Opening the kayak season

“4:45” showed the clock when I woke up this sunday. Seventy minutes later I stood at the shore – just on time to see the sunrise. My kayak still was fixed on its cart with paddle, camera and dry suit inside.

I put on the dry suit, pushed the kayak into the water and started the tour. When I left home it was -6 °C and parts of the sea where covered with thin new ice. Thin enough to melt under the day but thick enough to give me a hard time to break through with the kayak.

I’m always a bit nervous when I stick my paddle into the ice. Will it break one day? But until now it went well. Sometimes it was easier to take the hand and pull the kayak ahead. And sometimes, when the ice got really thick I used the paddle to hack small holes into the ice that I used as handles for pulling me forward.

But after a time I reached open water and paddled along some old ice floes that were much, much thicker.

And a bit later I came to the huge icy surface, that lays between the mainland and the islands Norrskär and Bredskär. I got out and stepped onto the ice. I think, this is the first time that I stepped onto the sea ice from my kayak. I wasn’t nervous, first of all is this old ice really thick, I should guess at least 30 centimetres, probably more. Then I always wear my completely waterproof immersion suit when I make a kayak trip in winter.

After a short break I continued the tour and headed to the island Gåsören. On the outer shore there were some impressive ice floes left.

It took a while until I could go ashore, because I had to cross another field of new ice. I took a longer rest and took of the dry suit. Ugh! Like always I sweated in the thick neoprene suit and now I smelled like a dead Puma. I took on some other clothes and first it was quite chilly. The spring sun however had enough power to warm me up and soon I took of my gloves and cap.

Most snow has melted and beside of the ice covered rocks at the eastern bank Gåsören almost looked like spring was here.

After a while I dressed for paddling again, entered the kayak and returned to the starting place. With the last ice behind I had a beautiful view of the islands Klubben, Flottgrundet, Gråsidan and Nygrundet. With the blue sky and the blue sea I had the feeling of leaving the winter behind me and paddle into the spring.

When I was home again the thermometer showed +7.3 °C. Almost spring!

 

 

 

A short kajaktour to the island Norrskär

What a contrast – two days ago I skied through the snowy winter forest in Äkäslompolo in Finland, today I paddled on the Baltic sea under a blue sky with two friends and it almost felt like spring.

Hans, Stefan and I met at the pilot house, where the Baltic sea is completely free of ice. We paddled to the island Klubben and started to round it, but a thick layer of old ice still lay between Klubben and Bredskär.

So we turned left, and paddled along Bredskär and Norrskär.

On the outer side of Norrskär we went ashore and took a fika, a break with drink and food.

On the outer side the waves were a bit higher and sea spray splashed ashore.

The old ice has a fascinating structure, it’s like a mosaic of thin vertical sticks. If you smash it, it splinters into many pieces, but the sticks are quite stable.

After the break we continued our tour and paddled along the southeast peaks of the islands Storgrundet, Brambärsgrundet and Vorrgrundet. Here we had a bit more waves. More than twenty whooper swans rose when we came closer – a spring sign. But on the ice between Storgrundet and Brambärsgrundet people still stood on the ice, perhaps there were ice fishing.

Now we were on the way back and the waves got smaller again. The ice edge is quite fascinating. The ice itself is still quite thick but at the edge the underwater ice got a lot of holes and looks like a frozen sponge.

Three weeks ago I stood on the thick ice between the mainland and the island Bredskär and it was possible to go to the islands by snowmobile. Today we paddled through the open water, but on the remaining ice in the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan you could still see some snowmobile tracks and they were quite fresh.

Soon we arrived again at our starting point, a short but very pleasant tour. Thank you, Stefan and Hans!

They packed their car and I put the boat onto the small cart and started to go home, dragging the kayak behind. (Foto: Stefan)

The air was still cold – round +3 °C – but the sun already got a lot of power and it feels much warmer. On my way home I discovered another spring sign: The first blooming flower, a tussilago. Spring is here!

 

And the snow?

Winter may has gone, but still a lot of snow is left.

