John Muir Trail – Getting there

July 24.

I caught my flight from Frankfurt via Amsterdam to Los Angeles in the morning. I am not too keen on flying anymore – but getting to California without taking a plane really takes a lot of time and commitment. 😜

Anyway – the 11h KLM flight to LAX was surprisingly nice. The seat only started killing me after a couple of hours, the catering was really tasty, movie selection was good too.

The immigration officer made my day. When I stated my purpose of visit (vacation/leisure), he inquired further and I shared that I will be hiking in the Sierras. He wondered whether I would be hiking the John Muir Trail! 😁 So I shared some insights, he was really interested… And we closed our conversation with his remark that he wouldn’t call the purpose of the visit leisure if it means hiking for 3-4 weeks. 🤣

Waiting for the bus ride from LAX to Union Station was nerve wrecking… Traffic chaos, cars honking everywhere… But I made it to Union Station and later to the Metrolink to Lancaster.
I would have fallen asleep in the train if if wasn’t freezing cold from the AC…

The train crossed the Pacific Crest Trail near Acton, mile 444.

At the Acton KOA campground during my 2018 PCT hike, I got my trail name that I would only slowly accept…

Me and my (borrowed) Daisy Dukes, Acton KOA 2018

In Lancaster, I had a 30min walk along the main street passing used car dealerships, gun shops, massage parlors…

I remember very well my last night before hitting the John Muir Trail in 2016. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep…

This time I will be hiking the JMT for the third time. I am much more relaxed since I know what is coming. But my expectations are high – even higher.

It seems I love the Sierras more with every visit.
It’s the solitude and self-determination that I long for.

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.- John Muir

Iceland Day 16 – Djupivogour, Egilsstadir, Ferry from Seydisfjoerdur – Good bye Iceland

April 10.

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Another walk at the shore in the morning to say goodbye to the seal, but unfortunately it didn’t show up again.

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Continuing East, I stopped around lunch time at the small town of Djupivogour, to get coffee and cake. Like at many places in Iceland, you get free table water as well as free refills on coffee – so nice!

Arriving at Egilsstadir really made clear to me that my round trip on Iceland was coming to an end. This was the first town stop I did after arriving with the ferry. Now it was my last stop to shop for some snacks for the 3 days ferry ride via Faroe to Denmark. The Bonus supermarket there is the first and last supermarket stop on Iceland probably for many who come by ferry.

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I drove the last 30min to the ferry terminal at Seydisfjoerdur through fog and light snowfall. Iceland really showed how true this saying is: If you do not like the weather on Iceland, just wait 5 minutes.

Checked in at the ferry at 5.45pm, I was on board with my van shortly later. I looked like the ferry would be quite empty again – besides a handful of cars, a number of buses and container trailers were loading. I expected to leave at 8pm – surprisingly the ship left 7pm. The ship schedule followed the official ship time which is Faroe time, so one hour ahead of Iceland now. Lucky me I was early enough. 😉

Thank you Iceland! You rough beauty. Land of fire and ice, sunshine, snow and rain and storm, of solitude in the North and mass tourism in the South.

I came looking for a wide open country and solitude, what I found was so much more. So much contrast, constant change. I met a number of inspiring people. I lost my heart here. Tears of joy and goodbye. I will come back.

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Iceland Day 15 – Stokksness, lighthouse of Hvalnes

April 9.

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Spotted a reindeer around the campground again in the morning – maybe the same one from last night?

Drove on East to Stokksness with its famous black beach and rocky coast. There was an old viking village, a possible movie location nearby. Really looked like the great Viking series might have been shot here.

After that, walked along the coast, looking for seals at the black beach but no luck. Still a special landscape with the beach and mountain so close.

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The ring road followed the shore closely. I stopped to take photos.

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There were hundreds of swans! Impressive view with the sun setting. The photos can’t really catch this scene.

For my last night on Iceland (for this trip ;-)), I wanted a wild camping spot again. The Hvalnes lighthouse turned out to be beautiful spot for that. At the evening walk along the shore there, a quick glance of a seal! Beautiful round black face appearing in the waves, just for 3, 4 seconds, then gone again. Just like with unexpected spotting of the whales at Gardur – these few seconds gave me a long lasting smile, feeling happy, lucky and connected.

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I stood there for a good while, maybe hoping for another glance. But I was happy and content.

“God never made an ugly landscape. All that sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”
– John Muir

The sound of rain on the car roof that night made this such a beautiful evening – could not ask for more. Except maybe more time on Iceland.

Iceland Day 12 – Kerid, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Dyrholaey Lighthouse, Vik

April 6.

After a good night in the van, I left the Fludir campground in the morning going South towards the ring road. But one more stop was planned before – the Kerid crater respectively crater lake.

