Saga of hrunting and thebruce
An Icelandic Winter Road Trip
Best laid plansContinents and CavesReykjavikian ambianceWaterfalls and sunsetsHuman wrecks and legaciesKristinartindar: The Journey is the RewardThe finding of firsts, and birthday peaceThe endurance of history in SnæfellsnesThe edge of the EarthAn unexpected discoveryCommunity, love, betrayal, and sharksThe adventure comes full circle
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The adventure comes full circle

Just a few Golden Circle highlights

The Golden Circle is a 300km loop that can be explored in a day trip, but if you really want to enjoy it you'll want to give it more time for some smaller detours - as with any Icelandic trip - especially if you have a 4x4 vehicle for the restricted F-roads! Most notably, along its route are numerous geological sites ranging from geysers to craters, volcanoes, caves, and hot springs, but there are also many interesting historical and cultural landmarks to which you can pay a visit.

With only a half day remaining with Hrunting (and still needing my power naps!), and most of that time covered in darkness or with very little sunlight, I sadly couldn't truly appreciate, on this trip, all the beauty these sights had to offer.



Pronounced "thing-vet-lihr" ('parliament plains'), this geologically rich and active area is a rift valley along the ridge between the North American and Eurasian continental plates and a hot spot for exploration, at the north end of Lake Þingvallavatn. Thingvellir National Park provides numerous walking trails and activities in the area, including snorkeling and scuba-diving in the fresh crystal clear waters of the Silfra fissure. Þingvellir is also a protected site on the World Heritage List for cultural, historical, and geological significance.

Þingvellir was an important meeting place in Icelandic governmental history from the 10th to to 13th century, thus its namesake "parliament plains". A large rock overlook, the Lögberg, became the platform the Law Council gathered at and from which the elected Lawspeaker would recite the laws to the assembly of followers gathered below in the plains - orally, before the laws were written down. Legal dealings would occur here for the entire nation (though carrying out rulings, enforcement was carried out in other ways), as well as corrections to chronologies and event announcements. This was the era of Icelandic Sagas - legends, tales, vengeance, family histories and conflicts. This structure changed quickly in the mid-13th century when the King of Norway secured authority over the land. The trails are lined with information plaques describing historic meaning and purpose to various locations, including how and where punishments and death penalties were carried out - drowning, hanging, beheading, burning at the stake, whipping and branding. There is quite a history here.

On our arrival, knowing I wouldn't be seeing very much in the dark and with a light snowfall, I took a walk down the first part of the main trail, examining and reading the plaques, and learning what was needed in order to complete tasks for the Earthcaches posted here. I quickly discovered that not every risky crevice was cordoned with warnings. I explored a little crevice near parking, but with so much snow and ice, I was quite hesitant since at some spots there was no way to know if a secure rock was actually under foot. I retreated back to the marked boardwalk heading along the big crevice - learning that the constant shifting of the ridge between tectonic plates had in 2011 caused a small collapse along the trail, which prompted the construction of the boardwalk for safety.

Boardwalk down the main Þingvellir trail in the tectonic plate rift valley.
Icy and snow stones and ledges over unseen depths were not something I wanted to risk exploring!
On the other side of those rocks, open valley where the Alþingi would gather before the Lögberg.

What a place to explore in the solitary stillness of an Icelandic winter midnight... A trip to Þingvellir is highly recommended, as one of Iceland's most popular attractions.

Between Two Continents


Not satisfied with the shifting stones of Þingvellir's rocky ridges and crevices, Hrunting and I next headed to a geocache hidden in a cavern a couple of kilometers north, as wide as a person and many persons tall. Finally, a location at which I could touch both the North American and Eurasian continental plates simultaneously with ease.

With a parking lot just to the west of the bridge over the rift it's a short 100m walk to delve deep into the cavern. Reach out to your left and right and be in two places at once, and then look up to the craggy, rocky walls, and still see the sky far above.

Looking to the sky from the heart of the earth.

On a good day, you could take a walk around the outside to the top of crevice, and if you're daring enough, place a foot on either side, literally standing on two continents at once. That was not in the books for me tonight, however.

Is that the end of the road?
This was as far as I would go tonight between the continents.
Thankfully this labyrinthine path only had one way in and one way out.

The geocache located in this little crevice would not be easy to find with GPS alone - the GPS signal is thwarted in such an enclosed crack. Thankfully the hints and instructions on the listing are sufficient to locate the container with little effort. And really, there's not a lot of room to hide a cache in here, so it didn't take long to locate.

Geocache located within arms-reach of two tectonic plates.
Found it!



Continuing along our route, with the sun barely starting to provide some ambient light, we pulled in to the easternmost point of the Golden Circle - the gorgeous waterfalls Gulfoss ('golden falls'). It sits along the river Hvítá where it narrows, and becomes a three step waterfall. In sunlight, the mist from the falls provides the perfect setting for glamorous rainbows. During flash floods the basin at the bottom may even flood over. In 1979 it was designated a nature reserve.

There are a few theories about how it was named. Most likely it was named by the colours and hues of the water in the evening sun. Another theory is due to the bright rainbows visible in the mist. However, probably the best theory is that Gýgur, a local farmer who had in his possession much gold, didn't want anyone else to have it when he died, so he threw it all into the waterfall. Of course, none of it has been found.

