The first frost

Finally – the first frost in the morning. The dew is frozen and frost covers the car windows. I took a short bath in the Baltic Sea before work and for the first time the water temperature was below 10 °C. Now it’s winter bathing. A bit chilly but refreshing and a good start in the new week. To be repeated soon.

Mushrooms at eye level

The weather has got colder and wetter and when you stroll through the forest you can smell earth and mushrooms. According to the calendar autumn already has started last Sunday and this weekend it even feels like autumn.

Open house day at Polarforskningssekretariatet

When I was a child I wanted to become a researcher. Of course I hadn’t the slightest idea, what a researcher really does. I assumed he would travel around the world looking for insects or collecting fossils – both passions of mine. Then my interests for maths and computer science as well as for jazz and playing piano grew more and more and my childhood dreams of beetles and trilobites faded into the background. To make a long story short: 1992 I started studying jazz piano and then worked as a musician; in 2002 I had started working with programming, which still is my main profession. I really like my job and the freedom that it gives me, but …

There are jobs that I would take instantly if I only had the chance.

Today was open day at the Polarforskningssekretariatet – the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat in Luleå. The Polarforskningssekretariatet “promotes the conditions for and coordinates Swedish research and development in the polar regions.”¹ It was really interesting and inspiring both to look around and to talk to the people working there.

If you know me, you also know about my passion for the Arctic regions, even though I only have visited a really tiny part. What you probably do not know is that I had contact with the Polarforskningssekretariatet some months ago. There had just published a job ad for a forskningsstödsamordnare – a research support coordinator – for the ship based expeditions to the Arctic. I applied for that job, although I guessed that without any fundamental experience within leading large international projects and especially research I wouldn’t have a chance. And I hadn’t. Today I learned that 80–100 people applied for that job.

I’m not disappointed, but a bit pensive. That would have been a job to my taste. Transforming needs into plans, working with international teams, travelling to Greenland or the North pole, but most of all: doing a meaningful job in times where climatical research is more and more crucial to humankind.

There are several lives I could have chosen. I could have become a mathematician, a composer or – following my childhood dreams – a scientist. It’s easy to say that I should have made other choices. If I were a scientist today I would miss my time as a jazz pianist. Life is just too short to squeeze in all the different interests. But just today I would have loved to become a part of the polar research in Sweden.

¹ quote taken from the English website.

Cycling home

At time I have a project which is located at Solbacken, Skellefteå’s shopping centre outside the city. Normally I take the car because the public transport is quite poor. Yesterday however I took the bicycle. On the way there I chose the straight way. That’s 16.8 km, which took me 54 minutes.

On the way back I chose a longer and slower route. As forecasted the weather was warm and sunny, round 26 °C.

In short:

+++ unlock the bicycle +++ pass the recycling yard (Yuck, it stinks!) +++ follow the forest road +++ gaze at the first autumn colours +++ notice the crossing ski track +++ slow down on b-bum-bumpy passages +++ feel a bit lost +++ look at the map +++ realise that I’ve come longer than thought +++ pass the go-kart ground +++ follow the asphalt road leading away +++ know the sandy shortcut +++  approach the stugområde (area with summer cottages) +++ observe the largeness of some these cottages +++ spot a bathing place +++ take a bath in the Baltic Sea +++ drink +++ continue the gravel road +++ cycle along the small, winding forest path +++ pass Harrbäckssand +++ do not take a bath there (too shallow and too muddy) +++ follow my lengthening shadow +++ push the bike down the bumpy, sandy slope +++ follow the forest path +++ see the barbecue hut +++ realise that I’m in Skelleftehamn and almost home +++ taking a final “spurt” +++ home +++

This way was only 3 km longer, but took more than 30 extra minutes to cycle due to the bumpy roads. Beautiful anyway, but not the route I’ll choose regularly.

 

Another kayaking

On Friday came a lot of rain, but yesterday on Saturday the weather was forecasted to be nice – and so it was. Time for a longer tour with my kayak, that I hardly used this year. A quarter past 9 I was on the water.

Soon after I passed the near-shore island Storgrundet the sea became quite wavy. Still no dangerously large waves but enough to keep me busy instead of photographing. Shortly before the island Medgrundet I came into the lee of the island and the water calmed down. There I could take photos again and it was easy to go ashore.

Do you see the brown stuff covering the stones? It guess it was some kind of algae washed ashore. Phew – the smell was awful! On the island I saw probably the last blooming circumpolar pea for this year. Other plants were already bearing bean pods. It was end of August and you could see autumn approaching.

