Kayak – crisp morning – roe deer – crushed ice

The week in five chapters – including photographers comments

Tuesday, 16. March, 7:45 – a short kayak tour

The blue sky invited to interrupt work and take a short kayak tour. It hardly needs preparation: Putting on the waterproof coverall, put the iPhone in a waterproof bag and drag the kayak over the ice to the islet Lillskär. Then it gets a bit harder to find a good place to set the kayak into the water. I found a place and some minutes later I paddled to the island Bredskär. The tour however turned out to be shorter than planned because between the islands Bredskär and Bredskärsten the Baltic Sea had frozen over in the night. I wasn’t eager to hack myself through the ice, so I turned and realised, that – as so often – the wind came from land and was fresher than expected. At time I do not have a real drysuit for paddling and moving in the thick neoprene survival suit is exhausting. But it’s great to be outdoors, even when the tour is only a tiny one.

Photographers comment:

It’s always like spinning a wheel of fortune, when you try to photo with an iPhone in a waterproof bag and your fingers are in rubber gloves. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes you have waterdrops on the bag, sometimes the camera triggers too late and sometimes you’re taking pictures of your own gloves as in image #3.

Photoing like this is about visual storytelling, not about high quality photos you want to put on the wall of your living room. But on the other side, why actually not?

Yesterday, 6:30 –a crisp morning

-10 °C, could be the last cold morning before the warm air will arrive. I walked to the coast quite early and took some photos. One from the packed ice, that has frozen together, one of a funny ice sculpture that I discovered a bit further out.

Photographers comment:

Alas – a DSLR camera. Not waterproof and much heavier but much more fun to handle. The quality of the photos is of course superior but something is missing a bit: The beautiful warm light of the sunrise. The sun rises however already at 5:43, so I was almost an hour too late.

You have to decide: Do you want to sleep or to take better photos? It’s up to you.

Today, 8:30 – cautious visitors

When I went to the living room this morning I saw a movement outside. Right under the kitchen window two roe deer were eating leftovers of the bird food that was lying in the snow. Annika and I hold distance to the window and even though they were extremely cautious they didn’t seem to be able to see us through the glass. They continued eating for a short while and then went on. I slowly opened the kitchen window to give them carrots, but as expected they didn’t dare to come back. Now the carrots stuck in the snow and we’re curious if they’ll find them there the next days.

Photographers comment:

Luckily the roe deer stood on a metre of solid snow, so they could peek in and we could peek out and see them. The first photo gives a good impression of how near they were, even though it is taken with a focal length of 200mm.

Today, 12:00 – no winter bath

The whole day it has been above zero and at 11 o’clock it started to rain. In the need of fresh air Annika and I walked to Vitskärsudden. We weren’t prepared for a winter bath and it would have been quite useless since the whole bay was filled with ice floes and crushed ice and slush that lazily followed the slow waves of the sea.

Photographers comment:

Well, while the motive is quite ok, the grey overcast weather made the light so dull and poor in contrast, that the photo looks pale and boring. Should you photograph under such conditions? Well, of course! But don’t expect the best results.

Today, 15:45 – crushed ice

Where I started my Tuesday morning paddle tour now a large area of the sea was covered with the very same mixture of ice floes, smaller pieces of ice and slush. I went to Lillskär again – equally prepared as for paddling – and watched the ice floes. It’s mostly the trees of the neighbouring islands that prevent the scenery looking completely arctic, but it’s still impressive.

Finally I took my ice bath but since I didn’t get wet in my coverall it probably doesn’t count.

Photographers comment:

The conditions: bad. Again iPhone in a bag and rubber gloves plus the grey sky. Taking the selfie however was fun.

That makes me realise that I’m quite result-orientated when I make photos. Sometimes I just forget, that the process of photographing itself can be fun, last not least because it gives you reasons to do silly thinks like standing outside the whole night, wade through a mud bog or like today – just jump into the ice pool.

What was your last “crazy” photo action?

Reindeer on the island Obbolaö

Annika and I live on an island called Obbolaö. If you want to leave it by car you can take the road E12 either to the west in direction Holmsund or to the north directly to Umeå. When you take the latter you hardly realise, that Obbolaö is an island, because the channel that separates it from the mainland is less than 40 metres wide and you can easily miss it.

Anyhow you have to use one of these roads if you don’t want to take the boat (or swim) in summer or cross the ice in winter.

I wonder, how the reindeer have come to the island. Probably they crossed the ice somewhere. They have been around for some days as Annika told me. She passed some of them when she cycled to or from the bus station and they have been quite near to where we live.

Today I took the car to Holmsund but was I stopped on the road Södra Obbolavägen, little more than one kilometre from home. A large herd of at least 100 reindeer blocked the road. They hardly moved, a sign that there might have been another car on the other side. I stopped the car and waited.

Soon I could hear some glee shouts from the other side and a man on a snowmobile appeared. He was the owner of the reindeer and used the snowmobile and his voice to lead and guide them.

After some minutes all reindeer had left the road. I greeted the man, he waved back and I continued my driving.

It’s not the first time that I experienced reindeer blocking a road, but I never experienced this so near from home. Lovely!

Three kind moose

Sometimes I have to interrupt my work for the Norwegian Polar Institute that I’ve been doing from home in Obbola/Sweden since late November. It’s my home office window to blame. Sometimes it’s a beautiful sunrise that I can witness and sometimes it’s animals.

Today it was three moose, mother and two kids. First they stood on the other side of our bay Grundviken and gnawed a bush. I put on boots and winter parka, got out and went into hiding behind a fence. The mother looked skeptically in my direction but the moose stayed. After taking some photos I went in again. Just when I started continuing my work, they came nearer crossing Grundviken. I jumped into boots and parka again and managed to make a nice photo before they vanished behind our neighbours house.

Thank you for your visit. You’re welcome to drop by again.

Wintry weekend in June

Friday, 5. June

At 16:00 I’m at the southern entrance of the University Hospital of Umeå to fetch Annika from work. We go for a weekend tour that we’ve planned for months. We want to drive the vildmarksvägen on the day of it’s opening. Most of this tourist route is open the whole year, but a part is closed more than half the year due to heavy snow.

Today’s destination: the small town Gäddede, where we have hired a tiny cabin on the campsite. The weather is grey but all birch leaves glow intensely. The Swedish weather forecast issued a level 2 warning for high flow but to our astonishment there is very little water in many lakes we pass. We pass even some reindeers, three moose and some black grouses.

Saturday, 6. June

After breakfast we drive along the lakes Kycklingsvattnet, Stor-Jorm and Lill-Jorm. The lakes are open and everything is green. In the distance there are snow covered mountains.

Ten minutes later it looks like this:

What happened? Time travel? No, we are just 200 metres higher than before and although its only 600 metres above sea level the conditions are still wintry here. From now on we travel between the seasons. Sometimes still winter, sometimes already spring. The small brooks and streams carry a lot of water, but most of the lakes are quite empty.

We leave the vildmarksvägen and turn left to pay the Norwegian border a short visit. Of course we are not allowed to cross it due to corona. So we turn our car back to the vildmarksvägen. We travel along some lakes, first partly frozen, then still ice covered until we come to a sudden stop.

A long line of cars, motor cycles and camper vans waits in front of us. They all wait for the opening of the closed passage. We leave our car and walk to the barrier, that will be opened at 12 o’clock.

After half an hour of waiting the barrier opens and the long line of cars starts to move. The next hours there’s a lot of stop-and-go, because people are just stopping and parking anywhere to take pictures making the vildmarksvägen a single file road. But nobody seems to be impatient or even angry, they all have come to see the large snow walls beside the road that tell a lot about last winters snow falls.

Annika and I climb up one of the walls to have a look to an old concrete hut marked with a red cross. We peek inside where we find first aid equipment. Is it still in use? Well, perhaps not, the dressing bandages were fabricated 1957.

And outside: winter landscapes with metre-high snow. We really regret that we have forgot to take our skis with us. Some others are smarter than we and ski through the white. Well,maybe next time …

After driving a bit back and forth we finally take the obligatory snow wall photos.

Sunday, 7. June

After an overnight stay in the rainy Saxnäs we head back home. While there is some old snow left in Saxnäs the Swedish inland is free of snow. As on the trip there some of the lakes have very low water levels. I could stroll there for hours but we want to arrive early home in Obbola und so I only take two shorter strolls to take some pictures.

After some hours of driving, a lunch break in Lycksele and another two hours of driving we arrive home in Obbola in the afternoon. Thank you Annika for a fantastic weekend trip.

Our House in Obbola – the neighbours

Yesterday evening behind the tiny bay: two deer, a mountain hare, two Canada geese and some red breasted mergansers (probably). A nice neighbourhood.

