KIRKJUFELL

Any self respecting Game of Thrones fan would know that Kirkjufell is a must see when visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We were lucky to find an inexpensive Airbnb that was right on the water. From our Airbnb we could see Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss, circled below.

[Sidebar: If you are new to Airbnb and would like a discount on your first stay, please use my link HERE. If you’re already a member and would like to book the same Airbnb, click HERE.]

Iceland as an entity, as a whole, is chock-full of beautiful backgrounds and breath taking landscapes. I would randomly take pictures of my sister and no matter where I did that, it was a beautifully detailed Icelandic background. However, with social media exposing locations at an all time high, the serenity of it all has been lost in the more touristic spots. If you’re a reader, then you know I prefer hard to reach places. It was hard to fight my urge to avoid tourist while wanting to fan girl GOT filming sites.

So we parked at the lot seen below. We watched the desperation of drivers trying to find a spot to place their rentals. I even lost my cool myself when someone tried to skip the line and take my spot! Then we got out of the car to find that the walkway was flooded (see red arrow below). That forced us and everyone else to walk uphill on the road to get around the flooded area. I didn’t know at the time, but there is a new parking lot up the road. It’s much larger and can save you some time waiting for a spot. And more importantly, save your sanity.

I want to give you realistic expectations when visiting Kirkjufell. This picture below has 5 people poorly edited out of the shot. So if you want the place to yourself, I would recommend getting up before sunrise. And even then I cannot guarantee you’ll have the place to yourself considering this was off peak season. But good luck!

You’ll have people who don’t care about the railings and climb over them to get their “perfect” shot. These same people are the ones that will most likely be in your shots too. Patience is key in these situations!

Here’s what it actually looks like:

The person in the red jacket didn’t move once the whole time we were there. So frustrating!

And here’s what it’s like when the trail has flooded: The people walking up the road will also be in your shots lol.

If you give up trying to capture both the waterfall and the mountain in one shot (and you wait patiently) you can get a nice group shot with just your friends and Kirkjufell in the background. And at the end of the day, isn’t it really just about traveling with close ones and making memories? Looking at these pictures brought a smile to my face, other tourists and all lol.

As for the Game of Thrones reference: Kirkjufell can be seen in S6 Ep5, S7 Ep1, S7 Ep6. I would post an image here but as a newbie blogger, I’d like to avoid copyright infringement 😉

Overall here are my thoughts on Kirkjufell. It’s certainly an odd shaped distinguishable mountain. Is it worth going to Kirkjufellsfoss to see the waterfall and mountain in one shot? Probably not. Simply because the mountain can be viewed from different angles on road #54 and there are waterfalls everywhere in Iceland.

However, the next time I’m in that area I’d like to hike Kirkjufell. Now that’s a view I wouldn’t mind sharing!

Iceland, I’m in love with that country, the people are incredible.”

Kit Harington

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GERDUBERG CLIFFS

I can’t explain why, but I get true pleasure looking at naturally forming geometric shapes. Maybe it has something to do with my semester studying and implementing Fibonacci’s theory into my work. Or maybe because I enjoy predictable patterns… Regardless, these cliffs are oddly satisfying.

Standing at the base, there are moments where I can almost “see” the cliffs crumbling as they lean forward. The portions that have already fallen seem to be rolling downhill. And for a moment I believed the stillness of it all meant they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But sitting on a rock at the top of the cliffs, it shifted under my weight. It was a quick reminder that nothing on this earth lasts forever. A reminder to see as much as I can and enjoy it while it’s there.

The Gerðuberg Cliffs (or Gerduberg Basalt Columns) are located just off of Snæfellsnesvegur (Road #54). You can see them on your right as you approach the entrance to the dirt road. They are very unassuming and easily missed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The GPS coordinates for the dirt road turn off are 64.846546, -22.368966.

We arrived in a low ground clearance minivan fully loaded with luggage and 6 adults. I wouldn’t worry about the dirt road all too much on a dry day. As you can see below, it’s pretty well packed with some expected potholes. I can’t speak for what the terrain is like after it’s rained heavily and would advise you proceed with caution. After driving on the dirt road for a few minutes you’ll find a small parking lot to the right.

Great minds think alike

Walking up the steep path like so many others have done previously, you get an idea of how tall the cliffs actually are. Below you can see the worn path with a three rock scramble at the top. If you find this area to be too steep, simply walk around to the left where the cliffs level out. It’s a longer walk but an option for someone who is not too keen on possibly sliding on some mud.

