Starting my winter journey – Solberget

I have stopped counting how often I’ve been at the wilderness retreat Solberget in Swedish lapland. First of all it’s a nice place with great people, then it’s the week of the winter market in Jokkmokk, which is round 90 km away. Finally I just had to make a stopover here since my stove that I need for a ski tour was stored here.

Wednesday – a small ski tour

On the top of the hill Solberget I get to know Steffen who has spent some days in the mountain hut. It’s his last day and we ski down together. The way back is not long and so we extend our tour. Do we stand on a small bog or a frozen lake, when I make this photo? I don’t know.

Thursday – winter market in Jokkmokk

I’ve been here several times. This time I only stroll over the market and hardly make any photos. The only exception: The artist Yana Mangi, who gave a phantastic concert in the small old church in Jokkmokk.

Older photos from the winter market for example here, here and here.

Friday – ski tour on the Vihtukkajankka

It’s been long since I’ve been on the Vihtukkajankka. Together with Steffen I make a ski tour onto this mountain. First it’s cloudy but soon it clears up. Skiing through the snowy forest is sometime like visiting an art exhibition.

And here I have slept the last days:

Saturday – a foggy day

Acually I just wanted to be lazy but the fog was so beautiful that I skied down to the large bog Päivävuoma/Solmyran to make some “bog fog” photos.

This is my favourite photo from that day:

I close this article with a small riddle. The next photo is no photomontage but a single shot. Where am I?

ICROSS

I walk along a forest path. The snow has become too deep for the car. In the right hand I carry a large waterproof bag, in the left hand my bright red neoprene drysuit. On the back I have an ICROSS.

A what?

Let’s quote the ICROSS websiteWhat is ICROSS? – ICROSS® is a new type of watercraft. It resembles a float tube, but has many characteristics of a kayak.

My friend Hans Brettschneider bought two ICROSS for his camping ground In Bureå and invited my to test them today. We want to paddle over the Baltic Sea to the near island Björkön. According to Hans the Baltic Sea is still open.

When I arrive in Bureå Hans already had started inflating the ICROSS with a motor-driven air pump. We put the rafts into his car and drive to a place near the beach where we manually inflate them until they are filled to the brim.

(You see the rectangular patch free of snow on the ICROSS? That’s where Hans’ iPad was before I took it away for the photo. Hans uses it as a camera and takes it into the snow, the hot sauna, just everywhere)

On the back of the ICROSS there are D-rings where you can attach belts to carry the ICROSS as a backpack. That’s what I do in the first photo. We start carrying the ICROSS until one of the plastic hooks of the belt breaks. We then realise that it is much easier to drag the raft behind like a sledge. It’s winter!

After 800 metres walk through the forest I arrive at the coast. I must laugh. The Baltic Sea is far beyond from being open. It is covered with ice and snow to the horizon! Is it just slush or solid ice? I put on my drysuit and life jacket and enter the sea ice. I splash through sludge but underneath there is ice thick enough to carry my weight.

Time to change plans.

Instead of paddling (or walking) to Björkön we take fika here at the coast. There’s even a table with benches. Hans has coffee and sandwiches while I have tea and a pretzel. It snows.

Hans however has a plan B in mind. Right beside his fantastic camping ground, just behind the sauna there’s the river Bureälven. And this stream is still open. After fika we walk to the car and take it to his camping ground. There we trudge through the snow to the sauna by the river.

Again we put on waterproof clothes and put the ICROSSes into water. We have to rearrange the belts that hold the seat to improve the balance, then it’s fun to paddle to and fro. While my touring kayak is long and keeps direction, the ICROSS is easy to turn and very agile. Anyway I wouldn’t use it for longer paddle trips. Too exhausting.

(Do you see what Hans has in his hands on the last photo? I told you that he takes his iPad everywhere.)

After a while of testing and taking pictures we go ashore. Did I mention the sauna? Hans had fired it before our winter paddling experiment. It is not hot, only 30 °C, but it’s nice to sit there and relax a bit. I go into the river again, this time for winter bathing. Then a bit of sauna again until we call it a day.

Tack for turen, Hans – thank you for the tour. And thanks for your photos, which I cropped and edited for this blog article.

#escapism – a weekend on Holmön

Actually my series #escapism tells about journeys shorter than 24 hours, but here I’ll make an exception. Too “escapy” in a positive way was the weekend stay of Annika and me on the island Holmön.

