Bog colors

The illusion of winter is past. The snow that fell two nights ago melted the next day and made place for warmer weather with a grey-white, cloudy sky and some rain.

For me the colours of early autumn are the yellow and red leaves, but the colours of late autumn, that’s all these shades of brown found in bogs and swamps. Today I made a short tour in a bog nearby to catch these colours. Large parts of the bog were frozen and you could walk quite easily, other parts were wet and muddy. Therefore I left by big camera home and took my waterproof Nikon AW1 instead. A good choice, even if the quality of the photos is a bit poorer.

The last image shows the forest way I took, which was partly covered with soft ice. I was a bit nervous when driving, because I still have summer tyres on my car, but it was much easier to drive than I thought. When I was home I washed my muddy clothes and – luxury! – took a hot bath after this chilly and wet bog walk.

 

Ice fishes, a deadly meteorite and an almost secret cave

The present day I spent with my friends Lasse and Martine. Well, not the first part because I was awake earlier and went down through the forest to a small bay of the river Skellefteälven. The bay was covered with several thin layers of ice. I fell through with each step and the only reason why I dared to go there, was that I know that the water is quite shallow. The atmosphere is always a bit spooky – decades ago this place was a forest but I was cut down because of the water regulation. In summer you can still see the cut-off trunks standing in the shallow water.

After an extensive breakfast – ok, let’s call it brunch – we made a trip to two special places. Look at the next image which is probably the awfullest photo ever I published. But the history is quite interesting.

Let’s go back to the 20th of May 1900: Ludvig Lundgren just left the house in Kvavisträsk to visit Fredrik, his neighbour. A bad idea, because just this day the place was hit by a meteorite. Ludvig wasn’t hit directly but found unconscious just 50 meters away. He died some days later probably of the consequences of the pressure wave. This is probably the only documented case of a deadly injury connected with a meteorite impact.

The next photo (back and white for technical reasons) is a place hardly known even to the locals. It is hidden in the middle of a forest and probably almost undiscoverable without knowing the GPS coordinates.

This cave is connected to World War II where it was used as a hiding-place for locomotives. Up to eleven engines found place in this hole in the mountain. It was locked for many years but now both the gate in the fence and the big folding doors of the cave are unlocked and you can enter it. We didn’t have any flash lights with us but the three LEDs of our smartphones where bright enough to see floor and walls. It was both fascinating to see this place as terrifying.

It is always great to travel with Lasse since – as a journalist – he knows so many fascinating stories and interesting places. Without him I’ll probably would have continued to make pics of ice and snow. A welcome variation!

On the way back (and what a way with frozen tracks so deep that the car was steering itself and occasionally hit the ground) we saw a lot of reindeers. They don’t pay attention to cars, but as soon as you open a window to make photos or even leave the car they probably will leave the place. But quite often they will stop again and watch you carefully. That’s the chance for photos. (None of the pictures became really good, but I’ll publish them anyway).

Thank you, Martine and Lasse for yesterday evening and for this nice day!

Sunrise colours

The sky was partly cloudy this morning but the late rising sun shone on the clouds illuminating them in warm pastel shades that changed every minute. This shot I made on a small swampy lake not far from my house in Skelleftehamn.

Murjek: Through the forest, over the bogs

Day 23: Ski tour in Murjek

After seven hours winter market in Jokkmokk yesterday I was in need of being in nature again. And today it was sunny, wind was calm and it was not very cold. Perfect weather for a relaxing tour. Half past nine I’ve packed my stuff and clipped on my skis. I followed the snow shoe trail, continued and came to the scooter trail along the power poles that I followed a bit.

As usual in winter when there is a lot of snow, many trees are in camouflage, disguised as geometric figures, abstract objects or strange animals.

Quite soon I left the scooter trail and took a unploughed way in direction northwest. On the way lay at least 80 cm snow, beside of it even more. But with the skis I hardly sank more than calf deep into the powder. That changed where the way ended and I crossed a forest. Sometimes I was knee deep in snow, later occasionally even up the hip if a small birch tree hid under the snow layer and I broke through. But soon I left the forest and came to a huge swamp or bog.

I followed the open land still heading north west. I thought about going up the hill shown in the photo above but I could see that it was a bit further away than expected and in addition to this completely tree-covered. I hardly would get a nice view up there. So I decided to change direction. Sometimes I was in woody patches with big trees quite easy to traverse. Sometimes it was a thicket of birches. These fellows use to bow under the heavy snow load until their treetops are under the snow. There they will freeze so that the birch trees builds arcs and bows. That sometimes can give you a hard time to find a way and sometimes I had to go over the birch trees to get ahead. Tree climbing with skis …

I tried to avoid these thickets but that’s not easy, you cannot see it on the map. But I was glad when I finally reached another huge swamp where I started my way back to Murjek. Perhaps just in time because the sun slowly started to go down.

I love these monotonous wastelands, but now I wanted to came home. I was hungry (I had no chocolates with me), the water in the plastic bottle started to freeze, my gloves where wet and half frozen and I started to feel exhausted. But I had to go some more kilometres according to GPS and map. Finally I came to a crossing – a crossing of snow mobile trails with a signpost showing the way to Jokkmokk, Vuollerim, some other places and – finally Murjek. Guess which trail wasn’t used since the last snowfalls …

… yes: 100 points. Murjek!. Even if I could guess the trail it was no help, the snow under the skis was as deep as before. Larger birches formed an archway above the trail.

