August 24, 2014 – Reykjavik and Good Bye to Claire

The last days were in Reykjavik – spent getting Claire settled into her apartment, getting groceries, household goods, a cell phone and the like.

Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

We stayed three nights at this place – a flat adjacent to the harbor above a wood carving shop.

This shot was taken out of the front window of the flat.

Downtown pedestrian street in Reykjavik.

This is Harpa, Reykjavik’s answer to the Sydney Opera house.  In the clouds and fog and daylight, the shimmering fish scale effect of the glass panels is not as apparent.

A view out to the harbor from inside Harpa.

Imagining my life with a fixer-upper fishing boat.

Claire a the harbor just outside our flat.

Finally, the reason for the trip – Claire in front of the University of Iceland.  I took my parental duties seriously to settle her into her new location.  Such a sacrifice to spend eight days in Iceland with her on that mission!

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August 23, 2014 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Just to fess up, I think a few days earlier I said that the day along part of the south coast was my favorite day, well, this day on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula really was my favorite. The day had a lot going for it – a rare sunny day, a beautiful peninsula with a volcano with a glacier on top of it, and a journey to the top of the glacier-topped mountain, with some beautiful coastline thrown in for good measure.

Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

Snaefellsjokull

Snaefellsjokull glacier in the distance.  Oh Icelanders, why use 7-8 letters per word, when  15-20 letters will do?  Snaefellsjokull is visible from Reykjavik on a sunny day, 180 kilometers away. Did I say there were only two sunny days in the entire month of July and I had sun my first three days!

In this cleft in the rock, a small stream comes out and forms a very narrow canyon.

Inside a larger room inside the narrow canyon.

Near the end of the so-called road up to the glacier – you have the option of driving most of the way in your own car, or adding a ride to your tour. The 2.5 mile trek in the car takes about 30 minutes.  I was a bit hesitant to take the rental car, but it would have been 40 more bucks to get a ride and I would have missed the adventure of the drive.

The last few minutes, they take you in the truck until the road really ends.

Heading up Snaefellsjokull.

Still going up.

Approaching the top.

Claire on top of the world, with a view up and down two coasts of the peninsula and the ocean.

There were many seemingly scattered and remote churches throughout Iceland.  Typically, a prosperous farmer would build a church and hire a minister out of his own pocket. It was both a status and point of pride to provide a church.  The farmer would however get half the tithe from the church for his efforts.

Another epic shot along the coast.

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August 22, 2014 – Stykkisholmur, the Sea, and Icelandic Horses

Stykkisholmur is a small coastal village in western Iceland.

Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

Claire overlooking adorable Stykkisholmur. One of the yellow buildings to the left of Claire’s head is where the helicopter/bar scene from the Secret Life of Walter Mitty was filmed.

We headed out to sea here for a cruise to look at wildlife in some of the thousands of islands off the coast  in this part of Iceland.

Many of the isolated islands have sheep that graze.  You might be able to see a few white and black spots on this island. In order to get lambing timed, the ewes and rams are placed on separate islands.  At one time ewes started lambing at the wrong time of year on a few islands.  Eventually, they discovered that a ram named Magnus took to the sea and swam between islands visiting the ewes on many islands on his schedule!

At one point, they dropped a net overboard and hauled up scallops.  Claire’s not too sure if she is a fan of fresh scallops on the half shell.

On the way back to our lodging, we went for another small hike an encountered these horses along the way.

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August 21, 2014 – Golden Circle

The most popular tourist track in Iceland is called the Golden Circle – a one-day trip to Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gulfoss waterfall. For my time, it was one of the least interesting days, but being close to Reykjavik, the attractions are easy to get to in a day. Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

Þingvellir is Iceland’s national shrine and most historic sites. The oldest existing parliament in the world first met here in 930 A.D. The Alþing met here every year to enact laws, including the law passed in 1000 A.D. to introduce Christianity into the island. It has always been the focal point for the country, and whenever a major event is to be celebrated, thousands of people come here. The independence of the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed here on June 17, 1944. At the celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the first settlement in 1974, more than 60,000 people packed into Thingvellir. This photo is of the drowning pool where mothers of illegitimate children were drowned in the dark ages.

Adjacent is the largest lake in Iceland, Thingvallavatn. The lake is 328 feet deep and home to trout and Arctic Char.

Just down the road is the world’s original geyser, named Geysir in Icelandic and the source of the English word. Geysir itself is rather unreliable after an earthquake a few years ago, but nearby geysers are very regular blowing every eight minutes or so.

The last stop on the Golden Circle is the Gulfoss waterfall.

Finally on the way home is a trip around the Hvalfordur fjord.

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August 20, 2014 – Reykjanes Peninsula

This area is around the airport, which is about 40 kilometers south of Reykjavík. It appears as a vast wasteland of lava flows from the air, and after leaving the airport, but there are some surprises here and there. Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos.

