Falling Waters Thirteen: Seljalandsfoss and Öxarárfoss, Iceland

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May, 2014

We certainly have seen a lot of waterfalls on our travels. Seljalandsfoss was the first one where we could actually walk behind it – pretty cool!

Seljalandsfoss (I’ve double and triple checked the spelling and I’m still not sure it’s correct) is located in the south region of Iceland, not far from Skógafoss, on the Seljalandsfoss River, and fed by one of the same glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull. It’s about 80 feet wide and drops almost 200 feet.

By the way, the Eyjafjallajökull glacier is located by the volcano, by the same name, that erupted in 2010, disrupting travel plans in Europe and the Atlantic. Currently, another volcano near this location, Katla, is being watched because of increased carbon dioxide emissions. It will erupt someday, but no one knows how soon. Of course, Iceland is the land of fire and ice, so this should not come as a surprise.

We stopped at this beautiful waterfall late in the day, giving us some beautiful (almost) sunset views. In May, the sun doesn’t set before 10pm, but we were delighted to stay up late for this opportunity. We walked up a path along the side to reach the cave behind the waterfall, and then enjoyed the view from that perspective.

There is a human-made waterfall at Þingvellir National ParkÖxarárfoss, which was created in the Middle Ages to provide water for the members of and visitors to the Icelandic parliament that met there. We actually saw the waterfall from a distance, but were treated to its lower flow when touring the park.

And, of course, there were more waterfalls along the road.

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Falling Waters Twelve: Skógafoss, Iceland

May, 2014

If you watch the History Channel series, Vikings, you will have seen this waterfall. In season 5, the character Floki sets sail alone from Norway and washes up on a strange land. In his explorations, he comes upon a waterfall that suddenly starts flowing backwards, which convinces him that he is in the land of the Norse gods, Asgard.

When I saw this scene, I immediately recognized the waterfall as Skógafoss, located near Iceland’s south shore, along the Southern Ring Road. Skógafoss is created where the Skógá River flows over cliffs that formed an earlier coastline. It is fed by two separate glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. It is about 50 feet wide and drops almost 200 feet, with a mist that creates beautiful rainbows on a a sunny day.

Skógafoss has also featured in “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” It is a very popular destination for tourists and residents alike. We were impressed with its beauty even before we reached the waterfall.

If you climb to the top of the waterfall, and follow the river upstream, there are many more dramatic waterfalls. Unfortunately, we did not have time to do that. We did walk close enough to it to get fairly wet, a small price to pay for the beauty we witnessed. It’s possible to visit in the winter as well, but you do need to watch for ice.

There is a legend attached to Skógafoss, of course. It is said that a Viking named Thrasi hid his gold under the falls. Many have tried to find the gold and one young man almost succeeded. He tied a rope to the ring of the chest handle and pulled, but only managed to retried the ring. This ring was later used for a church door at the nearby village of Skógar.

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Iceland is home to thousands of waterfalls, as many waterfalls as there are lakes in Minnesota – yes, 10,000! This is due to frequent snow and rainfall as well as to glacial melt in the summers. We drove by several on our way to visit Skógafoss, but I can’t tell you their names.

Imagine having a waterfall in your backyard.

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Falling Waters Eleven: Gullfoss, Iceland

May, 2014 and January, 2017

Iceland in the spring and summer does not compare to Iceland in the winter. On our first trip in May, we had 21 hours of daylight, and dusk for the other three. We would lose track of the time, suddenly realizing at almost midnight that we had to get up in about six hours. Without blackout shades, we probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Temperatures rarely climb above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

In January, it was almost the opposite, with only about 4 hours of daylight. We got up in the dark, had breakfast in the dark, had dinner in the dark. Even we Minnesotans were craving sun by the end of the trip. On the other hand, winter temperatures are often warmer in Iceland than they are at home, because of the ocean effect.