That’s the last photo, I wanted to reach Murjek before dark. I followed the trail for some time until I came to a fallen tree that lay across. But on the other side I could see fresh scooter tracks. And the snow was stable. Finally I just could glide over the surface – glorious.  Now I headed for the small kiosk in the train station to buy some food (and yes, some sweets, too) and continued the main road to my nice and cozy room.

Résumé: 12.9 km, most of the time pathless. Great weather. Always great to be outdoors. Next time: A thermos again, because it was a bit colder than expected: -8 °C, when I came home. Plus extra gloves plus extra socks. I didn’t need the socks today but some tiny patches of the bog are still a bit wet under the snow and you never know …

Now the sky is completely cloudy and it started to snow a bit.

Leaving the comfort zone

Night 27

Last night I decided to tent and just before the village Mäntykero I hit a place. I started to pack my pulka with the most important stuff: Tent, stove, food, camping mat, warm sleeping bag, camera, head lamp and some more. My plan was to go into the snowy landscape some hundred metres to get some distance to the road.

But the way was hard! The snow hardly bore me and every time when I pulled the pulka I went down knee deep into the snow. With skis on! Then I had to climb up just to stand knee deep in powder again two meters later. I guess, it took me almost ten minutes to go 100 meters.

Earlier than planned I stopped and decided to erect the tent. I started to “bulldoze” an area 3 x 4 metres with my skis on to harden the snow and make place for the tent. Normally this snow should stabilise quite soon, but not this sort. It stayed loose for many, many hours. When I tried to put a tent peg (the huge ones for snow) into the ground I could easily push it down to the frozen swampy ground without meeting any resistance. Like pulling a tent peg into a basin of styrofoam pellets! I had to put on much more snow and tramp down again and again to harden the snow. I was so glad that it was only 80cm of snow at this place, not 150cm or even more. And I was glad that we didn’t had any wind at all.

Finally the tent stood – more or less erect. Two skies and poles in four corners and only some pegs – no wind to come. The next thing to do: Cooking, because it can take a long, long time in winter time.

The short version (some outdoor topics following later): It took much time to cook but finally I got my instant noodles with pesto. But I disliked them, they were overcooked and not far away from disgusting. Remember: When you eat warm food outside you will burn your tongue in the first half and eat cold or even half-frozen food in the second half. One of the lesser comfortable things of winter tenting.

Finally I wasn’t hungry and thirsty anymore. It was round half past six and beside of some lights from passing cars on the street it was pitch black.

Um …

Well …

Boring!

I had no book to read (could by a cold pleasure, too), I had no friend to talk with, it was quite dull and just boring. So I decided to sleep half past seven. It went just so-so. I woke up quite often and couldn’t sleep. The iPhone is useless in the cold so I used it diving deep down into my warm sleeping back but only for a minute or two.

I had to go out several times and that was the fun part of the tenting. I could see how it started snowing (only two cm), I could see the moon illuming the snowy flats, I could see the temperature drop down to -22 °C (almost record on this quite warm winter journey!) and finally after many one- or two-hour naps I could see the lilac clouds heralding the sun rise.

Again it took time to cook my “muesli” and some water for tea but because we hadn’t any wind at all I could cook outside – luxury! Eating was fast as usual before food starts to get cold or even freeze.

Then I packed my stuff, unpacked the tent, put it all into or onto the pulka and went back to the car. As I hoped, I could go in my old tracks without sinking to deep. Therefore I was back in the car quite soon. I tried to brush away all snow before loading my equipment into the car. Three hours later after standing up I started the motor and continued my journey to Pajala.

Conclusion:

I love winter tenting when I’m on a tour over several days, but I consider it time consuming and uncomfortable when I’m travelling by car and only use it as a cheap sleeping opportunity. But most of all do I prefer to do it with a friend, because that’s much more fun and even the time for erecting the tent, cooking and so one reduces dramatically.

Plan for winter 2015/2016: As many ski tours with old and new friends as possible!

Outdoor details:

Some stories, thoughts and tipps.

I asked myself, how should I tent, when there is much more snow, lets say two metres. Digging down? Fixing the tent to some trees. And what do you do, if you have deep and loose snow and storm. I don’t know.

I’m using a multifuel stove and use petrol as fuel. I have to admit, that I dislike my stove, it acts like a diva and it’s not so easy to find the right combination of pressure, opening and closing valves and preheating. And it always smells a bit petrol. Yesterday Lars from Vildmarksmekka gave me the tipp to use a common Trangria in combination with “Tenol”, a mixture of methyl alcohol and ethanol. He has used it without any problems with temperatures down to -37 °C. I have to check out this.

Lars tipped me off that I could use much longer skis to avoid sinking into the snow. Much longer means at least three meters! I think that’s great for open terrain, but I don’t want to get stuck in a birch thicket with them.

Note to myself: Buy better food! Food preparation takes a long time outdoors and it’s disappointing, if it doesn’t taste well. Avoid “Snabb makkaroni”.