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Even from a distance, you could see lots of people walking along the crest of the crater. Yes, I am still in the golden triangle. This was the first attraction that actually asked for an entrance fee. I did the walk around as well as walking town to the frozen crater lake. It was one of the places where you really see how Iceland is struggling with mass tourism. Even though there were marked trails and lots of fenced off areas with the respective signs, the whole area was disturbed, the grass destroyed.

I am a tourist too, contributing to this situation. But I wished more people would stick to the paths to keep the impact to Iceland’s beautiful nature as small as possible.

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Continued towards the ring road. Arriving at ring road, taking the road South East towards Vik. Next stop was the beautiful waterfall Seljalandsfoss – the one where you can walk behind the waterfall itself, so you get a 360 degree perspective on the water falling.

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Quite special – and quite wet. 🙂 I loved the water spray in my face. Standing there in my rain gear in the wet wind, this took me right back to the last weeks hiking the Pacific Crest trail in Washington. Oh PCT – I miss you so.

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But I only brought two weeks for Iceland, not like the 5 months for the Pacific Crest Trail. So I kept driving on, further on to the Skogafoss waterfall. In search of Wifi, I took a coffee break in the restaurant there. No Wifi… :-p but a salad. Around 5pm, I walked up to Skogafoss, stair cases leading up offering a nice view from the platform above.

I passed the famous airplance wreck/respectively the parking for it at the ring road. My plan was to visit the wreck at sunrise next day – with maybe less other tourists around. So I drove on Dyrholaey lighthouse. At 630pm in really strong winds, it seemd like I would not be lucky to see birds. The winds were so strong that I could barely open my car door.

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I didn’t give up on internet yet, so I drove into the town Vik in search of Wifi. It turned out the biggest store of the town (Icewear) had a connected coffee shop with decent internet. I stayed there backing up photos and blogging until being kicked out at the shop’s closure at 9pm.

As planned, I returned to the airplane wreck parking for the night. No other cars, looking good. Plan to get up 4.40am next day to make the one hour walk to the wreck before dawn.

Iceland Day 5 – Grettislaug, a hotpot day

March 30.

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Grettislaug

Got up around 7am, breakfast in the car. After the snow storm last night the skies looked promising – it might become a beautiful sunny day again. I checked out the facilities of the campground again. While the cafe is closed and the place completely deserted, the facilities like a kitchen house as well as the toilets were open and in kind of working condition. Good – I might actually hang out here the whole day.

At about 8am, I walked over to the two hotpots. They are beautifully located close to the sea, still protected with a stone wall from the direct winds.

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View from the hotpot

Spent there 2 hours, just soaking in the water. Sitting absolutely quiet, you could hear the waves hitting the shores from two directions. Some seagulls crying. Felt like a good idea to stay. Felt like arriving in how I expected Iceland to be.

“A human’s choice is either to see new things, mountains, waterfalls, deadly storms and seas and volcanoes, or to see the same man-made things endlessly reconfigured.”
― Dave Eggers, Heroes of the Frontier

The hotpots had 38.5 respectively 40 degrees – a good temperature to spend a long time in there.

Around 10am, two other tourists showed and I took a walk around the area.

The two girls turned out to be German as well  (yes we love to travel….), one of them working in Iceland since a couple of years. We chatted for a while and I got some hints for spots to visit during the next days.

During the day, a couple of cars showed up, some stayed for a dip in the hotpots.  In the later evening, luckily everyone left except Herbert, his wife and Gerald, another German solo traveler with VW van.

The wind died down – a chance for another drone flight. I was a bit more careful than last time. First a quick look around in all directions – after that I got a bit more brave.

 

Herbert had not only brought beer but a complete bbq equipment, meat, potatoes… so after a last hotpot session around 7pm, we started bbqing as it got darker and colder.

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A relaxing day with nice company and chats came to an end around 11pm.

I came a long way…

Sept 24.

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Northern Terminus – Pacific Crest Trail – Sept 24 2018

I came a long way. 2650 miles and more than 150 days later, I have completed my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail on Sept 24th!

I am happy, relieved, proud, excited… and haven’t fully understood yet that the hiking has really come to an end.

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Southern Terminus (Mexican Border) April 21 2018 / Northern Terminus (Canadian Border) Sept 24 2018

Hiking the PCT meant freedom and new encounters every day. I got used to beautiful sunsets, landscapes that take your breath away. It was a pleasure to meet all these amazing people on trail – especially Cactass, Tinkle and Spirit Kick.

Thanks to my family, friends and former colleagues for their support and encouragement during the last months.

The last two weeks in Washington were the biggest challenge during the hike. We got soaked in heavy rain several times (where also my phone died), had snow several times. We were at a point to turn back and leave the trail due to the weather and limited food. But the weather changed and the sun dried our gear and motivated us to push on.

“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin”

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PS: I will be updating the blog for the missing weeks in Washington with amazing photos during the next days…