball named Wilson to keep them company.

Anyway, food is expensive. It was much more manageable to go grocery shopping and make food in the Airbnb. I lived off of PB&J for days. And the coffee is all thimble sized servings. You’re in Iceland. Things are expensive. Just get used to it.

Rental Cars: We had three cars to hold the ten of us. Jae secured the cars from a budget rental place (sorry, I don’t know the name of it) and they were all, shall we say, unique.

Picasso

Picasso, the car Chris, Jen, and I were in was a masterpiece with airline tray tables in the back, sunshades, and a front with side windows that went to the dash, making it look like an aquarium on wheels.  It was hands down the best car of the bunch even if the driver’s side window was continually getting stuck and wouldn’t go up in temperatures and wind chill below zero.

Gas is mighty expensive in Iceland and if you’re driving a clown car like Ervin was, you get to stop three or four times a day to get gas because the tank only holds about five gallons. Also, take note that on the 1 Highway, stations are few and far between. We noticed numerous vehicles that were abandoned on the side of the road; there are only two reasonable explanations for this: running out of gas or alien abduction.

 

Phone coverage: Everyone in the group contacted their own carrier to get an international plan. I have Google Fi, so I’m covered internationally.

Now, you may notice that I have almost no photos of the first day we were traveling.

Gather ’round yee children, for I have a story to tell.

It was the first day. It was dark. We had been driving, and driving, and driving. We hadn’t slept in 36 hours. I had to pee.

Chris pulled off to the side of the road I hopped out into the rain and wind and did my business.

Oh, stop judging me. It was dark. There was a monument to pee behind. I’m a hiker and I don’t care. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Chris had pulled the car closer so I could run back in quickly, and off we went.

About 15 minutes later, I noticed I couldn’t find my phone. I couldn’t find it, because, you see, it’d fallen out of the car during the break and I didn’t see it on the ground because the car had moved.

Did I mention that my phone case is also my wallet?

Chris did a U-Turn and we drove 15 minutes back to the turnout. He quickly spotted the phone, still there, on the side of the road. Grateful, I snatched it up, but it would not turn on. “It’s just cold,” I thought. But even after it warmed it, I snuggled it, it was plugged in, it was hard reset, it was shouted at, it was given the cold shoulder, and it was apologized to, it would only give me a green screen flicker before dying again.

RIP
Pixel “Pixie” II
January 2018-March 2018.

Not only was I unable to retrieve the photos I’d taken (no sim or memory card!), but I also had no means by which to take new ones. I was sad. Luckily, Chris had an extra iPhone that was older but did the trick as far as taking photos and getting me access to the internet. I also learned some important lessons about traveling including:

a) carry an extra phone–my old Samsung would have been a great backup
b) ensure your phone is in a secure location during pee breaks
c) set up your Gmail on your tablet before leaving the country because it’s going to ask you to verify your identity on your phone, which you can’t, because you don’t have a phone, and then it’ll say “cool, verify it by checking your email on a computer that already has access,” and you’ll be like, but “I can’t” and then it’ll say, “cool, verify it by getting the text on your phone” and then you’ll be like “ARG I ALREADY TOLD YOU I CAN’T DO THAT!” and it’ll give you the shrug lol emoji, and then you can’t order your replacement phone and have it waiting for you when you get back.

iceland
Dead phone, panic attack, and weird people soup aside, Iceland was one of my favorite experiences, ever.  The country has a unique, unparalleled beauty, even when it’s cold and rainy and destroys your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. It’s definitely a must return for me. A huge thanks goes to Jae for planning the trip with assistance from Chris and Ervin. This trip reminded me why I love traveling so very much, especially when it’s with good people.

You can see other pics of our adventures by following my co-travelers on Instagram
@trailbot
@Dulcefarts
@SDhiker
@kylojenhikes
@nursiechris
@notyournatalie
@swervin84
@_.karinao
@ashleytayfields

 

Oh, and here’s a pic of me impersonating a polar bear. Just because.