I have a extremely warm sleeping bag and an Exped Down Mat as a camping mat. The sleeping bag was always too warm for -15 °C, but fine and cozy when temperatures dropped below -20 °C. First I thought, that the down mat was broken because It lost all air after some minutes. Fortunately it was only a valve, that I didn’t close properly.

Next time I would avoid making photos in the tent. Too much moisture so that the lens got fogged and the moisture froze on the lens.

I didn’t want to leave my laptop in the cold car and put it down in the sleeping back while sleeping. Not so comfortable, but it worked. Anyway should MacBook-Pro-computers cope coldness down to -25 °C without any problems, at least as long they’re off.

Clothes can get wet and all things that got wet will freeze. I had a hard time to use my gaiters the next morning. Putting on the ski trousers was like putting on cold planks and the gloves were frozen as well. I have to check for solutions …

I had the luxury that I used the tent only for one night. I could dry both tent and sleeping bag the day after. Otherwise I would use a vapour barrier liner, a plastic bag you wear inside of the sleeping bag to prevent moisture going into the down filling and freeze. Anyway you will have ice round the hood where you will breeze into in the night.

Plans: Learn to erect a tent in deep snow. Learn to erect a tent in storm. Check the Trangia stove with tenol. Check how I can prevent clothes from freezing or how I can minimise the effect.

Through the Finnmark to Alta

Day 47

After a nice stay in Palojärvi i continued my trip. Just 10 km later I crossed the Finnish-Norwegian border and entered the Finnmark, the northernmost part of Norway. It was still very grey, very windy and quite warm with temperatures round zero. And that’s how the road looked like in the open, where the wind covered parts of the roads with snow drifts.

Soon I arrived in Kautokeino, where the Sami culture is quite big. Most signs have the Sami language first, in some of the front yards are fenced reindeers, women wear traditional Sami dresses and on the outside of many houses are reindeer skins hanging for drying.

I made a short break to make some photos of the church and the graveyard.

After a short rest I continued northwards. The landscape was first as flat as a pancake but gradually started to become hilly. Almost all I could see was grey birches and white snow, almost like a black-white painting. The yellow central dividing strip of the road and here and there a traffic sign were the only visible colours.

After an hour the hills got larger and finally a found a parking place, that wasn’t in the middle of a birch wood. Even if the thermometer showed 0 °C it was extremely chilly due to the strong winds that even shook my parked car and I had to protect face and hands against the coldness. Just one picture into the valley showing a small village.

The hills got steeper and sheer rocks appeared, some of them covered with turquoise blue ice that seemed to glow from its inside. The landscape started to get a bit colourful.

Now the most interesting part of the road began. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t make any photos, but the road had so many curves and bends and not a single parking bay, that I didn’t dare to stop. Suddenly the road was bordered by steep black-brown rock walls, it was almost like driving into a canyon. Then the road went down, the landscape opened again and suddenly I was surrounded by a green pine forest. After some hours of seeing only black-white it was amazing and felt like driving into another country with another climate. Minutes later the cloud layer broke and the sun lingered through the gap illuminating a snowy mountain at the horizon making all finally colourful again.

This looked so nice, that I decided to stay to nights in Alta. Now I only needed a cheap room. The employees at the  tourist information had some difficulties in understanding that their job is to help tourists, but that’s another story … . Finally I could convince one of them to find a room for me. I drove back to the camping place in Øvre Alta, where I stay in a nice, small cabin without water but with internet (that’s more important!) for two nights. But before it went dark I returned into town and took two images near a partly frozen bay.

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one

Since Saturday I’ve been in Äkäslompolo with Annika and Medi, a friend of hers. Äkäslompolo is famous for cross-country skiing and has a total of  330 km of cross-country ski tracks. And that’s what we are here for: Cross-country skiing. My first almost real sport holiday for a zillion years.

On Saturday we used the skis only for a shopping trip to the other side of the lake. I gave my old cross-country skis a quite suspicious look, they are so much thinner than my tour skis (not to mention the broad wooden Tegsnäs skis). Will I be able to ski on these sticks or will I fell right onto my nose after five steps? But the shopping trip (no ascents or descents at all) went well. And in the evening even the grey sky cleared up, patches of fog appeared over the snowy terrain and temperature dropped to -10 °C. We took an evening walk and watched the starry night in hope for Northern Lights, but unfortunately they didn’t come out.

Sunday. Our first ski tour to the cabin Kotamaja. It gave me a quite sportive feeling when I mounted the skis right before our lodge, crossed the road and entered the ski trail. The sportive feeling disappeared quite soon, because almost all other skiers were extremely skilled, extremely athletic and extremely fast, even the much older ones. I had the feeling of accidentally having got into an olympic training race, but it was fun anyway. Earlier than expected we reached Kotamaja and took a break. And we were not alone …

We continued and headed for Hangaskuru where we planned to take our lunch. And we were well equipped: We didn’t only have sandwiches, but sausages and extendable barbecue forks as well. Yummy!

When we headed home more and more skiers were on the ski tracks, it was really crowded and it got worse and worse. “That’s no fun anymore”, I thought but rather like driving on a German autobahn. Hopefully it would be less crowded under the week.

