In February 2018, Kelsey and I traveled to Iceland. It was a trip that will forever be in our memories. The most prominent memory was our Iceland engagement beneath Skógafoss waterfall on the Skógá River in the south at the cliffs of the former coastline.
A Memory Not Related to the Engagement
The elements were against us at every point during our Golden Circle adventure. We were faced with a 20 year Icelandic snow storm that would test our resolve. Despite having rented an off road 4×4 Jeep, the snow storm was overpowering. Even the locals were buried in the snow. Complicating the scenario even further, our vehicle was struck by another (who consequentially fled the scene of the accident) at Strokkur Geysir. Thank you full coverage rental insurance!
Faced with the conditions, high winds, and crazy drivers, we decided to head back from the Golden Circle early. Our only stop would be for lunch at the famous Friðheimar farms all-tomato restaurant. After lunch, our shortest route back to the hotel was blocked with people who had rented smaller vehicles and attempted to drive in the heavy snow conditions. The snow was coming down so furiously at this point, a stopped vehicle would accumulate 3′ or more of snow drift within minutes and make the roads not passable for those of us better equipped.To make matters worse, some vehicles had been completely abandoned. If you didn’t know what to look for, the abandoned vehicles may appear to be giant snow drifts because within 2 hours, the vehicles were completely covered in snow.
I only had one option at this point, turn around and head back the opposite direction on a much longer detour. This was more than challenging. It was impossible. Kelsey and I found ourselves in the middle of Icelandic white out blizzard at 2pm. Knowing this was our only other option, I proceeded with the plan to turnaround. In my attempt, the Jeep skid off the road and we were stuck. I knew this was a bad scenario. I could see over 10 vehicles abandoned and stuck, blocking one of only three routes into and out of the Golden Circle. Plow trucks were unable to keep up with the amount of snow falling. Fortunately, that morning, I had the foresight to bring extra food, water, and fuel tanks. I called the tow company and arranged to be pulled out then set a 30 minute timer on my phone. The timer was so I could clear snow away from the exhaust pipe and radiator to keep the Jeep running safely. Only 5 hours later and $800 dollars poorer, the massive purpose built tow truck had arrived and freed us.
Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the problems that night. I started studying the map and identified 2 other possible routes for getting us out of the Golden Circle. We drove the first until finding it had been blocked by more stuck vehicles. Able to turn around safely this time, we proceeded toward the last and longest option. Unfortunately, it was also blocked. However, there was some signs of hope with the last blocked route. I drove to the point were we came across an Icelandic tour bus with almost 100 people on board (including children). Quickly glancing behind the bus, I noticed at least 25 other vehicles stuck. You may be thinking that doesn’t sound very hopeful but it was. Tourism is big business in Iceland. Their economy heavily depends on it. I knew that staying here with this tour bus was perhaps our best chance to make it out of the Golden Circle that night. I just had a feeling that the Icelandic government would not let a full tour bus stay stranded all night. Even with that, I believed our chance of making it back to the hotel was not very good. However, my gamble did pay off. Emergency vehicles showed up to the scene. After loading up some women and children, I followed one of the emergency vehicles back down the first route to the city of Selfoss.
While Selfoss was still 2 hours from our final destination, we were relieved to make it back to an area less remote. It would have been advisable to hang it up here for the night. It was 10pm and continuing further south down Route 1 would be dangerous. However, we decided to push on and make it to the hotel. Those next 2 hours were just as eventful but I will save that story for another time.
The Iceland Engagement
While that memory above may sound terrifying and dangerous to some, Kelsey and I look upon it as one of our favorite travel memories. Every aspect and element of Mother Nature challenged us that day. However, when the time came, we worked as a team, made the most from the experience, and got back to the hotel safely. Little did Kelsey know, in just a few short days, I would ask her to marry me. I wanted her to join me for a lifetime of adventures and experiences.
On the last day of our trip, the snow and wind had cleared. This would be the big day. I had equipped my best poker face in weeks leading up to this. The only other people with knowledge of the plan was Kelsey’s father and my parents. I watched Kelsey closely everyday for any signs that she knew what was going to happen. She had not got her nails done prior to the trip. In all honesty, that was my sign I was going to have her fully caught off guard. To ensure the surprise, I would wait until the last leg of the trip so any possible suspicion of what was to come may be erased.
On this day, our plans were to visit Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Skógafoss waterfall on our way back to Reykjavik. With the clear weather, our odds of seeing the northern lights were high as well. When the day ended, we were happily in love, engaged, and taking in the northern lights at Grotta Lighthouse. Flooded with many thoughts, the most prevalent for me was that despite all our previous adventures, the most exciting adventure was just beginning.
This Video is Our Icelandic Engagement Story: