Early winter Holmön IV

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

It is Monday. It has rained the whole night and it still rains. Most of the snow is history and everything is wet. After breakfast we decide to give the road to the southern tip of Ängesön another try. Indeed, it is almost free of snow and soon we are at the southern tip of the island where we walk along the coast. The clouds are grey and so is the sea. Some water areas are still covered with wet, brownish ice but the sea itself is open.

There are some marked hiking paths on Ängesön that we want to give a try. The guide book recommended “tåliga skor” – that means tough, durable shoes – due to the wet ground. The first path to the east has many deep water puddles and flooded parts. Partly the path is supported by wooden planks, but mostly not. The path leads through a quite old forest as we can see by the many lichens that cover the pine, spruce and birch trees. Snowless and wet as it is, it looks more like mid-October than December.

We try the other trail that leads to a shelter at the western coast of Ängesön. This trail is less wet and easier to follow than the other one. It is however not too easy to reach the rocky coast because of the marshland between forest and coast. It still drizzles and rains and everything is damp.

The hiking paths are nice but I would strongly recommend high rubber boots if you want to keep your feet dry.

After our “three course hiking” we return to our accommodation at Berguddens fyr. We’re still the only people, the place – as beautiful it is – seems less popular in winter time as the guest book tells us. While Annika prepares a warm lunch it starts to get dark outside. Grey clouds still cover the sky and it continues drizzling. The lighthouse starts sending its light beams over the Västra Kvarken, part of the Baltic Sea between Holmön and mainland.

Today day we leave Berguddens fyr. We were lucky to be change the booking for the ferry from 19 o’clock to 9 o’clock to avoid another rainy day – partly in darkness. At 8:20 we sit in the small waiting room, because it’s very windy outside. Waves break at the quay wall and after some the small ferry arrives and wobbles into the small harbour.

I have to admit that I get a bit nervous when I learned I have to back the car onto the ferry. The man however that pilots me onto the ship is fantastic and guides me much better than every rear camera. I am relieved, but get nervous again when I watch the man securing the car with belts. Is it so stormy? Will the belts hold?

First the boat trip is quite but soon the ferry starts to roll and pitch more and more. I stay in the inside of the boat where I feel safer. While Annika and I are hoping the best for the car, the other two passengers do not pay any attention to the rough weather. Probably they live on the island Holmön and they are used to something like that.

45 Minutes later we arrive in Norrfjärden. My car has survived this unsteady trip without any problems.The ferry needs several attempts to dock, but finally I can leave the ferry with the car. Annika, who already went ashore gets into the car and we drive to her home in Umeå. This drive takes only 30 minutes – less than the ferry passage.

It’s fantastic to have such an interesting and special place nearby. We’ll come again, hopefully with better weather.

 

Early winter Holmön III

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

It’s Monday, a quarter to seven in the morning. I turned out of bed half an hour ago. Not because I have to go to work, but because I’m a morning person. It’s Annika’s and my fourth day on the island Holmön. Tomorrow we will take the evening ferry back to the mainland.

We were lucky, when we walked back from our Saturday evening Christmas dinner two days ago. It snowed all the time. It looked very beautiful and it was quite bright outside because of the fresh snow cover. When we lay in our comfortable double bed at Berguddens fyr we could still see the snow flakes whirl through the window pane.

When we woke up yesterday the snow had turned into rain. We planned a car trip to the southern tip of the island Ängesön which is separated from Holmön by the sound Gäddbäckssundet. The gravel road from Bergudden to the main road apparently had already be cleared of snow and it was easy to drive. I turned right and headed south. We drove first past pastures and farms and than along Gäddbäckssundet, until we came to the turnout to Ängesön. This road was snow covered and probably isn’t used in winter time. The snow wasn’t deep and I decided to give it a try. We crossed the small sound on the only bridge and followed the snowy road.