Monday. We took the airport bus that left us at Ylläs-Lainion. The track was in inferior condition, since it had started snowed a bit, but we were almost alone and that’s more the way I like being outdoors. With relaxed but steady movements we slid through the wintry Finnish landscape. However we did not hesitate to take short or longer breaks in the cozy little huts. After round about 20 km we were home again.

Tuesday. It hadn’t stop snowing the whole night and it should continue snowing the whole day. That was the view through our window this morning:

We decided not to make a longer tour, because cross-country skiing on tracks is less fun when the tracks are covered with snow.

I took a walk to the supermarket – partly with Annika, partly alone and tried to continue a snowshoe trail, but the trail was only prepared partly and the snow mobile track, that I followed instead a while, headed to the wrong direction. So I had to return the same way. Äkäslompolo is made for cross-country skiers.

In the afternoon I took a short circular ski tour. Since yesterday fell 10-12 cm new snow accumulating to at least 100 cm snow on the ground.

On the short tour I’ve been in Karilan Navettagalleria,  a nice café, that Medi discovered in the morning, but I took only two pictures and continued my tour. We already have planned another tour for tomorrow and included the café in our plans.

Now I’m sitting in a cozy couch in a typical Finnish bar. And what’s typical Finnish? Right – Karaoke! The Finns love it and I love listing to all these melancholy melodies. Next time I have to learn some melodies and join the singers, too. They probably will laugh their heads off when I try to sing in Finnish.

 

Deforestation in Skelleftehamn

When I moved to Skelleftehamn in July 2010 I directly fell in love with the nature around. The Baltic sea with the stony shores, the islands and the pine and birch forests. One place I really love is Storgrundet, which is name of both an island and the tiny sandy beach at the mainland. It’s my favourite starting point for kayaking, because you’re into nature directly, but I guess I have to wait some more days until I’ll be able to start there, since the sea is still partly ice covered. Two images of yesterday:

Storgrundet – a beautiful place. The way that leads to it however has changed. Last autumn it was framed of dense forest, now many of the trees are cut down and the way is framed by piles of tree logs. It brings to my mind that almost all forests in Sweden are no wild untouched primeval forests but commercial forests. There’re not only used for collecting berries and hunting moose, but for hugging down trees, too.

Now I’m sitting a bit on the fence – on the one hand I like wooden houses and furniture made of wood and I love to fire a cabin or a sauna with birch logs. On the other hand I really loved the forest around and when I walked cross-country today, I felt a bit sad seeing the clear-felled areas. I’m glad that the terrain is not too easy to enter with forestry machines. There are some really big rocks and many shallow ponds and swamps. I guess that’s why there’re a lot of single trees left. But it’s not the same anymore.

Now, that many trees are gone, you can look much farther and I realised, how many swampy areas were hidden in the woods. Now they are quite visible and they look fascinating and desolate at the same time.

I do not have anything against using the forest and cutting down trees, but anyhow I felt sad, when I walked through the destroyed landscape today.

Two months ago – first aid course in Solberget

Day 31 – 38

Today when I look outside the window, I realised that winter finally has left Skelleftehamn. The patch of snow that I stood upon ten days ago to view the Northern Lights has melted away and some trees start to show their first little leaf buds.

Well – it looked different when I was in Solberget in Swedish Lapland two months ago, where a first aid course of the “Outdoorschule Süd” took place. The week was filled with many actions – both course units indoors and outdoors and leisure, too. If you are one of the course participant you will realise, that I left out quite much.  That’s because I tried to keep the text very short – it’s more keyword style – and focus more on the photos.

Saturday

Arrival day: an incredible starry night with even a bit of faint Northern Lights

Sunday

Course unit outdoors, training recovery position (“Stabile Seitenlage”) – course unit indoors, training cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“Herz-Lungen-Wiederbelebung”) – and a beautiful coloured evening sky.

Monday

How to move injured people: a lot of teamwork is needed – frost patterns again – Lars, the Sámi, tells us about the reindeer herding

Tuesday

How to evacuate injured people from an observation tower – reindeer sledge ride. (No people were harmed)

Wednesday

Ski tour to Polcirceln, where we’ll stay to nights. I slept in my tent since the two cabins are really small.

Thursday

A misty morning – another “real life case”: hypothermia – a beautiful dusk. (No people were harmed)

Friday

Ski tour back to Solberget – another fantastic dinner, this time: salmon.

Saturday (again)

The last day – many serious studies as: How many people fit into the igloo (Answer: all!) or who wins the snowball fight

Thank you, Angela and Stefan from the “Outdoorschule Süd” for a great week!

 

A short trip to Umeå

I have to admit, that it felt a bit strange to travel to Umeå. For one thing it’s a big town and for another thing it’s south from Skellefteå and that’s not my usual travel direction.

You may laugh at me calling Umeå a big town. Umeå has 80000 inhabitants and that may not sound very much, but the whole city with its many big buildings and streets feels much bigger, especially if you compare it to Skellefteå – the next town nearby – which is less than half as big and appears only a tenth as busy as Umeå.

I stayed over night in a hotel in the 12th floor with a nice view over the town and the river Umeälven. What a pity that it rained almost the whole time.