In opposite to most other islands nearby, there are no summer cottages or other buildings on Medgrundet. I went through the forest to the other side of the island, which is hardly wider than 200 m at its widest point. There are some beautiful trees in the small forest, a nice contrast to the many commercial forests in Northern Sweden. From the other side I could spot my next two paddle destinations for today: Snusan and Kågnäshällan. On my way back I accidentally found a shelter amidst the forest. Maybe it’s new, I’ve never seen it before but probably it’s Medgrundet’s first building.

When I approached Snusan I scared away an eagle. It rose into the air to the big dislike of a seagull that tried to shoo the raptor away. The eagle hardly noticed the seabird but spiralled higher and higher into the air. I observed it only en passant, I had to focus on the waves.

Again I approached the island from the lee side. While Medgrundet is covered with a forest – mostly pines – Snusan is quite bleak and looks more like a huge flat rock. Probably it’s quite young, an old map from 1926 shows that it had been much smaller then.

On the north side of the island I could see the island Kågnäshällan, but also the breaking waves, that I already had heard a while before going ashore.

Parts of the island were very wet with a lot of water puddles, inhabited by small fishes and aquatic insects of the family Corixidae. Other parts of the island were very dry and many of the rowan looked dried up. Probably there’s hardly any soil that can store water for a longer time.

I continued paddling. First I had to cross some quite large waves then the sea was much calmer so that I could take a picture of the next island to visit: Kågnäshällan.

The calmness however was only temporary, because I kayaked along the outer coast of Kågnäshällan, where there are a lot of rocks and shallow areas – invitations for the waves to break. I went round the island, just focussing on the waves to come until I reached the sheltered bay on the land-facing side. On the outside I could hear the roar of a water scooter, at the horizon I could spot a white sail of a sailing boat – two very different ways to travel on water. My preference however is still the kayak.

After a yoghurt as a snack and remembering the last time I’ve been here six month ago I continued my kayak tour. To Kågnäshällan I had paddled quite directly over open sea, now I would follow the coast until I would be back again.

I passed Kågnäsudden, a fishing village, and a lot of summer cottages. Some people were working (mostly involving tools or vehicles with a motor), some were just sitting in front of their houses enjoying the warm and sunny weather. And warm it was, although some clouds were gathering. Since I left Kågnäshällan the sea was much calmer and I could take pictures from the kayak.

That made paddling much easier but also a bit more boring. It’s nice to have waves as long as you feel safe. Part of my safety was the drysuit that I put on when starting the tour. And a life vest of course, but that’s common sense and hardly mentionable.

Now I looked for the beach I use to bath sometimes but I just hopped over that very bay. What a pity! Anyway I found a nice replacement, a small and shallow sandy beach.

Lunchtime! The menu: Västerbotten cheese on crisp bread garnished with grapes. One of the ants liked the cheese, too and robbed a large piece. It dragged it over the beach that still was wet from last days rain until it got stuck.

After lunch break I continued paddling, passed the beach Harrbäckssand, the island Björkskär and then I could see on of the summer cottages, where my kayak uses to lie in summertime. One longer final spurt and I was back again, very glad that I could make this extraordinary fine summer kayak tour. Hopefully not the last for this season.

Appendices

I Paddling

More and more I start to enjoy paddling in the waves. I guess I should learn how to use a kayak sometimes. Perhaps next year?

II Tour stats

17.5 km / 3 hours 40 minutes plus a lot of breaks. That’s less than 5 km/h. It’s more leisure than sports.

According to my tracking app the elevation gain (and loss) was 287 meter. The waves?

III Wildlife photography

I saw the eagle, I had a camera, but I didn’t take a photo. Why? Well, there’s a rule set for that, the Eagle’s legals:

(1) When you see me – the eagle – you will not have a camera with you (I had)
(2) But if you have, then you will not have the telephoto lens with you (I had)
(3) But if you have, then you will not have it mounted on the camera (that’s right)
(4) But if you have, then you will be busy with other things until I’m long away (true, I was struggling with the waves)

IV A riddle

I found this shell of a cockle on the island Snusan. It lay on the rock. There are no cockles in the Bothnian Bay, this part of the Baltic Sea. The next place where you can find them is in Norway, 400 km away. How does this shell come to this place? I know that seagulls use to take shells in their beaks and let them fall down on rocks to crack the shell and get to the meat. But would a seagull transport it such a long distance? How? And why? A riddle that probably remains unsolved.

