1 September – I left Gullfoss this morning and for the first 3-4 hours passed through primarily agricultural country: hay fields and pastures, sheep and horses, no cows to be seen. Then after going east for a while on Hwy. 1 the scenery changed—I entered what’s called an outwash plain with mountains to the north and flattened plain on the south all the way to the Atlantic, which is often visible. The escarpment was only, I estimate, about 1,000 feet high with cliff, alluvial fans, collapsed sections, and all painted the rich green I became so used to in the Faroes. Here the green grows vertically, too, which tells me it’s very often moss. And in fact, eventually I came to lava fields that were completely grown over with moss, beautiful and in a way other-worldly. There was a little of this where I was yesterday that I gently inserted my fingers into and was surprised to find 4-5” deep. I read on an information sign that in the lava field it sometimes reaches 20” or more, which is hard to imagine. In many places other plants, forbs I suppose they’d be called, had rooted in the moss and sometimes flowered accenting the beauty further. All along the mountain face that continuously skirted the road and that was green all over, there were waterfalls and cascades, some of them from quite high above the plain’s edge below.

I took a few pictures but it was the continuity, mile after mile, that made it most remarkable and would require moving pictures to capture. Most of the plain was covered in shrubby plants separated occasionally by lava flows and more rarely by fields. Sadly, along the roadway repeatedly were dead birds. I learned later that baby fulmars, large but still too weak for distance flying, are often attracted to the road, perhaps seeing it as a stream, and land and of course are hit by cars. Over a hundred miles I’m sure I saw a couple dozen of them. Once a young woman had pulled over and was racing back to rescue one who was settled on the roadway edge. He was the lucky one. Damnable to think about all the lost lives and the lost effort of parents who had nurtured these youngsters almost to adulthood only to have them perish in an unnatural way.

I said I was beginning to develop a strategy for dealing with the tourist numbers. Since they apparently go to every place highlighted in guide books, I will mostly avoid those places and, as I often do when camping at home, seek out the less known and less popular areas, which for me very often have their own attraction and the added benefit of calmer, less populated conditions for enjoying them. I have gotten to the point anyway of being less drawn to the grand sights and more to the experience of grand landscapes; I want the feel of new natural places and of coming to know them as much as I can in limited time. As I’ve come to do in hiking around California, I find good spots for sitting and contemplating where I am. I’ve found that tourists are drawn to the dramatic, while I am satisfied with the quiet beauty of other places. Today I spent time in front of a cascade weaving its way down the moss-covered slope, graceful and shapely, while a few hundred yards away one of its sibs was roaring over a cliff edge throwing far more water out and breaking into spray at it hit the pool below. It was good to see but crowded, while I had the cascade to myself.

Cover Photo – by Lex Melony on Unsplash 

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