All streets in Skelleftehamn have been snow free for a while now, but you can still see the big snow piles from the winter. Some of them are still several meters high and they probably won’t be melted down before the end of May.

Yesterday I was invited by friends to join them in their stuga – their summer cottage – in Bygdeträsk. Some images from the way.

When I arrived at the summer cottage, the property looked like this:

In front the barbecue area and the grasslands, behind the birch trees the Sundet, part of the big lake Göksjön, still mostly ice covered, but you can see the first open patch, where a small stream enters the lake.

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.

Valborgsmässoafton

Valborgsmässoafton, that’s the Swedish name of the Walpurgis Night, which is celebrated on April 30, which is today (or has been 15 minutes before). A friend invited me to celebrate valborgsmässoafton with her family in Aspliden and I accepted gladly.

Beside of nice people to celebrate with you need three ingredients for a typical valborgsmässoafton:

1. Good food.

In this case a so called “Smörgåstorta” – a sandwich cake which is a very popular dish for special days as today.

2. A big bonfire.

The bigger the better. It can be quite hard to light a bonfire, because the cut down trees, twigs and branches are mostly very cold and soaking wet.

3. Cold weather, preferably with wind and snow showers.

While the first half of the day was sunny, clouds came in in the afternoon and round 8 o’clock we got our first snow shower. Last year it snowed as well.

Most Swedish people don’t think at all that chilly and snowy weather must be a part of the valborgsmässoafton, put it’s quite typical.

And just an off-topic photo from today. Three whooper swans that I saw today at the same place.

Paddling round Storgrundet

Two weeks ago the sea between the island Storgrundet and the mainland was still partly ice covered. Today I paddled round Storgrundet and couldn’t discover any ice left. The view of the blue sea almost looked like spring, but it didn’t felt like spring at all, it was very windy and chilly. When I left the protected bay I tried to make some photos but soon gave up since I was blown back ashore faster than I could take my camera out of its pocket. I only made a selfie on which it’s quite visible that – measured by temperature – spring hasn’t come far yet.

At the outside of the island I didn’t had a chance to release the paddle for a photo, too high were the waves. I regretted soon that I paddled without spray deck, because some of the bigger waves made it into my kayak. The next photo I made in a sheltered bay, where the water finally was calm enough and I could empty my kayak with a sponge (it wasn’t so much water, that came in).

Some hours later …

I had a look at “kanotudden” (literally: the canoe bay), a bay of the river Skellefteälven, where the ice is finally gone, too. Almost. There is some leftover ice, mostly crushed to small bits that were jingling and clanging with each arriving wave. But even the small bits were still solid enough to bear a wandering wagtail looking for food.

The canoe club, which is located at kanotudden still seems to be in hibernation, I’ll have to check later …

 

 

 

Nu grönskar det …

I have an “Ohrwurm” – an earworm: a piece of music that lingers in my mind. It’s a Swedish folksong based on a part of Johann Sebastian Bachs cantata “Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet”.

The text starts with “Nu grönskar det i dalens famn” which means “Now it flourishes in the valley’s arms”. And so it is: The birch trees in Skelleftehamn start to open their leaf buds and slowly, but surely nature becomes green again. And now – after much rain in the morning – even the sun came out. We had rain, now we need warmth and nature will explode. Sometimes spring in Northern Sweden is not a season but just a short switch from winter to summer.

Some images of a short kayak tour

Today I took a short tour from the small boat harbour Killingören, just 650 meters away from my house. After taking the Kejsar Ludvigs kanal – a small channel, that splits the peninsula Rönnskär – I headed to the small island Kalkgrundet, where I landed my kayak. In the shadow of the trees there’re still some patches of snow left – up to 30 centimetres. I guess it’s the leftovers of a huge snowdrift.

I walked round the island and saw a Canada goose swimming nearby. One more step and I saw another one fleeing from land to sea. It was really near but I didn’t see it before it fled. I took some photos and continued my walk. Then I saw the reason why the geese didn’t just swim away: They were nesting. Sorry, my geese, I didn’t know this. I took a very quick photo of the nest and continued walking round the small island. When I was round the corner I peeked back and could see the geese going on land again.

