Kathy & Dave consider the Adirondack Mountains of NY our home. We love to hike and travel, exploring the world around us. Dave retired from the National Park Service after 30 years and had the opportunity to live in National Parks like Redwood, Shendandoah,Death Valley, Biscayne, American Memorial Park (in Saipan/Guam), and others. His last park before retiring was the Blue Ridge Parkway where he was actively involved with establishing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Kathy has extensive experience in the medical field, from pushing papers to working with patients. Currently both work for the same hospital: Dave as an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Kathy in the Revenue Cycle Division as the Director of PFS. (Kathy is now foot loose and fancy free, until she returns to the USA and has to get back into the grind, maybe!)
This is the long overdue final posting or our trip! The final few days of our trip were a mix of emotions, and we ran the gamut! Tuesday saw us feeling sad as we dropped our new friends off at the airport and bid them adieu for their journey home. Prior to dropping them off, we got an opportunity to share some more quality time with them wandering through Reykjavik, shopping and trying Icelandic sweets.
We then enjoyed some alone time wandering the streets by ourselves (and a few thousand other tourists). We wandered down to the building where the historic Iceland Summit with President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev occurred. The whole world waited while they met. This meeting was the precursor to the “wall” coming down and the end of the Cold War. We wandered further afield and stopped at a local restaurant recommended by the hotel. Street Lamb Food is a small place close to the harbor where the food was the best we had tasted on the trip. Kathy loved her meal that was somewhere between a gyro and a burrito that was filled with savory lamb and a mix of fresh vegetables. Dave had something similar, but more closely resembled a thick quesadilla that had a different variety of vegetables but still the savory taste of lamb. Soon we were at our new hotel where we settled in for the night.
The next day dawned early and we headed out to Snaefellsjokull National Park where we drove down a dirt road so that Kathy could see a beautiful lighthouse that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. Dave got to add some more birds to his life list so it was a win-win all the way around! That evening was spent just wandering around again, enjoying the beautiful city of Reykjavik.
Our last full day in Iceland saw us first mount a Search and Rescue mission to the airport where we “saved” one of our group members IPhone from the inner sanctums of the Lost and Found Department! Next we headed off to explore the south coast of the island. We headed out to find the bridge that spans two continents, North America and Europe. Along the way we got distracted and stopped at a trailhead along the road. We hiked through the black sand, lava rocks, and the cotton grass and ended overlooking the ocean and watched the wave’s crash against high cliffs. It was a beautiful moment and we had the view all to ourselves. Not a single other tourist was willing to brave the two mile hike in and then the hike back…in gale force winds no less. (Not that we were that special. We had no idea the trail would be that long!) But, it was well worth it!
Getting back on task, we soon found ourselves at the bridge that spans the Mid Atlantic Rift. Like the Silfra Fissure where we snorkeled, this bridge is in the gap between the two tectonic plates. We walked across the bridge and Dave remarked on the fact of how many people can walk from one continent to the next? (Okay, people may be able to walk from North America to South America. And, okay, people may be able to walk from Europe to Asia across the Ural Mountains or River. And, okay, people may be able to walk from Africa to Asia. But we’re talking on a small island here people!) The trip back across the bridge brought on the wrath of the Norse Gods and we were suddenly pummeled with torrents of rain and sleet that was propelled along by gusts of wind.
Realizing that we might want to find something indoors to do, we choose to spend the late afternoon wandering around the National Museum of Iceland where we learned the history of Iceland. The interesting comment from the docent at the center was how WWII, while considered by most an evil war that should never be repeated and they mourn the loss of lives, actually helped the country of Iceland gain independence. At the time, they were under the realm of Denmark. However, while the Danish were under Nazi occupation, Iceland decided to declare independence. In addition, the occupation of Iceland by the US military helped to build infrastructure in the country including roads and airports. This was game changing to help the country on a path of independence.
Well soon it was time to come home….or maybe not. Buffalo was supposed to get slammed by an historic snowfall and our flight home from JFK to Buffalo was cancelled. While we could get from Iceland to JFK, we were going to be stranded at JFK until the next available flight to Buffalo which was not until 06:30 in the morning the next day. Arriving at JFK almost 24 hours before our new flight to Buffalo, we wondered if this rescheduled flight would go as scheduled. We predicted correctly and that flight was soon cancelled. The next available flight was not scheduled until Sunday at 3:30 pm, stranding us at JFK for 53 hours – IF that flight wasn’t also canceled.
