Day 8: A Day Trip Around Mývatn: Skútústaðir

Trip Start Jul 05, 2010
Trip End Jul 25, 2010

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Flag of Iceland  , Northeast,
Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 8: A Day Trip Around Mývatn: Skútústađir, Dimmuborgir, Hverfell, and Grótagjá: July 12, 2010

The morning began again with a low-hanging fog and drizzle but it was starting to clear by the time breakfast was over. Anticipating this, from past times here, I delayed our departure until 10:00, giving everyone an extra hour in the sack, if they wanted it.

Nancy told me that Chad's back was hurting too much to travel or hike so he was going to stay at camp. He had been thrown from a horse a couple of days before the trip began.

We drove to the vista point on the north side of Mývatn where we had made a brief stop two days earlier. From there, one can see at least 9 different types of volcanoes. Unfortunately, the ceiling was still low to the south, preventing views of the higher tuyas and Askja. Driving counterclockwise, we next stopped at Skútústađir to walk through the rootless craters of Skútústađirgígar.

The rootless craters were formed about 2000 years ago when a large lava flow moved over a large marsh. The marsh water beneath the flow flashed to steam and caused numerous hydromagmatic explosions that formed a series of nearly symmetrical cones that are devoid of any deep plumbing system. A shallow lagoon formed on top of the lava flow. On the trail around the lagoon, a bridge crosses the "world’s shortest river", where water flows off of the lava flow and into Mývatn: a distance of about two meters and a drop of less than 30 centimeters.

Mývatn means “midge’s lake” and there are millions of these pesky bugs along the trail, often forming midge tornadoes. They don’t bite and a light dose of bug repellent keeps them away. The craters of the cones are very fertile resulting from the poop and bodies of generations of midges.

We continued around the lake to the lunch stop where a 3-tiered lava tube is exposed just before reaching Dimmuborgir. Usually, the students are all over the outcrops. This crowd was just hungry so only a few people did any exploring.

Satiated, we drove to Dimmuborgir where we hiked the circuit past the slickensides and the lava tube, Kirkja. Dimmuborgir means “dark castle” or “dark city”. The trail is marked by spookily shaped rocks all the way around. These lavas are the same that caused the rootless craters, originating from the nearby Lúdentsborgir eruption center.

I made a wrong turn onto the trail toward, Lúdent, a place I have yet to visit, but realized my error and headed back until we found the trail to Hverfell. Hverfell is a tuff cone that grew from hydromagmatic eruptions about 2700 years ago in an earlier Mývatn. The trail from Dimmuborgir reaches the volcano at its steepest point on the south side. I had Ţor meet us there with the bus and drive those who wanted to the less challenging trail that originates on the northwest side. I climbed with Elena and we walked along the rim to the south side where we could see the nearly perfect ring in the Dimmuborgir lava field. The ponded lava had drained out through a lava tube, causing a cylindrical plug to collapse. It started raining and we saw a nice rainbow to the east.

After we descended, I told Ţor to take those who wanted to ride over to Grótagjá. Jake and I decided to walk. It’s good to be in the field with Jake again after a 35-year hiatus. After a brief stop at the gjá, we returned to camp. Shew and I did some shopping for tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch at the Samkaup.

After dinner, the drizzle returned so some people turned in early. A lot of the younger crowd, however, went to the municipal pool and then on to the bar in Reykjahliđ. I did some laundry, as did a few others. Because it was drizzly outside we rigged a crazy clothesline back and forth across the kitchen tent, in all directions, with a single rope. Mývatn is a very humid place. Not much drying will occur. I crawled into my tent around 11:30 and fell asleep.

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