August 9 Hrafntinnusker to Botnar (28 km)
Bright early morning sun woke me, though I lounged in sleeping bag luxury for a while, trying to determine how sick I really was (pretty bad actually). Of course there was little choice, I had to hike out somewhere, so I continued on my path. Stopping at the hut to get water and eat a granola bar, I spoke with one of the expedition guides who remarked about how early I was leaving–it was seven o’clock, those hut folks are the ones luxuriating. Leaving first was a lagniappe as I had the tundra all to myself most of the morning. The walk was across a broad cinder plain rutted by deep cuts formed by glacier streams. For much of the year, those cuts are filled with snow, so walking is fairly level, but in August most the ice is gone, so there is a lot of up and down. In many places there remains some snow, but the guidebooks all warn about the fragility of those ice bridges which are hollowed from below and can give way under the weight of a hiker crossing. As it was still very cold that morning and there were no trekkers following behind me as yet, I crossed many an ice bridge gingerly. Still, the morning solitude was magnificent, the world was vast, bare, and empty. By mid-morning I arrived at the campground at Lake Álftavatn, stopping for second breakfast. I had gotten an email from David Knobbe, my old friend at the Georgia Tech outdoor adventure department, detailing the itinerary of a group of students from my school who were hiking at nearly the same time. At this point I was supposed to be two days behind and so I didn’t expect to see them, but on sitting down for late morning granola, I was greeted by David, his friend Chaffee and a group of GT students. Their itinerary had been adjusted a bit, so half of them were now on the same schedule as me. After exchanging pleasantries, I continued on to the next campground, Botnar, where I was advised to claim a tent site quickly as the place would soon be overwhelmed by campers, led by the dozens of British hikers I had passed who were walking to raise money for breast cancer research. One carried on her back a large rubber breast with the url copafeel.org. Following the same pattern as yesterday, I set up my tent, ate an early dinner, and dozed away the late afternoon. I was pleased with my hiking distance, but was still feeling ill, so early sleep was on my schedule.
T. Hugh Crawford