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Sandstone Peak

Trailhead12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90265
Length: 6.25
Elevation Gain: 1075 ft.
Difficulty: Beginner/moderate
Total time: 3.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Parking at trail head (free)

Sandstone Peak is the tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, which is super adorable because it’s only 3,111 feet tall. Look at you go, little guy!

The trail is a loop with a fairly gradual incline, although there are a few ups and downs… just like life, amirite?

To take the longer route, go to the right when the trail splits off, unlike what we did, which was go left and then have to turn around. This seems to happen a lot when I happen to hike with this particular guide. Not sure why I keep letting him lead me into the wilderness.

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Most of the trail is completely exposed, so going early morning or late afternoon to catch the sunset is advised. While trekking along, you will likely see rock climbers on Echo Cliffs, which is a name that sounds like something that you’d see in The Princess Bride.  “As you wiiiiiiiissshhhhh!”

There is one spot about 2 miles in that offers some shade, but that’s about the only part on the trail that doesn’t leave you exposed.

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After this section, you’ll continue skirting around the mountain. Head down the backbone trail to continue to Sandstone. To get to the actual peak itself, you’ll be required to participate in a smidgen of rock scrambling, and climb some stairs, so get a few Buns of Steel workouts in before you go (J/K its not that bad and also does Buns of Steel even exist anymore?).

Sunset at the peak is quite a sight, especially when it’s windy and cold and you have to shield yourself behind a rock because you didn’t bring a jacket. Good times.

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Once you’re done and complete the loop, go back down the stairs and make a right when you reach the trail. I was told by my guide that you can also see glow worms on the trail at night, but I didn’t see any on our trek. Then again, he is also the one who says “I think we go this way” and is wrong soooo…

Enjoy!

 

Sunset Peak

TrailheadGlendora Ridge Road
Length: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced Moderate (completely exposed)
Total time: 3.5 hours
Dogs: Wouldn’t recommend on this trail.
Parking: Parking at trail head (free)

Full disclosure on this write up. I’ve been to Sunset Peak twice. The first time there was a sunset to behold. The write up I’m doing now is based on the second trip, which involved a ton of cloud cover and no sunset.

I mean, the sun set and everything. It’s not like it was permanently stuck in the sky. I just mean we couldn’t see it because of clouds.

“More like NO sunset peak,” I grumbled (har har).

Onward!

There are two ways to get up to Sunset Peak, one up the booorrrrring fire road, or the way we went, which was up the ridge. The fireroad is easy to spot because it’s a fire road. It’s right in front of you, looking all fire-road-y.  The ridge route is a small path to the left if you’re facing the peak from the parking lot.

At the start of the trip, the organizer for the group was like, “Oh, this isn’t a hard route, it’s like the second short cut at Potato Mountain, not like east face.”

Very shortly I learned that he’s a liar liar pants on fire.

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Most parts of this hike on the ridge are very East Face-onian. Lots of  ascending. Then some descending to ascend again.  Climbing. A bit of bouldering. Do-able, but a heart pumper.

After the first long stretch on the ridge, you will be dumped off at the fire road. Look for the trail off to the left, just a small ways up.

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This second trail is much shorter than the first and will take you to the peak. This is the final stretch that will lead you to the peak. You’ll know you’re there because you’ll see a weird tin roof (rusty!) on the ground.

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As you can see, not a lot of Sunset here.

We made up for the lack of sunsets with a solid potluck. I brought the important item, a.k.a. Circus Animal Cookies because NOM NOM NOM.

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I’d recommend Sunset Peak for moderate/advanced hikers who are interested in a challenge. If you’re a beginner and the ridge way seems too tough, you can always take the fire road.

As of May 2017, Lazy Ass Hiking is planning this trek with the potluck at the top on a monthly basis. Check out the calendar on their Meetup page.