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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Monday 27. Julyá2009

Around Camp at Hornvik

The Hornstrandir Nature Preserve is located at the northernmost reaches of the Westfjords. The preserve was founded in 1975. Surprisingly, most of the land in the preserve is private, owned by families whose ancestors lived year round in the area up until the mid-1950s when the last year round residents left. Several dozen houses still stand in the preserve and are used as summer cottages in July and August by the families who own them. Living year round in this part of the Westfjords was a considerable feat, as we were told by a couple of folks whom we met and visited who used to live there when they were children. Winters are harsh, not to mention dark, and travel between houses in the winter was often carried out ski. There were no phones, so relatives were uncertain about the well being of each other for long stretches of time. Polar bears occasionally arrived on ice floats. May was a welcome month because with the harvest of bird eggs from the surrounding sea cliffs, settlers had their first fresh food in several months.

We arrived at Horn around two in the afternoon and set up camp. The camping area, just off the beach, is wide open and grassy. There are sand dunes in the area, lots of marsh, lots of waterfalls, and lots of purple and yellow wildflowers--amazing. We were great by the omnipresent campground foxes, who were fairly bold. The fox does very well in this part of the Westfjords, largely due to the fact that it is a protected animal meaning that they are not hunted (I am not aware of any natural predator in all of Iceland). During our visit, we not only encountered foxes, but a team of researchers studying mating couples in the area. Gusti knew the head of the team, Ester, from Bolungarvík and we stopped and talked with her on one of our day trips. She maintains a website, melrakki.is, that has quite a bit of information on the Arctic fox and is in Icelandic, English, German.

 

After setting up camp we took a walk around the dale at the head of the valley, which acquainted us with the terrain and with the stream crossings which, in places, are significant. Consistent with my track record of unexpected pleasant encounters with people, we ran into a family who owned one of the cottages in Hornvík fishing in one of the streams. One of the men, who was wearing waders, made one of the stream crossings considerably easier for us by carrying us across on his back, one at time that is. Gusti is a big guy but I am bigger yet, and I had to wonder how his back held out afterwards. They invited us to stop by their house the next day for coffee on our hike to Horn, and when we did he looked no worse for the wear. Or at least he didn´t let on that he was.

Comments:

#1

Ester Rut Unnsteinsdˇttir, Wednesday 19 August | 10:32

It was great meeting you at our research camp in Hornvik - should have waited for our "house dogs" - tame 4 - legged friends who came to check on us several times a day.
Now things look different in the area, vegetation has taken on some new reddish colors and the yellow-purple flowers are disappearing but the colors look somehow sharper in the mysterious light of the late summer. Magic flies fly lazily around and meet in huge groups at the angelica stems - Arctic fox pups are almost fully grown and play cool barking at the few people that still remain there, funny guys - an not aware of the harshness of the winter waiting behind the corner ..

- don┤t forget to send me some of your fox photos on the online web gallery.....

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