Some photos are a bit blurred. A focal length of 600mm is not made for handheld snapshots. I guess I will have many opportunities to make better photos in the future.

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 3

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

8 March – Vålåstugan

The weather forecast was right. After a calm and sunny day yesterday it looks very different outside. It is grey and the wind has become stormy and gusty.

All people consider their plans. Among others a group of four decides to remain. They wanted to continue to Helags, round 22 km in the southwest. They would have got the stormy wind straight from the front.

Other skiers plan to return to Vålådalen. It’s Sunday, their last holiday. They ask each other to team up and they exchange phone numbers with Olle, one of the wardens. I do not envy them being out in rough weather with increasing wind speeds with squalls up to 27 m/s in the afternoon. While they equip themselves with balaclavas and ski goggles Annika and I keep inside, peeking through the window that starts to be covered with wet snow.

After all skiers have left Vålåstugan it’s very quiet inside with 10 people remaining. Most of them are on their rooms, only one man seems to love cooking. Until noon he has baked fresh bread, made popcorn and fried pancakes. We are invited to popcorn and get part of the pancake powder so that we can make our own ones. If I’m inside the whole day my interest in eating dramatically increases.

While we spend most of our time reading and being lazy the benches on the sun terrace start to snow in. That’s however nothing compared to the other side of the cabin. A metre high snowdrift has started covering the marked way to the outdoor toilet until Olle relocates the waymarks to a less snowed area. At the same time it has became quite warm, slightly above zero.

In the afternoon the other skiers start to ring. At the end of the day it is clear: All of them reached Vålådalen without any harm. We are quite relieved because we read and heard stories about serious (and even deadly) incidents in the mountains in winter time.

We are equipped with a metal shovel, with warm down bags and bivy bags, but even good equipment is only of limited help when the weather is too severe or there is no snow to dig in.

Tomorrow we want to ski to the mountain cabin Lunndörren. According to the forecast it will be slightly colder, sunny and less windy. Good to know, then we dare to continue our tour.

9 March – Vålåstugan – Lunndörren

The next day the skis in front of the house are wrapped in wet snow, now frozen again. I’m glad that my skis are inside. Yesterday evening I glued the long climbing skins under them because we may have to climb many snow drifts today. The weather is fine and it promises to be a sunny day.

At 8 o’clock we say hejdå to the stugvärdarna – the wardens – Olle and Amie. We shall greet the stugvärdarna at Lunndörren. We put on our backpacks, mount the skis, I put on the belt that is connected with the pulka and then we depart.

The first part is easy to ski and extremely beautiful. At every branch tip of the birch trees small pieces of ice are hanging and sparkling in the sun.

We spot a reindeer. When you see one, there are probably others around, too. And so it is. Five reindeers that carefully look at us. They gather in a small group until we come nearer and they walk away.

The first 4 km the snow is perfect. There’s grip for the skis and even with the climbing skins we can glide effortlessly other the snow.

Then it gets more difficult. The plains are so exposed to the wind that they are almost snow-free. Sometimes there’s a visible path, sometimes we have to ski around.

Then the snow gets so hard and slippery that everything starts to slide and it’s near impossible to break. Yesterday’s warm weather and today’s frost have created an icy crust on top of the snow. Sometimes the pulka runs more beside than behind me. When it goes downhills I take large detours to flatten the slope avoiding becoming too fast. Beside of my problems skiing this snow can look very beautiful, especially against the sun.

Later the snow at the surface is as icy as before but the underlying snow doesn’t bare the weight any longer so that we break through. Several times I am run over by my pulka while my skis are stuck. My left wrist still hurts a bit from one fall, one of the less nice memories of this fantastic ski tour.

At last it was snowmobiles that have improved the situation for us. The tracks they have left have broken the icy crust and here we can ski quite well even though I have to unmount the skis for some of the steeper parts. We want to arrive anyway. It’s Annika, who spots the flag of the STF, the Swedish Tourist Association. And there it is: The mountain cabin Lunndörren!

Here Jonas, Arne and I seeked shelter from the storm 17 days ago.  Now we are first welcomed by the friendly cabins in the sunshine and then the friendly wardens.

Lunndörren has a highlight we have been looking to for days: A sauna! Already at 17:00 Annika and will sit there enjoying the heat. But before taking a sauna we take another opportunity. Former guests asked for permission to cut a hole into the ice of the small lake by the sauna some days before. Therefore Lunndörren has an ice hole this season. Of course we have to take an ice bath before the sauna. (Taking it after sauna is considered cheating by winter bathers.)

