“You have a very nice walking route, but you must reconsider going close to the Vatnajokull. A volcano has erupted last month and vaporized a portion of glacier. The steam and water cut a canyon. You will be trapped there.” The ranger’s English was a surprise in the haunting, stark wasteland of the Icelandic Highlands. Growing up in New England, one grows accustomed to a staid, granitic landscape devoid of dynamism or vigorous geomorphology. When the Old Man in the Mountain dissolved to talus, that was news. A volcano vaporizing a glacier? Novelty in extremis.
Finding myself in Iceland for a family wedding, I thought it smart to extend my ticket and go for a short walk in the Highlands. This was surprising easy: public buses with high clearance and all-wheel drive run into the volcanic wastes each morning, and handling the logistics for a two-week trip took barely an afternoon of wandering Bloom-like around downtown Reykjavik. Like New Zealand, this small island’s tourism game is strong, with strong Nordic infrastructure, a full spectrum of accommodation, elevated food, and incredible backcountry easily reachable by public transportation. I walked across this small island, through the highlands, around the icecaps, and finished on the coast via the famous Laugavegur Route.