#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.

 

 

 

Finally it’s snowing again

After two weeks with warmer temperatures, rain and a lot of fog it has become colder again and last night it started to snow. 15 cm fresh snow has already fallen.

Thursday, 16:55: -7.6 °C and it’s still snowing. Looks like I need gloves and a cap for jogging. And of course a headlamp, because sunset was already three hours ago.

Addendum

One hour later. 40 minutes of (slow) jogging through the wintry landscapein the dark. Exhausting, but beautiful!

My car tracks from this morning are mostly snowed over. The latest tracks are not from a car, but a snowmobile. Now I hope, that the great people of the Friluftsfrämjandet Skelleftehamn soon prepare the illuminated ski track. I’m longing for some afterwork cross-country skiing.

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!

 

Closing the bathing season in Skelleftehamn?

7 o’clock. The sun was still below the horizon but already colourised sky and sea at Storgrundet.

Some minutes later – looking into the opposite direction revealed another colour impression.

There was thin ice on this bay. It was partially broken. You may already guess, why. I’ll tell you.

I love bathing in the sea and this bay is my favourite beach and bathing place. In mid-August the water temperature had been 18 °C, in September it had fallen below 10 °C and this morning it was only around 0.7 °C.

Anyhow, time for another bath.

I undressed and started wading through the ice. First I stalked like a stork, than the water got deeper and thinner and I just walked normally, breaking the ice with my thighs.

Soon I reached both open water and swimming depth. I love bathing in cold water and think it’s invigorating and refreshing. Bathing before sunrise with these beautiful morning colours is an extra bonus.

Ouchie ;-)After a bit of bathing and some swimming strokes I waded back to the beach. I already had expected cutting my legs at the sharp thin ice and so I did.

As long as the skin is cold, you hardly feel such scratches.

Being still wet I started freezing because the air was not warm neither. -9 °C the car thermometer had shown. Then the great moment came where I realised, that I had forgot to take a towel with me!

I dried myself a bit with my hands and slipped – wet as I was – into my clothes. And warm clothes it was!

This worked much better than expected and I decided to drive to the office directly. Arriving there only the tips of the socks felt a bit damp, the rest (outdoor pants and woollen sweater) felt warm and dry again.

Since the ice will get thicker and thicker every day I guess that this was the end of my bathing season 2019. At least at Storgrundet.

Some random comments

  • It has been quite cold for late October the last days. In some parts of Finnish lapland temperatures had dropped below -25 °C.
  • Later this morning I realised that I had got many more cuts and scratches from the ice than excepted.
  • The definition of a winter bath is a bath in water colder than 10 °C. According this definition I took my first winter bath this season on 9 September. But it was today that I took my first ice bath of the season.
  • While I am writing this blog article I realise that I had a roll of kitchen paper in my car. So I could have dried myself this morning.

Greeting the winter – a kayak tour shorter than planned

I had planned it for days: today I wanted to paddle kayak – that’s a thing that I do much less often than I would like. The conditions for paddling were – well …

The sky was cloudy and it was snowing at temperatures around freezing. At least it was not too windy. Already at home I had put on my dry suit and neoprene boots. At the coast I completed my outfit with the mandatory life jacket plus neoprene gloves and hood. I even had ski goggles with me.

The sea between the island Storgrundet and mainland was calm as usual. I could however hear the loud noise of waves breaking at the outside of Storgrundet. I assumed, that the open sea could be rough – and so it was. As soon as I paddled around the western tip of the island I could see turf and breaking waves everywhere. The waves were steep and too short to lift the kayak. I just paddled through them – a wet pleasure and each wave tried to turn my boat parallel. I realised that the conditions were to hard for my kayaking abilities, managed to turn around and reach calm waters again.

Therefore I took a shorter tour round the island Brambärsgrundet where the sea was calm. I knew that paddling around the eastern tip could be a challenge. When I saw the waves and turf I decided to get off the kayak and pull it around wading through knee deep water. It was hard enough.

But the rest was easy as pie and I could make some photos from the boat without fearing of capsizing. Another snow shower approached.

The second photo is made through the ski goggles, that I didn’t need on this short tour. It was only 3½ km. But as always: I never regretted having been outside.

At the coast the snow on the grass and my car had started to melt away. Some hours later I drove into town. There it was slightly colder and 5 cm of wet snow had fallen. When I drove home in the evening the temperature had dropped to – 2 °C and the formerly wet snow in town had frozen and was crunching under my feet. Now it’s time again for winter boots.

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.

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.

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.