It was harder to drive than expected, because the snow was so wet that it filled all the space round the tyres. My studded winter tyres are excellent for ice but less good for such mud-like conditions.

The landscape around looked bleak and cheerless, especially the lakes and ponds that were covered with brownish wet ice. It looked a bit like a film where an evil wizard had casted a spell on the landscape to take away all its beauty.

I had to drive very slowly and it would take us at at least 30 minutes to the south tip of the island, although it’s only 9 km. After 1 km I decided to turn.

We drove to the village of Holmön and made a stop at the church. The graveyard was still covered with snow and so it looked much more friendly than the landscape on Ängesön. As most protestant churches this church was locked and we couldn’t take a look inside.

We drove to the shop, bought food and ice-cream and headed back to our accommodation.

And would do you do, when you go on beach vacation? Of course you take a bath in the sea. And so did we even though it was a short one.

Back to Monday. I still sit in the kitchen and it’s still dark outside. The fridge has turned out and I can hear the surf splashing ashore. The lighthouse Berguddens fyr sends out its three-coloured beams of light but most of the snow had melted away and when I look through the window I can only see my mirrored face and the reflected laptop. It will take another hour, until it starts to get light.

Early winter Holmön II

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

Saturday, 8 December – 0 °C – it’s snowing and two centimetres of new, wet snow cover the ground. Annika and I made a hiking trip to Vedaögern in the south.

Now it’s pitch black outside and still snowing. Nevertheless we will leave our comfortable accommodation soon for good reasons: we attend the julbord – the traditional Swedish Christmas dinner – today.

Almost like summer

The weather forecast was right: today it was warm and sunny. Really warm considering that it is mid-October and that it snowed last week. 20 °C we had in Skelleftehamn today! Probably the last opportunity to bicycle in a T-shirt this year.

I followed a way through the forest that I already knew but hardly recognised: The illuminated ski track between Skelleftehamn and Ursviken. (That’s what it looks like in winter.)

After a while I left this path and walked the bike along a trail marked with red crosses. Red crosses mean, that it’s a winter way and following such in summer may send you into swamps, bogs or even lakes. Although the ground was wet I was lucky. Some makeshift bridges, probably made by snowmobile drivers helped me over some boggy passages and soon I was on the other side of the lake with the creative name “Sjön” (The lake).

I continued to the right, already heading home but with some detours.

Detour 1: A short walk up the mountain Örberget. Despite of its incredible height of more than 40 meters – that’s almost 10 meters higher than the gravel road – you have a view of the Baltic Sea. The rocks were quite wet, probably because they were much colder than the air so that the moisture condensed on the surface.

Detour 2: Down to the cabins by the bay Djupviken. The photo may be silly, but it’s a reminiscence of the kayak tour last week where I carried the kayak cross the road at the very same place.

Soon I was home again where the thermometer showed temperatures betwwen 19 °C and 20 °C. Two hours later I was at the local beach, ready for a bath. After the air felt like summer and the beach looked like autumn I expected the water to feel like winter. It was cold but warmer than expected: 9 °C. Refreshing!

Sæberg – Hólmavík – Ólafsvík

This article is part of the series “2018-08: Iceland”.

Thursday, 6 September

From our overnight stay Sæberg it’s only 177 km to Reykjavík, where we had to return our hired car. That’s not much for one and a half days by car. Therefore we decided to take some more detours.

First we followed the road 68 to Hólmavík, a city on Iceland’s West Fjords. We continued along the coast until we came to a junction, where the gravel road 608 crosses the peninsula. It would be possible to go round the inhabited part of the peninsula, but that’s a detour of 390 km.

Quite near the fjord Þorskafjörður, there’s a small city called Reykhólar. We considered staying there over night but since it was still quite early, we continued instead to the peninsula Snæfellsnes.

The weather had been warm, sunny, calm and friendly for the whole week. But now it worsened, low clouds appeared, it started to drizzle and got very windy. In Ólafsvík – yes, I have my own bay ;-) – we found not only a nice hostel to stay but also a nice restaurant that served us a delicious goat cheese pizza.

Sorry to say, I didn’t make a single photo from Ólafsvík that day. First we were too busy with our dinner, than with re-packing our belongings, because the next day we would have to return our car. Than it was too dark to take photos without tripod and too stormy to take photos with tripod.

The only photo I made is a snapshot I took from the bathroom the next morning. Still stormy, still rainy.

Winter is just some miles away …

Let’s face it: The weather in Skellefteå and Umeå has been nasty the last days – temperatures above zero and a lot of rain making the minor roads icy and incredibly slippery. Most of the snow of the days before has been thawing away. So just now there’s much more winter in Germany towns than here beside the coast of the Baltic Sea.

The good thing: winter is not far away. I was in Umeå today and Annika and I drove westwards to catch a glimpse of winter. First it continued raining a good while, the road was dark and wet and the snow was slushy and ugly. But suddenly – just within a few kilometres the weather changed and rain turned into snow. Snow fall increased and anything was snow covered and white: the roads, the trees, the traffic signs, the bogs and the parking place where we stopped to visit the Hägring (english: mirage).

Hägring is an artwork between Bjurholm and Vännäs. It is a church-shaped object built of mirror fragments and stands in the midst of a bog. We’ve been there in May and knew that the bog is wet but safe to walk on. It was funny anyway to walk through knee-deep snow and feeling the bog bouncing underneath our feet with each step.

We continued westwards, Annika was driving and I was navigating and taking some pictures through the windscreen. Right after Bjurholm we took a minor road to Örträsk, a village by the lake Örträsksjön. Everything was snow covered. We stopped at the small grocery to buy something to drink but it was closed due to the “snow storm”. Well, we knew of the level one weather warning but it didn’t seem so severe.

Since days in December are short (and we didn’t find a place to eat in Örträsk) we decided to return to Umeå but on another route taking some minor roads eastwards. Snow fall intensified but still only some centimetres covered the roads.

While we followed the small ways the snow on the road got deeper and deeper until Annika’s Golf ploughed through 10 cm of snow. Where there was a house, people were outside to clear the snow with any available tool – from shovels to quite huge shovel loaders. But we didn’t get stuck.

Finally we reached the European route E12 which runs between Mo I Rana (Norway) and Helsinki (Finland). Even this road was covered with snow but much better to drive than the smaller forest roads before. 66 km to Umeå and it was snowing almost the whole way back. The last part however we came into the more maritim and warmer climate of Greater Umeå area and snow turned back into rain. We however got our winter impressions. Within just in half a day! One of the big advantages of living here!

On a final note, a “making-of photo of Annika: Me walking to the Hägring:

 

 

27 August: Kungsleden day 8 – Nallo—Vistas (9 km)

This article is part of the series “2017-08: Kungsleden hike”.

Going to bed early, getting up early – the second morning in Nallo we beat a record. We woke up at six and started our tour already at half past seven. The snow has melted away the day before but the night had been cold and some smaller puddles were covered with ice needles.

This year it was easy to cross the watercourse behind the hut Nallostugan. Later on we would have to cross a bigger stream where Annika had to put on her sandals to cross that stream two years ago while I barely managed to cross it in rubber boots.

The first part of the way was still quite arctic and alpine with many rocks and frozen ponds …

… but with each meter in height we descended to Vistas, our next destination, the variety of plants grew. Soon Salix lapponum (downy willow), Empetrum nigrum (crowberry) and Betula nana (dwarf birch) were found again and finally birch trees as well, the first ones for days.

Downy willows like wet places. If you see a long line of them you can be sure that they grow along an alpine brook and if they cover a whole area it certainly will be very wet. Apropos wet – we all managed to cross the river by stepping from stone to stone. Wading was unnecessary. Even if many parts of the trail have been quite muddy this year the water level had been generally low.