Today it still rained a lot and I didn’t have any interest in city sightseeing. So I fled the town and took a long walk in nature. That’s much more my cup of tea.

A hike and three tests

Do you remember Nokia? Cell phones and rubber boots? Today I tested a quite similar combination: Rubber boots and a Nikon lens. Plus a hiking trail.

A few weeks ago I discovered a big information board at a forest edge in Skelleftehamn. It describes the “kraftleden”The force trail or The energy trail. Perhaps the trail is named after Skellefteå Kraft, one of the sponsors I thought when I read the information.

Today I decided to try to hike the 18km long trail. I had two new things with me: My new rubber boots Tretorn Sarek which are made for hiking and my new lens Nikon 100mm f/2.8 (Series E), that I bought secondhand some days ago.

After a one kilometer walk I was at the starting point.

At the first junction I was lost, since I couldn’t see a sign. But after checking my photos of the information board I learned that the way marks where orange coloured blazes round the trees. That’s easy. The trail itself however wasn’t easy at all. It looked more like an area where you cut down trees and bushes. Like a stork I stalked through the cut down branches and twigs that lay criss-cross on this so-called trail hoping for a better path.

And the trail got better. But I still was slow. This time not because of the trail but of my new lens. It’s my first lens ever without an autofocus. This means that I have to focus manually at the lens itself. It took some time until I got used to it, but I still had to control every single shot on the display and I had to make some photos five times until I was satisfied.

I continued the trail – now a nice stony path until I came to the Örberget – altitude 40 meters, 30 meters higher than the starting point. It doesn’t take much to be called a mountain here. I made a photo of a “gravröse”, a tomb from the Bronze Age. Probably it was build at the shore some thousand years ago but the land has been rising round a centimeter a year since then.

I continued the walk. The ground became wet and muddy and after a while I stood in front of a bog. In the middle of the bog I saw a wooden post with an orange blaze. OK, let’s go …

… now I knew, that the new rubber boots were not only comfortable but really waterproof. I didn’t get soaked, but it was quite close.

I always had to look down carefully to avoid the deep water and mud puddles, and I had to look forward to find my way. When I looked up I started to suspect why the trail was called kraftleden. Almost the whole trail followed the transmission lines and the Swedish word for transmission lines is kraftledning. That’s a really pragmatic approach to make a trail since some kind of path was made already to mount the power poles. But it’s not very inspiring just following the lines and not beautiful neither.

After round 11 kilometers I made a rest on a high seat normally used for hunting moose.

I continued the tour but I started to lose interest a bit. Parts of the way were hard to walk, harder than many mountain trails but without the reward of a beautiful landscape or great views. In addition of that I started the tour round half past two and I didn’t want to come to town too late. So I left the kraftleden and walked southwards through the forest. At the beginning I found some nice flowers and I changed the lens to a macro. First two additional test images of the new 100mm lens, then two flowers – a dactylorhiza maculata and a linnaea borealis:

OK, I have to admit: I tested four different things, not only three. Number four was a mosquito protection jacket, that came in quiet handy when I shot the macros of the flowers. Flocks of mosquitos darted for my blood, but they didn’t had a chance beside of biting into my unprotected hands.

After taking the flower images I had to walk some other kilometers until I came to the main road and another one to come to the bus station where I had to wait half an hour for the next bus. Happily I slipped of my rubber boots to try my socks, sat down and waited. Finally the bus came and half an hour later I was home. The GPS displayed:

19.0 kilometers · average when moving: 4.3 km/h · total average: 3.3 km/h

And here come todays test candidates:

Rubber boots Tretorn Sarek: Really nice and comfortable boots, perhaps a nuance too tight for me. They are made of natural rubber and it’s easy to turn the upper upside down. They could be a bit higher.

For me: 8 points out of 10.

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 (Series E): A small, lightweight lens with manual focus. I have to practise focussing. I prefer my huge Nikon 70-200mm VR II, but there’s a reason why I bought the former one: At the end of August I’ll start a two week hiking tour in the Scandinavian mountains and I want to save weight. The 70-200 weights more than 1500 gram, the new 100mm only 215 gram. Got the point? And it was cheap, too – only 53 Euros.

For me: 7 points out of 10.

The trail kraftleden: The only advantage of the trail is that you avoid navigation. Beside of that it’s an awkward combination of a trail a bit too hard to be nice and a bit too boring to be beautiful. I wouldn’t recommend it. If you want to give it a try, take high rubber boots and plenty of time with you. Take care and follow the way marks if you don’t want to end in almost knee deep mud as it happened to me today.

For me: 3 points out of 10.

The nameless mosquito jacket: Perhaps it’s not fun to walk within some kind of mosquito net but it was great, when I took the macro photos of the flowers. The hood is too big. Since it’s very light – only 214 gram – I will take it with me on all summer photo tours and perhaps even on the planned mountain hike. And with costing only 18 Euros it was a bargain, too.

For me: 6 points out of 10.