I continued my kayak tour to an old pier at the shore of Örviken. From the distance it looked quite stable, but when I came closer I could see that it was ruinous and many of the wooden logs wobbled in the tiny waves.

I crossed the Sörfjärden and entered the bay Kurjoviken.  I could see the bright coloured blossoms of the marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris). I love these flowers and when I was home again two hours later I visited the place from land to make some photos. Here they are:

Travelling back in time

Believe it or not, it is possible to travel back in time, at least some weeks.

Here in Skelleftehamn near the coast the ice on the Baltic Sea, the river Skellefteälven and all lakes is gone and all birch trees are bedecked with green leaves.

Yesterday I had a gig in the Skidstugan Stenabäck – a small ski hut between Norsjö and Lycksele. On the way there I could see the birch trees being less and less green until they were leafless again. As I said – like travelling back in time. But I was even more fascinated by the fact, that parts of the lake Stor kvammarn were still covered with ice.

Just at the driveway to the ski hut some reindeers were hanging around. I saw them again several times this weekend. The group was easy to recognise because of the white reindeer with the pale pink horns.

I stayed over night and so I got the opportunity to make a picture of the incredible evening sky. It looked like clouds burning in slow motion.

Today I took a short tour by car with R. who drove along some forest roads nearby. We saw a young moose standing in the forest and just beside the road a Western capercaillie probably looking for a hen.

Then I took my own car and drove home, not the fast and boring main roads but the smaller ones. I saw four more moose on three different  places. Five moose total – a new record, but there all were quite camera-shy, trotted away and hid in the dense forest – one even crossed a small river and even if I couldn’t see her anymore I could still hear her feet splashing through the water.

One photo through the windscreen – just for the records.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
western capercaillie, wood grouse, heather cockAuerhuhn/Auerhahntjäder

From Nallo to Vistas, Alesjaure, Abiskojaure and back to civilization

August 30 – September 2: Day eight to eleven of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Nallo – Vistas

After two days in Nallo Annika and I were eager and keen to move on. After our breakfast we said goodbye to stugvärd Janne and started to ford the stream behind of the hut. Fortunately the water level dropped to normal again and quite easily we could cross the stream.

Then we went along the Nallú, a fantastic mountain that changed its appearance every other second because of the moving clouds and the changing light situations. We never tired of looking at this big mountain that seemed to accompany us a long way.

After a while another stream that we had to cross, came down from the lake Nállujávrrit. While I managed to splash through with my high rubber boots, Annika decided to take of her shoes and wade through it in her sandals – brr, the water was really ice cold!

We continued the hike through the fast-changing scenery. Quite soon we saw the first trees and realised that the big mountain ahead was the Vássačorru, that lies behind the valley Visttasvággi, where our next destination, the Vistasstuga is located.

Soon we crossed the Visttasjohka on the chain bridge and arrived at the cabin to meet the stugvärd – the warden.

Oh look: Coke and beer are priced down! That’s because the season only lasts three other weeks. After that the huts are closed down until their reopening for the skiers in February or March. But because none of the cans would survive the frost, all liquids has to be drunk in the next three weeks or poured away. We decided to save some cokes from this cruel destiny.

We were placed in the outhouse – the main building was in the act of being renovated. There we sat on the front stairs, ate, drank and looked on the river Visttasjohka. And we took a bath in this cold river. Chilling but refreshing! Finally the sun came out. I crossed the bridge to make a photo of our cabin.

Later – it started getting dark – we got a visitor: A big moose stood beside the river. I went out, where I could observe this huge animal, how it ate leaves and grass, less than 10 meters away. It looked at me but wasn’t disturbed by me at all, it even passed quite near until it vanished between some trees. This was one of the moments were I was glad and touched as a “normal person”, but a bit grumpy with myself, that I was too lazy to carry my big tele lens for better and sharper pictures. I never experienced a moose so near and so fearless.

