July 26, 2018
What an incredible couple days we’ve had since we last checked in! With our hiking portion done we took the opportunity to treat ourselves a bit and slept in yesterday. When it came time to wake up, the smell of pancakes was wafting through the air! Marta made them the Icelandic way – a bit thinner, like a crepe – and we all put our favorite toppings in them before rolling them up! Thomas went all the way and loaded his with Nutella, cinnamon, strawberry syrup, caramel sauce, honey, and Swiss miss! It was a thing of beauty. Nina, kind and caring as ever, showed people the proper method of folding their pancakes to make sure the toppings didn’t fallout…but despite her efforts bananas and honey escaped on to peoples plates anyway. With breakfast done, games of soccer and basketball broke out at a local park. The soccer field was constructed with walls surrounding it, creating a cage feeling which heightened the intensity of the game! Gray took the opportunity to impress us all with his soccer ability and juked out 10 people in a row! A winner was indeterminable though and still highly contested. We then had a quick lunch ad left for kayaking! Once arriving at the kayaking location, we slipped into wet suit overalls, splash guards and PFDs. Within no time we were on the water. Lillian and Camille showed us all the power of teamwork and were the only two that elected to go tandem. Though only able to zig zag across the water at first, they soon got their rhythm down and could paddle in a straight line. Dropping in in the cannas of stokkseyri we made our way through tall grass, winding around turns. When rocks presented themselves we jammed up like logs, but had some good laughs about it. After untangling ourselves we eventually made it to the open ocean! If we though the rocks were a challenge than the wind was one even more so. Paddling against gusts, we made our way along the coast and even spotted a seal or two along the way! Frank and Jack led the charge up in the front of the group and gave us all a target to chase! Ending about where we began, we walked across the street and enjoyed the benefits of the local pool…which really means we got to soak in hot tubs!! With three different temperatures of hot tubs to pick from, everybody found the tub that was right for them. A slide led down into the main pool where Mary Elle showed off her swimming ability to the group! She now holds the title of fastest swimmer in our group. After an hour – ok it was really two hours – in the hot water, we headed back to camp relaxed and hungry. Marta had prepared a delicious dinner while we were away and we ate it right away. While the clean crew took care of dishes after, Gray, MacLeod, and Lance led a variety of card games in the kitchen tent! Among the group’s favorite was spoons, which ended up having a fierce but friendly competition. Emily and Sawyer, as the days LODs, provided a wonderful Moonup to end the day, talking about the role of friendship and the value it adds to experiences.
Today we woke up a little sleepy, but in good spirits nonetheless. Weather coming in from the Atlantic Ocean caused us to change the days itinerary: high winds made the ice climbing unsafe, so we decided to explore a lava tube and enjoy Reykjavik instead – not to worry though we’ll get to ice climb tomorrow! Hopping in the van we made our way to what looked like just mossy rocks, but hidden in the rocks was an entrance to an underground maze of caverns. Grabbing helmets and flashlights everyone got ready to head below the surface. Splitting into two groups, we made our way into our first true darkness in two weeks! Traversing over rocks and ducking our heads we followed Marta and our other guide, Holt, through the tunnel system. We learned all about when the caves were formed and what caused the tube to hollow out. Making it to our farthest point in the cave, we stopped to look at the remains of a sheep that somehow wandered in the cave around 100 years ago. We then sat and turned off our headlamps to experience what true darkness entails. After a few minutes we heard some strange noises, alas Sawyer was mimicking noises of falling water, tricking us all! From there we split off again and one group would take the “big” adventure and the other group just the normal adventure. The “big” adventure would include some crawling and more scrambling through the cave, while the other group would be going out the way they entered the cave. We all made it in one piece and escaped the feared cave trolls! From the cave we headed towards Reykjavik for our town day. Along the way we stopped by a lake for lunch and ate more of the group favorite, Digestives. Making our way to town we walked through the streets of Reykjavík admiring the shops and being back in society after two weeks! After shopping around for a while we stopped for our favorite Moondance treat: ice cream! Sterling led the charge with a cone of chocolate and everybody else followed in turn, picking their favorite flavor! A quick drive back to camp let us get in a couple games of soccer before dinner. We all started to reflect on the time we’ve spent together and how fast these two weeks have gone by. We’re headed to bed now looking forward to ice climbing and our last full day together tomorrow!
