Iceland Part 2: the southwest

Sooo, on our second full day in Iceland, we left Reykjavík and headed South to the town of Hveragerði....only about an hour's drive - but a drive filled with SUCH dramatic landscapes, as all Icelandic drives are!  Hveragerði is considered the "gateway to the South" and conveniently located for a number of sights/adventures, but our main draw was the Frost and Fire hotel (Frost og Funi) and the geothermally heated river (the Varma River) that runs right behind it. Much of the hotel's food was prepared using geothermal heat, as well (see the picture, below, of Ted cooking an egg one morning using this technique, right beside the big pots of soups and whatever else was on the menu for that night's dinner). 

We stayed at the Frost and Fire for 3 nights and on the first full day in Hveragerði, we hiked  through the Reykjadalur Valley to the hot springs - which was as amazing as it sounds. The spring was SO hot at the top, towards the source and cooled off as it flowed further down. - felt like hot bath water.  The hike wasn't too difficult (about 2 miles each way) - more amazing landscapes (geysers, cliffs, waterfalls, lots of grazing sheep...a beautiful sunset) and if we were to go back, I'd pack picnic lunches and some beer and plan on staying at the hot springs much longer. It was so, so nice....

On our second full day in Hveragerði, we drove northeast 45 minutes to the nearby town of Reykholt to Friðheimar, the largest tomato producing greenhouse in Iceland!  They literally harvest a ton of tomatoes every single day at this place - over 370 tons a year. This region is one of the most fertile  for growing in the entire country. The greenhouses are all geothermally heated (seeing a theme here?), the water is super pure, and the space-saving pully system they use for the tomato vines was amazing to witness (we got a tour).    Only the most efficient breed of bees are used for pollinating and they are brought in, in cardboard boxes (see picture above, taken through the clear plastic window into one of the boxes that was on display).  Annnnd, there is a restaurant within the greenhouse that is off-the-charts delicious - a small lunch menu with everything on it having some sort of tomato aspect to it - and delicious tomato cocktails (I had a Happy Mary, gin + green tomato juice : ) and Ted got a shot of tomato schnapps served in a hollowed out cherry tomato!) This was hands-down one of my very favorite meals we ate in the two weeks we spent in Iceland.  Later that evening, we hiked around the hills near the hotel, had a grocery store picnic in bed, and sat in the hot tub that night hoping to see a glimpse of the northern lights (but it was overcast).  The next morning we had plans for an all day horseback ride to the beach - one of the biggest days of my life!! 

More to come in the next Iceland Installment : )


The Congaree National Park

Did you know that the Congaree National Park is South Carolina's only National Park?

Located about thirty minutes outside of Columbia, "the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest left in North America is found in this swampy national park" - over 22,000 Acres of preserve on the Congaree River.

Ted and Lou and I drove up for the day last year to do a 10 mile hike to the river and knew we wanted to come back with the canoe asap.  So this year, for our annual April camping adventure with Douglas and Ashley, we spent the weekend at the campground located in the Congaree National Park with canoes and dogs in tow.

The campground was great - wooded and natural - the campsites weren't on top of each other. There isn't any running water and you have to tote your stuff about 1/4 mile from the parking lot to the campsite, but it's worth it not to be in a  parking lot atmosphere.  We only got reprimanded by the ranger once (dogs off leash rule, per the usual - and we had three dogs with us) I'd definitely give the place the thumbs up - just don't go during mosquito-season because that would be uber miserable.

We canoed both days - about 7 miles one day and 10 the next - down Cedar Creek and into the Congaree River.  The water level was a about 3 feet down and there were a lot of portages to get through but nothing too crazy (a lot of trees down due to the october floods) but it was certainly some of the more challenging canoeing I've ever done, minus some tide/current moments in the ocean.  We saw loads of wildlife: Barred Owls, American Goldfinch, Pileated Woodpeckers, Osprey, a beaver, TONS of King Snakes (most snakes i've ever seen in a two day period, for sure), alligator gar…the list goes on.  I highly recommend checking the park out - even better if you can do it by water.

Here's link to the park's website and also one for info on camping