A Trip to Iceland

By Alex Downing, Communications Intern

 

One of the most mesmerizing things about nature is that no matter where you come from or where you have been, there is always somewhere more exotic, somewhere wilder for you to explore. You hiked the Amazon and summitted Everest? Congrats, but what about the Outback or Kilimanjaro? There is so much natural beauty in so many forms that even the most well-traveled of us can always find some location more amazing than the last.

Growing up in the comforts of suburban Pittsburgh with a few acres of woods surrounding my house, my most exotic journeys were family gatherings in a somewhat remote cabin in the Poconos. The bird calls and howling wind echoing louder than any people, cars or homes always felt like the pinnacle of solitude and natural beauty.

Then I went to Iceland.

It was almost impossible to anticipate the sheer volume of beautiful sights present in every corner of this island nation. Even traveling between my family’s Airbnb and the next destination felt like a trek through a screensaver, surrounded by untouched mountains or desolate magma fields, disrupted only by the occasional sheep farm or small church.

I had never been far enough west to see the Rockies or Sierra Nevada mountains, so the sprawling monoliths of snowcapped earth towering from coast to coast alone were enough to blow me away. The countless picturesque waterfalls and pockets of hot springs littering the ridges and valleys add even more artistry to these geologic monuments. Many of these waterfalls are visible from the main highways, and some of our detours to explore these unmarked gems resulted in even more memorable sights than the main attractions.

For instance, we found Bruarfoss Waterfall after only a 20-minute hike from the road. I nicknamed it the Black and Blue Falls because of the gorgeous contrast between the dark volcanic rock of the riverbed and the cerulean glacial waters flowing over it.

Another hidden beauty is called the Secret Lagoon. It is a hot spring that draws in much smaller crowds than the famous Blue Lagoon; as a result, there are fewer tourists and commercial buildings to disrupt the calming natural spa.

While these more intimate locations offer less crowded views of Iceland’s many beauties, that’s not to say that the more famous locations don’t deserve praise as well. One of the country’s most famous waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss, is a massive cascade pouring from the cliffs over 200 feet with a cave behind it allowing it to be seen from all angles. However, the best view came from hiking up the steep hillside next to it, where the surging water blasting toward the ground stood out in stark contrast to the peaceful landscape around it.

Another waterfall, Gullfoss, is known as the “Niagara Falls of Iceland.” While not nearly as large, it displays as much natural power and splendor as its North American rival without nearly as much distraction from Niagara’s commercialized surroundings.

But perhaps my favorite spot on this weeklong tour of the country was where water from the same sources that created many of the roaring falls sits stunningly still and silent. Jökulsárlón consists of two parts—Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. The kaleidoscopic lagoon lies at the base of one of the largest glaciers in Iceland, where the snow and ice of the mountainous sheet above gives way to the deep blue of the still liquid below before reflecting on the placid mirror of water. When some of these large ice chunks escape the lagoon, they usually break and wash up on the black sand beach nearby, scattered like jeweled gravestones on the shore, unmoving but for the occasional Atlantic wave that churns them.

There were so many more fantastic views around Iceland, like the harbor and lighthouse of Stykkishólmur and the iconic architecture of Reykjavik. However, these manmade attractions were dwarfed by the endless canvas of Mother Nature’s design. A week, though, was just enough to scratch the surface of Iceland’s’ beauty; there is so much more to explore and I hope I get the chance to do that someday.

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OUTDOOR News

  • Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting

    April 24, 2018

    By: Beth Zabiegalski   

    As an organization, Venture Outdoors does some really awesome and exciting things with local youth in after-school and summer programs, getting them outside for the first time or teaching them something new to do in nature. Most of our outings are a couple hours or less, but when we build meaningful relationships with our students, we create formative outdoor experiences with memories that last more than just that afternoon. 

    Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day Restorative Practices Training through Venture Outdoors’ partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools. I’ll admit I had next to no idea what to expect,

     » Read more about: Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting  »

  • Spring Inside

    April 17, 2018

    A Day a Phipps 
    By: Sara Cardamone 

    Now that Spring is finally here, so is the rain! In Pittsburgh, sometimes it can be hard to find ways to be in nature when it is rainy and muddy. However, there are tons of fun alternatives if you look hard enough! Since I’m a student at Pitt, I pass Phipps Conservatory all the time but I always felt like I never had enough time to stop in. Fast forward to now, the first big rainy day of Spring was upon us and I was struggling to find a calming activity to take my mind off of school and then it hit me.

     » Read more about: Spring Inside  »

  • My Mirror is the Outdoors

    April 10, 2018

    By Stephanie Capilongo

    “Go Outside… amidst the simple beauty of nature… and know that as long as places like this exist, there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.” -Anne Frank.

    The outdoors, it appears, is complicated. But it’s not. It can free your mind and give you a new appreciation for beauty. It brings things and people together, whether it’s your best friend, significant other or your cat. The people you go with mean everything. And no matter who you are or what you do, you can find joy.

     » Read more about: My Mirror is the Outdoors  »

  • When Youth Find their Voices

    April 3, 2018

    By: Lo Hutelmyer, Ryan Singleton and Ty’Shay Thorton

    To an educator, few things are more rewarding than witnessing a student discover his or her own passion. More rewarding still is when they show their first glimpses of leadership by taking charge to teach others about their passion.

    For those of you who may know me, it’s sometimes a challenge for me to stay quiet. But when I had the opportunity to watch Ty’Shay and Ryan present at last month’s conference, I was speechless. Ty’Shay and Ryan, 7th graders from Manchester Academic Charter School, have been participating regularly on Venture Outdoors trips for two years.

     » Read more about: When Youth Find their Voices  »

  • Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!

    March 27, 2018

    By: La’Nell Pennington, Trip Leader SpecialistGASP

    Last October, youth group members at Mount Ararat Community Activity Center in East Liberty participated in an after-school workshop with Pittsburgh’s own Group Against Smog and Pollution. (GASP).

    What is air pollution? We started out by asking the children if they knew what air pollution was. All the kids raised their hands excited to give answers. After a short hike to the Larimer Community Garden, we took turns giving examples of different types of air pollution and where it comes from. The children identified pollution sources such as cars,

     » Read more about: Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!

#KeepPittsburghPaddling


Featured Outing

Geocaching - CD

Cultural District Geocaching
Thursday, April 26
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Join us for a fun intro to the world of geocaching in the Cultural District. We will learn the basics of using a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to navigate between waypoints throughout downtown.

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