Creed and Harrison
July 26, 2018
Here are some student shout outs!
Hey everyone! Iceland is SO cool! I can’t wait to see all of you. Hope Bruno and chum are doing well. Love, Macleod
Hi, I have loved the trip so far and it has been really cool. I can’t wait to see you and eat chik-fil-a- Gray Mollenkamp
Hey family, thank you so much for letting me come. I am so extremely thankful. The leaders and kids are amazing. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Thank you so much mom. Miss you fam. Camille
Powers family! I have had such a fun time in Iceland. I’ve hung out with the most amazing people and done stuff that I would never imagine I would do. Love and miss all of you so much!, Lillian
Hey guys, Iceland has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see you again. – Frank
Hey everyone! Iceland is amazing. We need to comeback another time to do more things. – Thomas
Hey Fam! Thanks so much for this amazing experience! I am having such a fun time. I love the leaders and kids. Can’t wait to tell you everything! Miss you. Love, Mary Elle
Hi everyone! Having lots of fun and can’t wait to see y’all! Love, Nina
Thanks for letting me go on this awesome trip with cool people and places. Having lots of fun! – Jack
Hay fam! Miss you all so much but it is SO much fun here! See you soon! XO, Em
Hey guys! I’ve seen such cool things here! I’m having the BEST time. You have no idea. The hiking was incredible too! Plus, my friends are great! – Sawyer
Hi everyone! So far I’ve had so much fun and met lots of new friends and seen really cool places in Iceland. Miss and love y’all, Sterling
Hi fam, having fun and miss y’all. Can’t wait to tell you all about it! – Lance
July 25, 2018
What amazing distances we have travelled since our last check in!
We awoke in our mountain oasis, Landmannalaugar, and enjoyed a slow morning with abundant sunshine. Packing our day packs for the day we made our way up to Blue Mountain, a blue tinted mountain overlooking the campsite and surrounding area. Beginning our ascent, everyone immediately jumped into conversation with one another. The steep incline could not stop us from starting trail games and getting to know one another better. Macleod was leading the pack up the mountain, helping to set the group pace. Once at the top we all dropped packs to take some well-deserved photos and eat our lunch! The views were unbelievable as promised: a 360 view allowed us to see Iceland’s four major glaciers and even Iceland’s highest peak! Making our way down we came across some of our first snow; without hesitation, a snowball fight broke out! Utter chaos ensued as we all dodged and weaved to avoid being hit. Gray, at the top of the hill, dove head first and the group’s focus quickly changed to seeing who could slide the farthest. Having enough snow time, we got back on trail and navigated through a lava field to get back to camp. Frank, Camille, Sterling, and Sawyer immediately headed to the natural hot spring while the rest of us made hot chocolate in the kitchen tent to get warm! While prepping for dinner, conversation jumped from theories on space to conspiracies to favorite movies. The lively discussion made hours fly by and dinner came before we knew it. Pasta with meat sauce filled our bellies and provided great fuel for our hike the next day. Everybody went to bed tired, but looking forward to starting the Laugavegur trail the next day!
Starting off, we made our way through the lava field with high spirits, eager to get a couple miles under our belt. Jack brought along a new friend, which has since become a key member in our family, a walking stick named Maria; she is a source of constant support for all. The rolling landscape soon turned into a steady incline, so the group turned to riddles to help them along! Lillian and Nina stumped the group with “black magic” for a bit while Emily kept others entertained with a riddle about gallons of water. The games took our minds off the trail and before we knew it we were out of the lava field and on mountain ridge line. There’s a reason Iceland is called Iceland and despite it being mid-July, there is still snow in the mountains. Making our way to the mountain top we encountered our first snow which would last for the next four hours of the trail. It brought a renewed sense of energy and we marched on to our lunch spot! Once we reached hrafntinnusker, we broke out our lunch and grubbed! As far as lunch spots go, this one is one of the best. Sitting on the deck of the hut, we looked out over snowcapped mountains with a view of the Kaldaklofsjoull glacier – a truly breathtaking scene. Camille kept the group laughing and made it easy for us to all get back into hiking mode. The last half of the day posed just a little bit of snow and incline, quickly making it passed those obstacles, we were on rock again! Walking passed hot springs and steaming rivers we found ourselves overlooking glaciers and vast mountains! Making our way down off the mountain an opportunity to slide down some snow presented itself. Marta, the legendary guide she is, showed us the proper route and headed down first. One by one we all went, but no one looked better than Frank who finished at the end with a smooth hockey stop! At the bottom we came across one of our favorite things…a river crossing!!! Shallow and short – exactly how we like them – it was over in no time and refreshed our tired feet. Though camp was still a mile or two away, the flat ground made it quick to traverse and we were there before we knew it. Right on the lake with mountains on either side, this campsite was a welcomed sight at the end of our long day. Salmon, rice, and salad filled us up and some Icelandic cake – because there’s always room for dessert – topped the meal off. A Moonup outside brought a great end to an even better day.
