Hiking

Hikers on Blahnukur peak, near Landmannalaugar in Iceland's Central Highlands.

Earth, Wind, and Fire: A Journey to the Planet’s Beginnings in Iceland

By Michael Lanza

The land is on fire.

Actually, the land appears to be smoldering, stoked by some persistent furnace just beneath the surface. Which is essentially true.

Steam from hot springs and other geothermal features issues from scores of points from here to the horizon. Mud pots bubble and burp, and the color of volcanic activity is everywhere—paint-can spills of ochre, pink, gold, plum, brown, rust, and honey against a backdrop of purple pumice and electric-lime moss. An old, hardened lava flow pours down one mountainside in a jumbled train wreck of razor-sharp black rhyolite. Barren peaks extend ridges like the arms of starfish. Chattering streams carry the runoff from July snowfields smeared across the highlands. Scudding clouds stampede overhead, constantly rearranging the dappled sunlight splashing over the landscape.

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Conquistadors of Adventure: Discovering Multi-Sport Gold in Spain’s Valencia region

By Michael Lanza

I’m standing on a rocky ridgetop amid the crumbling ruins of a castle built by Moors during their seven-century rule over most of Spain. It looks like a good spot to dig in. Beyond these broken walls, the ground plunges hundreds of feet over cliffs and mostly treeless, double-black-diamond slopes of thorny desert scrub. Today, though, there’ll be no rain of arrows from attacking marauders—only me and my guide, José Miguel Garcia, hiking through a sea of craggy limestone mountains. Some 3,000 feet below us, bleached terracotta villages dotting the valley bottom hold out the promise of a post-hike feast of tapas and local wine.

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Exploring America’s Big Sandbox: Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes

By Michael Lanza

We walk along the crest of giant sand dunes as narrow as the peak of a roof, watching sand cascade down either side under our boots, and listening to it “singing” with squeaks and booms. Mouse-size kangaroo rats roam the dunes, leaping five feet into the air. At night, shooting stars arc like flaming arrows through a pitch-black sky.

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