This tour was the shortest and easiest of the whole Kungsleden and we used the sunny weather to make a longer rest with lots of chocolate. We would buy new chocolate in Vistas.

The first building we could see was the new Sauna, which is sponsored of a gentlemen’s club called “Fjällrävarna”. Shortly after that the other buildings of Vistasstugan came into sight. We already arrived at 12 o’clock and would have been there even earlier, if we hadn’t been hold up by blueberries …

When we arrived we were alone. D., the German stugvärd left a note that he was hiking and would come back round 4 o’clock. Guests should just choose a bed. So did we. Then we took some items from the self-service shop, put ourselves on the outside stairs of the hut and enjoyed sun. After that we made pancakes with bluebe …

Oh well, the blueberries! I almost forgot them. We hadn’t found many eatable blueberries yet. Many of them were still small and green, probably due to the cold winter, and most blue ones we found turned out to be tasteless or sour. Until today, when we found another field of blueberries on our way to Vistas. This time they were ripe and aromatic. First we ate one or two, then some more. Then we dropped our backpacks and ate some more. Then we dropped ourselves on the ground to collect these tasty berries (and eat some more). It didn’t take long to fill a whole box and some hours later we got a delicious dinner:

Pancakes with fresh blueberries, sugar and cinnamon. They tasted extremely well and it was hardly imaginable, that the pancake dough had been just a powder in Annika’s backpack. Did I mention, that the blueberry garnished pancakes were delicious? I did? Well, you think a lot about food when hiking …

Our dinner was less special: Swedish meatballs in cream with mashed potatoes. It was tasty anyway but not very photogenic. I prefer to show the cans instead of the meal:

Stugvärd D. asked us if he should wake us for polar lights and we accepted gladly. He woke us round 22:30, when it was still dusky. Indeed there were polar lights on the sky, but they were quite weak and hardly spottable. I stayed up another two hours, glad to have a down vest with me, since the temperature already had reached freezing point. The aurora however continued to be weak most of the time. Anyway it was a pleasure to watch. And the stars, the many stars! It was months ago, that it was dark enough to experience such a starry night. At one o’clock I fell into my bed. Another great tour day and the sunniest one yet.

24 August: Kungsleden day 5 – Singi—Sälka (12 km)

This article is part of the series “2017-08: Kungsleden hike”.

The morning in Singi was cold. The temperature was just above freezing point and again it had snowed onto the higher mountain tops.

Good to have a stove to fire and a gas burner to prepare hot tea!

Each day we got out of our beds earlier and earlier. This day we stood up way before seven and started our hiking day already at half past eight. Hejdå, Singi!

It’s only twelve kilometres to the Sälkastugorna, so we could take it easy. We planned to take a rest in the small emergency shelter Kuoperjåkka which is 6 km away from Singi but it was already occupied. So we rested outside. Despite to the cold weather there were many mosquitoes that tried to bite us. Some succeeded, some died …

We continued our trail to the north and crossed many small mountain rivers and alpine brooks. All of them were bridged. The smaller ones with wooden planks, the larger ones with metal chain bridges.

First the sky was grey and the air chilly but little by little it was clearing up and the mountain tops that first were hidden by clouds and haze started to reappear.

At 13:30 we arrived in Sälka where one of the three stugvärdar – the mountain-lodge keepers – gave us four beds in a 10-bed-room. A lot of people stayed overnight and some of the latecomers had to sleep on mattresses on the floor or in the sauna.

I took an afternoon stroll and peeked into the Stuor Reaiddávággi, the valley that we would hike through the following day.

The kitchen was both too small and designed in the most impractical way. So we moved into our room after dinner and avoided that kitchen. Quite early we climbed in our beds (it’s always bunk beds with two or in some huts even three beds on top of each other), but we didn’t get much sleep that night. Eleven people were sleeping in that room and it was noisy and the air was hot and fuggy. Anyway I managed to fall asleep after a while.