Waking up with some sore muscles and overcast skies, we could tell today would be more of a challenge than the day before, despite it being half the distance. Nonetheless we departed camp in a good pace! Almost immediately we came across a river to cross, our first of three that day. With a “seventy and sunny” mindset we walked across it without a problem and some kids promised it even felt a little warm. Up and down we went over undulating landscape, which took us from the base of mountains to black sand desert. Running out of riddles, a game of Ghost, a strategic word game, was started. Thomas, sly as ever, tried to pass “rattlesnakesnackies” off as a word, but much to his disappointment it did not pass group approval. Climbing the last hill and descending down, we saw camp and hurried to it! The campsite is hidden, hugging rocks but with a great view of glaciers. After setting up tents, some took naps. Lance, Frank and Sawyer, however, had not had enough of a workout and began seeing who could do the most pushups in the kitchen tent. Though everyone put up good numbers, Lance took the title with 50!! Dinner was soon ready and…lamb stew was on the menu! Everyone got at least two bowls down, agreeing it was the best lamb they ever had.
The next day Mary Elle and Frank, our LODS, woke everyone up by kindly walking around to each tent and banging a pot. Oatmeal and yogurt made for a quick breakfast and we were off to finish the last leg of the Laugavegur trail! As the desert ended we made our way into shrubbery and started seeing what no one believed there was in Iceland…trees!! Yep, they exist here! Making our way through birch forest a refreshing green smell greeted us and we entered Thorsmork. Descending into camp, grassy fields welcomed our tired feet and we collapsed in exhaustion. We had walked 54km in three days – most hikers normally do it in four – and we could not be more proud of each other for doing it! Slowly we resurrected ourselves and pitched tents. From our humble abodes we looked out across a wide river plain onto staggering mountains. Glaciers remained at their tops, but had once carved their very shape before receding. You could say it was a pretty sweet view. With some unknown energy Gray led a game of hacky sack and showed us all his skills, most impressively kicking the sack up and catching it on his back. I’m the meantime, Marta cooked lamb steak and made some mashed potatoes with help from the group! Yum!!! Our nightly Moonup put us in a bedtime mood and we went to sleep, looking forward to sleeping in the next day.
After some much needed sleep we woke up in the majestic Þórsmörk. For breakfast we had a wonderful surprise of cereal and eggs! Lucky Charms and Coco Puffs were a great treat after many days of oatmeal. For the morning we played games around camp, Lillian impressed us all with her gymnastics. Next we packed up our day packs and headed out on our day hike! A little uphill took us back into the forest and eventually above the trees to the top of our hike. Wow, what great views did we have! Immediately we broke out our usual snack of “Digestives” cookies and looked down to our campsite and across the river valley. It didn’t take too long for the cameras to break out and everyone take photos. Gray stole the show posing with all of the girls! After a great snack we headed back down to our next stop: lunch in a cave! Marta never disappoints with great surprises. Wandering down we finally came upon lots of rocks and above was the cave. Towering overhead were two steep cliff faces and boulders blocking most of our view. We scrambled up some rocks and through narrow passages finally to come upon the heart of the cave. Opening up it was surrounded in moss we were next to a small waterfall. We had a wonderful view of the surrounding valley looking out. Once sitting down Camille and Sally declared to us they would be taking a shower in the small waterfall, which provided some wonderful lunchtime entertainment! Meanwhile, Lance had found himself in a zen-like state on top of a large rock to enjoy his lunch. Once we were full and ready for our next adventure we made our way down to a mountain cafe. Another great surprise! We all purchased a sweet treat and utilized the chance to charge cameras. Mary Elle displayed excellent EB (expedition behavior) and helped out others who needed change to purchase goodies! Making our way back to camp we stopped along a piece of history. Shepherds had signed this large rock face throughout the centuries to check in that they had made it safely from their journey. It was really cool to see engravings all the way back to the 1700s! Finally back at camp we took some down time and more snacks! Dinner was an Icelandic tradition of lamb! While Marta prepared the meat, Macleod and Sawyer helped to peel the potatoes. Full bellies and a wonderful Moonup were just what we needed to round out one of the best days!