At the top you have views for miles.

Below I’m sitting on the rock I previously mentioned that shifts. The moss also makes climbing these rock formations precarious. Please use caution when attempting to get close to the edge. Safety is more important than “doing it for the gram.”

Our way down was interesting. The mud made for some slippery moves and that caused the whole group to laugh the whole way down.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll see plenty of sheep all along the dirt road when leaving.

The thing about Iceland is that we are trapped there anyway, all of us. We have been trapped there for thousands of years.”

Baltasar Kormakur

$5 FLIGHTS

DISCLAIMER: I am not getting compensated by Delta or American Express for this post. I’m simply sharing one of my methods for inexpensive travel. And if you’re interested or find this post useful, all I ask is that you use my link. Thank you!

I’ll leave this right here lol. AMEX LINK, CLICK ME!

So if you’ve ever been with me and watched me pay for something, it’s highly likely you saw me pull out a gold credit card. I use this bad boy to pay for everything. Food? Yes. Bills? Yes. Shopping? Duh! Have a large purchase you’ve been holding off on? Apply for the card and get a flight out of it!

When I applied for my Gold Amex I needed to spend $2000 in 2 months in order to receive my 50,000 free miles. And an extra $1000 to receive 60,000 free miles in 3 months. The rewards change depending on the promotion they’re running, so I would make sure you’re getting at least 50,000.

Here’s a list of the benefits I personally use:

  • 1 mile earned for every dollar spent
  • 2 miles earned for every dollar spent on Delta
  • 1st checked bag free (I use this all the time)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Amex offers

The Amex Offers are basically coupons you can activate on your account. Sometimes they seem insignificant but they can add up. I saved enough to cover my $95 annual membership fee. Yes, there’s an annual fee. But if you’re a savvy shopper like me, you’ll make that money back and then some in no time.

Screenshot of the 7 most recent offers redeemed.

I have had my Gold American Express card since 2016. So far I have used it for the following travels:

 Points Redeemed Destination
RT25,500LAS
RT25,500LAS
OW30,000BCN
OW30,000BCN
OW25,000RDU

I’ve paid about $5.50 in taxes for each flight. So technically it’s not 100% free, but close enough!

These benefits are by no means the only ones. This post is just highlighting the ones I take advantage of most. Again, if you’re interested or found this helpful and will be applying for the card, please use my link below. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions, I would be happy to help as best I can!

Gold American Express referral link

HUMPBACK ROCKS

GPS: 37.969127, -78.896155

TIME: 1H 10M

LENGTH: 1.6 MILES RT

ELEVATION CHANGE:  800 ft

We get to the trail head just in time to hike up to humpback rocks and see sunset. Fingers crossed. It was 7:15pm and sunset was at 8:25-ish. At the trailhead there are several different options for trails. We walked up to the kiosk and saw this posting. There was an alert for bear activity but there were several other people on the trail. So not really worried… As the sign said, the trail to humpback rock was right behind the kiosk.

To ensure hikers are going the right way, they also have these signs. We were only doing the 0.8 one way, but it’s many feet to climb in a short distance.

For anyone worried about the steep climb, there are benches along the way. It’s perfect for someone who needs to pace themselves to reach the top.

The trail is wide and has blue blazes all the way up. They almost felt redundant as the trail is very clear to follow. However, in the dark the blue blazes were helpful. As we climbed the steep trail, I almost stepped on this little guy. I was so glad he was a bright orange color because it caught my eye and he got to live another day.

You’ll come across about 45 wooden stairs that have been placed in the middle of the trail. It helps to gain some elevation rather quickly.

So, let’s talk about the bear. At this point we are still following the blue blazes and people are steadily heading down dogs and all. After the section below, the trail turns left. There was a black bear about 20 feet from the trail. The woman who saw him before us said they saw each other but the bear did not seem to want to interact. We decided it would be best to wait for two girls who were a few minutes behind us and walk up as a group. And that’s exactly what we did. One of the girls had seen a bear before on this same hike and said nothing came of it. Good to hear.

And then you’re almost there! Even though this hike is only 0.8 miles long, it felt eternal. After the bear, every dark shape seemed like it was another bear to me. The tension and adrenaline did not help make the hike any easier on my body either.

Then out of what feels like no where, you turn a corner and see this opening. I completely forgot about the bear and was so happy to see this view.

