When Florence and I planned our road trip around the Ring Road of Iceland, like many, we decided to start in Reykjavik and follow Highway #1 in a clockwise direction. As we had picked up the camper van towards the end of the day, we needed a place not too far outside of Reykjavik to make our first stop.
If you’ve been a long time reader of this blog, then you know I’ve been to Iceland once before. You also know that I am absolutely obsessed with volcanoes from reading “Why on Earth Would I Want to Go to Iceland?” which I wrote just a few years ago. Since Grábrók craters are located literally right along side Highway #1 and only about 1hr and 24minutes drive North of Reykjavik, this seemed like the ideal place to get out of the van, enjoy a bit of sunset, and look at some pretty darn cool volcanic structures!
If you’re into wilderness backpacking and you have not been to the Goat Rocks Wilderness of Washington State, you’re missing out. It is potentially the best backpack I have ever been on (and that includes the one I did in Patagonia, Argentina!). Here, you’ll find long-distance hikers trekking along the Pacific Crest Trail, endless mountain vistas, vast expanses of alpine wildflowers that seem endless before your eyes, and incredible views of glaciers, snow-capped peaks, and even frozen lakes.
Time of Year: Due to the elevation of the Goat Rocks Wilderness, it is recommended to begin your backpack in July. Otherwise, many mountain-side traverses will still be covered in snow and additional safety equipment will be required.
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Wayna Picchu (sometimes spelled “Huayna”) is the name of the mountain that towers above Machu Picchu. Many people don’t know that you can hike to the summit of this mountain. I didn’t know until I happened to stumble across it somewhere on the internet, and contacted the company that I hiked the Inca Trail with to find out about the permit required to do this.
On the Inca Trail, night number three was an early night. Not necessarily because we were all so tired (although we were), but because we planned on waking up extremely early on the morning of Day Four. At the beginning of the Day Four hike, you first have to pass through a gate where Peruvian officials check your Inca Trail tickets one final time with your guides before letting you pass. This gate opens at 5:30am, but the problem is that every person at campsite three with every possible Peruvian adventure company has to pass through this gate. Naturally, a ridiculous line forms.
On the morning of Day Three, the porters woke us up at 6:00am, a whole half-hour later than previous days, as a reward for completing Day Two. That morning, we did the usual packing of our bags, drinking coca tea, eating breakfast, and talking about what was yet to come for the day ahead of us.
They call Day Three “the most beautiful day on the Inca Trail.” Snow-capped mountains, beautiful vistas, brilliantly colored flowers with hummingbirds constantly hovering over them, and dense jungle, will all be encountered during this hike. But as a trade-off, this day is also the longest day on the Inca Trail.
When you return from a vacation to find yourself rummaging through all of your photographs, you’re bound to find that one photograph that stands out from all the others. It’s the one photograph that made the entire trip worth going on, and the one photograph that you’ll continue to turn to for many years to come as a reminder of what that trip was like.
For me, the above photograph is that photograph from my trip to Peru. There’s not a landscape I love more than the mountains, and for me, the clouds above the peak really make this. It was the perfect moment at the perfect place along the Day Two hike of the Inca Trail. I certainly took a few moments longer than necessary to catch my breath here.
We did it. We completed Training Day. At this point, we knew that Day One was harder than expected, but we were just so happy to be here, hiking the famous Inca Trail, that nothing else mattered. After completing Day One, and little sleep the first night due to roosters cockledoodledoing as early as 3:00am, we actually didn’t feel that tired. But that was about to change.
We woke up at 5:30am feeling ready for anything. The tent unzipped to reveal the monstrous peaks of the Andes mountains looming over our heads. That’s where we’re going?! is the only thought we could manage that crisp alpine morning. Yes, Hell Day is ahead of us…