The next morning we awoke to some sunshine! What a treat considering it was Thomas and Creed’s birthday! Not one of us could have scripted it better. Some birthday decorations in the kitchen tent made us all feel right at home. We finished packing up camp and put on our packs for our final challenge. Our hut for the night would be situated between two glaciers, and would include a 1000m gain to get to. Walking across the glacier fed river, we looked up at what was to come. A piece of the trail was visible from the bottom, nicknamed “the parallels”, because it had two trails moving parallel upwards to the top of the ridge line. Needless to say it looked intimidating. Posing for a birthday picture below the trail Thomas and Creed made us all smile! With anxious feet and tons of excitement we headed up our trail. Quickly we were greeted by some uphill challenge, and immediately we all lost the game thanks to Nina. This was the first loss of many of the game this day. We started to settle into our feet and soon the trail was filled with chatter. A question was posed to the group, who would you want to meet in the world living or dead. We all contemplated while walking and continued to share stories from home. Coming to a relatively flat area we stopped for the usual snack of Digestives and listened to a tale Marta told us about the troll who turned to stone. Moving again we made our way to the narrowest part of the hike, on either side of the trail was a steep drop to rivers below. Luckily no one’s fears of heights stopped them! Finally we came to the parallels we had been looking at all day, we couldn’t believe how quickly the group climbed to this point! We began our upwards climb with the knowledge that lunch would be our reward. Our LODs, Sterling and Gray, provided much needed encouragement to the group throughout the day. Soon we began to see our landscape turn from green and lush back to snowy and volcanic. As we gained elevation the volcanic rock surrounding us looked a bit different than before. There had been an eruption in 2010 that produced new lava flows and dramatically changed the landscape. Walking through the snow we came to our final challenge for the day, our last big uphill climb. Nina and Sterling gave us all some much needed encouragement and positivity as a light rain began to fill in. Reaching the top we could see the two new craters formed by the eruption, Magni and Móði. Tinted red by the iron oxide the small mountains stood out dramatically. Upon reaching the largest crater, Sawyer and Frank dropped their packs and followed the side trail up to its peak. Looking around we could see the craters clearly and we had a surprise visitor, a raven! It’s call was very distinct and we could hear it’s wings flapping as it flew away it was so quiet. Finishing up the hike the group was in high spirits knowing a warm meal and comfy bed was in their future. Lance and Gray played pranks on Harrison, who was trying to reach Creed and trip him in the snow. Nina came out victorious and was able to hit Creed with a snowball, a great birthday present!! We reached the hut and traded our hiking clothes for dry socks and hot chocolate. Soon an intense game of Contact began, spearheaded by Jack. After dinner everyone surprised Creed and Thomas wearing birthday hats and we are traditional Icelandic Christmas cake and sang happy birthday! To cap off an amazing day, moon up led by Sterling as Gray gave us all a great question to ponder, “what has been your greatest challenge?”.
We woke up and quickly got to moving for our final day of hiking. Glad to not have to break down tents we laced up our shoes and got to walking. Our day would lead us down from the glacier to a breathtaking waterfall. As we descended many sheep began to fill the sides of the cliffs around us. And quickly we started to see the first of many waterfalls of the day! Emily was the first to show everyone the beautiful blue tint the water has in Iceland, unlike anything any of us have seen before. We stopped for lunch next to a beautiful waterfall along a grassy field and lounged enjoying our last moments on what has been an amazing hike. The group finished out the last two miles of the hike with pure determination, led by Sawyer and Lance. We came across the waterfall and made our way down the three hundred steps to the base and all collapsed with huge smiles on our faces. We did it!! With gratitude for the miles we walked, everyone reminisced on how amazing it was to have walked around 60 miles over the last seven days. Something Emily noted that not too many people will accomplish in their lives, let alone in Iceland. We all were most proud of Jack for completing the entire walk with his hiking stick, Maria. With a surprise of sandwiches, chocolate milk, and gummies we enjoyed a victory meal. We then hopped in our van and headed down to our campsite for the next few days. Driving up we were elated to find it grassy and our kitchen tent already set up by our “campsite Santa Clause” as Marta called them. They even had begun cooking our dinner, burgers!! We played in the field and enjoyed the warm sunshine before having a wonderful moon up as the sun was setting.