Translations:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Dactylorhiza maculata / heath spotted-orchid / moorland spotted orchidGeflecktes KnabenkrautFläcknycklar
linnaea borealisMoosglöckchenLinnea
upperSchaft (am Schuh)skaft

Continuing to the Vesterålen

Our third day started with a lot of rain. We put the wet tent into the car and continued our tour to Kabelvåg where we visited a friend of mine. We took a small mountain hike but it was cloudy and wet. Only far away in the east you could see some sunny patches on the top of the snowy mountains.

After the hike Delle and I looked for a camp ground. But first I had to take a picture of the beautiful rainbow near Sildpollen.

This time we tented on a bigger campsite in Sandsletta. When I woke up quite early the next day I could see another rainbow over the Vatnfjorden, but later it started to rain and pour down again. And again we put the soaked tent into the car. We continued on the road 888 to Fiskebøl. The clouds were hanging low and you could hardly see any mountain, just some white and light grey schemes.

Soon we arrived in Fiskebøl where we waited for the ferry. Again we were lucky – we waited hardly half an hour until we entered the ferry for the short crossing to Melbu, the southernmost city of the Vesterålen. We visited friends of mine, this time in Haukenes were we tented near the friend’s house. The cocks tried to wake me up ridiculously early, but in vain. I continued sleeping until 8 o’clock.

Alas it was the first morning without rain (and the only one, too) and we could dry the tent. After a long and lazy breakfast with my friends we said farewell and continued our car trip. We got a tip to visit Stø at the northern end of the Vesterålen island Langøya. What a good tip and what a beautiful landscape – especially after the weather was nice and sunny. We made a short photo stop between Strengelvåg and Klo before we continued to Stø.

In Stø we parked our car and took a short hike over the mountains to a beautiful white sanded beach were we made a rest and I took a short bath. There’s a 15 km hiking trail as well; next time I’ll definitely will go it.

After our rest we slowly walked back and continued by car. First we had to head south to Sortland were we crossed the Sortlandsundet and headed north on the other side. The sky became more and more cloudy and we looked for a nice campground. Finally we found one in Bleik, quite near Andenes, a town at the northern end of the Vesterålen. We put up the tent and – guess what – it started to rain.

It had been raining the whole night and it continued raining. Again a soaking wet bunch of a tent lay in the back of the car. After a while of driving through the greyness we decided to head back to Skelleftehamn. It’s more than 900 kilometres and it took the whole day. Rain became less near Abisko and after we passed Jokkmokk the sky cleared up and we could see the full moon slowly rising. The next photo, which is the last of our car trip through the Lofoten and Vesterålen is taken near Storforsen, one of Europe’s biggest rapids. At 23:50 we were in Skelleftehamn again – and I was home.

  • 2296 kilometres in six days
  • a lot of clouds and rain, but two nice and sunny days, too
  • one night in the car, four in the tent (three of them on campgrounds)
  • two bathes and at least four rainbows
  • – a nice trip!

 

 

Cloudberries – the gold of Lapland

The very short version:

The longer version for those who don’t know these berries:

These berries are called cloudberries (German: Moltebeere, Swedish: hjortron, Norwegian: multe). Cloudberries like bogs and wetlands where they bloom and bear fruit in July and August. That’s exactly the heyday of the mosquitos, that like bogs and wetlands, too. The berries are found quite outspread and it takes some efforts to collect them. (Remember the wetlands? Remember the mosquitos?)

Cloudberries have a quite special taste. I love them but not all share this liking. They are very healthy and contain three times more vitamin C than oranges.

I went berrying yesterday and checked some bogs near Bygdeträsk, where I stayed the weekend with good friends. I wasn’t very lucky. I hoped I would find enough of them to freeze them for later use, but this small amount will not survive the next days. But I was lucky in another way: hardly any mosquitos.

But I found other things. A small deep pond in the middle of the first pond, a so-called bog pond. If you stand beside such a bog pond you should remember that you’re standing on water or mud, that silted up and became overgrown. Be careful, this ground can be very treacherous!

And I found another thing: A plant, that’s special because it’s flesh-eating: A sundew. What a pity that it didn’t bloom yet.

Sundew is quite common here and grows on wet patches and mud. This one, however, grew directly on water that was covered with just one millimetre of peat. I never saw this before.

By the way: I met a neighbour today, he went cloudberry picking as well. He was a bit disappointed because he picked only 4 kilos. I definitely have to check more bogs to find better places.

 

Translations:

EnglishGermanSwedish
cloudberriesMoltebeerehjortron
to silt upverlanden
sundewSonnentausileshår
peatTorftorv

Two sides of an autumnal morning

A cold side and a warm side. The difference? 19 Minutes and 500 meters.

It’s really fascinating that even larger water areas than mud puddles start to freeze over after just three mornings with temperatures below freezing; today round about -5 °C.

Another frosty morning

-5.6 °C showed the thermometer when I woke up at 6:15. I don’t need to look through the window to know that it’ll be a nice morning with mostly blue sky when it’s so cold in early October. And so it was.

The photo above is taken almost at the same place as the 1st photo three days ago. I prefer the older motive but like the intense colour of the sunlit clouds in the background. To other shots:

Have a look at the second photo, the one with the grass in the foreground. Why isn’t the horizon straight? That’s because I stood knee deep in the water myself, breaking the ice. When this happens, water from the hole will start to cover the ice. I just could take my camera, look through the finder and – click! – take a picture. One second later parts of the ice were covered by a thin layer of water.

