Spotlight: Skogafoss

Mighty Skogafoss. It’s even more daunting in person. Words and pictures, though capturing a very basic essence of the mood and feel of Iceland’s wild natural artifacts, could never do this justice. If you read last post, you know just how special Seljalandfoss was, but if you’re in the Seljalandfoss area, you might as well drive the extra 20 or so minutes down the main road to reach the powerful Skogafoss.

The road itself is relatively far from the waterfall, making it difficult to judge the true size and scope of the fall from the road, but with all the people buzzing around the nearby campsite, it’s clearly one of Iceland’s attractions. Once you park, you open the door and are immediately struck by a sound of rushing water, like a million faucets all turned on simultaneously. It’s difficult to describe unless you’ve experienced it, but you can actually taste the fog and the humidity in the air. The sky is littered with stray gray clouds, sprinkling down intermittently, then passing the baton to the next cloud to do the same. There’s a large brown den that has bathrooms and information about the campground. When you pass this, you experience a violent wave of jealousy as you see tents sprouting from the ground next to the waterfall. The weather, though damp, is still quite beautiful, and so you envy the daring bravado and freedom of the people who have the means and desire to stay in this natural wonderland; to sleep there and call it home for a night. You wish you were a camper, or a backpacker marching across these rugged terrains as the Vikings did. This feeling begins to consume you as you near the fall itself.

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The ground all around is littered with campers! Lucky, brave souls

Looking up from the bottom of the fall, you see several people at the top on a wooden deck perched precariously near to the fall. Descending from this perch are a set of giant stone and wooden steps on the right side of the fall. It’s time to climb up.

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It’s a long way to the top, and the steps are gargantuan. But the view is worth it!

When you scale the first few steps you immediately resent the designers of these stairs. They clearly thought giants would be strolling up and down these steps instead of regular sized people. Each successive step is near your knee and requires more and more endurance to hoist yourself up higher and higher. About halfway to the top, there’s a sidelined track drawn in the grass that leads to a small opening right next to the middle of the fall. There’s no real path or railing, only a line in the dirt, so it seems a bit risky, but curiosity is your master in Iceland so you obey and head off the beaten path. When you carefully make it to the spot, you just stare at the water rushing past you at light speed. Light sprays hit your face as you snap a few photos and go back to trudging up these steps.

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Somewhere in the middle of the stairs is a dirt path leading to this opening view of the fall. It’s spectacular!

At the top, it’s as if a whole new world has opened up before you. At ground level you weren’t even thinking of anything but going back down once you hit the top, but now that you see it….it’s frankly ridiculous. A giant rolling plain atop a cliff on a mountain. You can see the river that drops off the cliff and creates Skogafoss stretch for miles on end. As you walk through the grass, you see wild cotton everywhere, waiting to be picked. It’s as though a truckload of cotton balls tipped over and spilled them all out, and just left them here. That feeling, the desire to stay and camp with the other lucky ones, intensifies.

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Wild cotton, as far as the eye can see!

There’s about a billion great picture opportunities so you try to hit as many as you can, but as you do so, people walk past, wandering  along the edge of the river, following it beyond the horizon. You ask someone where they’re headed, and you’re told that there’s a 15 mile hiking trail along this river that ends in an Icelandic volcano. The feeling that you need to camp out here now intensifies to such a point that you consider permanently moving to Iceland and leaving your past life behind.

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The mountain in the background just adds to the overall appeal of this place. Everything is surreal. Everything is special.

Unfortunately, common sense supersedes your travel ambitions right now. You have a flight to catch tomorrow. It’s time to leave Skogafoss to the lucky campers who will enjoy it for a few days before leaving instead of a few hours. You are so jealous.

And here’s a secret no one will tell you about Skogafoss: that desire to stay and camp never leaves. It’s an itch you carry with you, and if you’re so lucky, it will bring you back on of these days.

-The Wandering Toucan

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