If you ever want to take pictures of a person making faces: Throw her or him into icy water. Four examples (Photos: Annika Kramer):

After 95 °C in the sauna we took a shower. No, not a normal shower with shower head and and chrome valve, just a bucket full of hot water. But it’s enough to wash your hair and yourself. We feel so fresh again afterwards!

Later that evening I stroll around in the full moon. This will be the last night of the ski tour. Tomorrow we will ski back to Vålådalen, where I parked my car only seven days ago.

10 March – Lunndörren – Vålådalen

It’s always a bit strange, the last tour day. Car keys get more important than the pocket knife and mobile internet becomes normal again. Fortunately it’s much easier to ski today than the day before and comfortably we follow the red crosses marking the winter path. After a while we see the first cross country ski-runs and more people around. At the end we have to navigate, because there are so many possible ways. I decide to take the bridge over the river Vålån, the very same bridge I used on the other ski tour three and a half weeks ago. And almost suddenly we are standing on the parking place next to my car. We unmount the skis, load the skis and pulka into the roof box and fill the car with leftover food, sleeping bags, snow shovel and other equipment. And since we were quite fast today we even make it to lunch.

Tack för turen, Annika. Thanks for the tour. Where do we ski next winter?

 

On the road IV and V

Back to Sweden · Sneringsvika—Rötviken – 315 km

Have I told you, that the weather in Norway is constantly changing? So it was as well when I continued my road trip the day before yesterday.

It wasn’t cold, but most of the precitipation came as snow and even by the sea everything was white.

In Hofles I waited for the ferry to Lund which takes 25 minutes. I love standing onboard and watch the snow covered hills and mountains pass.

On the other side there was first less snow, …

… but as soon as the road climbed up a bit everything was white again. Here are two photos from a barbecue hut by the road 74 to Sweden. The first one from now, the other made in August 2016.

This time I have booked a cabin in advance. It is in Rötviken, 20 km behind the Norwegian-Swedish border. Although the campsite is by the road it is really quiet. Hardly any car uses this road.

I was tired from all the driving of the last days and fell fast asleep. The next day I would take it easy.

Arrival · Rötviken—Orrviken – 139 km

What a beautiful morning! The sun came out the first time since I left Solberget four days ago. Two dogs were barking. Did they bark at me? Now, it was the two moose that were about to cross the road but then turned too the the lake Hotagen.

This day I didn’t have to go far, just 140 km along broad roads through the Swedish forest. Easy to drive but a bit boring to look at.

I made a short stopover in Östersund, the largest town in the county Jämtland.

Then I continued to Orrviken.

Today I will spend my day here and repack my things for a ski tour that I will start with two friends tomorrow. Then I’ll be offline for about two weeks.

Vi hörs – see ya.

On the road I – Solberget—Jäckvik – 353 km

After spending some days in Solberget I continue my journey. Next Friday I have to be in Östersund so I have time to take a detour over Norway.

The road is quite empty. A car comes towards from time to time or a reindeer blocks the road. Nothing special for a car ride through Lapland. Again I’m on my way to Jokkmokk. After an hour I cross the river Stora Lule älv on the Messaure dam.

At 12 o’clock I arrive in Jokkmokk. Time to buy some provisions and get some lunch. I visit “Lilla Paradiset” where I tasted a little piece of the “Lapland Pizza” three days ago. It was very tasty and I commended the cook. Today I was welcomed with a broad smile and the question “Lapland”? Yes – that pizza was my choice today and I can warmly recommend it.

After that pizza the weather got dull and I got tired. Still some hours to go since I wanted to reach Arjeplog at least. I tried to find an accommodation but in vain. Either the rooms where fully booked or closed for winter or much too expencive. So I continued driving. Next station Jäckvik – 75 km from the Norwegian border. I was already prepared to sleep in the car when I spotted a sign “Kyrkans fjällgård“ with a tent and a cabin icon. I was lucky – I got a whole cabin for only 300 kr which is less than a quarter of the price of a cabin in Arjepog I asked for. Maybe it’s because of the zillions of German test drivers that test cars in Arjeplog in wintertime.

Now I’m sitting in “Tjidtjak”, my cosy cabin for this night. It got warm outside (-1 °C) and it snows a bit. Soon I will go to bed, reading and sleeping.

Plans for tomorrow? We’ll see.

Nighty nite!