In the mid-20th century, these falls were saved from becoming a power generating station. The story of Sigríður Tómasdóttir says that as the daughter of the farmer who owned the waterfalls and would "not sell my friend!", it was her determination to save it - enduring many long walks to meet with interested parties to discuss, fighting legal battles, and even threatening to throw herself into the falls - which kept it a preserved as a natural wonder, and eventually protected by Iceland. A memorial now sits along the trail with her likeness carved in stone by Rikhardur Jonsson.

First photo attempt: No light, long exposure, very grainy.
Last photo attempt: More light, the best I was able to get from this spot.
Memorial monument to Sigríður Tómasdóttir

Having little to no light and a bit of snowfall, it was hard to take good photographs of these golden falls, and so yet again I was unable to appreciate its full beauty. I set off to continue geocaching, gathering information for an Earthcache and locating a container placed nearby. Winter caching can be a quite difficult with the sitting snow, especially for caches that aren't found very often. Thankfully this one didn't take long to spot, and there was room to say farewell to the little traveling car and brony, who took one last look over the landscape before being placed inside the container for the next person to pick up and move along.

It's there, it's there, it really is
A tired little travelling bug is ready to be tucked away for another geocacher.
Say farewell, my little brony!

Kerið Crater


As our final planned stop in Iceland approached, Hrunting and I were getting emotional. Perhaps it was a deeper exhaustion setting in, or the up and down weather, or maybe that hákarl was having a lasting effect, who knows. But the sun was rising as we continued on along the Golden Circle, missing out on many stops along the way. Hrunting knew I still had to walk the rim of a crater, and this was the last opportunity.

Kerið Crater as it is now was caused by a magma chamber explosion from deep within the earth. Initially it was a small volcano, and thousands of years ago when it erupted, a magma chamber below collapsed and caved in, leaving a hole that sits below the water table level in the region. And so now the little lake which doesn't drain will continue to sit, rising and falling with the water table. Sadly, it seems some who walk the stairs down to the water's edge like to test the frozen water by throwing rocks and trash onto it.

The red-lined Kerið Crater, panorama from above.Down in the crater, the lake freezes in winter; but I wouldn't try walking out there though.

With that explosive event, the crater was lined with red lava rock, which makes it quite a sight to see. The crater's land owners have recently enacted an entrance fee to visit and take a walk around the rim. In 2011, the Icelandic artist Björk performed a concert on raft in the middle of the crater, taking advantage of its amphitheatre-style acoustics.

One final Icelandic selfie at a beautiful natural location!

Farewell, for now

After the crater, Hrunting and I had to make a beeline back to the rental agency. But first, top up the gas - and time was running short! During this last minute rush, I finally spotted my very first actual stop sign in Iceland. You see, most everywhere I recalled a T-junction or four way stop, there were either yield signs or traffic lights. No stop signs. I wondered if it might be an omen, like in the film Final Destination - was "stop" was telling me not to rush to make the flight home because there might be a problem?
Hah, of course not; it's just my mind playing tricks.

Once my good friend Hrunting was returned to its home, the stress levels still didn't subside since I yet had to be shuttled to the airport and get through security. I could only hope for good fortune the rest of the way.

Thankfully, the rest was uneventful. Well, it was, after the automated baggage system messed up with my baggage and had me waiting in a long lineup to have my checked bags run personally through an attendee. But... once through, security was a snap, and I even had a few minutes to freshen up before a brusque walk to the gate to hop on to the little bus packed with people, taking us all to our jet.

Boarding the plane, 3 of us had a fun little mixup of seats, which provided an opportunity to meet a man who had been on the very same flight as I when flying into Iceland - he had taken the extended deal though and continued on to Paris and was now returning on the same flight back to Canada. We chatted and mused over that coincidence when we shared the same memory of a highly entertaining flight attendant on the first flight, who answered to the name "The Viking" because his name was ridiculous to pronounce, and was quite tall and well built. Sadly The Viking was not attending our return flight. He will remain as one of the many great memories experienced on this trip.

It was finally time to return home.

(...And then find a geocache to have my statistics show two caches found on the same day 4000km apart!)

Goodbye, Iceland. Until next time! Oh, there will be a next time.


Thank you, Iceland, for living up to your reputation as an absolutely stunning country to visit, for your citizens demonstrating their friendliness (for the most part) and hospitality, and for providing so many amazing experiences during my measly little four day vacation. You've convinced me that your 'little' country holds more wonders and beauty packed into its 500km wide island than I ever would have expected.

When you visit Iceland, you'll only be disappointed if you let yourself be disappointed. Plan your trip, select what you want to see, accept that you can't and won't see everything you'd want to see - then just fully enjoy everything that you do see.

After arriving home from the trip and decompressing, I began reviewing photos, videos, geocache listings, and even reading others' reports from their own trips, in order to recall everything I could so to begin creating this trip saga you've read. I learned far more from post-trip researching than anticipated, and now knowing what to expect from the country and how much was missed, there is no doubt that a return trip is in order.

To beautiful Iceland.

Kanilsnúðar from Bónus: little cinnamon cookie snack friends. Satiating little pangs of hunger throughout the road trip, from beginning to end.
Full circle. Or, spiral?

Community, love, betrayal, and sharks

Comments or questions? I'd love to hear from you!

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Best laid plansContinents and CavesReykjavikian ambianceWaterfalls and sunsetsHuman wrecks and legaciesKristinartindar: The Journey is the RewardThe finding of firsts, and birthday peaceThe endurance of history in SnæfellsnesThe edge of the EarthAn unexpected discoveryCommunity, love, betrayal, and sharksThe adventure comes full circle