Vistas – Alesjaure

The trip the day before was short: only 9 kilometres, this day it would be twice as much: 18 km. The first kilometres were a bit boring since they went through birch forests and quite muddy passages. But after a while the landscape opened and we could see the mountain Siehtagas with its glacier Siehtagasglaciären. In front of the mountain there were alpine meadows and small birch forests. In front of that the turquoise water of the Visttasjohka glimmered in the sunlight.

We went up again until we again were over the treeline. This part of the valley Visttasvaggi is beautiful and very varying. The first rest we made in the lee side of a huge cuboid rock. We weren’t the first – someone built a bench by laying a plank over two stones. The second rest we made at the Tjatjajaurekåtan (there’s not much left of it).

After a while I saw some reindeers grassing. There were shy and quickly went away when I came nearer. We saw (probably) them again when we had a view at the sami village Alisjávri that lies at the lake with the the same name. From that it’s not far to the mountain huts of Alesjaure – the Swedish version of Alisjávri. The Alesjaurestugorna are the biggest mountain huts of the STF – the Swedish tourist association. I prefer the smaller ones as e.g. Nallo, but it’s fine to have a shop, a drying room and especially a sauna. And we used it all! It’s nice to go to sleep after being in the sauna and having a wash in the river Aliseatnu.

Alesjaure – Abiskojaure

I didn’t make many pictures of this part of our tour. I was a bit bored of this part of the trail and found nothing special in the landscape. Just some photos of human evidence: Tent poles for a lavvu and a crossing over a long reindeer fence.

It was the first time, that I was really impatient and just wanted to arrive. Some kilometres before Abiskojaure we came below the treeline. Most of the birch trees still were green but you could see, that autumn is near. No wonder, it was the 1st of September, beginning of autumn for the meteorologists.

Finally we reached another chain bridge and shortly after it arrived in Abiskojaure. The sun came out and even though it was much colder than one week ago we could sit and lie on the short-cut lawn in front of the hut. I took the last bath of the journey and strolled around making some photos. After crossing a small swamp I came to a quite huge sandy beach beside the lake Ábeskojávri. A beautiful place!

The evening it started to become chilly, hardly 3 °C. I was curious if we would get the first frost of the season next morning …

Abiskojaure – Abisko Östra

… and yes, we got frost. -2.5 °C showed the scientific thermometer of the swedish weather service, when I had my first look. On the water surface of the buckets lay a layer of ice and round the leaves of lower plants I could see the first autumnal hoarfrost.

I was up very early that morning and I went to the beach at the lake again. First it looked quite normal but then it started to get foggy and misty while the sun rose behind the mountain Giron. What a beautiful sight! I stood there for at least an hour and only walked back to get another full battery for my camera. Later I met Annika, showed her the place and was glad that I could share this awesome experience.

I was a bit sad – this would be the last day of hiking through the wonderful mountain landscape of Swedish Lapland. But each journey has some kind of end and so had ours. We started our tour through the birth forests along the lake Ábeskojávri, than along the river Abiskojåkka.

After a while a famous landmark came into sight: Lapporten – “The Lapponian Gate”, a U-shaped valley framed of two mountains that give this valley its specific and recognizable shape. However, since this photo is taken from the backside, it hardly shows this special shape.

Since Alesjaure we followed the Kungsleden – the King’s Trail, but right after the bridge over the stream Nissonjohka we left the main trail that leads to the Abisko Mountain Station and turned right to Abisko Östra, the village, were we planned to stay for two other days. The way, however, was not much fun to go. A lot of all-terrain vehicles has turned the way into mud. Since I lost my lens cap and I was afraid that mud would splatter my lens, I packed the camera into its waterproof bag long before the worst mud patches. And that’s why this is the last photo of our hiking tour:

Thank you Annika, för trevligt sällskap – for nice company. Where should we hike next?

Any suggestions?

Another small step winterwards

Today was the first day, where the maximum temperature almost was below zero, in Skelleftehamn the maximum was +0.1 °C. Although it was below zero most of the time it drizzled and mizzled from the low-hanging clouds which made the ground really slippery.

But later, when I looked through the window round 7 o’clock I could see the road being covered with a ultra-thin layer of white. Snow or ice dust – I wasn’t sure. But even this half millimeter is enough to reflect the street lights and to lighten up street and front yard.

When I went outside I could see some scattered snowflakes falling down. I know, it’s nothing and it will melt tomorrow, but anyway – it’s the very first snow of the season in Skelleftehamn. And although it’s hardly below zero, the small boat harbour killingörviken starts to freeze over.

Already spring or still winter?

Yesterday I found the first blooming flower in Umeå – a tussilago, one of the heralds of spring in Sweden. On the other side I did something, that is quite typical for the winter season: I took a winter bath (and swam twenty meters).

Is it spring or winter? The Swedes have an own word for it: vårvinter – “spring-winter”. It’s the season round March and April, when snow still covers the ground – at least in Northern Sweden, but it’s less cold as in January or February.

 

First day of spring

Today it’s the first day of spring. In the forest you could see the first snowless patches of soil covered with blueberry plants and the first birds sang their spring songs. But if you continued your walk through the woods until you reached the shore and had a look over the Baltic Sea, it looked like winter would be endless and continue forever:

But if you went on the ice and looked closer you could see, that the frozen surface only covered parts of the Baltic Sea. There was open water ahead. Blue open water. Blue open water with tiny little waves.

Oh, what I longed for my kayak – I would have loved to paddle on the crystal clear sea to the icebergs that you could see near the horizon.

The first day of spring in Skelleftehamn – still wintry but with a promise of spring coming soon.

The ice weakens

The Baltic Sea is still covered with ice. The warmth of the last days however has not only melted away a lot of snow on land but also warmed up the ice on the Baltic Sea. The layer of snow has vanished and you can see the first open water round the stones.

Parts of the sheet of ice look soft and unstable. Probably it’s still thick and solid and probably it’s still possible to walk the two kilometres to the island Gåsören, but I wouldn’t dare to do it anymore.

I’m waiting for open water and the first opportunity for a kayak trip instead.

Almost spring …

Farewell, winter

Yesterday it started to rain.

Today it rained, rained and it rained. It poured down the whole time and didn’t stop for a single second.

Probably it’s time to say farewell to winter.

I’m looking forward to spring, but I’ve started to miss winter already.

Ice floes at Strömbäck-Kont

Most of the Baltic Sea at Umeå’s latitudes is free of ice, only some shallow parts and sheltered bays are still covered with an old yet thick layer of ice.

At Strömbäck-Kont – a nature reserve 20 km south from Umeå – the Baltic Sea was open, too, but ice floes still floated near the shore at Flakaskär and the small boat harbour Simphamn.

A wet walk west from Ersmark

At this time of the year it can be quite interesting to go for a walk through the woods. A lot of snow melted in the warmth of the last week and every river, stream or brook is in flood. The heavy rain some days before provided an additional amount of water.

Annika and I started our walk west from Ersmark, seven kilometres north from Umeå. The whole area is a shooting range for the military, but a sign clearly shows, when shooting exercises take place and when it’s safe to hike. Today we were lucky – no military exercises this weekend.

We went along the gravel road. The road was clear of snow, but due to the night frost all mud puddles were covered with a thin layer of ice. We went ahead until we came to a minor path. This path was completely covered with snow. We continued this snowy path until we approached the brook Tavelån. This part of the path was covered with a splintered crust of ice that clearly showed, that this part of the path was flooded a short time ago. More and more water flooded our path and we had to wade to reach the wooden bridge, that crosses the water. The brook was so flooded that the water partly flowed over the planks of the bridge.

After the bridge there was much more water on the way. Parts of the flooded brook flowed over our hiking path, too. I tested the depth, but soon had to give up. The water was too deep for us to continue, although we both wore high rubber boots.

