A trip above the treeline

Today the weather was really nice in Venneshamn in Norway. I took the car to drive to a mountain area not far away. At least, if you can fly … . If you take the car in Norway, there’s always at least one fjord you have to drive round, in this case the Verrasundet. So it took a bit longer than excepted taking the ways 191, 193 and 720 round the fjord. Finally I approached the street to the lake Ormsetvatnet. Street, well … it’s more like a steep gravel path, that you can drive up some kilometres to a parking place. The last kilometre to the lake is closed for cars and I had to walk it.

At Ormsetvatnet I crossed a dam wall, walked up a tree covered slope and soon was above the treeline. To be honest, I’m not too fond of forests, when it comes to taking pictures and I’m always glad, when I leave the trees behind when doing a mountain trip.

Now I was on a hilly plateau, the Vakkerheia. Some of the flat mountain tops were marked with piles of stones.

In the plain valley between the hilly tops the ground is soft and wet. Sometimes I had to go round shallow ponds and bogs, but mostly the ground was easy to go. In and round the swampy ponds the cotton grass was blooming. To my big delight there were many cloudberries plants growing in the lesser wet parts and the berries were ripe and ready to eat!

Picking cloudberries can be tedious, because of the many bloodthirsty horseflies that seem to guard them. I think, I slew most of them, but some bit me anyway.

After some hours of a really relaxed mountain hike I took another way back until I came to the gravel road again, where my parked car waited for me.

Half a day later

A thunderstorm approaches from the west. The center seems to be above the very same area that I wandered some hours earlier. The thunder and lightnings were as impressive as the intense colours, that I could see from the other side of the fjord. I was glad, that I haven’t been on that plateau – there would be hardly any place to seek shelter from the massive rain fall or to protect from the dangerous lightnings.

Addendum

And since we’re living in the age of selfies …

Moon jelly

It’s nice to snorkel at the west coast of Norway.

In opposite to the Bothnian Bay – that’s the northernmost part of the Baltic Sea – where I live, here are crabs, starfishes, forests of seaweed as well as many shells and conches. And there’s jellyfish, too. Seeing a jellyfish underwater is fascinating, but I was glad that all belonged to the speciesmoon jelly, a species that doesn’t sting.

Translations:

EnglishGermanSwedish
starfishSeesternsjöstjärna
jellyfishQuallemanet
moon jelly(fish), common jellyfishOhrenqualleöronmanet

Sweden blue, Norway grey?

Sometimes it’s fun to use clichés. Yesterday there was such an opportunity on my way from Umeå, Sweden to Mosvik, Norway.

A neighbour once told me that it’s so beautiful in Norway. More beautiful than in Sweden! But he quickly added: “But we (in Sweden) have the better weather”. Perhaps he’s right. The whole way from Umeå was warm and sunny with some stratus clouds, but western from Åre, when I approached Norway I felt like driving into the dark grey landscape of another continent:

And then the rain showers came. Sometimes it just poured down so much, that the windscreen wipers hardly managed to shovel the rain from the windscreen. But I have to be fair:

It’s not the country that creates this type of weather, it’s the mountains and the Norwegian Sea. The photo is still made in Sweden, 40 km from the Norwegian border. And when I left the mountains behind, the sun came out again and laid a wonderful soft and warm light onto the landscape.

 

Balloon hunting

Actually I was prepared for a relaxed evening home and I was already in my pyjamas, when I saw a friend’s post on Facebook: A photo of a balloon hanging over the city of Skellefteå right now.

Some people know, that I’ve been fond of balloons since I was a child. I loved to spot them and when I was older, I was a well-known guest at the gas balloon starting place in Marl-Sinsen. Here I made my first balloon flight with the gas balloon D-KABEL in 1994. Some other balloon flights, mostly with hot-air balloons followed. Since I’ve been living in Northern Sweden this passion fell asleep – there are hardly any balloons flying here.

But back to today. I guess, it took me only three minutes to dress, to check wind direction and speed, to take my binoculars and camera equipment and to get in my car to try to track that balloon. Will I manage to see it?

I was lucky – already in Ursviken I could perceive the hot-air balloon above the trees. At the roundabout I turned right and then, after a while, left again onto the E4 to drive up vitberget – the white mountain for getting a better view. The view was fine, but the balloon not within sight, it was behind that hill. So I turned, got onto the E4 again and headed north. When I approached Boviken I could see the balloon again, it hovered on the left side. I took the next departure in Kåge and tried to come closer. Not easy, when you don’t know all those small ways and gravel paths. But I was extremely lucky, came quite near and could take a photo before the balloon landed.

I continued the gravel path and soon was side by side with the low flying balloon.

I could see the chase vehicle ahead. It continued the path and I followed. The chase vehicle succeeded to find a cross road without any power lines in the balloon’s flying direction. That’s perfect, since the pilot will get the opportunity to land quite near the road, that simplifies the packing of the balloon. I parked my car and waited for the balloon to land.

Wow – I’ve seen some balloon landings, but this was the most incredible one I’ve ever seen! The trailer of the chase vehicle was exactly in the heading of the balloon, which approached the trailer more and more. The surface wind was so weak, that the balloon almost could hover above the trailer, where one of the ground crew and I could clutch the basket and with the pilot’s help drag it down onto the trailer! The pilot has been ballooning for forty years, but never managed such before. Chapeau, P.!

Normally helping hands are very welcome after a balloon has landed, but this was a larger balloon carrying nine passengers, so I could stroll around and for example have a look into the inside of the balloon cover (of course with the Pilot’s permission).

It was great to see a balloon again and to talk to the pilot. Now I’m quite interested in taking a ballon flight here, too. I realised that I already met the Pilot on the Arctic Ballon Adventure in Gällivare in 2012. Today he told me, that this event will take place again in March and now I’ll try to get at least one balloon flight next winter. Keep your fingers crossed for my first arctic winter balloon flight.

Meanwhile the moon rose over the green pastures of Ersmarkbodarna, where the balloon has landed. Another sphere in the sky.

Thank you, Nazia, for your Facebook post! You brought me a fantastic evening!

Now it’s already “tomorrow” – almost one o’clock in the night. Something happened, that I’ve been waiting for for many weeks: It’s dark enough to see the first star! It took some efforts (hint: look up and shake your head to see the tiny changes of lightness), but I could see it: Vega in the constellation Lyra.

Summer in Skelleftehamn

Blue sky and temperatures above 20 °C, but not too hot – cool water, but not too cold, that’s summer in Northern Sweden, how I like it. As most Swedes, I have semester – holidays – until the beginning of August. Hopefully the nice summer weather will continue for a while.

Norrbyskär – Sweden in a nutshell

Prologue

It’s a bit funny. Although the internet weather forecast rarely correspondents with reality, I check it anyway. Then I at least try to ignore it.

Last sunday, when Annika and I considered what to do, the forecast promised sun for two or three hours, but rain showers for the rest of the day. We decided to take the car to Norrbyn 40 km south from Umeå and the 11:30-ferry to the island Norrbyskär. If it really rained, I could at least try out my brand new rain jacket.

Sweden in a nutshell

11:20 we were on board of the ferry Norrbyskär and soon the little ship put out to sea. The trip didn’t take long, it’s only 2 km to the island. I just love boat trips, it always feels like holidays when you stand on the ship’s bow, feel the airflow and look at the blue sea.

Norrbyskär consists of several islands connected with dams and as we experienced later even another possibility to cross the water. We went ashore with the other guests and headed left on the island Stuguskär. The way is framed by quite large brick houses. Most houses in Northern Sweden are made of wood and for us the brick houses looked more like a small coastal town in Germany, not a North Swedish island. The broad way ended soon, but a path continued through the forest and led us to a tiny bay. The single summer house standing on stilts brought us back to Sweden: it was wooden and painted red.

We continued to a place called Calmarn, another part of the island. The soil along the bay was brown and very bouncy. I had to look twice until I realised that the soil was neither sand nor mud. As many other places Norrbyskär had a huge sawmill in former times and this bay was completely covered with a thick layer of sawdust that gave you the feeling of crossing a huge trampoline when you walked on it.

We continued the path and entered the forest again. Soon we stood on the rocky north point of Calmarn, where we took the first rest. We sat down on a big rock, looked at the sea and enjoyed the blue sky and the warm sun. No rain in sight yet.

