Heralds of spring 2020

Another sunny day with temperatures round 10 °C. Today I spotted the first tussilago flowers – two weeks earlier than usual. And even the first butterflies – small tortoiseshells – fluttered around today.

The photo of the butterfly is a bit out of focus, but I didn’t want to disturb the little fellows that probably enjoyed the sun as much as I did.

 

Meanwhile in Skelleftehamn

It has been already a week, since I returned from my winter journey. I already blogged about my first ski tour with two German friends, soon I’ll blog about my ski tour with Annika, too.

Today the weather was sunny and quite warm. Due to the corona virus I try to avoid crowded places. Fortunately such places are nearby. One of them is the island Storgrundet, less than 2km from home. The ice between island and coast is thick, but on the other side there’s open water because most of the sea ice has vanished.

This is a nice place to enjoy the sun, ice and water.

And since I had my drysuit with me I could take that photo of a small ice cave standing in the sea.

Total time: 90 minutes. Recreational value: high.

Do you have such lonely places nearby? When did you visit them the last time? I’m looking forward to your comments.

Back home in Skelleftehamn

After five weeks of travelling – three of them being on skis – I returned home yesterday. I cannot say, that the winter in Skelleftehamn was very welcoming. That’s the street Tallvägen, where I live.

Some other streets looked even more adventurous and gave my car a bumpy ride. Anyway today afternoon heavy equipment machines shovelled away the mixture of snow, ice and slush and Tallvägen looks passable again.

In the next days/weeks I’ll blog about the two ski tours I returned from. Stay tuned.

The last winter photo of Skelleftehamn?

This may be my last winter photo of Skelleftehamn for this year.

Today I will pack all things together that are needed for a ski tour, visiting the winter market in Jokkmokk, wading in ice water, doing cross country ski tours, taking pictures on the Hurtigruten, sleeping in the car and so on. Tomorrow I will start my winter journey 2020.

How long I will travel is not determined yet. It depends among others on the weather. But six weeks it will be at least. Maybe longer.

So that’s way I put on the drysuit on this chilly February morning and made a photo of the “ice coast” of Skelleftehamn. It may be the last one this winter.

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.

30 cm snow

This week finally it snows. There is 30 cm of snow in my backyard and if the forecasts are right, it’ll be 45–50 cm at the end of the week. At last it looks wintry, even though the open Baltic Sea is still free of ice.

After taking the photo above I took the car to Tjuvkiskan, another place by the sea. The gravel road was covered with snowdrifts that became higher when I approached the sea. I could easily drive through the first ones but finally I was stuck in a half-metre-high and several metre long snowdrift. My Subaru was grounded and even with the “X-Mode” program I could neither continue nor put back the car. Fortunately it took only some minutes to shovel away the snow round the tires and then I was able to back the car out of the snow drift. The last metres to Tjuvkistan I walked …

When I looked at the photo above I realised how big the tyres are. It’s really half a metre of snow around my car.

Enough about cars – I wanted to enjoy winter and be outdoors.

There’s a very nice cross-country ski run in Skelleftehamn. It hadn’t been prepared this year due to the warm and rainy weather. Now snow had come and the snow on the track will be compacted but not yet prepared for cross-country as long it continues snowing.

Yesterday I took my fjällski – my “mountain skis” and made a tour through 10-15 cm deep snow. I was really slow and it was quite exhausting.

Today I took my fjällski again and now the snow was packed. I was faster and although the tour was longer it was less exhausting. And the descents were more fun. The last kilometre the wind increased and it started snowing again.

Temperature -6 °C. Wind. Snow. Fur hood. Woollen mittens. Ski boots. Almost like winter.

 

Finally snow!

Finally some snow fell today, perhaps 5 cm. Everything starts to look nice and wintry again.

The only drawback: on the minor roads there is still bare ice under the snow. With all the snow glueing round the tyres the spikes do not work efficiently and so it is extremely slippery. It took a bit for the Subaru to work it’s way up the flat slope by the lake. At least now I know where it has its Vehicle Dynamics Control warning light.