A year ago had you asked me if I'd ever thought about going to Iceland, the answer would have been something like "Excuse me? What the hell is in Iceland?" Then my friend Nathan Baker (photographer of the above image, which is actually in Norway) showed me photos of Icelandic ponies and I was sold.
Majestic, right? One of the most exciting parts of playing competitive ultimate frisbee is traveling to tournaments all over the world. Windmill Tournament (formerly Windmill Windup) is Europe's largest—and best, if you ask the locals—grass ultimate frisbee tournament and last month my rag tag travel team played ultimate on European grass. A story in itself, Windmill is held annually in Amsterdam.
To make the most of our overseas travel, my team split into a few groups—one group went to Paris and Belgium, the other to Iceland and Norway. I've spent a decent amount of time in Europe, so I was incredibly intrigued by the Nordic option. I went into this trip with basically no expectations and holy smokes—Iceland is a hidden treasure. We drove for hours without seeing more than 20 people at some times. (Fun fact: there are more sheep than people in Iceland.) The land is so expansive, so incredibly strange and gorgeous. Touring Iceland means renting a car and driving around to see massive waterfalls, black beaches, glaciers, and hot springs. The only thing I could think about driving around the moon-like landscape was riding my bike on the weathered roads and camping atop on of the volcanic rock hills. The plan is to absolutely return to Iceland and explore on two wheels (stay tuned for Summer 2016—maybe).
We only had one full day in Norway, but we definitely made it count. Plans were to hike the Besseggen Ridge Trail, which is notoriously one of the world's most epic hikes, but unfortunately we were about a week too early and snow was still melting, making conditions a little too dangerous. We were pretty bummed, but after an hour or two of searching for a backup plan, we found a 5 mile hike just outside a small town called Bø, which was a two hour drive through rolling farmland from where we were staying near Oslo. Honestly, hiking Besseggen is a dream and would have been incredible, but I am so thankful we found this other hike. We saw about five other people the entire day we were out (where Besseggen would have been quite crowded), which really made for a special hike with some rad people. The trail itself was bananas—we climbed 1150 feet in about two miles. This was the very beginning of the elevation gain:
When we reached the top of the mountain, we stumbled upon the most gorgeous lake I have ever seen. Naturally, my adventurous pal, Reid (pictured above) and I jumped in after about 15 minutes of hesitation—I have never swam in water this cold in my life and I really wish I had an idea of what the temperature was. We will probably have eternal youth for submerging ourselves in this magical mountain lake.
Even though I do prefer to spend more than just a few days in each place I visit, I do have the warmest feelings about this trip. A lot of Nordic countries (Iceland and Norway included) have a law called the Right to Roam—allemansretten in Norwegian—which grants citizens and visitors permission to explore and camp most private and public land. This idea is wonderful and fascinating to me and I think it makes these two and surrounding countries optimal for trekking and bikepacking. Every day since I've been back in the U.S. I have wished I was in Iceland or Norway again. I know I will go back someday.