We turned and took the same way back, until we reached the car. Annika, who took care of navigation today, realised, that we could take the car to another starting point to experience the other side of the brook.

A short time later I parked the car on a muddy ground near a small nature reserve with the witty name “Natur 2000” – still the same military shooting range. Larger parts of our new hiking path were covered with ice, but at least the way wasn’t muddy. After a while we headed north trying to cross the Tavelån again, this time at another place. When we came to that place were we expected the bridge, all I could see was some kind of old concrete base – the bridge was gone. I laughed out aloud – another blind end again!?

But we were lucky: Ten metres away some railway sleepers lay across the Tavelån. After some wading again we could safely cross the flooded brook. Anyway, the continuation of the path was a bit challenging again. The snowy path was partly flooded and we had to wade several times, carefully balancing on the wet ground ice. But we succeeded: None of us slipped and we continued our tour – dry and warm, since the spring sun had a lot of power and warmed us gently.

The path ascended and soon we walked on a dry gravel way. The rest of our hiking tour was a bit boring: Broad and straight gravel roads through forest and heather. After a while we reached the car.

We tried to take the minor gravel roads to head back to Umeå but when we almost reached the big road, the last part of our way was prohibited for cars and we had to return.

When we arrived home at Annika’s flat, the thermometer of the car showed +10 °C. Another day in spring with remains of winter.

Blue sky, blue sea – opening the kayak season

Finally the Baltic Sea round the peninsula Näsgrundet has been open and free of ice. Time to open the kayak season!

To Näsgrundet it’s just a 2.8 km walk from home. The kayak is tied onto a small two-wheeled dolly. I wear the same waistbelt, that I use for my pulka. Hereby I can walk and drag the kayak behind me without using my arms.

Soon I reached the peninsula and dragged the kayak onto the surrounding ice shield. After putting on my dry suit, lifejacket, neoprene boots, gloves and balaclava I was dressed for the first paddling. Perhaps I looked a bit overdressed, but despite of the springlike air temperatures it’s still winter paddling – the water is as cold as it can be.

I paddled along the ice shelf, that still connects the islands BredskärKlubben and Flottgrundet with the main land. The ice is soft and starts to get transparent, but it’s still quite thick.

Soon I reached Klubben and paddled along the icy coast.

From Klubben it’s just 200 metres to Flottgrundet and from that it’s only 500 or 600 meters to Gåsören

… at least, if you take the direct way. I preferred a detour to paddle between the ice floes. It’s a great experience. Some ice floes are quite big and welcome resting spots for ducks, geese and seagulls. Others are so tiny, that they are hardly visible, especially if they are completely transparent and clear. They sparkle and glitter like huge diamonds.

After some detours I headed to Gåsören, circuited it to look for a good anchorage and went on land (or better said, on ice) to make a small rest.

After I stilled my hunger and thirst I entered my kayak again and returned to the Näsgrundet, this time on the direct way, which is round about two kilometres. When I got out from my kayak and stepped onto the ice that surrounds the peninsula, I heard a noise: A snow mobile crossed the same ice shield I paddled along some hours ago – in same distance to the open water. Spring, meet winter!

After taking of the lifejacket and dry suit I went home, dragging the kayak behind again and enjoying the springlike temperatures. No warm jacket anymore, no woollen cap – no gloves and no warm boots. Round 40 °C warmer than 12 weeks ago – glorious!

Cold, clear and crisp

It’s mid-April and the civil twilight already starts round 4 o’clock. A quite stupid time to wake up, but it happened to me today. Normally I would roll over in my bed and continue sleeping, but the sky was so incredibly clear, that I just had to stand up and take the car to the coast.

As clear the sky was, as cold was the air: -8 °C. Time for gloves and down parka again. East from the peninsula Näsgrundet the Baltic Sea was still open – just as on Monday, when I opened the kayak season.

West from Näsgrundet however, the frost has frozen together the drifting ice floes and put a thin layer of fresh sea ice on the bay Kallholmsfjärden.

Now I have to get some more sleep, it’s still quite early.