We checked out the TWA Hotel at the airport. They wanted $350 per night! While the pain of sleeping at the JFK airport or the $700 for two nights lodging weighed upon Kathy, Dave was more concerned about missing the Bills game on Sunday. A trip to the information desk gave us a last ditch effort and a brilliant idea. Instead of spending 53 hours at JFK, we flew to Rochester, rented a car, and drove home – just 3 hours after our initial scheduled arrival. We didn’t see a single snowflake in the air along the entire drive! We also had no snow on the ground in Lockport…………..at least until 07:00 when finally the snow started to drop in our area. But, we made it home, slept in our own bed, played with our own cats, and will be able to watch the Bills game. Well, assuming they can get the rental car to the Buffalo airport and drive back through the snow and travel bans still in the area!
The land of Fire and Ice, hot and cold, and wet and dry – this is the country of Iceland. After a long delay we will catch up on all the happenings. The flight, while not very long, seemed long as it was a “red eye” with uncomfortable seats designed to keep a body awake! We landed in Reykjavik at 6:00 in the morning and confusedly tried to meet up with our “MeetUp” group, get our rental cars, and then get on our way. A long two hours later we were off to visit the Blue Lagoon, a large lagoon fed by hot springs. The cool morning breeze wafted over us as we lazily floated through the hot pool as the sun slowly rose. We enjoyed the time getting to know the people in the group while we floated through the various pools. A short time later we were off on a whale watching boat tour with two others of the group. The goal for Kathy was to see whales frolicking in the water off of the coast of Iceland. Fearing that the only sight she would see would be the masses of tourists huddled in the boat cabin to avoid the cold rain, she was finally rewarded with the sight of some humpback whales and dolphins swimming near the boat. Catching them breaching was a treat for all of us and we clamored into the cold wind and rain to catch glimpses of the whales. Next we were off to find our hotel, check in, and get warm and dry. Arriving at the hotel, we hurriedly dropped off our bags and went looking for sustenance. We had a nice local meal and then went back in the hotel where Kathy fell asleep at 7 pm and did not wake up until morning.
Saturday came quickly and we were up and off to see the Golden Circle in Iceland. The Golden Circle is a tour route which follows a trail that stops at several locations along a circuitous route. The Golden Circle gets its name from a large waterfall, Gullfoss, located along the way. The name Gullfoss means Golden Falls in Icelandic. The circle part comes from the route that you follow which is roughly circular. We saw a couple of waterfalls, hiked around the rim of a volcanic crater that had a blue lake instead of lava sitting in the base, saw a geyser erupt, and then ended up at our next excursion – a snorkeling trip! We swam in the ice-cold, glacier-fed water of the Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park. The fissure is a split between two tectonic plates. While touted as being able to “touch” both continents at the same time – Europe and North America – it really is a part of no-man’s land between the two continents. The fissure split is a fairly wide expanse that is not considered part of the European continent nor the North American continent. But – we did snorkel in the rift between two tectonic plates…in Iceland…in November. Or should we say “Novembrrr!” The freezing cold trip included a long process of getting into dry suits and waddling on a short trail over to the start of the trip. The water was cold and crystal clear but had not a single fish or anything cool to look at – but hey! we can say we did it.
Finally out of the water, Kathy breathed a sigh of relief (and gratefully drank some hot cocoa). Soon we were off to the next stop with our cohorts. We stopped at a waterfall close by and took a stroll up the falls. We enjoyed seeing the glacial water cascade down the side and almost fall on our feet. We were that close! The last part of the trip was the drive back to the hotel. A few of us went downtown to grab a bite to eat and visited the beautiful Church of Iceland church, with the exterior designed to look like columns of lava.
We had another scheduled boat trip to hopefully see the northern lights. A quick dash to buy some local chocolate made at the factory and some ice-cream and soon we were off to get on the boat. We piled onto the boat and waited and waited. Unlike our earlier boat trip, the only sight we saw was a bunch of disappointed tourists looking skyward hoping to see the northern lights. It was a beautiful star-filled sky, but with no aurora borealis activity.
Sunday came early and we were off to attend mass in a skinny yet tall church where the mass was conducted in Polish. A good start to the day! From there we came back to the hotel, gathered some items, and were off to explore Reykjavik. We strolled through the local shops and met for lunch. The most important stop of the day was at 6 pm where we had reserved a bunch of tables at a local American Bar. The group piled in and with a bunch of “local” Bills fans, we watched the Bills versus the Vikings game. While the outcome of the game was not what we wanted, the energy and excitement of sharing the highs and lows with a large group of people was fun. Soon we were headed off to the hotel where we settled in to get ready for the next day.