Waterfalls look dramatically different as well from one season to the next. Gullfoss Waterfall, meaning Golden Waterfall, is located in Southwest Iceland, on the Hvítá (White) River, fed by the Langjökull glacier. This glacial water contains a lot of sediment, giving it a brown color, and on a sunny day, it takes on a golden hue.   Gullfoss is a popular stop on Iceland’s Golden Circle. Gullfoss’ average flow during summer is about 4,900 cubic feet per second, while in winter it is only 2,800 cubic feet per second. That’s still pretty impressive, though, especially when surrounded by ice and snow.

Gullfoss is often listed as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. Granted, we haven’t seen them all, but this one is probably our second favorite…so far.

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In the early 1900’s, some foreign investors wanted to build a hydroelectric powerplant to harness the power from Gullfoss. Sigríður Tómasdóttir, daughter of Tómas Tómasson who owned the land where the waterfall was located, protested vehemently. She knew that such a plan would destroy Gullfoss forever. She threatened to kill herself by throwing herself into the waterfall. Sigríður walked 75 miles barefoot, with bleeding feet, from Gullfoss to Reykjavik to protest the powerplant. She won her battle and Gullfoss retains its pristine beauty to this day, for which we are very grateful. There is a memorial plaque of Sigríður that depicts her profile at the top of the falls. She does look determined!

The Hvítá river flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then plunges in two stages (36 feet and 69 feet) into a 105 feet deep crevice, creating quite a bit of mist. The crevice is about 66 ft wide and 1.6 miles in length, and extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. There are several viewing locations, both above the falls and alongside them.

May, 2014

January, 2017 – Note the frozen falls in the lower left hand photo.

It’s become quite popular to get married in Iceland, even in the winter. We saw several couples getting wedding photos at Gullfoss and by geysers when we were there in January. I felt sorry for the freezing brides in their sleeveless dresses. However, if you get married in Iceland, you will have some of the most stunning backgrounds in the world for your wedding photos.

 

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What is This Thing Called a Workation?

According to Urban Dictionary, a workation is defined as:

“Work remotely while doing the touristy things on weekend or after work. Not always a good idea but sometimes is more practical,” or
“Anytime you bring work materials, laptops, paperwork or worse keep meetings, in a neurotic attempt to ‘keep up’ on what should essentially be personal or vacation time. This is most acute when you realize you get more actual work done, on “vacation” than when in the office, because nobody is interrupting you.”
There are more definitions, but they do get progressively snarky.
I was not familiar with the term (although I’ve often added play days to business trips) until I heard Marie Surma Manka speak on the topic at a local business women’s lunch. Manka and her husband have taken several workations with their children, spending several months abroad. That involved setting up long-term housing, schooling for the children, and reliable internet and phone connections, even work space.
It also required making arrangements with their employers to telecommute. Granted, not everyone can be away from the office for extended periods of time. Some jobs really do require you to be on site, plus you need an employer who is able and willing to be flexible.
I have a friend who is a financial advisor. A few years ago, she spent several months helping a professor with a college class studying abroad. She needed to get approval from the investment firm and make arrangements for secure internet and phone communication. It often meant working some unusual hours so she could speak to her clients on central US time, but she was able to make it work, and see a lot of the area.
When Marie and her husband decided to try workationing, they had to figure it all out for themselves, and she wanted to make it easier for others who also want to take workations. She wrote a book that you might want to invest in if you are interested in and able to do a workation: Next-Level Digital Nomad: A guide to traveling and working from anywhere (even with kids and a day job)
To make it easier, the Mankas only go to English speaking countries, but if you’re bi-lingual (or more), you have greater options. If I was still working and had the flexibility, I’d certainly consider a workation. I would enjoy immersing myself in a culture by spending several months.
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Falling Waters Ten: Catarata Llanos de Cortés, Costa Rica

Winter, 2013

We visited Costa Rica in 2013, and one night when we stopped at a beachside bar at Playas del Coca, we struck up a conversation with the owner. I wish I could remember the name of the bar, so I could recommend it. Anyway, he recommended a hidden waterfall that was frequented by the locals, and not yet overrun by tourists. It was located not far from Liberia, in the Cantón of Bagaces.