That was the main problem: There is no save ground round these swamp ponds, where you could take your time for making pictures or even use a tripod. No, you stand knee deep in water on unstable ground, knowing that another step could bring you in much deeper water. I’m always afraid I could fall into the water and drown my expensive camera. It will me much easier when the ice is thick enough to stand on.

After a while the sun started to rise. Time for some more experimental images:

I realised the frozen bug on the second photo first, when I looked through the images at home. It’s hardly 2 mm big but looks quite huge on this macro photo. Learning: look at the motive even more precisely.

Hunting the cold – day #1

Two days ago it looked like that it could by quite cold in Northern Sweden yesterday and today. I checked several places and their weather forecasts and Pajala with a forecasted temperature of -40.4 °C won. That’s good news, since Pajala is only 350 km away. Nikkaluokta for example is one of the coldest places in Sweden, is 537 km away and it will take more than 6 hours to travel to (when conditions are good).

Yesterday – 6 Jan, 2016 – I packed kamera, very warm clothes and all you need for ski tours into my Saab and started the trip. In Skelleftehamn it was -17 °C, but already 20 km away the temperature dropped to -20 °C.

I made a stop in Jävre. I’ve passed this place several times and every time I planned a future stop. Well, future was yesterday. Jävre -23.3 °C.

I continued the trip and the temperature continued dropping. Round half past ten I could see the sun – it was bright red (the camera couldn’t catch this) and because of the higher latitude it was even lower above the horizon. -27 °C.

Now I continued driving to avoid arriving too late. Right after Svartbyn (E10) the thermometer dropped below -30 °C the first time. Round 40 km later I turned right. Here temperatures dropped below -33 °C. Near Pentäsjärvi – 25 km before Pajala – it got even colder: -36.9 °C. I probably experienced colder temperatures, but never saw such low numbers on a thermometer.

I found a quite low-priced room in the Hotell Smedjan but I continued driving around looking for nice (and cold!) places.

One of the most fascinating things in my opinion is the light in wintertime. Twilight may last hours or even the whole short morning, day, and evening and there are always soft pink colours in the sky. Just beautiful, but cold to take pictures of if you don’t have warm clothes. But when I have one thing, it’s cold weather equipment.

I looked for the airport, which is a bit out of town and quite tiny. It was closed. It’s the first airport I saw with an own parking place for reindeers. Good to know!

On my way back to Pajala I found a side road that headed to a small national park. I parked the car and walked the 700 meters to the cabin and the grill place in darkness. Of course it wasn’t pitch black, the snow and some thin clouds reflected the light of the city, giving enough light to see and walk. (The selfie is made with the iPhone which can take two photos until it will shut down because of the cold.

On the way back it was even colder: -38.8 °C. Now I got really hungry, drove back to the hotel and walked to the pizza restaurant. (Pizza and burger bars rule the Scandinavian north). Pajala by night:

Then I went home. I was glad that I have all I need for such a trip: A camera, food and a warm winter parka.

After a while I considered if I could catch the -40 °C now. It was warmer than expected, but let’s give it a try.

This time I took the road to Käymäjärvi (the name proofs, that Finland is not far away). Yes, here it was quite cold – below -39 °C. Between a swamp and the lake I stopped, since these low lands can be cold traps. I didn’t get lower temperatures but a view on the village and northern light (quite strong until I was ready to take pictures …)

On the way back to the main road I got my new personal cold record: -39.6 °C (sorry, no -40 °C)! When it’s really cold in Northern Sweden people take pictures of thermometers and show them in the internet. I will join this tradition. Voilà:

>>> read about day 2 of the journey >>>

Hunting the cold – day #2

Yesterday I travelled to Pajala to search the cold. With a minimum of -39.6 °C i missed the -40 °C.

Day #2 I stood up quite early, took a short breakfast and drove again to Käymäjärvi, where I measured the coldest temperature yesterday. It seemed to be colder than last night and directly after I turned left into the small road to Käymäjärvi, the thermometer showed -40.3 °C. First time below -40 °C – yay! At 08:37, nine minutes later it showed -40.7 °C , which turned out to be the coldest temperature I measured this day.

I continued the road to the end. Here a couple of lonely wooden building stand beside the road, obviously uninhabited, at least in the winter.

But now it was time to pack the pulka – a transportation sledge – and mount the skis. I wanted to make a ski tour, at least a short one. I parked the car at the place where I saw the aurora the day before.

I filled the pulka with warm clothes, hot tea, a bit of food, the camera equipment and such. Then I dressed for skiing. Here it was -37 °C and I dressed carefully to stay warm and avoid frostbite.

One of the telescope tracking poles was not possible to fix. I tried a workaround with the result, that it broke after 5 meters. I’ll have to buy new ones.

First skiing was easy, even with only one ski pole. The snow on the frozen swamp was hard and it was easy to pull the pulka behind.

But then I entered the forest. Of course pulkas are not made for woodland and this forest was like a thicket of birches which sometimes bend down and build low hanging arcs.