Monday November 14, 2022 came early. We grabbed breakfast and were soon off to enjoy what Kathy considered one of the best days EVER!! We saw multiple waterfalls, including one in which we got to walk around behind the cascading water in a circuitous route that took us behind the falls. The afternoon saw us going to an “ice cave” which was an amazing journey through and under some of the glacier Vatnajökull. The trail had us hanging on to a rope at times while we walked alongside a quick moving stream that shot through the glacier and carried the ice cold water along a path that disappears under the black lava beneath the glacier. We got drenched as the water melted from the cave ceiling onto us while we walked along the path. Dave took the opportunity to taste the glacier, sticking out his tongue to take a lick, hoping that it did not become frozen to the ice! Soon, everyone just had to lick the glacier! No rescue was needed and we were soon off to enjoy the long drive back to the hotel where we eagerly looked out the window hoping for a glimpse of the northern lights.
“Is that a wolf, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?”
Vacations ending are like going to the Christmas tree lot on the corner at 10 PM on Christmas Eve. Yep, on Christmas Eve at 10 pm, you are excited that Christmas is coming, but the only thing left on the lot is a scraggly, bedraggled, branchless tree that can only support one ornament! You are excited to go home, see your fur babies, and sleep in your own bed. But then, of course, you are disappointed to leave the wonderful areas you have visited. Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas, at first we were disappointed to have to leave. But that eventually turned into excitement once we got home and snuggled with our fur babies. (Or in this case, watching them ignore us because they were mad we left!) The disappointment of leaving was because Glacier, Banff, and Jasper were magical places that we felt blessed to visit.
The last full day in Canada saw us doing some more hiking. We had some wonderful luck and were able to see a wolf in the wild! What a treat. The trail at Old Fort Point was a long meandering trail that took us along the sides of hills and through some open areas. We met some very nice local Canadians who were gracious and pointed us in the right direction as we had meandered onto an unofficial trail. We had a great time chatting with them. Along the trail we walked along a high cliff edge that overlooked the Athabasca River which was flowing fast and high and almost a creamy coffee color. The river is fed by melting glaciers which gives it a unique color. These glaciers are rapidly disappearing as the globe warms. We next had a nice relaxing lunch. Then, another hike in the afternoon at Maligne Canyon rounded out the end of a perfect day. The weather was perfect – nice and cool, the trails were less traveled, and Kathy was feeling no pain in her foot. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and capped it off with a great dinner.
The next day dawned early and we started on our way back to Missoula. The drive itself was not without its highlights. We stopped on the Iceland Parkway to hike up to the Columbia Glacier, a hike that Kathy had skipped on the way in. It was beautiful and unique to see the glacier up close and Kathy was glad that we had time to stop and that Dave was onboard with another trip up the hill to see some snow. The drive home saw us catch glimpses of a bald eagle, black bear, and a family of turkeys crossing the road. We stopped in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, for the night and enjoyed a lovely dinner and a really great breakfast the next morning. The last day saw us driving towards Missoula and we had the opportunity to stop at Kootenani Wildlife Refuge. We found a trail to hike and hoped to see a bear so that Dave could use his bear spray. No such luck! Dave didn’t get to see a cougar, bobcat, or use his bear spray. Oh well, no vacation can be perfect.
The next morning dawned early, like really early, like 04:30 in the morning early! Soon we were on our way to the airport. The trip home was like another “Christmas in August” present. We were scheduled for three flights with three potential issues. Fortunately, only one flight was delayed, and it was the last one so we didn’t miss any of our connections. No domino effect, except a little less time playing with our fur babies. Home saw us greet our kittens, settle into bed, and begin planning for our next adventure. “Christmas” morning came early with a meow, nudge, annoying playing with paper, and a demand to be fed. What a great trip!!!
Friday started out wonderfully. We headed out after a familiar breakfast of Raisin Bran and were determined to find our next hike. Kathy looked at the map, pointed at one of 3 trails Dave had marked on a map – not knowing anything about the hike – and we were off. Soon we were headed down the widest dirt road we have ever been on. At first, we thought the road was just under construction and the pavement had been removed. However it seemed to continue on and on forever. It was the longest, widest never-ending dirt road. Literally wide enough to land a 747 and long enough to be an interstate! Finally, we arrived at the Driftwood Boat Landing in Kananaskis Provincial Park and started up the trail. Like the road, the trail went up, and up, and up, and up. We never seemed to find the top of the mountain. Finally, we rested on a beautiful overlook near the top and decided to descend as the skies were looking a tad ominous. Heading down we took a shortcut as Kathy is still working on getting her ankle/foot to heal from the first hike in Glacier. The downhill trip was much quicker. The sad part was we saw no bears. A quick lunch in our rental vehicle and we were again off to find our next adventure.
That adventure came quickly! As soon as we were on a paved portion of the road, we saw a heard of bighorn sheep – ewes and rams! Check that off the list. Still waiting to use the bear spray!!
Next stop: another trail! Once again this trail seemed to go up and up and up. Going up we had amazing views. But yet once again we were close to the top, but not yet at the top when we decided to turn around due to impending weather.