In the night some of us were woken up by a bright flashing light. It held on for minutes without stopping and I realised, that it came from the outside. The light was attached on an antenna on top of a roof and illuminated the whole area. I put on some clothes, went outside and woke up a stugvärd by knocking at the window. He told me, that the police would call. (Every hut on the Kungsleden has a satellite telephone, but only the police can phone the huts from the outside.) I went into bed again, realising once more the bad air  in the room, but I didn’t dare to open a window since it was cold outside. Finally I managed to fall asleep again.

Next day the stugvärd thanked me for waking up him. The police was asked to look for a hiker, that indeed had been in Sälka the day before but already had continued his trip.

There are summer trails and winter trails. Partly they are united and partly they run differently. Summer trails mostly are marked with piles of stones. The upper stone is often painted red to increase the visibility of the waymark. Winter trails are marked with red crosses sitting on the top of long poles. Nowadays many of those crosses are made of plastic. That’s a shame since they are ugly, probably less ecological and quite fragile, too.

Don’t follow a winter trail in summer if you don’t want to swim through lakes or find yourself sinking deeply into the mud of a bog.

Summer experience – a bicycle tour in 7+1 chapters

The advantage of a short workday

How much should I work for a German customer today? It’s Corpus Christi, a holiday in Germany but not in Sweden. Well, what about a half day? I finished work at 11:30 and shortly after I started a bicycle tour. The first one this year. Today’s destination: Budsba, a Thai restaurant at Skellefteå Solbacken.

Soon I was in the forest where I expected to be alone. But after some hundred metres there was a huge herd of children, who were too busy with themselves to let me though. Anyway I managed to squeeze through and soon I left the group behind – no children were harmed.

I took the forest path along the lake with the most boring name. It’s called Sjön – “The Lake”.

Some weeks ago parts of the way were quite wet, but now it’s much drier. After some bends I saw a car. Then two people with a table. Camping? Picknick? I came nearer and saw the table packed with plastic cups filled with water and juice. The people invited me to drink and I accepted thankfully. They were teachers and told me that it’s skolavslutning tomorrow – the last school day before nine weeks of summer holidays. Today the pupils of the Örjansskolan had a hiking day.

Thanks for the drink, teachers.

The ways are for the cottages

I continued the small way, which got sandy – not so nice for cycling – but soon I came to a larger way. I turned right and left again and cycled along a gravel road to Södra Skatan, one of the many cottage colonies by the sea.

Some of the cottages are huge and sometimes they surpass their owner’s regular houses. Most roads near the shore are only made for one reason: reaching those cottages. That’s why most ways come from the inland, lead to some summer cottages and end at the last house. They are hardly connected to each other beside of some narrow paths through the forest, if at all. The way after this last cottage was quite broad but stony and muddy so I had to walk the bike for some metres.

In remembrance of winter

Since there are many cottages along Västerbottens Baltic Sea most of these connection paths are short and soon I was on another road, this time an asphalt street. Beside the street there were many log piles. Almost all Swedish forests are planted for getting timber and piles of logs are a common view in Sweden.

Do you see the white thingy on the left side of the log pile? I stopped the bicycle and looked. I looked again and my first consumption was right: It’s old snow which had transformed to ice. I never saw such nearby so late in the year!

Intermezzo: Best food at the ugliest place

I continued the street until I left it to take the gravel road to Solbacken. It ran through forests and sometimes it was quite stony and hard to bike. Clouds approached, but it was still warm with temperatures between 20 °C and 25 °C. Anyway I passed by another winter souvenir: A snowmobile trail. Some more kilometres and I met civilisation again. On the other side of the European Route E4 I arrived at today’s destination: Budsba.

What do you choose – beauty or truth?