If you are interested, there are 82 cantons in Costa Rica. They are similar to a city or municipality, with a mayor whose job is to work with the municipal council, district councils and to approve and implement the decisions made the the municipal council. The municipal council manages the canton at the local level, planning basic policies and establishing budgets. By the way, bagaces is also the name of a hard white cheese in Costa Rica.

We headed to Bagaces, looking for any signage (not much) that would provide some positive reinforcement. We did find the correct turnoff, drove about 3 miles down a gravel road, and found a sign that said “Waterfall.” We turned in, then gave a free-will donation for the local school. After parking the car (which involved an unfortunate incident with a tree,) we walked down a path to the waterfall (sturdy shoes recommended.)

We were greeted with a stunning view of Catarata Llanos de Cortés with a beautiful natural pool for swimming. I’m guessing the name means Plains of Cortez Waterfall. The fall is about 50 feet wide and 40 feet high. It was possible to go behind the waterfall, and jump in from the sides if you want to. The waters have been warmed by the sun before dropping over the edge, making it feel like you are taking a warm shower.

What a lovely place to spend a day. When we visited, there were few tourists. Most of the people at the falls and pool were from the area, enjoying the day with their families, picnicking and swimming.

I’ve read that this formerly secluded waterfall has become more popular with tourists, with about 80,000 visitors annually. A hotel and restaurant are being built by the Canton of Bagaces on the site, with construction starting in 2019. I hope it proves beneficial to the folks who live here.

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More About the Hops

Monday, September 17, 2018

I just learned that Eric Sannerud of Mighty Axe Hops will be participating in a TEDx talk on October 11, 2018 in St Cloud, Minnesota. If you are available, check out TEDx St. Cloud. Besides Eric, there are five other inspirational people from the Central Minnesota area.

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Hop, hop, hopping for Brews!

Friday, September 14, 2018

We paid a visit to the Mighty Axe Hops Farm near Foley, Minnesota, and were treated to a very informative tour. It’s harvest season, a good time to learn about the process. At 83 acres, Mighty Axe is the largest hops farm between Michigan and Idaho.

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Eric Sannerud and Ben Boo have been operating the farm here for three seasons, and are harvesting nine different varieties this year, including Zeus, Crystal, and Cascade, among others. They plan to add a tenth next year. In addition to these, Mighty Axe is growing some trial hybrids for the University of Minnesota. The harvested trial hops will be given to some brewers to test their quality and flavor. Successful hops varieties will be available for sale in the future.

The hops bine (no, it’s not a vine, it but does climb) is a perennial that grows from a rhizome. New shoots are sent up in the spring, and they die back in the fall. Female plants produce the hop flowers that are used in brewing beer. The flavor comes from the lupulin, the yellow center of the flower.

Rather than tendrils that grasp and wind like a vine, a bine grows by sending shoots that grow in a helix, wrapping clockwise around a pole, rope or anything that’s handy. Since it can grow as much as 8 – 20 inches a week before reaching full height (7 – 20 feet or more,) Mighty Axe strings ropes from tall trellises to support their bines.

When ready to harvest, the bines are cut down and processed by machine to remove the hops flowers.

The leaves are blown out of the facility, and are left to compost for a few years. Eric and Ben do not use them as fertilizer on their fields since the leaves can harbor insects that might harm future crops.

The hops flowers are dried in heated bins, then baled and frozen.

After freezing, the hops are pelletized for sale to brewers, where they are magically transformed to that prized beverage: beer!

The next time you are drinking an ice cold one, give a toast to Eric and Ben, as well as to all farmers, for as one near Rochester, Minnesota put it so succinctly:

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