The first days of new year

The weather on 30 December was just awful: +8 °C and rain! That’s not at all the weather that you want to present when you expect friends from Germany who want to stay here for a week full of Scandinavian winter experiences! Even New Year’s Eve it was warm, the snow on the streets turned into wet ice that was so slippery, that it was hardly possible to move without spikes under the boots. But finally the sky cleared up, we could see bright and beautiful Northern Lights and it started to get colder.

Yesterday we went to the coast and crossed the ice to the island Storgrundet. At the outside of the island the Baltic Sea was still open with one a bit of icy slush drifting on the surface.

I’ve been at the coast quite often, it’s not very special for me even if weather and ice varies. Yesterday afternoon however we made something I never did before since I’ve lived in Skelleftehamn: We grilled sausages and stick bread over open fire. It had started snowing a bit but it wasn’t too cold with temperatures round -7 °C.

5 cm of snow fell over night. Medi, Annika and I drove to Vitberget to enjoy the first cross country skiing in 2017 today. It was colder than the day before, between -10 °C and -15 °C. After we finished our tour it started to snow.

It’s great to be outdoors, it’s great to meet good friends, but the combination of that is just marvellous!

1000-tals lyktor

Thousands of lights of all colours illuminated the park Vänortsparken in Umeå today. Each light consisted of a tea candle in a glass jar decorated by a child. All these self-made lanterns had been arranged in concentric circles and lit this evening. (How did they manage to do that? I guess it was at least 2000 lanterns.)

Each lantern was unique and flickered in its own rhythm – just as all the children that created the lanterns are unique, yet connected to each other in an infinite number of ways. It was an incredible beautiful view, that really touched me.

Information from the Umeå’s page:

Under one evening the park Vänortsparken becomes a place for magic and fantasy where the rays of the children’s lanterns catch up with all stars of the sky. This manifestation exposes the children and gives them a voice in the public domain!

Three times outdoor barbecue

This week vårvintern – “the spring winter” – really has been here. Some degrees above zero during the day, some degrees below at night and still a lot of ice and snow around.

On Tuesday Hans, a friend of mine, and I looked around Bureå’s surroundings. There are many places that are historically interesting or just beautiful and cozy. Some of the historical places however were either snowed in or hard to approach in winter time.

A fire had already been lit of two snowmobilers in the barbecue hut at Burehällorna, a natural reserve at the coast. How good Hans had everything for hamburger grilling with him!

Hans also showed me Bureå camping, his new camping ground right next to the E4. We considered to use the wonderful sauna next to the river Bureälven but postponed it to another day. Even if Hans is going to realise only a third of his plans, this will be a great place to be!

Yesterday I met my friends Annica and Martin and we went to their hut in Bygdeträsk. Anyway we didn’t heat the hut, we stayed outside. After shovelling away the snow to have a place to sit, Martin lit an outdoor fire directly on the icy ground and we grilled sausages. And warmed up apple pie! Sausages have never been my favourite meal of mine, but I really like them when they have been grilled above open fire – even if partly cold, partly burnt. Those who love outdoor grilling over open fire will know what I mean.

Believe it or not – I didn’t make a single photo!

Today Hans, his friend Stefan and I met at Kågehamn and we took a sauna jaunt. Kågehamn is situated at the bay Kågefjärden which has round a dozen islands. We skied over the snow covered sea ice to the island Bastuholmen were Hans has two cabins and a sauna on rafts. While Hans and Stefan started to saw a hole into the ice I fired the sauna oven.

While we waited for the sauna getting hot we grilled. After all the hamburgers and sausages of the week I preferred burgers with halloumi cheese today.

Then we went into the sauna that had been heated up to 60 °C and went into the ice hole several times. I cut my leg, because the ice at the edge is quite sharp. After two rounds of sauna we packed our stuff and skied back again.