Lighthouse day on Gåsören

Gåsören is probably my favourite island in the small archipelago off Skelleftehamns coast. It has two lighthouses, the old house-like built 1879–81, and the new tower-like built in 1921. The latter one is still in service. Yesterday was fyrens dag – lighthouse day – on Gåsören. Annika and I wanted to go but beside of my kayak I don’t a boat. How good that Mats – active both in the jazz club and the boat club – gave us a lift from the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan. The wind had weakened but the sea was still choppy and Mats had to drive slowly against the waves. Gåsören however is not far away and soon we dock the boat in the small harbour.

There were not many people on the island yet, more were expected for 21 o’clock. Tommy, who has a summer cottage on the island lit a cosy fire, while I went around and took pictures of the lighthouses and the brick-built cellar, that I’ve never been in before.

Round 21 o’clock the new lighthouse was lit automatically. The summer days of eternal daylight is history for 2019. The flag of the Swedish Cruising Association fluttered in the wind.

Round 21:30 Tommy lights the bulb of the old lighthouse and welcomes the guests. More than expected had come – round 30–40 people.

I take the opportunity to take some pictures from the top of the old lighthouse, where you can climb outside through a little wooden door. In the west it’s the industry of Rönnskär that gives light, in the east it’s the moon.

The people started to leave. Some of them have come by the booked tour boat, other by their own boat. Soon only a few people were left. Those who would stay in their summer cottages (there are only two on the island) plus Mats, Annika and me.

Round 23 o’clock we leave the island. Hopefully I’ll have some more opportunities to visit Gåsören this year.

A marvellous bathing place

Last Saturday in Gagsmark, a village one hour away, where Annika and I visited our friends T. and J. . First past the curious cows, then through the spruce forest and there it is: A lake with a beautiful sandy beach and blue water that invites you to take a bath.

There’s a playground, an open hut for changing clothes, two anchored rafts you can swim to and much more, but hardly other people. Mostly we were alone although it was a sunny Saturday afternoon. We spend a nice time there together, taking a bath or two (17 °C) and enjoying the sun. Then we walked back another way. No curious cows, but beautiful wooden buildings painted in the typical dark falun-red.

Soon the temperatures will drop and the water in the lake Ytterträsket will cool down. If the water is colder than 10 °C it is called “winter swimming”. And one day in autumn – hardly more than two months away – the lake will start to freeze over and you have to saw a hole into the ice to do some ice swimming.

 

Day 24–26 – a detour to Norway and travelling home

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

July 31 – August 1 – Grövelsjön, Röros, Flatruet, Ljungdalen, Stugun, Åsele

July 31

After a tent night in Grövelsjön (temperature minimum 5.7 °C) I take a morning stroll with several purposes: enjoying the fresh air, taking pictures and buying fresh bread for breakfast. My promenade starts at the “troll workshop” where guests are welcome to build their own wooden troll and place it beside the “troll trail”. From there I can spot some “wintry things”: a prohibition sign for scooters and red crosses marking the winter trail. I follow the red signs over a bog until I come to a road from where it isn’t far to Grövelsjön’s mountain bakery.

Annika and I have breakfast in the mountain lodge. Hm, the Brötchen are extremely delicious!

Actually I have planned to take a bath in the lake Guevteljaevrie nearby. The water was very clear but the car tires and metal scrap at the ground discouraged us.

You may realise that the name of the lake doesn’t look Swedish. You’re right. We are not only in Sweden but also in Laponia – the area of the Sámi people. Therefore towns, rivers, lakes and mountains have two names, a Sámi and a Swedish one. The Swedish name of Guevteljaevrie is Grövelsjön, as the village.

A small part of the lake is on Norwegian territory and Norway is our next destination, hardly 10 km away. Soon we are at the border.

We already met reindeers on the Swedish side, in Norway however they seem to be more numerous and they love to block roads.

In the lake Femund – Norways third largest lake – we catch up with the bathing. 13 °C in the water, much warmer in the sun. A nice place to relax.

Two and a half hours later we are in Røros. In this old mining town one could stay for days and write long articles. We however stay only for two hours. Just some snapshots:

After filling up the car we follow a small gravel road that leads us to a Norwegian mountain hut – a possible accommodation for the night. 2.5 km before the hut the road stops – at least for cars. Our luggage is chosen for travelling by car, not for hiking. So this hut that even may be fully booked is out of bounds. Will we find a shelter for the night?

#cliffhanger

August 1

Next morning we wake up in a bunk bed in our hostel in Funäsdalen. Of course we found an accommodation, not in Norway but in Sweden. After breakfast we pack our things – a daily routine – and start the next daily stage.

