The first polar light of the season

When Annika woke me up, a strong and colourful polar light covered the northern sky. In the short time it took to go in for getting my camera and tripod it already got much weaker, but it was still strong enough to take a picture with a quite short exposure time.

The first polar light of the season is always something special, especially when it’s still August. Almost unbelievable, that only one month ago the nightly sky was so bright, that you hardly could see a single star.

To see the Northern lights from your own garden is still pure luxury. Now I’m looking forward to the next time …

(ISO 800 · 14mm · f/2.8 · 5.0 sec)

A cruise from Skelleftehamn to Bjuröklubb

It doesn’t happen often, that you can make boat trips from Skelleftehamn, were I use to live. Only one week once a year the Laponia Rederi from Luleå comes down to Skelleftehamn for some cruises. Last Saturday Annika and I took the opportunity to attend a five hour cruise to Bjuröklubb, where I’ve been quite a lot, but never by ship. When we arrived in good time before 11 o’clock people already started entering the small ship.

We boarded, too and thereby lowered the average age some years. I sniffed around the boat and got the permission to enter the bridge for some photos.

Five minutes before schedule the ship put out to sea, cruising along the industrial peninsula Rönnskär.

While Annika and I were standing on the top deck looking at the sea, the islands, the sky and the waves, all other people stayed inside and started focussing on the main topic: the lunch buffet. Anyway I have to admit, that especially the salmon was extremely delicious, and the bread as well.

I once thought about making a kayak trip to Bjuröklubb, an exposed peninsula and the easternmost point of the county Västerbotten. It would take me some days, since for one thing I’m slow and for another thing I would follow the coastline and never dare to take the much shorter direct route long away from the mainland. The ship, however was fast and took the “directissima”. Therefore it took only 90 minutes to cruise there.

At the small harbour we all went ashore and the ship continued to a larger harbour nearby where it waited for us. We got a guided tour and went up to the lighthouse where we left the croud for a good reason: Just that day was the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend, the only day where the lighthouse – which is still in use – is open for visitors. I went up, waiting for the other visitors – max 4 at the same time – to leave and made some photos. Not only the cut glass mirror construction was incredible but the colourful reflections of the sunlight, too.

Since we already left the group we took a hike to the other harbour, where we entered the ship again. Why it took us more than half an hour to walk for just some hundred meters? Well, there were blueberries, there were raspberries … and we picked and ate a lot of them.

The crew untied all the ropes connecting the ship to the land. I’m sure they are nautical terms for those ropes, you are free to post their proper names in the comments. Then the ship started, fetched the other passengers at the other small harbour and headed back to Skelleftehamn. Annika and I sat on the upper deck and enjoyed sun, clouds, wind, and waves as well as the view on the islands Skötgrönnan and Gåsören.

Ninety minutes later we arrived again in Skelleftehamn, where we came off the ship, while one of the crew played farewell music on the accordion.

Conclusion: A relaxed cruise and the opportunity to play tourist in my adopted homeland for one day.

A weekend in the Skuleskogen National Park

You just leave Umeå by car on the E4, head southwards to Örnsköldsvik and continue a while, leave the E4 in direction Köpmanholmen and Näske and continue to “Entré Nord” (entrance north). You park your car, shoulder your backpacks and follow the signs. And soon you stand amidst the fantastic forests of the Skuleskogen National Park.

Annika got visit of her friend Johanna last week. A good opportunity for us to spend a weekend together in the Skuleskogen National Park. Since our planned tour for Saturday was not so long, we started our hike not until 12 o’clock. In addition to the usual stuff as rain jacket and spare clothes we had a lot of food and water with us. Much water, since we weren’t sure if we would find any near the cottage – much food as potatoes, sausages and a lot of salad because we just wanted to have a bit of luxury.

The first part of the trail through the forest was fantastic, almost magic. Old trees bespangled with lichens, big rocks coated with green moss and from the left a pale light signalising that the Näskefjärden – part of the Baltic Sea – is not far away.

And “not far away” means: just a few meters.

Annika and I looked forward to take a bath, but first we wanted to reach the cottage on the islands Tärnättholmarna to leave some of the heavy luggage there. When Annika told me about the beautiful cabin on the inshore island of the Tärnättholmarna I wondered how we would come there. Is there a bridge? Do we have to take a boat? Wade? Jump? Swim across? Anyway my wonderings were useless: Since the glaciers of the last ice age had melted any,  the land has been rising again – still 8 mm a year! This phenomenon is called post-glacial rebound. That’s why the Tärnättholmarna have been islands in older times, but nowadays are connected with the mainland by a broad band of sand.

It’s not far away to the cottage and we reached it within a good hour. We left most of the food, most of the water, some spare clothes and our sleeping bags and continued much more lightweight. (Beside of me, who had 5 kilos of camera equipment with me, but that’s my problem and most of the time I don’t complain …)

We continued the forest trail southwards. It’s an easy way but not the most interesting part of the National Park in my opinion. Anyway we walked still along the shore and the beaches were sandy and the water was clear and the sun shined … . Time for Annikas and my long yearned-for bath. The water was chillier than expected but so refreshing!