If it comes to taking pictures I definitely prefer the cold winter in January, but if it comes to meeting friends and having fun outdoors, vårvintern is just great!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Skitour to Bergskäret

Today I took advantage of the marvellous weather and joined a ski tour over the frozen bay Kågefjärden to the island Bergskäret. Bergskäret is the island in the Kågefjärden that is nearest to the open sea. We were four: Hans and Stefan, with whom I have already made some trips, Kenneth and myself.

We took the car to Kågehamn where we started the tour. Round 5 kilometres over the snow covered frozen Baltic Sea and we arrived at the island. We were not the only ones. We looked for a good spot on the sunny south bank of the island where Hans made a fire with fire steel and we grilled the sausages that Kenneth had bought. I had a light down jacket with me but instead of putting that on I put off my soft shell because I felt so warm. Although it was hardly more than +2 °C the sun warmed us and the island protected us from the wind. After barbecuing, eating and resting a bit we went round the island and skied back to Kågehamn. Round 11 kilometres in the finest weather. A good way to spend the Sunday!

Tack för turen Hans, Stefan, and Kenneth.

Postscript 1

On the way back we saw the first whooper swan of the season. Another spring sign.

Postscript 2

While the snow and ice on the Baltic Sea are still beautiful the minor streets are in a very poor condition. The ice on the street is so deeply rutted that I’m quite glad about the high ground clearance of my Subaru. Anyway I learned that even a car with permanent all-wheel drive can spin out although driving slow.

Valborgsmässoafton 2018

30 April

Valborgsmässoafton is the last day of April. On this days many people set fire to big bonfires, partly as an event being celebrated with friends, partly for burning last years gardening rubbish (and more …).

This year I was invited by A. and M. who I’d got to know exactly eight years ago on another valborgsmässoafton. They are among my oldest friends in Sweden and I’m very happy that they exist. Their stuga – or summer cottage – is located in Bygdeträsk south of Skellefteå.

This time I come from Umeå, where I spent the weekend. I try to avoid the larger roads and prefer the small gravel roads. Mostly they are in good conditions, only some parts are quite muddy and have deep ruts in the clayey ground. Less and less snow can be seem, but there’s still snow left.

There is still ice on the lakes as well, but it looks soft and grey and near the shore there are more and more open patches. You can still see the snowmobile tracks, a vague reminder of the winter.

Some hours later: I’ve arrived in Bygdeträsk and with the help of A. I manage to park my car without getting stuck in the soft clay of the property (which happened to a craftsman recently). The other guests have arrived, too and – of course – the bonfire is burning!

But what about the hot tub? Wouldn’t it be nice to take a hot bath outside later in the evening? That of course needs some preparations. While M. cautiously tries to split the thick ice block in the hot tub with an axe I put on chest waders to wade a bit into the lake with a long hose attached to the water pump. First I thought I had to chop away ice, but near the shore the lake is just filled with knee-deep slush. Soon the pump starts to fill the hot tub with ice cold water heated by the wood stove.

To make a long story short: it will take eight hours until the water is hot enough for a relaxing bath and I will have fallen fast asleep when the only two people still being awake will start their bath.

Anyway, there are other things to do as e.g. watching the whooper swans on the ice and in the water.

Then there is a lot of eating (M. is a great cook and grandmaster of barbecuing) and talking and playing games. Every half an hour someone goes out, adds wood to the oven and checks the water temperature, that sloooowly increases. I become more and more tired but I want to have a bath. At 1 o’clock in the night however I give up. I’m just too tired! I pump up my camping mat in the workshop, unroll the sleeping bag and soon I’m fast asleep.

1 May 2018

After a late breakfast I say thank you and goodbye to the others, jump into the car and head home, again with many detours. I see some cranes, some reindeers and a black grouse (called orre in Swedish) that flies away before I can slow down the car for taking a picture.

Many gravel paths lead through forests. Left and right are old walls of snow that the sun has not melted yet. Leftovers from last winter’s snow clearing.

