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We hiked fjords and drove through icy landscapes.  We saw incredible architecture, and we scaled hillsides without food or water.  And we even marveled at thunderous waterfalls under the never-ending daylight. But we saved the best for last. We had already been wow’d to the next level and beyond, and we thought nothing could possibly top our experience at the Kjenndalen glacier, but we were wrong.  We were about to be floored by the Nigardsbreen Glacier. Ice details of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography

Like so many times, I didn’t know what was ahead

Honestly, this item on our itinerary felt like more of an afterthought.  We had already explored some beautiful wooden churches that day and went chasing after a glacier we were sure rested just around the next corner (three hours later….).  It was late in the evening – after 8pm – not exactly a time one would expect to experience a mind-blowing adventure.  I didn’t know what was in store, so I thought we were just popping into one last thing before we found the next perfect campsite and settled in for the night. The fjord by the Nigardsbreen glacier, with steps afixed to the rocks to form the trail | LotsaSmiles Photography The parking lot was completely devoid of all signs of life.  Nobody starts these things at 8pm (only we crazy foreigners).  But that was just perfect for us, as we aren’t fond of crowds.  Our clocks were already pretty wonky with all the excess sunshine, so 8pm felt more like 5 or 6pm.  Still plenty of time for a hike! The clear line on the canyon wall where vegetation ceases and ice begins toward the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography From the parking lot, I could glimpse the blue glacier in the distance, and I was excited.  I was thrilled at Kjenndalen, and I couldn’t wait to relive some of that exuberance.  I had no idea this would be so much better.

Hiking into the crook of another fjord

Wooden steps dug into the rocks along the Nigardsbreen glacier trail in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography The trail was almost immediately different from the one that led us to our last glacier.  We had a much larger body of water to keep us company (deep, icy cold delta instead of bubbling stream), and much larger rocks under our feet.  Here, ladders are carved and bolted into the very boulders upon which we were scrambling, guiding visitors up and over, around and back down.. all the way to Nigardsbreen. The rocks are worn my countless roaming shoes; we tread carefully so as to not slip on the uneven terrain. Along the way, we passed lesser waterfalls trickling down the canyon walls, guided under the trail through large plastic tubes.  The path stretched onward, skirting the glacial lake and promising to deliver us at the blue tongue that never seemed to be getting any closer. Our first real glimpse of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography The shore faded behind us and was replaced by a rushing river.  It was humbling to follow its path etched into the solid rock slabs, knowing the glacier before us must be quite massive to supply such a runoff. Aaron standing on the final ridge before getting a proper view of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography By this point, we were about as close to the Nigardsbreen ice as we had been at Kjenndalen.  But we stood on solid rock that clearly continued right up to the edge.  We weren’t done yet.

Meeting Nigardsbreen in person was a spiritual experience

Aaron standing in front of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography It was beautiful at a distance, breathtaking up close, and simply astounding to stand next to it. I’ve never seen ice so blue. Ice details of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography It was otherworldly and mesmerizing, profound and perfect.  The sharp edges guided the eyes along its sweeping curves, like ocean waves ensconced in a 3D model meticulously carved by Nature, herself.  The translucent layers were both indomitable and almost ethereal.  Every shadow hinted a secret; every inch of packed ice held a story of time immemorial.  Even the dirt on its face was beautiful – evidence of the centuries it’s seen and its inexorable journey toward the ocean. The Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography The air was cool and crisp, untainted by cities or civilization.  The surroundings were unmarred by other voices; we had the place all to ourselves.  The view was terrifying yet serene.  The glacier could cleave at any moment, though it looked so still. The Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography I yearned to investigate every crevice, to glean some inkling of understanding of this magnificent wonder.  I was transfixed and hypnotized.  And I was overflowing with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy compounded with inexplicable joy.  This remarkable specimen of history reminded me that there are so many incredible things in this world, and I may never see them all.  I wanted to cry from the weight of the unexpected emotion, but I laughed at the awe instead.  Just standing next to it left me speechless.  What is it about witnessing the force of nature that viscerally changes me so? Ice details of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography I haven’t felt that deeply moved by nature’s raw presence since Arches.

Coming down from the high

We lingered in Nigardsbreen’s shadow for minutes, seconds, hours… it felt like forever yet unbearably brief.  I could have stayed there indefinitely, basking in the essence of the power behind the ice, lulled by the roar of the water below us.  How could I desire escape when surrender was so intoxicating? A warning sign in front of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography Tragically, though, the others finally turned away, breaking the spell and imploring I follow.  The magic slowly faded as we receded, rekindled into hopeful flames and the promise of return with each glance backwards. It almost hurt to leave, especially as this marked the official end to our trip.  I can’t imagine a better send-off. Departing from the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway, heading back out toward the fjord | LotsaSmiles Photography It wasn’t until we returned home that we discovered guided ice hikes on the Nigardsbreen glacier are also available.  Now we have even more reason to return!  We also recognize that this is but one of countless natural wonders, and the world is a large place.  So much to see in such a tiny lifetime. How soon can I dance with Nature again? Ice details of the Nigardsbreen glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography
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