Spring birds and spring flowers

Two days ago I took the car to Umeå, 130 km south from Skellefteå. Last time I was there in January and it was winter. This time it was springtime. Nevertheless, more than half of the ground was still snow covered in Skelleftehamn and Bureå. But while I was driving southwards the scenery slowly changed. More and more snow free meadows and grasslands showed up. The grass is still brown and huge water puddles cover the lower parts.

In Lövånger I saw a lot of birds on the meadows and made a short stop to photo some of them. No great shots but it shows some of the most common migratory birds that already had arrived here.

(click on the images to see the bird’s names in English, Swedish, and German.)

South from Lövånger there was hardly any snow left, it remained only in ditches, in the shadow of forests and on some northern slopes – everywhere where there’s less sun. Still the landscape looked a bit dull, for nor the birches neither the other plants had got leaves.

Some hours later. Annika has ended her working day and we walk along the river Umeälven, which is free of ice. Only some small ice floes drift on the surface that mirrors the blue sky.

On the other side of the way along the river there’s a southwards slope. And here many spring flowers, not only tussilago are blooming. I counted six different flower types on the walk into the center of Umeå. Here they come:

(again, click on the images to see the flower names. Hopefully there are correct)

Hampstärnsstugan

There’s a hiking trail from Umeå to the lake Tavelsjö, the so-called Tavelsjöleden. The first stop after 5 km is the mountain hut Hampstärnsstugan. Today it opened for the first time this season and served waffles and some other snacks.

While Annika and I had used our new cross-country skis the last days (lightweight, slim and fast) we decided to use our sturdy back-country skis today since we didn’t know anything about the trail conditions.

The trail however was almost perfect, we just had to follow the railway-like ski tracks. We would have been much faster with the other skis, but we just enjoyed being outside and of course the warm chocolate and waffles in the stuga.

While we skied round 10 km, most of the families probably came by car. It was fun to watch the small children on their sledges and toboggans dashing down the slopes, even though we had to jump away several times to avoid collision.

I love being outdoors far, far away from civilisation, but it’s great as well to be able to make such short holiday trips just out of town.

The river Umeälven freezes over

I’ve been in Umeå for some days. Mostly I was inside and worked for Once Upon, my current developer project. The weather was mostly ghastly these days. It rained, partly with snow at temperatures round 1 °C on half frozen ground leaving a mixture of very slippery roads and half frozen water puddles. That’s great weather for working inside!

Today however the weather has been completely different. It’s -9 °C outside and the sun is shining. Time to leave work and go for a walk along the river Umeälven. Transparent ice floes are drifting on the surface and at the shore the river has started to freeze over. The low sun shines on the ice and let it sparkle in many colours. What a pleasure after these dark, dim and colourless days.

Tomorrow I’ll return to Skelleftehamn. Hopefully the forecasted snow will come – I’m eager to test my new back country skis I bought some weeks ago.

 

Summer in a nutshell

This Saturday Annika and I met our friend Elisabet, who never says no when it comes to being outdoors. Even if we used a car to reach all those nice places round Umeå we indeed were outdoors most of the time.

1. Mountain hike

Elisabet had asked us what we wanted to do this day beside of bathing. Hiking, sleeping, barbecuing? The sea, forest, mountain …?

I mentioned that it wouldn’t be too easy to find mountains round Umeå, but Elisabet knows many nice places and so she suggested to go up the mountain Tavelsjöberget. Since the top is just 284 metres above sea level, it’s not the longest hike up. There’s a 5 km trail leading through wetlands (according to the sign rubber boots are recommended) but the shortest way up is just 700 meters long. That’s the way we took.

After the short but steep and rocky way up we reached the top. Here we took a break and enjoyed the view over the lake Tavelsjön and the landscape around.

Elisabet told us about some caves nearby and we already saw the waymarks leading down. There at the western side the mountain is very steep and rocky. We found all of the four caves but entered only one, since the others were only reachable by crawling.

We took a shortcut along a narrow path until we came to the very same trail that we took uphills. Soon we were back at the car and quite eager to enjoy some ice cream and take a bath.

2. Sandy beach and ice cream

… and so we did! First we bought ice cream and something to drink at the kiosk and then we took a refreshing bath. Water temperature: 19 °C, air temperature: round 22 °C. Just perfect, if you ask me.

After a bath (Elisabet took two) and an ice cream (Annika and I took two) we started to plan the rest of the day. