Archive for March, 2013

USA Adventure Part 9: Bryce Canyon

We rented a cabin between Bryce and Zion for a couple of days, and on our first day there we decided to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. I hadn’t fully recovered yet from my cold, but thankfully this turned out to be a cloudy – and almost cool – day, which was perfect for me. It was quite busy in the national park, the car park near the visitor centre was so full we had to skip it. We decided to hike the Navajo / Queen’s Garden trail loop, which goes from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. I was a bit worried the hiking up and down the canyon would be tough, but it was surprisingly gentle – partly because the trail is gentle and partly because it wasn’t very warm that day.

The view from Sunset Point, inviting you to explore the canyon below The zig-zag path down into the canyon, this is a (vertical) panorama of three images - it wouldn't fit otherwise!

I really loved Bryce Canyon, I think it was my favourite national park, even if it was busier than most other parks. The so-called “hoodoos” (the colourful rock spires that the park is famous for) are just fantastic!

Paul in the low tunnel A brave tree reaching for the sky

It was the cloudiest day of our trip, but we still saw some blue sky as well…

Some blue in the sky at times :) Beautiful trail

And even though the skies were threatening at times, we didn’t get rained on!

Another little tunnel Panorama of Bryce Canyon under threatening skies

The light kept changing, which made the rock appear different as well. Endlessly fascinating :)

The path winding between the hoodoos Another view of the hoodoods

After our hike, we drove further into the park. Along the road, we stopped at the viewpoint for Natural Bridge…

Natural Bridge, one of the viewpoints along the road

At the end of the road (Rainbow Point) we followed the short Bristlecone Loop Trail, less spectacular (no hoodoos here), but with fantastic views.

A very pretty cumulonimbus cloud - though it seems the anvil is all that's left here Paul took a panorama with the cloud and the view

And fantastic clouds, a paradise for a meteorologist :D

Wide views and impressive clouds Viewpoint on the Brislecombe Loop Trail - another impressive cumulonimbus cloud in the distance!

On our way back, we stopped at Bryce Point around sunset. Bryce Point looks out over the whole amphitheater, a really impressive view! There were many showers in the distance, which made the sky look dramatic, and we took a few panorama shots…

The panoramic view from Bryce Point at sunset Even wider panorama from Bryce Point :)

We were very lucky that day, with all the showers surrounding us, we didn’t get a drop of rain. But as soon as we drove out of the National Park, we were hit by a strong thunderstorm :D

We had a great day in Bryce Canyon, even though we didn’t venture far off the beaten track. There are some nice long distance paths under the rim, that would be great to explore if we ever visit again.

Blåkollkoia

As a preparation for our planned hut-to-hut ski trip for Easter, we decided to take a short trip to a cabin called Blåkollkoia. We’ve visited the cabin once, but that time we only ate lunch there. It’s a very small cabin with only 4 beds, so we were always a bit nervous planning a trip here, as it can easily fill up (you can’t reserve these huts). After a lot of bad weather, we thought surely nobody else had planned a trip here on a Friday evening…

We left after work, and it started getting dark by the time we left the parking lot in Tønsvik. At the same time, a couple of snowscooters took the same route – they belonged to a rescue organization and they wanted to practice getting lost in bad weather. However, the weather improved drastically that evening – until the skies were clear and beautiful northern lights were dancing above – which made us regret not taking a tripod! We were very grateful for the scooters who drove almost all the way to the hut, leaving an easy to follow track for us. They stopped to talk to us on their way back, and told us they saw ski tracks around the cabin and that there was probably one other person there. No problem, we thought ;)

We arrived at the cabin just before 22:00, and noticed 2 pairs of ski’s outside the door. No problem, there are 4 beds… but when we opened the door, we had a bit of a shock, as we were greeted by FIVE pairs of eyes – all looking just as shocked as us :D Three sneaky Belgiums had come on snowshoes… Oh well, there was 1 extra mattress and 2 of the Belgians were willing to share a bunk. After a delicious cheese fondue dinner we tried to sleep sharing a single mattress which was placed half under the sink… I had just settled in my sleeping bag when I heard voices outside… I poked Paul, who refused to believe me. But soon the voices were right outside the door and there was no doubt that more company was on the way :D

Another couple arrived, and sadly the only place left was underneath the table on a woolen blanket. The next morning we all had breakfast together and laughed a lot about the record number of people in this tiny cabin! Outside, the sun was shining and although some kind of animal had stolen the lunch packet of one of the women in the hut, everybody was in a good mood. Our only plan for the day was skiing back to Tønsvik, so we took it easy and left the cabin around 10:30.

The cabin Blåkollkoia Descending to the river in snowy weather

You first have to make your way down to the river and cross it by a narrow wooden bridge. After that you climb up to the wide plateau, which was beautiful in the sunshine :)

Crossing the narrow bridge over the Tønsvik river Up on the plateau and the sun started shining - you can still see the cabin behind me

We really enjoyed the blue skies and great views, and lots of unspoiled snow.

Deep powder and blue skies - beautiful morning! Great view towards the mountains behind us Paul in the wide landscape

We had a nice lunch break on the plateau, before descending down through the forest. It took us about 3 hours to get back to the car. Here’s a map and a height profile of our trip…

Our route to Blåkollkoia Height profile for our trip to Blåkollkoia

It was a fun trip, but I think we’ll bring a sleeping mat next time – just in case ;) We didn’t sleep very well on the floor and having stiff muscles doesn’t help much the next day. It was good to have a “practice run” though, and find out how to improve things before our longer trip (next week!).