It’s the second time we stay at the hostel at Berguddens Fyr. We’ve been there exactly a year before, too. As last year the weather is a bit between seasons, partly autumnal, partly wintry. And as last year we have the large building completely for ourselves and we seem to be completely alone.

The only person I spotted nearby was a guy in hunting clothes yesterday morning. Hunter or hiker? Later, when we returned to our hostel from a hiking trip we met a car with a trailer with a freshly shot moose on it. Mystery solved.

Friday, 6 December

Annika and I meet in Norrfjärden at the ferry terminal. Here we wait for the 18-o’clock ferry. The ferry to Holmön is part of Sweden’s road network and the usage is free. We only had to reserve a place for my car since there is only place for one vehicle.

The ferry arrives and perfectly I back the car onto the small ferry. But it’s cheating, I use the great rear-view camera of the car. Ten minutes later the ferry starts. There are some loud bumps when it rumbles over an ice floe but soon on the open sea the trip becomes calmer.

Saturday, 7 December

The morning is grey and a bit frosty.

After breakfast we drive a bit by car, then we take a hiking tour through the forest to the eastern shore of Holmön. It’s really fascinating, because the forests are green and autumnal, but everything in the more open landscape is covered with hoar frost. Actually I was too lazy to photograph but I took same photos anyway.

And another photo after sunset, just about 50 meters away from our sleeping room. It’s 15:50 and in reality it’s much darker than on the photo.

Sunday, 8 December

It has cleared up overnight. We take the car to the northeastern part of the island. The forest path is narrow and I’m not completely sure if I’m allowed to take it by car. I’m glad about my Subaru’s all wheel drive, because a smaller part of the way lays 10–15 cm underwater and is covered with thick ice.

Soon we arrive at a small harbour. This area is new to Annika and me and it’s especially beautiful. We take the short but interesting round trip by the sea to Trappudden, Holmön’s northern tip and back through the forest. Later I’ll try to make a fire at a barbecue place but the wood is so soaking wet, that I give up after a while.

Actually we planned to take the 17 o’clock ferry but another vehicle was already booked on that ferry. So we decided for the 19-o’clock ferry that only goes on demand. We are however not alone. Due to weather warnings for the night and Monday morning the 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock ferries have been cancelled. The last opportunity to leave the island before Monday, 17:00.

In Norrfjärden Annika and I drive home. Annika to Umeå, I to Skelleftehamn. My car ride back is a bit exhausting because of some heavy snow showers but safely I arrive home at 21:30.

Holmön is a fantastic place, both because it’s quite near, quite special and beautiful in kind of a harsh way, at least between the seasons. A perfect place for a weekend #escapism.

 

 

 

Storing the kayak

After having my kayak in my living room – just for thawing and drying – I decided that this living concept has no future. Today I moved it into the garage. That was quite easy, because over night fell round about 10 cm fresh snow and I could pull it behind me like a sledge.

 

Redesigning my living room

I redesigned my living room this morning. Low it look’s like this:

Why I have a kayak in my house? There’s an easy explanation:

After my paddle tour last Sunday I already had suspected, that the ice sheet on the kayak would not melt. And I was right. How should it with temperatures between – 4 °C and -13 °C during the whole week.

Therefore I put it in to thaw and to dry. I was a bit surprised that it fitted round the corner by the door. Now it lies on a mat and a plastic sheet and almost all ice already thawed away. It shall two or three days until I oil the moving parts and put it into the garage to hibernate.

… or take another winter paddling tour as long there’s open water and not too much wind.

 

Taking the kayak home

After a Saturday morning with rain it became cold again today. The weather forecast believes Skelleftehamn to be subzero for at least ten other days. Since the sea at Storgrundet had already started freezing over it was time to take the kayak home from the beach. The easy way would have been to put it onto the transport cart and pull it the 1.5 km home.

Since the weather was fine I decided to paddle it to a nearer place, only 650 meter away from my house. For that I had to paddle round the island Storgrundet and the peninsula Näsgrundet. That’s round about 7.5 km. 7.5 km, that took me more than 2¼ hours today.

The temperature is -6 °C and there is a slight wind. As excepted the sea between island and mainland is frozen. Instead of the paddle I use ice claws to pull me forward over the ice towards the open water. That’s easier than it sounds until you break through. Then you are in some kind of amphibian environment, where it’s both hard to use the ice claws (where’s the ice?) and the paddle (where’s the open water?).

Luckily it is just a short passage and soon I reach open water. Now I want to let down my rudder but it does not work. The whole steering device is completely frozen. I try several times but when I realise that I even cannot use the foot pedals I give up. It’s possible to steer a kayak without.

