The Tourist In Residence

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Lava Rocks on Iceland's Ring Road

Lava Rocks on Iceland's Ring Road

Ask your annoying Travel Friend: Iceland is like another planet. Go ahead. I'll wait. Did she send you back a treatise on the importance of expanding one's horizons through a series of Twitter mentions? Yeah I figured.

Moss grows on lava rocks along Iceland's Ring Road in Skaftarhreppur.

Moss grows on lava rocks along Iceland's Ring Road in Skaftarhreppur.

This time, however, Annoying Travel Friend is right. Iceland had landscapes that were hard to comprehend—especially to one from the rural American Midwest (c'est moi). The most astonishing thing was the way volcanic activity has quietly established the terms of the scenery. Absent active eruptions, it still permeates everything—from black sand beaches to long desolate stretches of land where you can't build anything because you might be wiped off the map by a jökulhlaup (which is that thing where the hot lava of a volcano melts the underside of a glacier, causing liquid water to build up incredible pressure under the ice until it eventually bursts destroying everything in its path as it moves to the sea. Something we all worry about). 

Moss covered lava rocks on Iceland's Ring Road (Route 1) in Skaftarhreppur.

Moss covered lava rocks on Iceland's Ring Road (Route 1) in Skaftarhreppur.

That was a digression but I think we all learned something. When all that volcanic activity subsides and the lava hardens to porous stone, something incredible happens. Moss makes a home of the bulbous shapes that now dot the landscape.

A close up of moss growing on the lava rocks on Iceland's Ring Road in Skaftarhreppur.

A close up of moss growing on the lava rocks on Iceland's Ring Road in Skaftarhreppur.

Vegetation grows on lava rocks on Iceland's Ring Road in Skaftarhreppur.

Vegetation grows on lava rocks on Iceland's Ring Road in Skaftarhreppur.

Or in other words: life... finds a way...

The landscape seems to undulate and glow green in a way I would never have expected from a land with so few trees. The rocks were the solemn black forms that shape the island, but the paths trod through this area revealed brilliant red (iron rich) dirt. As with all of Iceland, it was a stunning visual contradiction that defied every expectation I had. 

A visitor snaps a photo from an observation area on Iceland's Ring Road (Route 1) in Skaftarhreppur.

A visitor snaps a photo from an observation area on Iceland's Ring Road (Route 1) in Skaftarhreppur.

These photos are from the Ring Road (Route 1), about halfway between Vik and Jokulsarlon on the southern side of the island. There was a small space to pull off the road and, as you can see, an observation area. You can't miss it. If you're not driving yourself, I took a lovely tour with Extreme Iceland to Jokulsarlon and got to stop for these photos. Stay on the paths: For your own safety and the life of the landscape. Moss doesn't want you walking on it. I know. Annoying Travel Friend told me so. 

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