Photos: (1-2) Red hills; (3) The dusty road of that special highland moment; (4) Golf ball mushroom; (5) Red hills with snow-capped Mt. Snæfell; (6) An old crater
How wonderful to sleep in a real bed! The first time in two weeks. I still tossed and turned a lot in the night with back and body aches, but I feel great this morning. It’s 15°C inside the hut this morning and still quite dark since the sun is on the other side of the hut where there are no windows, and Herðubreið is blocking the sun as well. It’s mild and there’s no wind but it’s cloudy and looks like rain in the direction I’m going. The hut is so cozy though that I don’t want to leave, so I take my time with breakfast and packing up my things. It’s strange that my phone works here, and yesterday too, strange to be so alone day and night yet able to send text messages or call anywhere in the world.
It’s already raining when I begin my hike. Very light at first, but it will get worse as the day progresses. And so will the wind. The weather is terrible for about the first 13 km, and the terrain is rough at first going through the lava, but I’m in extremely good spirits today. The trail is well-marked so I don’t have to think much, but I still lose some of the trail markers going through the lava and have to hunt a bit. I see footprints all the way today. In spots the earth is unusually red and I spend a lot of time looking at rocks, despite the rain rolling off my hood. Then for a few kilometers the trail runs parallel to a dirt road. On this dusty black road, shivering with cold, with the wind whipping in my face and the rain running down my nose, I experience one of those special highland moments. An incredible high, or rush of energy, and an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. I am alive! And I am out here fulfilling my dreams. And this gratitude goes well beyond the moment, the beauty of nature here and now, but extends to my whole life in general. I am grateful for everything, for the experience of living, for the good and bad. Such experiences recharge my batteries and give me the strength do deal with just about anything life will toss my way.
Grinning and light-footed, I thoroughly enjoy the hike today. The rain eventually stops, the sky clears and snow-capped mountains are visible off in the distance. The trail meanders through lava fields again, offering plenty of nice large rocks to sit on for short breaks. I come across a rare mushroom that I’ve never seen before that is round and white like a golf ball. The terrain is very beautiful and I also discover a new type of moss that I’m unfamiliar with as well. I’ve got one eyeball focused on the ground and one on the horizon as I walk. I don’t know where to look, it’s all incredible. Eventually the jeep track is visible from the trail and occasionally a jeep will pass, often stopping to photograph me trudging through the moonscape.
In no time at all I reach the cluster of huts known as Dreki. I get a bed in the hut instead of camping and end up actually having a room to myself all night. I pay for the last night in Bræðrafell as well. It feels good to be indoors again, sitting at a table for a meal or to write in my journal. It’s great how such simple pleasures can make me happy. Even my Spot messenger works on the window sill so I don't have to go outside.
Although the route was relatively long today, it was so varied and interesting that the time just seemed to fly by. It was also nice being on a marked trail the last two days where I didn’t have to worry much about orientation. That allowed me to focus my attention on other things, like the details around me. I’ll definitely come back here and hike the entire Öskjuvegur one day. I’ve gotten my first taste of it and it was actually much better than I expected. But for now I’ll just stay here for a day or two and explore the area.