In Mittådalen we take a spontaneous stop. We have just crossed the river Mittån and spot a Sámi resort with souvenir shop. Beside the river there’s a kåta, a traditional Sámi hut. The word kåta is Swedish. The Sámi have several related languages and so their names for this type of dwelling vary: goahti, goahte, gábma, gåhte, gåhtie or gåetie.

We buy some souvenirs and continue. Soon we reach Flatruet, a place I’ve been especially looking forward to. Flatruet is a plateau above the tree line with a gorgeous view to all directions.

The last photo above shows the Helags massif with the Helags summit (1797metres above sea level).

I’ve been there in winter 2006 on a ski tour with J. and T. . It had been very stormy for two days and one of the huskies was so scared that she hid under the bed. We decided to abandon our ski tour. We skied to Ljungdalen where T. waited for a lift to Fjällnäs where he parked the car. Hours later he came back and we took the car over Flatruet. I had never experienced anything that looked as arctic as this snowy road leading through an infinite white void. Here’s a photo that I took from the car 12½ years ago:

That’s the reason why you should visit all Scandinavian places at least twice. In winter they are completely different than in summer.

Back to present: I hardly can tear my eyes away from Flatruet but we have to leave. It’s at least 400 km to Åsele, our today’s destination. Some more stops on the way – some of them caused by reindeers again.

In the evening we arrive in Åsele. Here we will visit M. and F. and stay overnight. Before dinner there’s time to cuddle some sheep.

Now we’re almost home. To Annika’s flat in Umeå it’s only 164 km and another 130 km to my house in Skelleftehamn. “Peanuts” compared with the long distance the last days.

Next day Annika will be home again and the day after me, too. What a wonderful journey!

Back home

After almost four weeks of travelling in southern Scandinavia I’m back home in Skelleftehamn again. Yesterday afternoon Annika and I arrived in Umeå, Annika’s residence. Before I drove back to Skelleftehamn today we hiked round the lake Grössjön which is just some kilometres southeast from Umeå. The circular track is very beautiful and leads through pine forests and bogs. A wonderful place, that gives me a stronger “Sweden-feeling” and makes me much more home than many places we travelled the last weeks.

Today the Swedish proverb “borta bra men hemma bäst” feels right. It’s literal translation is: “(being) away good, but (being) home best.”

It’s still summer but some things have changed since I drove away from Skelleftehamn four weeks ago. It gets dark again in the night. Now – at 23:15 – I can go out, look up into the sky and see the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra. And it gets cool again in the night. Just now it’s 5 °C. So that the house can cool down. Good for a person like me who prefers temperatures below -25 °C to those above +25 °C.

Day 23 – travelling north again

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

July 30 – Falun—Grövelsjön

Yesterday morning a guest room in Vetlanda in the forestal Småland – today evening a tenting place in Grövelsjön in Dalarna’s fells. We are travelling north again.

Yesterday we travelled from Vetlanda to Hosjö/Falun where we met Alex in real life the first time. It was just an overnight stay because we wanted to take a detour on our journey home that would take a bit of time.

Tuesday, seven o’clock. We say goodbye to Alex who has to leave for work. I take a bath in the lake Hösjön nearby. After breakfast Annika and I pack our things together and leave Alex’ cosy house behind.

As Alex recommended we follow tiny roads through Dalarna County – a county I’ve never visited before. As parts of Småland the scenery is extremely charming and looks a bit like “Sweden in a nutshell”.

In Leksand we reach the Siljan, Sweden’s seventh largest lake. We take the southern road to Mora via Sollerön, an island in the Siljan. Although the road is near to the lake it leads mostly through forest so that we can see the lake only from time to time. That’s quite typical for Swedish roads.

In Åsen we take a short stop to take pictures of the wooden chapel.

We follow the road 70 to Idre and turn right in the road to Grövelsjön. The trees become smaller and the mountains on the horizon higher. I’m glad to approach the fjäll, my favourite Swedish landscape. We make a last stopover at the church …

… then we arrive at our destination for today: Grövelsjön Fjällstation. This mountain station is operated by the STF – the Swedish Tourist Association. As we already have expected there are no rooms left, but we have a tent with us, that we set up in a sparse birch forest in the middle of other colourful tents. After dinner – pasta with pesto cooked in the common kitchen – Annika goes into the sauna while I take a short hike up the mountain. I do not reach the top of the Jakobshöjden, but at least the kalfjäll above the treeline.

There are no mountains home in Skelleftehamn, but after the sandy beaches of Österlen in Skåne and the mixed woodlands of Småland I feel home again when I see these landscapes. It’s still more than 630 km to Umeå and 750 to Skelleftehamn. But we do not plan to drive home yet – au contraire! Tomorrow we will travel to Norway.