If you’re dumb brave enough, you can climb up on either side. I climbed up the right side and Nicole captured this shot from the top of the left side. It was a hazy evening, but the view went on for miles. Days with clear skies must have what seems like a endless view. But alas, no pretty sunset. FYI, those rocks are also super sharp and gloves would have been a plus to have on my person.

I have zero pictures of the descent from humpback and with good reason. By 8:25pm it was getting really dark really fast. Knowing that bears are dawn and dusk animals we made lots of noise on our way down. We essentially were running downhill yelling at each other and clapping randomly. We didn’t want to give a bear a chance to sneak up on us. And I’m sure we looked like a pair of crazies. But as Beyonce says, “I’d rather be crazy.” Below is the view from my car as we left the park.

Exactly…

“True Compassion is showing Kindness towards animals, without expecting anything in return”

– Paul Oxton

FORREST GUMP POINT

GPS: 37.1013933, -109.9905065

DATE: APRIL 28, 2019

Sometimes you think you know where you’re going and what you’re going to do when you get there. That was me. After all my research, I thought I knew for sure that Forrest Gump point was going to be the perfect place to take that iconic picture. Turns out we were close, but a little off.

Now don’t get me wrong. You can get some pretty awesome pictures from that viewpoint, but if you look at the picture below I’ll share a secret with you: The better viewpoint, at least in my humble opinion, is just down the road.

There were no other cars there, no other tourist and plenty of road to get just the right pictures we wanted.

Taking these pictures was the closest I ever got to playing frogger in real life. Kind of fun and kind of scary at the same time. It is super important to pay attention to the road. It’s easy to get distracted trying to get that perfect shot. Remember the cars have the open road and don’t want to stop because they are avoiding a pedestrian. We were lucky because we had one subject, one person on the camera, and one person yelling “CAR!” It was a system where we rotated and it kept us all safe.

Below I’ll share some of our awesome shots from that second viewpoint. You can see Monument Valley is closer in the background.

And for those of you who scrolled this far, I’ll show you some behind the scenes and bloopers 🙂

“I’m pretty tired… think I’ll go home now.”

– Forrest Gump

VALLEY OF THE GODS

GPS: 37.236771, -109.815529

LENGTH: 17 MILES ONE WAY

DATE: APRIL 28, 2019

While researching for my trip to the southwest I read all about the limitations monument valley has regarding hiking. How there’s only one hike you can do unaccompanied and everything else must be hiked with a Navajo guide. I think guides are important to meet the locals and learn things not otherwise noted. However, I’m an advocate for also being able to explore at my own pace. So I came across Valley of the Gods and was pleasantly surprised to see you could walk right up to buttes and not need a guide. Just make sure when traveling to Valley of the Gods that you’re prepared. There are no facilities and no source of drinking water. And remember to carry out your trash.

We turned onto the 17 mile-long dirt road just north of Mexican hat. It’s a bumpy ride and we were in an SUV. I saw sedans on the road as well so I don’t think an SUV is necessary. But online it states that when wet the area is impassable, even in an SUV. So check the weather and enter at your own risk!

There were tents at the base of some of the buttes. I’m sure people who had stayed the night had an awesome experience there. It’s so peaceful and quiet.

The buttes have names and it’s fun guessing which ones are on the list. We found a very informative map Here. The one that struck me as the easiest to see was the lady in the tub. I couldn’t unsee her in that tub! It totally personified the butte for me.

After we drove the 17 miles we headed over to Moki (Mokee) Dugway. It’s also a dirt road and there are warning signs at the base before entering. Impassable during rain and 10% grades made for an interesting ride in the passenger seat.

But so worth it. The views were a bit hazy and the pictures don’t do it justice. Atop the dugway you can see the Valley of the Gods below. Can you spot the lady in the bath tub? On clearer days you can even see monument valley from there.

Overall Valley of the Gods and Moki Dugway are areas for people to explore with less crowds. You can have a real personal experience here in solitude if you wish. And that’s hard to come by in the ever growingly popular south west.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

Jennifer Lee

BRYCE NATIONAL PARK

I feel like this park is so underrated. I have taken so many pictures of this park that it was hard to decide which ones to add/leave out. It’s so cliche to say “pictures don’t do it justice” when you’re traveling. But I can’t help it if it’s true! This park! The hoodoos! And to think, I didn’t even get to see the whole thing because Navajo Loop was closed due to weather related issues.

So here are the points of interest with what I think are the best pictures we took of them:

INSPIRATION POINT

At inspiration point you’re standing at 8,100 feet elevation. This is where the main amphitheater is located and where we decided sunrise would be best seen from.