At the Seltun geothermal area.  A Yellowstoney-type place with mud pots and steam vents.

Yeah, not the fresh scent that is usually around the country.

Most of Iceland’s power comes from geothermal and hydro power – 85%.  The water in Reykjavik comes directly from the ground and goes through all the houses, offering heating in radiators and hot water. You do not want to turn water on the tap only hot.  It is much hotter than hot water in the U.S.  Even though the outdoor temperature is commonly around 50 degrees F, most houses have their windows open most of the time, as the hot water that  constantly flows through the house, is also virtually free. The downside is there is a sulfur smell to the water.  Cold water is from another source, and is untreated with chemicals.

Here is the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are spreading apart a few millimeters a year.

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August 19, 2014 – South Iceland

Since there are so many beautiful photos from Iceland, I am only going to insert a few in each blog post and insert an album so you can view many more photos full-screen. I’ll start the post with some of my favorites and then include an album at the end of each post with more photos you can make full screen to better see the landscape.  This day on South Iceland was my favorite – sunny skies! The only bummer was that Claire’s flight was delayed 24 hours (and her luggage delayed 7 days), so I was solo on this beautiful day.

Welcome to Iceland!

dyrholaey beach

The black sand beach near Vik, in the Dyrholaey nature reserve.  A gorgeous place with black sand beaches, imposing rock formations, great columnar basalt, and puffins!

dyrholaey, iceland beach, black sand beach

Another view from a bluff above Dyrholaey.

puffins

The Puffins were almost all gone for the season, but there were still a few stragglers.

The airbnb organic farm I stayed at near Vik.  Missing in this photo is the hoophouse and miles of mountainous pasture behind where this farmer’s 2500 sheep roam up to the foot of a glacier.  In 2010, when Eyjafjallajökul blew, his place was covered with 4-5 inches of ash. You can also see the trout stream and white forage bales as well.

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August 1, 2014 – Niagara!

Since we were only 90 miles from Niagara Falls, we decided we could get there on a weekday at the time it opens to beat the crowds.

Falling water always seems to put a smile on your face.

It was refreshing to see vast quantities of clear water thundering over the falls.

Of course we took at the boat tour and this was about as close as you could get a picture before the mist and water covered the camera lens.  It was rather ethereal to be in the middle of this mist with falls thundering down around you in a half circle.

And we had to take the boardwalk down to the bottom of the falls.

Enroute down to the base of the falls.

Hardly ever a picture of Dad, so here ya go.

Standing in the “Cave of the Winds” at the base of the falls – feeling and looking for all practical purposes the middle of a hurricane.

More reveling in the tumbling water.

A look down from a bit up.  Yeah, it’s touristy. But it’s also the highlight of the trip for a 13 year old boy!

July 31, 2014 – Roger Tory Peterson Institute

This was a day to explore out of Chautaqua a bit.

One stop was Allegany State Park, New York’s biggest state park.

Spent some time hiking through the rolling hills and fungi season was in full swing in the high-canopied forest.  This critter, known as ghost plant, Indian pipe, or corpse plant, is actually a herbaceous plant and not a fungus. The park was nice, but seemed to be devoid of many vistas. I’m used to climbing/hiking up and getting rewarded with a vista, but this forest was so dense that the routes I chose did not afford any vistas. Nevertheless it was nice to get out for a long walk.

Another stop was the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.  Many of  you, like me have the Peterson’s Field Guide to the birds. This place had many of his original drawings and memorabilia, including a half-finished plate from an upcoming publication. Even at a young age, he was attracted to nature. At age eight, he asked for and got a special permit from the chief of police to be out after curfew to collect moths! A teacher early on recognized his artistic and cataloguing talents and encouraged him.

A couple of guys!

July 30, 2014 – More from Chautaqua

Martin tried the Boys and Girls club at Chautaqua.

Here’s one of the gyms.  We were disappointed with the day camp. The duration was only 5 hours a day and it was very unstructured and not programmed nearly as well as the adult programs.  We abandoned the camp and attended other events inside and outside Chautaqua that were more rewarding.

Our front porch is the equivalent of the dock at a cabin.

Hanging out on the porch was a good place to chat and eat dinner.

This is the Hall of Philosophy where most of the lectures in the inter-faith studies were held for her class from Meadville-Lombard.  The broad range of speakers and faith traditions made it a good place for such a class.

Lake Chautaqua is a 17 mile long lake that is along the Institute.

July 29, 2014 – Music and More

There are so many chances to see music and attend lectures.

Perhaps my favorite event was a radio show, much like Mountain Stage or World Cafe, called Rolling Hills Radio.  This episode featured an alt-country band called The Farewell Drifters on the left, a stunning singer songwriter that I’d compare to Patty Griffin named Liz Longley on the right who had one of the most poignant moments of the week when she sat down in front of the piano and sang a song called “Unraveling” about her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimers. She also had a few bad boyfriend songs to lighten things up.  The other musical act (center) was a local teacher who won the inaugural Grammy for best musical educator.