Creed & Harrison
July 19, 2018
Hello family and friends!
We have landed in Iceland and brought the sun with us!! After touching down in Reykjavik yesterday morning, we hurried off to the Blue Lagoon to soak! A must-do for any visitor, the nutrient rich pool brought some much needed relaxation and helped our stiff muscles from the plane ride over. Some of us enjoyed mud masks while others were content to float around, finding the hot pockets of water. Afterward, we made our way into Reykjavík and took a nice walk in the botanical gardens. Nina, equipped with a map, led the group while MacLeod posed a couple of riddles and fostered some great discussion! Finding a green patch of grass, we all sat around and played a couple of games. Among the most fun was a game humorously narrated by Camille. After the games we walked back to the hostel and checked in. We all took some down-time, as we were a little tired.
Before walking to dinner, Frank captivated the group with stories from home and we all went around sharing our most embarrassing moment. I would share them but they are now trusted secrets of the group. Next, we enjoyed a walk along the coast and rewarded ourselves with pizza for dinner! Though there may have been suggestions for puffin and haggis toppings, the group stuck to the pepperoni and cheese classics! It hit the spot and filled us up. We then played card games, most notably BS, which was won by Lillian. Finally we were ready for our first Moonup – a nightly tradition of reflecting on the day and getting to know one another. The questioned posed was “what is your goal of the trip?” Going around, we all listened to each other – it was fun to hear the variety of answers! Sterling, especially wowed us with her in-depth answer, and we’re so excited to have her in this group! Camille and Jack were picked as the groups first leaders of the day (LODs) for their energy and positivity. We all went to sleep with heavy eyes, but huge smiles. Happy to be in Iceland with one another!
Today we woke early and were treated to a breakfast prepared by the hostel! After a quick pack up we were on our way to rafting! Along the way Marta, our Icelandic guide, pointed out fun facts and educated us on our surroundings. Arriving at the rafting facility we all jumped into wet suits and climbed on the bus as fast we could. The group split into two rafts; taking charge in his raft, Lance claimed the team name “humonoculus.” Rather ironically, the other raft came up with the team name “lance.” On the river Thomas was front and center in his boat getting some great GoPro footage. Little did he know the best seat also included being the wettest seat as well! He was soaked as we went down the first rapid! As the group floated down we enjoyed the nice weather and lots of laughs. Gray and Frank commanded the boat lance and helped navigate the rapids with ease. Next we stopped at some awesome cliffs where the group got the opportunity to jump in the icy water! Everyone nervously looked around seeing if anyone was going to jump, and Mary Elle could be found encouraging everyone to make the leap! Once nice and chilly we hopped back in our boats to finish paddling down the river. Many were pushed in as we floated down the more mellow part of the river. However, Sawyer willingly jumped in and did an impressive back flip off the front of the raft! One of the guides gave the group the opportunity to flip a raft towards the end, a few bowed out but most decided to join in! A few of us hopped to one side of the raft and then next thing we knew we were in the river again! Emily was the only brave girl to make her way into to raft that was to be flipped.
We then made our way back to the base in order to get warm. Luckily there was a sauna! Once warm we ate lunch and lounged in the sunshine, then hopped into the van to head to our campsite for the night. Listening to music, and enjoying the change in scenery with excitement in the air! The ride was bumpy but our campsite made it all worth it; surrounded by mountains that were a rainbow of colors, we were all in awe of the beauty around us. Once learning how to set up tents and unpacking ourselves some of the group discovered a hot spring that flowed into a river! A few of the group immediately put on their swimsuits and got in. Rounding out a wonderful day together!
We are off to go hiking for a few days and will check back in soon with many, many more great stories!!
Creed & Harrison
July 16, 2018
Hello Iceland Families!
We heard from our leaders early this morning, and all students have arrived safely in Reykjavik! The trip is off to a great start. Stay tuned for more news from their adventures!