I took it easy after the lunch, because I ate too much. That’s the problem with huge lunch buffets of tasty food. And spicy – phew, one of the chilly peppers was quite hot. After lunch I crossed the E4 again looking for the short cut to Fällbacken. I found it and after a short rocky passage the gravel path was quite beautiful and not as steep as expected. Here’s a photo of the way:

It wasn’t so steep, because it was the wrong way! It ended after a hundred metres. I returned and found the right way. This way was quite stony. Then it was quite stony and quite steep. Then it was quite stony, quite steep and quite wet.Here’s a photo of the right way:

First I tried to ride my bicycle but soon my hands started to hurt due to the permanent breaking. Therefore I descended and walked my bicycle until I reached the road that would lead me to Boviksbadet, a sandy beach. There I would clean my muddy feet.

Beach time

An asphalt road again – it was nice and relaxing to just pedal along without looking for stones or glueing my fingers to the handbrakes. I arrived at the beach of Boviksbadet,  the bathing beach of Boviken.

I took a rest but I didn’t bath. It was warm and I would have loved to swim. The sea at Buviksbadet however is extremely shallow. You could walk for ages and still would remain in only knee deep water. I waded in a bit, so at least my feet were clean again.

Come on, it’s just a quick shortcut

After the rest I continued the road and turned left into the Bergviksvägen. This way leads along the Storberget (100 m) and ascends to 90 metres within a kilometre. First I tried to climb the ascend on my bike, using the lowest available gear, but soon I had to rest while my heart beat like a colibri heart. While resting it started to buzz. Some hundred mosquitoes tried to suck my blood. They had a buffet by their own: Hands, neck, eyes, ankles, arms, legs …

Since I ate too much at the Thai restaurant I didn’t want the litte fellows to make the same mistake and so I decided to move on and walk my bike uphills. Walking is less exhausting and so I was on the “top” quite soon. After cycling one kilometre downhills I had to make up my mind.

  • Should I follow all small paths along the coast, which would give me more bathing opportunities but would make the tour longer? Well, no – the sun was almost gone and I was a bit tired, too.
  • Should I continue the way, meat the asphalt road I took on the way there and return the same way? Well, no – I don’t like taking the same way twice the same day.

But there seemed to be another possibility: I could follow the road for three other kilometres and take the small shortcut southwards, where I would meet a road to Ursviken, which is quite near Skelleftehamn.

And so I did. You should know however that it can be quite uncomfortable following me on shortcuts  …

The gravel road descended and was quite broad, but since it was so much gravel on it and potholes in it I didn’t dare to let the bike go and braked from time to time. I approached the shortcut, which didn’t look very promising, but I gave it a try.

I cycled fifty metres away from the main road and looked down to that something that was marked on my map with a black dotted line:

I could return to the main road and just return home the same way, but I still didn’t like the idea. The shortcut would be just some hundred metres and only the first twenty of them seemed to be muddy.

I took my first steps and – splash! – I sank into the mud up to my knees. I freed one foot but unfortunately not the sandal that was still submerged deeply into the mud. It took some time until I could locate it and managed to dig it out. I clamped the sandals on the pannier rack and continued the way barefooted. It was short indeed, hardly 30 metres but my bike was muddy up to the axes and I – well, have a look:

So much to shortcuts …

The “way” became better with some other but less deep mud holes, then it became a grassy path that probably didn’t have been used for a long time (I guess, I know why!)

Now I longed for a bath. My bicycle as well. Anywhere …

Cooling down

… and I was lucky.

The path broadened and soon was covered with gravel again. Marvellous! I knew, that there would be some ponds along the way and I directly stopped at the first one. First I dunked my clothes, then my bike, then myself. After the bath I almost looked civilisation-compatible again. Well, almost!

I continued cycling. The gravel path became a gravel road, became an asphalt street and soon I was on the Skelleftehamnsleden, the road leading to Skelleftehamn, where I arrived round about five hours after my departure.

The daily stage: 42 km biking · ± 800 m walking the bike · ± 100 m bog walking. Not much in distance but in experience.