The big events were held in an outdoor amphitheater. It was rather nice to be covered by a roof, but be able to see outside and in the evening feel the cool air descend down into the amphitheater.

Photos were generally not allowed during performances, but I took one while the in-house symphony was warming up.  This was a unique seat as we could sit behind the stage, in what was the choir loft, and actually read the notes on the score of the players ahead of us and see the conductor’s expressions and instructions during the performance.

Other performances I enjoyed included the Charlotte Ballet, in residence for the summer who delivered four pieces that showed a wide range of dance – first a performance with loud “club” music.  The second was a multi-media integrating photos of the civil rights era, along with speeches from the era, and the dancers using six chairs with their dance representing the sit-ins of the 60′s.  The third act was a classical piece. Finally, and experimental debut piece called “Environment” which among other things featured a dancer in a huge white piece of fabric probably 20 feet on a side that other dancers could fluff, roll in, and do a variety of other expressive actions.

Another night was Bruce Hornsby opening for jazz great Pat Metheny.

The opening night was an ambitious stage performance called Go West that interlaced historical speeches from the time of western settlement, pieces of poetry from modern poets like Langston Hughes ,and songs from Neil Young, along with classic Aaron Copland, and bits of musicals like Music man and scenes from an opera, along with a scene from the movie Paint your Wagon. Of course, there are many lectures throughout the week with world-renowned speakers.  Each week has a theme, and this week was Brazil as a Rising Superpower.  But not all lectures were on that subject, here Grover Norquist founder of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax reform speaks.  Grover is an interesting fellow with wide-ranging positions like opposing all tax hikes, but advocating for immigration reform to allow more immigrants into the U.S. and prison reform to reduce the number of Americans in prison, while serving on the board of the NRA and GOProud, a conservative advocacy group for gay, lesbian, and transgendered.  His wife is Muslim and he also co-founded the Islamic Free Market Institute.

One of the more interesting tours was of the Massey Organ – the worlds’s largest outdoor organ.  We had a tour of the bowels of the organ.  This shot is of the top of the organ.  We traveled below to the air handling and had a view up to the tree story tall pipes and the long snaking bass pipes as well.

July 28, 2014 – Chatauq-what?

We are set for a week at the Chatauqua Institute in Upstate NY.  Linda is attending an interfaith religions class and Martin and I couldn’t say no to tagging along.  It’s hard to explain exactly what the place is like.  Here is what historian and author David McCullough says about it: ‘There is no place like it. No resort. No spa. Not anywhere else in the country or anywhere else in the world – it is at once a summer encampment and a small town, a college campus, an arts colony, a music festival, a religious retreat and the village square.”

More later, but here’s a quick walk around.

Our lodging for the week – the second floor had two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen for the week. Most of the streets were fairly steep on the way down to the lake.

A typical scene at Chautaqua – lots of walkable streets and Victorian homes – most with prominent porches, typically on all levels of the houses.

The square consisted of a library, places to eat, post office, bookstore and shops.

Out of our price range is the Atheneum Hotel on the grounds, overlooking the lake.

One of the four beaches on the grounds along the lake.

July 12, 2014 – Getaway Day 2

We absolutely lucked out and got a great campsite at Split Rock State Park.  We happened to walk in just after a cancellation came in for one of the sites that you use a cart to haul all your stuff in, far away from other sites.

The dining room was ok.

But the view from the living room was spectacular, overlooking the lake and the lighthouse.

We headed down the hill to explore the lakeshore.

I’ve got the whole lighthouse in my hand…

This is a rather unfortunate composition of me against the lighthouse – Minnesota’s most photographed place, perhaps has never quite had this vantage point.

It was a wonderful night with the moonrise.  Can’t decide if the close-up, middle, or wide angle views are my favorite, so all follow.

xxx

July 11, 2014 – Dad and Kid Getaway Day 1

Heading North for a rare weekend with all three kids.  Might be the last time in a long time they are all together, except for a day before Claire leaves for Iceland.

sandboy

 

Since we had some extra time, we stopped at one of those places we always drive by on the way up north, Moose Lake State Park Agate and and Geologic Center.  After ogling the agates in the display, it was time for some impromptu swimming. Martin decided it was time to try the experimental sand hair exfoliate.

Next it was off to Jay Cooke State Park, just south of Duluth – another one of those drive-by parks that often gets missed on the way up the North Shore.  It is one of Minnesota’s truly under-appreciated parks.

The St Louis River battles through strongly tilted slate beds as it runs into Lake Superior.

A broader view of the valley, downstream from the park.

A closer look at the tilted slate beds.

We lucked onto a primo camp site – not too close to other sites, with a nice rock backdrop.

The swinging bridge is replaced after the floods of 2012.

Martin gazes into what we called the “cauldron of doom” where the river drops into a maelstrom of water and foam.

Aaah!

The forest along the river near the highway bridge.