Sightseeing on Kvaløya and Ringvassøya

Last week my friends Edwin and Aline came to visit us in Tromsø. I studied meteorology together with Aline in Wageningen, but we hadn’t seen each other for more than 7 years! I was a bit worried about the weather during their visit, as in the week before they arrived we had several episodes of mild weather (+5 degrees) and lots and lots of rain. There were huge puddles and flooded roads everywhere. Then it turned cold again, dropping from +5 to -5 within a day. This caused lots of problems: the flooded roads froze over, challenging the road services to get rid of thick layers of ice. Our car got in trouble too: the back wheels were standing in a puddle, and when it froze over, the wheels froze into the puddle and it was impossible to move the car! The doors kept freezing as well, locking me inside the car, having to call Paul on his mobile so he could rescue me by opening the door from the outside, and pouring hot water over the tires. Crazy day!

But luckily for Edwin and Aline, the weather started improving as soon as they arrived. I was working for the first couple of days, but I had the weekend off so we could go sightseeing together. Saturday was a very sunny day, and our first stop was Håkøya. Edwin is a keen photographer as well, so it was fun to spend some time taking photos of the beach and the sea ice. I have never seen so much sea ice as that weekend! It’s not uncommon for the sea to freeze at the shallow beach at Håkøya, but this time there was ice cover as far as I could see. I found it a bit puzzling at first, as it had been so warm for the past week. But I asked my personal oceanographer and the explanation is that all the rain that fell on the sea stays at the surface and freezes easily.

Sea ice 'barnacles' at Håkøya Close up of sea ice

Ice art :) Ice pyramids, formed around rocks underneath

When we walked back to the car, parked next to the bridge, we noticed a horrible traffic warden writing us a fine. NOOOO…. We quickly walked over to him to find out what was going on. Turns out you can’t park next to the bridge, even though there is lots of space there. Yes, there’s a sign but I hadn’t realised that it applied to a 100-200m stretch of road, not just the space right next to the bridge. According to the guy, you can happily park on the opposite side, where you actually park on the road and block the way, but hey – there is no sign there. I’ll never understand the logics of parking fines, especially in the middle of nowhere where there’s plenty of space. But he let us go with a warning, so we didn’t argue much more ;)

We drove to Grøtfjord and went for a walk on the beach. It was very windy there, and COLD. We didn’t last very long.

Waves and spray at Grøtfjord Pebbles on the beach

Our goal for the day was Brosmetinden, but when we got to the parking lot we got doubts when we saw how strong the wind was, and how much the snow was blowing around – it looked like the North Pole. We wrapped up warm, and gave it a try, thinking that we could always turn back if it got too tough.

On our way to Brosmetinden in strong wind and blowing snow Blowing snow backlit by the sun

Once we started walking, we found that it didn’t actually feel that cold, and the wind wasn’t always strong, it came in short bursts. It was beautiful to see the snow blowing around, even if it wasn’t always very comfortable ;)

Edwin battered by the blowing snow Aline in the wind - it was almost strong enough to lean into

There were quite a few people on snow shoes, something I also noticed on my last visit. Perhaps the snow shoe rental people advise their customers to go there? (You’ll very rarely see a Norwegian on snow shoes!). I actually walked up in boots this time, the snow was so wind blown that it was almost like walking on concrete. We decided to continue to the top, which was definitely worth it…

Edwin and Aline posing beneath the impressive top Impressive view of the top of Brosmetinden

Aline on her way to the top Edwin reaching the top, Sørtinden in the background

We only had a short break on the top to take some photos, the wind was so loud here that it hurt our ears! The views were spectacular though…

Blowing snow and sunset from the top We made it! :)

I took another panorama, similar to one I took last time (see here). If you compare the two, you can see how much little snow there was at the coast last weekend…

Panorama from the top, looking towards Sørtinden (the large peak) and the fishing village of Tromvik far below

We made our way back to the car with a backdrop of a colourful sunset. Another great trip, Brosmetinden is becoming my favourite mountain :)

Colourful sunset on our way down Edwin & Aline Walking down at dusk

The next day Paul joined us, and we drove to Ringvassøya. All the rain/wind of the previous week, followed by cold weather, has resulted in some skateable lakes – too bad we didn’t bring our skates! These photos are taken at a lake with the strange name Peder Sørensenvatnet – wonder what this Peder Sørensen did to have the lake named after him – or perhaps he just owns the land? :D

Skateable ice on Peder Sørensenvatnet (what a name) on Ringvassøya Piece of bark caught in the ice

The bubbles in the ice were fantastic :) we had another stop at a little island near Skarsfjord, but it got so cold when the sun disappeared behind the mountains that we decided to drive back to Aunegården for cake and hot chocolate :)

Bubbles in the ice Sea ice on Skogøya

After our cafe stop, we walked around the centre a bit. It’s beautiful at dusk, when Tromsdalstinden is almost glowing in the last bit of twilight.

Tromsø at dusk

It was a great weekend, and on Sunday evening even the northern lights made a spectacular appearance. I was very tired and decided to stay home, but Edwin and Aline stayed out for hours and came back with fantastic photos. I’m glad they got to see Tromsø at its best :)