We parked in a lot that already had about 15 other cars in it and were standing at the viewpoint by 6:35am. I was so excited to see that the sun had not yet gone over the ridge. The next couple of pictures show how fast the sun actually rises. I feel so grateful to have experienced this sunrise. It was one of the best ones I’ve seen. And it lit up the hoodoos in such a way; I would describe it as setting them on fire.

6:35 AM
6:45 AM
6:50 AM

NAVAJO LOOP / SUNSET POINT

Our next point of interest was the Navajo Loop Trail. Unfortunately due to weather impacting the trail we were unable to do this one. The trail leads down into the canyon in the picture below. It’s the base of the really dark area. The second picture shows the beginning of the Navajo Loop trail and you can tell the trail is damaged. It’s not surprising really and people are lucky to hike it when it’s open. The rock is soft and crumbly in many areas.

The damaged Navajo Loop is visible in this picture

BRYCE POINT

There weren’t that many other visitors at the park yet so early in the morning and we were able to drive and park at each of these locations rather quickly. Bryce point was yet another delight. The green vegetation juxtaposed to the red rock and random white patches of snow were something to behold.

QUEENS GARDEN TRAIL

Queens garden is a pretty easy trail to complete. But it’s important to keep in mind that every descending step you take, you’ll have to retrace on the way back up.

I cannot make this stuff up! How perfect is this sunburst on Tony???

The queens garden trail ended up being the only one we did at the park. Once we were done with it though, there were many tour buses and a wave of visitors flowing into the park. We’d be moving on to another town soon and it was nice having it in the quiet of the morning. I was pleased to leave the crowds behind. I’ll have to re-visit Bryce National Park one day. The switchbacks from Navajo Loop are just begging to be crossed off my list!

“Hell of a place to lose a cow”.

Ebenezer Bryce

WATCHMAN TRAIL

GPS: 37.200281, -112.986103

TIME: 1H 45M

LENGTH: 3.0 MILES

ELEVATION CHANGE:  356ft

DATE: APRIL 23, 2019

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For our first day and first hike at Zion National Park we decided to do a warm up. We searched online for the easier hikes with views and found the watchman trail. The National Park Service website has a super informative PDF here if you’d like to learn more.

We liked that we didn’t have to take the shuttle and could park at the lot and walk to this trail head. It’s super easy to spot as there are many signs pointing you in the right direction. We followed these brown signs across the lot, along the Virgin River, and across this neat little road. If you know me, then you know I couldn’t help myself and stopped for some pictures lol.

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Like I said, across the street you’ll see the sign for the trailhead. Once you’re on the trail it’s very easy to follow out and back. So everything from this point forward are just pictures and ramblings of a hiker who couldn’t believe she was finally in Utah.

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I loved the small green signs they had scattered throughout the trail. It’s nice to not only enjoy your views, but to also now what you’re actually looking at.

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If you can spot my husband below, you can see this portion of the trail gains elevation rather quickly. He only took about 3 minutes to walk to that point from where I was.

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We were there in the late afternoon and it was pretty quiet. Sometimes I would look behind me and realize it was just us and the trail. It felt like every corner had a beautiful viewpoint and I couldn’t imagine what Angel’s Landing had in store for us the next day.

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It’s difficult to convey in images what the eye sees in person. These hills, canyons, valleys, mountains, or whatever you classify them as are so layered. There are so many different components joined together at different depths. It’s hard to perceive but if you look closely it feels like you could deconstruct the layers and each one would be its own beautiful scenery.

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The sun felt amazing even though it was on its way down. Coming from New York where winter seems to not want to leave it was truly welcomed.

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So we finally made it to the top. The next images are actually from further down the trail in the “loop” portion. The loop itself is fairly small and barely has any elevation changes. If you made it to the top, you’d be cheating yourself if you didn’t do the loop.

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The rest of these are just some pictures I’d like to share from the top of Watchman’s trail. I’m going to post about most of the trails I did in Utah and Arizona throughout the month of May. If you’d like to see some pretty cool pictures check back soon!

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Here’s Tony’s version of Blue Steel lol.

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Below from left to right is Carlos, Nicole, Tony, and myself. We were the #UtahPutah crew on a mission to complete a crazy roadtrip through Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Can you tell I’m so happy to be standing in Zion?

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I can serve some blue steel too!

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Even as I write this blog I cannot believe these pictures are real…

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“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” -John Muir