Finally it was time for dinner! Time to relax, chill, and be casual. Oh yeah, and run from the downpour of rain and wind that seemed to open up the minute we decided it was time to stroll around town instead of hike. Great pizza! Lovely salad! And a waiter that Kathy is sure was flirting with Dave! (Dave’s comment: How is it that Kathy had not yet had any alcohol when she thought this??)
The next day dawned bright and early. Kathy, as usual, was up at the crack of dawn to drink her coffee and do a bit of work. This time of the day is one she actually looks forward to: nursing a coffee while doing a job she really enjoys. This, though, had to end and we were out the door by 08:30 AM to head to Jasper.
What an amazing journey that was!! One should never race down the Icefields Parkway. While it rained on and off all day and the high was only 50 degrees, it was still worth not racing through the sites. In this case the winner of this Amazing Race was the person who came in last! We routinely stopped to check out the amazing sites. We saw glaciers, waterfalls, and other amazing sites. The 3.5 hour drive took us approximately 8 hours due to all of the fun stops an short hikes along the way. Finally at our next home, we were pleasantly surprised to find we were in a small log cabin. Next on the journey was a nice dinner at a local brewery where Kathy tried a glass of brew with her dinner. Next stop on our amazing journey was to go back to our cabin where we finally settled in and relaxed. Next amazing race will be who falls asleep first. In this case the first one who does, wins!!
Feeling the burn! We are feeling the “burn” in our calves, in our thighs, in our feet and in our stomachs. What a great two days! Since Sunday August 21st we have hiked and walked 42 miles, along cliff edges, through dirt, a few puddles, and some rocky paths, up and down, across swinging bridges, and occasionally on sidewalks. The hikes on the eastern side of Glacier NP were some of Kathy’s favorites. We hiked 11 miles yesterday and 11.7 miles the day before, but the trails were shaded by conifers, the winds blew nice and cool, and despite the predictions, we had no rain. We hiked to Lake Grinnell yesterday and along the way spotted a mom moose along with her baby. Dave finally got to see a grizzly, but way too far away to justify “lethal force” and he had to keep his bear spray holstered. We planted ourselves next to the lake and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before heading back.
Getting up this morning we celebrated our last day in the motel in East Glacier and were excited to head out for the day. We drove back into Glacier to try and find some of the elusive wild sheep, but none were around and we turned around disappointed. We headed to the Canadian border with our passports in hand and the ArriveCan arrival form ready to present at the border. Presenting our passports and a little bit of chit chat and we were off. The big question that Dave had related to the obligatory questions from the border agent. “Do you have any weapons? Guns? Mace? Pepper Spray?” Dave responded that he had bear spray. The officer said that was fine. Guess that does not count as a weapon when heading into bear country, who knew? Off we went. We drove through flat farm fields that were reminiscent of long stretches through the Midwest, miles and miles of hay was all we could see. Suddenly we were greeted by the Rockies in all their majesty. We stopped in Canmore, Alberta, and walked around to kill some time before we could check in. What a beautiful resort town and completely opposite of the town we just left. We were hopeful that our new accommodations were also the opposite of the one we just left. Upon arriving – YAY!! We can eat a meal at a table, get out of bed without have to walk sideways against the wall, and, yes! we cannot take a shower and brush our teeth in the sink simultaneously.
We drove back to Canmore and decided to stop at a store for some cereal and milk in the morning and pick up dinner. The decision was a bold one for Kathy, traditional Indian food. Feeling daring after conquering some of the hikes we have done, Kathy ordered Tandoori Momo’s, a traditional chicken dumpling, while Dave had Tikka Masala. We each also ordered a traditional green salad to get some veggies in us. Excited, we drove back to our room and opened the packages. Kathy started digging into her dumplings while they were still warm and raved about the taste. Dave did a deep dive into his salad, which is really a vegetable platter consisting of a stack of sliced carrots, sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, sliced tomatoes, and what looked like green beans. Not everything was as it seemed……..the green beans were actually some kind of extremely hot pepper! Dave tried eating cucumbers, rice, drinking – nothing helped and his mouth was not just burning but was on FIRE!!! His Tikka Masala – apparently the National Dish of England – is a chicken dish is a sauce similar to marinara sauce. Once he recovered from his “green bean”, he enjoyed the rest of the meal. Kathy did try the “green bean”/chili pepper and took a small bite which translated to a much smaller fire, but, hey! she did try it, even knowing it was going to burn.
Tomorrow we head out to explore the local area, hoping that the hiking is just as great! Banff and Kananaskis is beautiful and we expect we will find some great trails, Kathy hopes we don’t find any bears and Dave hopes we find a bear so that he gets to deploy his bear spray.