Again some patches are rutted, some are wet and muddy but no problem, until …

Luckily I see this obstacle in time and manage to drive around this hole in the street. (My car is the red one in the background.) One of the rare opportunities where I’m glad to have a car with all wheel drive.

One hour later I’m home again and I hardly can believe my eyes. Five days ago my backyard was still covered with 30 centimetres of snow, now the snow on the lawn is almost gone and beside of some small white patches brown grass is everywhere! Even though I’ve been living in Sweden for eight years I’m astonished again how fast snow melts in springtime.

Two hours later heavy raining is pouring down. Hej då, vinter!

#escapism – kayaking to Gåsören

This article is part of the series #escapism. It’s about being outdoors and leaving civilisation behind in excursions that take less than 24 hours. Everyone should have time for such!

Yesterday I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and decided to make a kayak trip to the island Gåsören. I planned for an overnight stay and that means packing a lot of things:

Anything on the photo beside of the empty plastic box came with me. From left to right: Dry suit, life jacket, food and stove, camping map, spare clothes, tent, camera equipment, water bottle, book, sleeping bag, neoprene boots, 5 litre water canister. It’s almost miracle that everything fits into the kayak. Since it was quite warm I only wore pants and a t-shirt and of course the life jacket, that’s a matter of security and therefore principle.

I paddled between the islands Storgrundet and Brambärsgrundet, passed Vorrgrundet and then headed to Klubben and Flottgrundet. Here I left the islands behind and continued to Gåsören. The weather was nice and the sea was calm. Already 50 minutes later I arrived. I dragged the kayak ashore, took all baggage and went to my favourite campground (and one of the few placed not completely covered with pebbles and rocks) where I put up the tent.

After “cooking” and eating I visited two friends that own one of the two summer cottages on Gåsören. It’s really a beautiful place they have. We talked about paddling, hiking, skiing and much more. It was late when I want back to my tent and the sun started to set.

I didn’t go to sleep directly but watched the sun going down and the many fluffy but extremely clumsy seagull chicks walking around. They cannot fly yet and use to stumble over every other stone. What a contrast to the elegant flight of the grown ups.

It was much brighter than it looks like on these backlit photographs. It doesn’t get dark in the night  and I found it hard to sleep, not only due to the bright night but also to the increasing wind and the constantly screeching seagulls. I put on a woollen cap. It was not cold at all but it helped to block the direct light (though not the shrieks of the gulls).

At half past five I gave up and started to finish a book I’d been reading for a while. That took some hours. At half past eight I took a frugal breakfast: Toast with cheese.

Then I packed everything together. Clouds had started approaching and I wanted to have everything stowed in the kayak before the rain. The sky above was still blue but the sea started to get choppy.

I stopped by my friends again to say farewell. They have their cottage on the lee side of the island and we enjoyed the last hour of sun before the clouds started to cover it.

I dragged the kayak into the shallow water. It was hard to start against the wind, because the kayak was constantly turned parallel to the approaching waves. Wrong direction and quite unstable. But after some tries I managed to leave the island behind. It was exhausting but easy to paddle against the wind. Anyway I wouldn’t have dared to cross the open sea in these conditions without wearing a dry suit even if it’s only 600 metres. The water is still very cold and in case of the kayak capsizing I wanted to be completely sure to be able to reach the shore without hypothermia.

It took twice the time than the day before. The sky was grey and cloudy and it had started to rain. It may not sound like that, but it was real fun paddling through wind and waves. The hardest part was going round Vorrgrundet where I had to go parallel to the short waves. Here I had to be fully focussed to keep my balance. As soon as I reached Storgrundet I was in the lee of that island again and the water was much calmer. Soon I arrived at yesterday’s starting point.

The whole trip took less than 20 hours and is therefore a candidate for the series #escapism.

Finally, two selfies, one sunny from yesterday and one rainy from today (made in the lee of a small island).