I tried to turn left to find more open land (I was quite unprepared and hadn’t any map with me) and had to cross several small brooks. One of them was a bit larger, a bit deeper and I could here water floating under the ice. I had to unmount me skis and was quite nervous crossing the brook that I probably would jump over easily in summer but all went well.

I continued and wanted to make another photo, but not the camera. It didn’t work any longer. The D-800 just showed an ERR on the display, that was all. Now I was a bit of fed up: Only one ski pole in the midst of a thicket of birch trees and the camera not working. I turned and went back. This probably was one of the shortest ski tours ever.

That’s what I looked like. The first photo is taken 10 minutes after beginning, the second right after the end of the tour. That was not easy: The Nikon D-800 was out of order, the iPhone is not made for cold temperatures and the batteries of my auxiliary camera were left in the car and didn’t work neither. But at last I found a battery that worked for the moment.

You see the fur cap? Some equipment that I have is really expensive, for example by Canada Goose down parka (not on the photos above). The fur cap however is from H&M and costed only 10 Euros. You can hardly call this professional equipment but it worked extremely well.

When you exhale in this cold the air flickers as it does over open fire. No surprise, the temperature difference is round 75 °C. When you inhale you should wear a buff or a scarf to protect your lungs. Remember the temperature difference?

I was so glad that the car copes with the cold. It was -36.9 °C outside and -35.1 °C inside when I started the car after the tour. It took only two seconds and the motor was running. Only changing gears is heavy as long the system is so cold.

On the way back temperatures dropped again below -40 °C. Time to many another selfie – a ridiculous one: The camera inside, holden by a long arm, me outside in front of the car. To my big relief the Nikon camera worked again. The motive: The temperature at the left, me outside with my parka at the right. It didn’t work as excepted. Where’s my face?!

Back in Pajala I admired the fragile birch trees covered with frost beside of the river Torneälven. In the background the clear sky with colours from pink to azure. It seemed to be even colder on the bridge that led over the river back into the city. I could feel the wind through my gloves and mittens and even the nose started to freeze together with the camera when taking photos! I closed my hood completely which looks a bit ridiculous, but I stayed warm.

I took my anemometer (A birthday present to myself) and measured the wind: 20 km/h. The temperature: -36 °C. That makes a wind chill of -51 °C! That’s what I call coldness!

I took a lunch and headed home since weather in this region should worsen, while the forecast for Skelleftehamn looked quite good. It was hardly warmer than -25 °C on the whole journey back home.

At 7 o’clock I arrived home. -28 °C outside – time for a hot bath!

Sunset over the bog

When Annika and I drove from Bygdeträsk to Umeå yesterday evening the sky was dull and grey and it rained at temperatures round 4 °C, but some minutes after sunset the cloud layer in the northwest was lit from below and glowed in strong sunset colours. Minutes later the colourful spot has disappeared and sky was dull and grey again, just a bit darker.

Art, sound, and spring flowers

In contrast to the weather forecast yesterdays morning was sunny and sky was blue. I’ve been in Umeå the weekend and after the breakfast Annika and I decided to make just a small trip before weather would get worse.

We drove to Baggböle, 8 km west from Umeå. Here’s the “Arboretum Norr”, a tree collection (or arboretum) along the river Umeälven. We enjoyed the springlike temperatures and the many small flowers that started to blossom everywhere.

It was a bit too early for an extensive visit, since many trees just started to get their leaves, but we had another destination anyway.

In an abandoned turbine sump you can find an orange figure sitting cross-legged just as a statue of a meditating monk. The figure is reflected in the shallow water. This artwork is part of the Konstvägen sju älvar, a 350 km long tourist and sculpture route in Västerbotten. Sju älvar (seven rivers) sounds almost like sju elva (seven eleven), that’s how this artwork got its name: 8 11. Outside it was warm and sunny, inside it was dark and chilly. The ground was still frozen.

Probably the weather missed the forecast, because outside it continued being warm and sunny. So we continued our car trip, first toVännäs to visit another artwork: Eldsoffa (fire sofa) – a brick sofa that you can heat by fire (no picture).

After that we took a detour via Pengsjö and headed to another artwork between Vännäs and Bjurholm: Hägring (mirage).

A model of a church built of pieces of mirror glass seems to hover above a bog. It reflects it’s surroundings and if you go there over the wet boggy ground it reflects you yourself.

If you want to go to that artwork: Take rubber boots with you or you’ll get wet feet, at least in May.

After going round that artwork we continued our tour, had a brief look to Bjurholm and after that we started to return to Umeå again. We took the 353 southwards and would have been in Umeå one hour later if not my curiosity made me turn right into the road to Ågnasbacken, a local ski area. I love standing on hill and mountain tops and enjoy the views, but we discovered something better: The klangvägen (the sound path), a 1.5 km long path on two of the ski slopes with sound objects. Especially Sofie Weibull’s Klockspel – a wind driven installation of metal pieces sounding like bells – fascinated us very much. I did not make any photos because in my opinion it was sound that mattered, not the optical appearance of the installations themselves.

Anyway, I made a photo from one of the ski slopes and the view. And some leftover snow …

We came back to Annika’s flat eight our nine hours after start. Sometimes a short trip can get out of hand a bit …