Now we went back the whole way until we almost were at the shipping pier again but continued the main road that connects the islands Stuguskär and Långgrundet. The street ends at a place surrounded by two white wooden houses and a bell tower. The entrance of the main building was labelled sommarkyrka – “summer church”. The ferries that connect the island with the mainland are going only between late april and early october – hardly more than 5 months, so probably this church is only active these months.

We went around the church where we found the Tannskärsstigen, a forest road on the peninsulas Tannskär and Truthållan. Sometimes the path was near the shore and you could see water lingering through the trees. Sometimes the path looked like leading through a huge and dense forest, even if Tannskär is hardly 500 meters in diameter.

It got warmer and warmer and we longed for a bath. The first beach was not actually crowded, but the nice places were occupied and so we continued our walk. The second bathing place wasn’t completely deserted neither, but big enough for us to find a place. A pair sitting on a wooden bench, some boats, some people on the pier, some kids in huge orange life jackets. We drank some water, ate some sweets and decided to take a bath.

Brr – the water was still really cold but so refreshing. So delightful! After the bath we laid down on the wooden pier and the sun dried us in a short time.

We continued the circular track and soon approached the summer church again. We went a bit back and crossed another dam to reach the island Stengrundet. Here’s a huge campground of the YMCA (in Swedish: KFUM). We had a look at the climbing crag where people with climbing harnesses and helmets climbed ladders and balanced on ropes, but soon we went to another shore were we had a look at the blue sea with its small and tiny islands.

We went back to the campsite, found another path through the forest and followed it, this time in direction north. The north peak of this island is extended by a quite long breakwater made of big rocks. Again a nice place to rest. In the east we could see the tiny island Burgrundet. It looked spooky. Some leafless dead trees and black birds. Crows? Dead man’s island? No, it weren’t crows, but cormorants sitting on the bare branches of the dead trees.

In the south we could see some wooden wrecks in the shallow water between Stengrundet and Långgrundet. On the satellite photos it looked like shipwrecks – almost like a ship graveyard. We went back – first along the shore then through the forest. It took a while but finally we found the path to the shore where we could see the wrecks of some twenty meter long wooden shipwrecks – an amazing view!

I already started to check the time because we wanted to reach the 18:15-ferry. The museum, which is not far away from ferry dock, was already in view and hardly hundred meters away, but on the other island. To reach the museum by foot we would have to go two kilometers to use the dam between the islands. But there happened to be an alternative:

When we looked at the shipwrecks we found a big wooden raft, tied to some cords that were fixed to the shore of both islands. Apparently it was possible to enter the raft and just pull oneself cross the water. After some considerations whether it would be (a) possible and (b) permitted we entered the raft, took the soaking wet cords and pulled ourselves over the water. It didn’t take long and we were able to hop on shore. We went into the museum, bought lemonade, strolled back to the ferry dock, sat in the warm sun (still no rain cloud in view) and waited for the ferry. A short boat trip to the mainland ended a wonderful day on the island(s) Norrbyskär.

Conclusion

This felt like an ideal day trip and – even though Annika and I both live in Sweden – a bit like Sweden in a nutshell: ferry trips and tiny islands, sailing boats and motor boats, a museum, a restaurant and a kiosk, stony and sandy beaches, huge rocks and forest paths, not to mention many flowers, ice cream and the first blueberries (still very sour!).

Conclusion: fully recommendable!

Official Site: visitnorrbyskar.se

Beach pea

It’s July and the beach peas (aka sea peas) are blooming. They love sand or gravel beaches, where they seem to crouch over the ground. Crouching I did, too, to get a photo from the pale purple blossoms.

These flowers grew near Grundskatan south of Bjuröklubb.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedishLatin
Beach pea / Sea peaStrand-PlatterbseStrandvialLathyrus japonicus

Summer solstice – “night shot” in Skelleftehamn

Summer solstice– the longest day – the shortest night, that’s today.

I was out at the coast to take a photo at 0:37 – in the darkest minute of the brightest night 2016. The sun is hardly 2° below the horizon and so it looks more like an evening sunset or an early morning sunrise than a real “dead of night” shot.

The summer solstice marks the beginning of the astronomical summer, but it’s also the day, where nights will get longer and longer. And one day in August it will be dark enough for the first star shining through the pale nightly sky.