Well, it doesn’t work very well. Although the rudder at the back is small it acts as a sail, when being flipped up and the wind constantly tries to turn me around, especially on top of the waves. Three seconds without paddling and I am 30° off-course. One photo and my kayak is turned up to 150°. Constantly I get ahead, but it’s really exhausting.

The sun has risen from behind the island Bredskär. When I pass the southern tip of Storgrundet I pass some fields of a million of thinnest ice crystals covering the sea. That’s really beautiful!

Near the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan I land the kayak and try to fix the rudder. I still cannot move the pedals but at least I manage to put down the rudder into the water to decrease the sailing area of my kayak. The kayak is covered in ice.

I follow the coast round the peninsula Näsgrundet until I have the industrial area Rönnskär ahead. I turn into the large bay Kallholmsfjärden, home of the port of Skellefteå. Luckily there is no commercial boat traffic now.

I can spot the tiny tunnel that leads into the small bay Killingörviken, my destination for today. It is 2.5 km away and it takes some time to reach it, because I have headwind and I am quite exhausted. But finally I reach the sheltered bay, cross some weak ice and finally slide over thicker ice using my ice claws again. I finish my paddling tour at 9:20 and now I’m quite hungry, since I didn’t have a proper breakfast.

The adventure is over, but not the journey. My kayak are I are at one place, my car is parked 2 km away. I have the cart at hand but the belt to fix the kayak I forgot home. Luckily Annika drives me around, first to my car which I leave home, then to my kayak that I walk home. After a hot shower I get finally a breakfast. Great!

 

Welcome, winter 2019!

Today was the first “real” winter day. Some more snow fell last night and today it was subzero the whole day with temperatures round -5 °C and a lot of sun.

Now I’m longing for the start of the ski season.

The second image with the blue sky and the snow covered trees is a bit special: it’s made through the window of my current office. What you cannot see: behind the trees is the European Route E4. But anyway,  there are worse views.

Four variations of autumn

The first autumn colours on Gåsören

21, 22 September – Annika and I are invited by Solveig and Tommy to their summer cottage on Gåsören. Tommy picks us up by boat and after a short cruise we arrive at the small harbour, where Solveig already waits for us.

We have a wonderful evening with delicious food (hand-picked porcini mushrooms!) and inspiring conversations. And the weather is just great – first a blue and sunny sky, then after sunset a starry night. After a short nightly walk to the lighthouse – built in 1912 and still active – we go to bed.

The next morning I wake up early and take photographs of the splashing waves at the eastern shore. It’s a bit windy and the temperatures are near freezing. A lot of trees still have green leaves but some of the birches and rowan trees have become colourful, especially when illuminated by the low morning sun.

After breakfast we take a stroll round the small island together before we get a lift back to the mainland. Tack så mycket, Solveig and Tommy. We are looking forward to meet again!

Fog by the river

28, 29 September – I’m with Annika in Umeå. On Saturday we make a trip to Strömbäck-Kont, one of our favourite locations by the sea. Again the weather is sunny but due to the frost of last week’s nights a lot of more trees show coloured leaves. Especially the bright yellow birch leaves look wonderful.

On Sunday I wake up early as usual and take a promenade along the Umeåälven, one of Northern Swedens largest rivers. The morning air is damp and chilly and the landscape is fog-shrouded. The fog muffles all sounds and noises and gives me the impression of being completely alone. Half an hour later the fog goes away and the magic is gone.

Nightly squalls

Yesterday, 2 October – at 3:00 I’m awakened by storm squalls shaking the house. I almost expect that my house is lifted up and lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. But the gale is no tornado and my house resists the squalls.

The weather doesn’t come completely unexpected, both wind and enormous amounts of rain have been forecasted. But as usual the forecast was – ahem – imaginative but at least the wind speeds are quite accurate.

Hail, sleet and snow

Today, 3 October – again I’m awakened at 3 o’clock, this time by a hail squall drumming on the window. It’s round 3 °C and even colder at 7 o’clock on my way to work. Between my home and the town another rain squall buckets down. It is mixed with wet snow. Beside the road I can see white patches. Is it snow or last night’s hail? When I arrived at the office at Solbacken outside of the town of Skellefteå I see, that it’s snow grains – tiny frozen white balls.

At 8:33 I look through the window of my current office room and it’s snowing. The first snow on 3 October – exactly the same date as last year. Now I’m longing for winter even more ❄︎ !

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.