Early in the morning, we lifted off from Seattle, starting our 10 day adventure in Iceland. Hours later, we descended into another world, one that would give us a sense of freedom we hadn’t experienced in a while. Whether we were walking through the breathtaking beauty of the massive Westfjords, or feeling Nature come to life through active volcanoes, steam vents, and gigantic waterfalls, Iceland provided memories that have stayed with us.
One of the coolest things about this trip was that it occurred during the Summer Solstice, where the sun didn’t set for 10 straight days! It was the first time we started our hikes at 9pm, or relaxed in a geothermal pool at 11pm.
Much of our planning took place at coffee shops, both here in Seattle, and when we arrived in Reykjavik. Our trip was definitely fueled by caffeine.
There’s no better way to start a vacation than with music! We planned our trip to align with the awesome Secret Solstice Music festival in Reykjavik, where thousands of people from Iceland and the UK celebrated all types of music from rock bands to hip hop. We experienced Radiohead, Of Monsters and Men, and were blown away by awesome Icelandic hip-hop by Ulfur Ulfur and XXX Rottweiler.
The music in Iceland was incredible, and we listened to the Ulfur Ulfur CD for much of our drive. Also, I’m fairly certain we stayed at the same hotel as them. To this day, I keep telling Jasmine that I saw them in the lobby. While they jury’s out on that, what we do know for certain is that we saw a lot of kind-spirited Icelandic horses. There was one time, in particular that sticks out to me – we were driving out in the country and came across a band of horses. I got out of the car and walked up to them with my camera. While standing there, another group of horses came running through and they circled around a few time. I was able to capture some really cool photos of this. It was an incredible feeling to be so close to them. They are so kind that we were able to feed them. They would come eat the grass right out of our hands. So cool!
The Icelandic terrain is always changing, often times right in front of you! As we walked through geothermal areas, the sulfuric smell was a reminder of the lava below. Active steam vents were gushing out boiling hot water, while we were surrounded by looming volcanoes covered with thick glaciers.
We went out on a 3 mile hike to this geothermal pool. There’s an area where a boiling-hot-geothermal stream meets an ice-cold-glacial stream, and they create a single stream that is the perfect temperature. It was so cool to sit and relax in the stream, with these beautiful mountains surrounding us from all sides.
Nature made us feel small. as we walked between the continental plates, or felt the force of massive waterfalls thundering over us, we were always reminded of nature’s strength. At the same time, when we ventured out into the country, even the slightest sounds were amplified by the surrounding silence.
These are two videos I took while walking to the waterfall.
Skogafoss was one of my favorite memories from the trip. Because it was the summer solstice, the sun didn’t set. These photos were taken around 11pm! Because it was so late, we were the only people here and we walked right up to the waterfall. In the photo above, I’m on the left and Jasmine is on the right. I’ve never experienced anything like this – the ice cold water was thundering down me as the cold water hit my face. it was exhilarating to feel the power of the water, and to feel like you were immersed. It was humbling to stand there, and feel the power of nature.
Not very many tourists visit the Westfjords, especially the far areas where we traveled. Because of this, the roads are often dirt, and there aren’t very many people around. One of the benefits was that it felt like we had this beautiful natural landscape to ourselves. We would often stop our car on the side of the road to hike to waterfalls or splash incredibly fresh & clean water onto our faces.
A year later, Iceland has stayed with us, we have photos in our house to remind us of the adventures, reminding us about a place we respect and feel so connected to.
The wind was blowing so hard that we could barely walk upright. Sand and water flying through the air like pellets, hitting my camera lens and drenching us. At times it felt like we were on a different planet instead of the Oregon Coast. Being outside in the stormy weather injected our souls with a jolt of energy, each of us smiling with pure joy, and running around the beach with the uninhibited feelings we had as children.
It felt refreshing to not care. To be completely soaked with rain, and not notice, because we were too busy dashing from incoming waves as they crashed to the shore. It felt good to be the only people on the beach, to drink wine together, and to share the same collective excitement. Everyone knew that something magical was happening out there…and we didn’t need to say a thing because the smiles on our faces told the story.
Sand flying across the beach.
In the photo above, Jasmine and Erica are running between the giant boulders. Little did we know how quickly the tide was coming in, and within a few minutes, this entire area was under water. The photo below shows the water rushing in. When we were clear of the area, we looked back at that spot and were overcome with exhilaration.
Before I knew it, I was knocked to the sand, much of which I would find in my pockets over the next week. It was 2003 and we were playing Frisbee on a California beach. It was one of those legendary road trips, with a van that broke down in the center lane of the freeway, driving a golf cart at midnight on top of a mountain, laying on beaches with my closest friends, and even an trip to the ER. Little did I know that two of those friends would start dating on the train ride home, then later get married, and now have the cutest baby boy. And how could I ever have imagined that after all these years, they would still be living less than a mile from me.
These photos are incredibly special to me because they are 14 years in the making. They represent years of their friendship, years of adventures, and years of them building a life together. I hope I’ve captured how much joy Joseph brings to my two dear friends, Mark and Erin. As the years go by, and more adventures are had, I hope you look back and remember this part of your journey. Love you both!
Every year during the holidays, the Volunteer Park Conservatory decorates with Poinsettias, a toy train, and a model town. It’s a fun place to take the family and especially the kids. Also during December, they will open the park and Seattle Asian Art Museum for a free event called, “Holiday in the Park.” The park is filled with Carolers singing songs, candles lighting the pathway, and a tent serving hot cocoa and cookies.