Dettifoss, along with the sky above it and the basalt rock columns beside it, basks in the fiery glow of dawn.

I stood alone at the precipice of the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Likely the only living creature for dozens of miles, I watched the rising sun burn the sky and volcanic rock and felt an emotion I wouldn’t understand till much later.

The previous afternoon, I had driven off Route 1 – Iceland’s main highway – and headed to Dettifoss. The Land of Fire and Ice is known for its diverse terrain, and this region proves it; where other parts of the country are lush and green, the area leading to Dettifoss is rocky, barren and otherworldly. It has a “badlands” feel, a “Mad Max” feel, a “Journey to Mars” feel. And somewhere in that barrenness is a waterfall so picturesque it was used in the film Prometheus to stand in for a primitive alien planet.

That night, I slept in the parking lot near the waterfall, in the passenger seat of my tiny rental car. Alone, I stared up at the stars and fell asleep to the Northern Lights dancing overhead.

I woke to an eruption; the rising sun shot deep red hues into every corner of the morning sky. I grabbed my camera and darted out to Dettifoss. Once there, I was overcome with emotion. The grandeur of the scene completely hooked me; it was like the fire in the sky reached down into my soul and set it aflame.

Look up the word “solitude” in the dictionary and you’ll find three definitions. It can mean the state of being alone, a remoteness from civilization, or an uninhabited, unfrequented place. To me, all three fit here. I know now that it’s the perfect word to describe Dettifoss and how I felt that morning. Dettifoss is primordial beauty; it’s the full might of nature’s power. The power of solitude.

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