When I landed on the runway at Reykjavik airport, the barren landscape greeted me with miles of rocks stretching in every direction. The June wind cut through my jacket as I went to find the bus that would take me to my rental car. With keys in hand and a brief run-down of Icelandic traffic laws, I drove off toward Reykjavik in my Subaru Forrester to pick up my friends. Our day together started with coffee and treats, then scouting the bay in a tour boat to find puffins, and finally heading east toward the highlands of Iceland.
After checking in at the Airbnb, we dropped our luggage and hopped back into the car to make our way towards Þórsmörk. Being the type A individual I am, I had planned out the whole trip and had done research on various locations to visit. I had not researched enough about the route to Þórsmörk, apparently. I am incredible grateful that I had rented a 4x4 vehicle to take us on the dirt and mostly rock road through the highlands of Iceland. Several river crossings later, we finally arrived at the base of Þórsmörk. It was already 8:00 pm and realized it would be a few hours to hike to the top and back. We decided to head back and explore a canyon we had passed on the way there. The beauty of that hike was worth all the exploration to get there.
The next day's itinerary started with driving over what seemed like half of Iceland to get to a popular destination, Jökulsárlón. This iceberg-filled lagoon is well-loved for a reason, as the glacier and mountains framing the spectrum of chilly blues makes for a unique sight. A myriad of melted icebergs litter the shore for visitors to get a hands-on experience. We then double-backed on our route to hit up the black sand of Reynisfjara Beach and see the fascinating geometric caves created by the ever-present volcanic activity of the island. A sand storm obstructed our view a bit, so we didn't get to see Dyrhólaey as intended.
Enterprise handed us the keys to a Jeep Renegade for our journey from Denver, Colorado to Bozeman, Montana, with stops in Fort Collins, Colorado to see family. My sister spent her summers in Bozeman working at a seminary, surrounded by glorious mountains and nature. So my mom and I decided we had a great reason to road trip the miles through barren Wyoming and expansive Montana for a chance to see some of God's best handiwork. This included a visit to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, somewhere I had not been since I was six.
The skinned elbows from lying on the boardwalk were worth it for the shots I caught of the majesty of this country. I am still a little scared of falling off the path in Yellowstone, a fear garnered by park rangers telling my six-year-old self not to go off-path and fall into the springs that would eat me alive. This time around, I immensely enjoyed the blue skies and varied colors of the earth. My traveling companions sang along to my classic rock mixtape with the windows rolled down as we wandered through the winding roads of Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
Many places on earth compete for the title of God's Country, a place where it feels that heaven touches earth and His presence is almost tangible. The valleys and peaks of Montana and Wyoming are a strong contender for this label, with meandering streams flowing into reaching lakes and prismatic springs steaming into the skies.