First, a very enjoyable week at the beginning of August totally disconnected and away from the world in the backcountry of Algonquin Park with Mike and a lovely couple we've been friends with for several years. We started this tradition of canoe camping with Tracy and Kevin last year when planning our previous annual vacation of a bike trip somewhere went on hiatus due to Covid restrictions. Like last year, we started our journey at Voyager Quest (an overnight cabin with supper and breakfast included) at Algonquin Access Point 1 (Kawawaymog, or Round, Lake), and we spent 5 nights in the wilderness interior at 4 different campsites. We had planned on only 3 sites (1st night at North Tea Lake near Mangotasi River, next 3 nights in Biggar Lake, and final night back in North Tea closer to the river back to Kawawaymog). However, from our 2nd somewhat shaded campsite, we kept gazing across the lake at a sunny spit of land that we eventually explored, only to discover it was an unoccupied campsite. So we hastily packed up our previous site and transferred ourselves for the final night on Biggar, wondering why we hadn't just stopped at this sunny site in the first place.
Unlike last year, we had no rain this time around, and while the nights had a bit of a chill (lesson learned: bring warmer sleeping bags even if the preceding weeks had temps in the 30s...), the weather was fantastic. Despite an incident where we narrowly avoided burning down the forest and searing off Mike's hand, and a time when we had to call upon 'Nurse Tracy' to staunch some blood and bandage up a gash received while Mike and Kevin went foraging for wood when we found ourselves on an island well cleared of deadfall, we had a tremendous time away from the cares of the world. I even jotted down a poem about one beautiful sunrise, and another about portaging and how sometimes it's better if you can't see too far ahead.
After returning home from this relaxing break, Mike and I turned our minds to a place that's been on our list for a while now, and we started in earnest to plan a trip to Iceland. We had already picked the dates, but now had to confirm where to stay and what to see. This trip would see our 26th Wedding Anniversary (the 25th a more subdued affair during a pandemic that involved some food poisoning, so we hoped this one would work out better), and would last 12 days.
The first three days were rainy and windy and included a flat tire far from civilization (on the morning of our Anniversary no less, so it looked a little dicey for a bit), but the fourth day dawned bright and warm and we could finally see and enjoy the true splendour of a magnificent country. While we had stopped to see some waterfalls and do some hiking in the first three days (if you're into hiking, I highly recommend getting out to Landmannalaugar and exploring some of their many trails despite the bumpy F-road to get there and the wind trying to push you off a mountain), many of these were the well-known 'tourist traps'. If you've seen pictures of Iceland, you'd likely recognise what we glanced at at the beginning of our journey around ring road, complete with bus loads of wandering and oblivious tourists, all wondering what we're doing out in such miserable weather, but reluctant to miss what everyone 'must see'. Although I almost admire the bride making the most of things in spite of the pouring rain and chilly wind on her bare arms as she tried to get that memorable photo in front of a waterfall.
While the known locations do have their beauty, we found that tracking down some of the 'hidden gems' is a very worthwhile effort. A useful tool to do so is alltrails. Mike would navigate while I drove, and he'd look for promising suggestions along the way from previous travelers/hikers who also liked to find where the bus tours didn't go. In such a way, we discovered places such as Holmanes, the Hallormsstadur forest trails, Rjukandafoss, Dalvik, Reykjafoss, Selvallafoss, and the challenge of Akrafjall.