After we have dried in the sun we continued our Saturday hike, now heading north. Here the trail climbs round about 265 meters, if you take the eastern variant. That may not sound much but the change in the landscape is really impressive:

Starting just 200 meters away from the sandy beach you walk through a dense forest of primeval old, large trees. Sometimes the trail is covered with cobblestone-like stones, sometimes with a maze of tree roots, sometimes it just leads over jogged rocks. All of the sudden, the path turns right, leaves the forest and you stand on solid red granite rock. You look up and see more rocks and – yes! – that’s your way up! You follow the marks, sometimes by walking, sometimes by climbing up the steep or rugged passages.

Finally we were up on a rocky and bald plateau and had amazing views over the mountainous forests in the west and the Baltic Sea with its many islands in the east. Unfortunately it was quite cloudy when we went there and I hardly took any pictures. Between the next two photos lie 34 minutes and about 50 metres in height. The descent however is far away from being easy. You have to climb down through rocky terrain with a gradient of 50%.

And then you stand at the upper entrance of the famous Slåttdalsskrevan. Wooden stairs are leading down into that ravine where the trail continues downwards. Inside the ravine it’s so dark, that the contrast to the sky is too high for my Nikon D-800. Either the rocks are just black or sky is just white.

After leaving the ravine we still had to climb down, now again surrounded by forest. After a while we came to the lake Tärnättvattnen. The sky brightened up again and the view of the lake mirroring the blue sky was just marvellous. Johanna, Annika and I agreed in staying at that place overnight, when we should be there once again, even though that cottage is much smaller than our choice.

Now we were not too far away from our todays destination: The cottage on the peninsulas Tärnättholmarna. But even 2.5 kilometres can be demanding if there is another steep and rocky crescent. And so it was. If this passage was in the German Alps there would have been several warning signs about the necessities of alpine experience. In Sweden however you rely on the people, that they know, what they do. It seems to work well.

That’s how a part of the descent looked like when looking back:

I was really exhausted when we were “home” at our cottage, that we shared with two really pleasant Swedes. Annika proofed her abilities of outdoor-cooking while Johanna, though being a total beginner, showed her strong woodchopping skills. The only fault: the sausages were quite disgusting. I shouldn’t complain, it was me, who chose them … . After our outdoor dinner at the fireplace and some talk we all went to bed, glad to stretch the tired back and limbs.

The next day? Nice, smooth and relaxed: A breakfast with yesterday hard-boiled eggs, homemade bread, hot chocolate, and Västerbottens Ost, a local cheese. Strolling around the peninsulas – eating blueberries – sitting on the rocky shore beside the Baltic sea – eating some more blueberries – taking it easy. Taking an outdoor lunch with roast potatoes (with the rest of the sausages) and salad. I took a short nap and after that we packed our now quite empty backpacks, cleaned the cottage and went back to the parking place, where we arrived one hour later. The most challenging part of the day was my car drive back to Umeå, i was so tired!

It was a fantastic weekend. Thanks for the nice company, Johanna and Annika!

Some Sunday expressions in and round the cottage:

Links:

Noctilucent clouds

19 days ago it was dark enough to see the first star. Since then it got a bit darker each night and tonight – which is a clear night – you can see the first constellations as for example Cassiopeia.

It would be dark enough for the first polar lights of the season but there aren’t any this night. Anyway I spotted something even better in my opinion since it is not often that you can see it so lucid as tonight: Noctilucent clouds, which are clouds so high up in the sky that they are illuminated by the sun the whole night through. Cirrus clouds, the highest “normal” clouds exist in altitudes of round 4 – 12 km, noctilucent clouds however occur in altitudes round 50 km! And I think there are really beautiful.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Noctilucent cloudsLeuchtende NachtwolkenNattlysande moln

Picking cloudberries

One week ago I still was in Mosvik in Norway. On Saturday we went out to pick cloudberries. These berries that look a bit like orange raspberries are rich in taste and very healthy due to the high amount of vitamin C and trace elements. There’s only one disadvantage: They can be quite hard to pick.

First of all they prefer wet and swampy soil. Then they ripe in July, the heyday of mosquitos and biting horseflies. Then they grow quite solitary – one berry here, one over there.

H., J., F. and I were quite lucky last Saturday when we collected two buckets of these little delicacies for it rained almost the whole day. And much rain means less mosquitos. When we came home, A. directly started to make jam from our collected cloudberries. One glass of jam I took home. It is still closed and I will save it for later. I love cloudberries!

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedishNorwegian
cloudberryMoltebeerehjortronmulte

757.5 – from Mosvik to Skelleftehamn by car

Last week I’ve been in Mosvik (Norway) to visit friends. Yesterday I drove back home, not directly but with a detour via Nordli and Røyrvik (Norway) and Stekenjokk, (Sweden).

According to google maps the direct way is 671 km, taking 8 h 38 min. With the detour it is only 67 km, but 1 h 46 min longer. That says a lot about the small and steep gravel roads near the Swedish–Norwegian border …

For me the journey didn’t take 10.5 hours, but more than 15. For one thing I don’t drive fast, especially in Norway and for another thing I took many smaller rests for taking pictures as well as a lunch and a dinner break. I left at 9 o’clock; at quarter past midnight I finally was home again. Total distance by car: 757.5 km.

See my travelogue of the journey by clicking the first image and navigating through the images. Swipe on touch devices and click or use arrow keys on other computers.

By the way: After nineteen articles without any photo with snow, this is the first article showing at least some patches of snow again.

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.