A Practical Guide to Independent Travel in Iceland

Krafla Lava Fields

Matt and I were recently asked by our camera club to put together a travelogue program about our trip to Iceland in the summer of 2012. Even though that trip was almost two years ago now, it finally gave us the motivation we needed to process and edit the thousands of photographs and video clips we shot while we were there. We spent a lot of time working on our presentation and are really pleased with the final result, especially because it reminded us so much of what an amazing time we had traveling in that incredible little country. What a place! It’s hard to believe that a country the same size as Kentucky has so much to offer. You can see the highlights of our summer in Iceland in this short video:

This blog was born in Iceland, and we’ve come a long way since then. In our next series of posts, we will be sharing some of our best pictures, videos, and travel/photography tips in a way that we couldn’t when we were first posting from the road. We also hope to update some of those earlier posts with new and improved pictures and related videos to help give a better sense of what it was really like to experience Iceland.

To help get started, we thought we would begin with a post explaining some of the practical aspects of traveling in Iceland—you know, the basics of visiting any foreign country—how to communicate with the locals, what to eat, how to get around and where to sleep. We think this will be useful to anyone entertaining the notion of going to Iceland, but we also hope it will be enjoyable to those of you who just appreciate traveling vicariously. So here goes! Continue reading

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There’s Something about Telluride

Charming mountain towns are practically the norm in Colorado, but, to me, Telluride somehow seems a cut above the rest. Tucked into a narrow valley with glorious mountain views on all sides, Telluride was established in 1878 and is full of historic buildings, attractive houses, hip restaurants and cozy cafes. With local street fairs celebrating anything and everything, weekly farmer’s markets and major international music and film festivals, you’ll find the atmosphere in Telluride hard to beat.

This is southwest Colorado, so it goes without saying that Telluride is an outdoor paradise. In addition to offering world-class skiing in winter, there are oodles of hiking trails—many leading right from town—to keep the outdoor enthusiast occupied all summer long. And for wildlife lovers, there’s even a herd of resident elk and a pond right in the middle of town with an active beaver lodge. How cool is that? Like I said, there’s just something about Telluride.

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Backpacking Colorado’s Four Pass Loop

Maroon Bells

This four-day, four-pass backpacking trip is often featured on lists of the world’s classic hikes, and it certainly is worthy of all the hype. Beginning at Aspen’s magnificent Maroon Bells and traversing four 12,000+ passes over its 26 miles, the hike offers magnificent scenery and a good physical challenge. You might think that starting at the Maroon Bells—one of Colorado’s most photogenic peaks—would make the the remainder of the hike somewhat anti-climatic, but each pass offers a new set of vistas that are just as spectacular as the next. The Four Pass Loop is awesome from beginning to end. We highly recommend it! Continue reading

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A Tent with a View: Backpacking to Colorado’s Blue Lake

Above Blue Lake

We were compelled to do the Blue Lake hike outside of the southwest Colorado town of Ouray after seeing a Backpacker Magazine article touting it as having “one of America’s best secret campsites.” Blue Lake also happens to be located just below 14,150-foot Mt. Sneffels, which is named after the Snaefellsnes peak in Iceland. At the time, we had just returned from six weeks in Iceland, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to do this particular hike based on that fact alone. What can I say? I guess we’re suckers when it comes to travel nostalgia… Continue reading

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Hiking Colorado’s Ice Lake

On the Trail to Ice Lake

Have we ever mentioned how much we love Colorado? In the summer of 2012, Matt and I attended a college friend’s wedding in Denver and then went hiking and backpacking for two weeks. Last summer, I returned for my annual end of summer trip with my mother (sadly Matt was already back at work in Chicago and green with envy). My mother and I stayed just outside of Telluride, and, even though I only had a few days to explore the area, I was ready to convince Matt that we needed to sell the house in Chicago and move out there. As teachers, I am pretty positive that we wouldn’t be able to afford a house— much less a shoebox in Telluride—but we’re so smitten with Colorado that we might just be willing to live in a tent to make it happen. Ahh, another dream of moving out west… Continue reading

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The Boundary Waters: Everything Plus the Kitchen Sink

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One of the best things about canoe camping as opposed to backpacking is the ability to get away from it all in relative style. When backpacking, you hike with everything strapped to your back, so every single ounce counts—you don’t want to carry anything more than you absolutely have to. But when you can float your gear in a canoe for the majority of the time, you would be amazed at all the cool things you can take to make your backcountry camp feel just like you are living in the lap of luxury. Continue reading

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The Boundary Waters: Exploring Ely, MN

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Ely is a tiny town in Northern Minnesota that is perhaps best known to fans of the Boundary Waters as the gateway to canoe country. Pronounced EE-lee, this pleasant hamlet with a population of 3,460 is our last glimpse of “civilization” before heading into the wilderness and our first taste of it again upon exiting. Although there are several other entry points to the BWCA and Canada’s Quetico just north of the border, we always find ourselves attracted to this charming little town that comes alive in the summertime with canoe enthusiasts heading into the backcountry. Continue reading

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The Boundary Waters: Our Canoe Safari

Whenever Matt and I are traveling by canoe, we act like we are in a safari jeep. We are constantly scanning the tops of trees for bald eagles and ospreys, hoping we’ll stumble across a moose feeding in a marsh or searching for beavers around their impressive lodges. While the birds and mammals of the great north woods are far more elusive than their African counterparts, the thrill of spotting something from a canoe is every bit as enjoyable, and we had some memorable moments on this year’s trip. Continue reading

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The Boundary Waters: An Unexpected Change

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At the beginning of our trip, I remember remarking to Matt about how little had changed in the Boundary Waters since we started going there almost ten years ago now (20 for Matt). The water might be a little higher or lower, the animal sightings might be a bit more frequent or far between, the weather might be pleasant or dicey, but we pretty much know exactly what to expect when we head into canoe country. That is part of the joy of returning to familiar territory.

So, imagine our surprise when we headed into Insula, a lake that we know quite well from previous experience, to discover that the entire southern portion of it had been ravaged by fire. And it wasn’t just Insula either. In fact, almost the entire stretch from Insula out to Lake One had been incinerated and was almost unrecognizable to us.  Continue reading

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The Boundary Waters: A Taste of the Good Life

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One of the great pleasures after a long day of paddling, portaging and getting all the camp chores done is to string a hammock from a pair of trees close to the water’s edge, grab a book and perhaps a glass of wine, and relax for a while. We were doing just that one day at our beach camp on Lake Alice and thinking it couldn’t get any better, when it absolutely did.

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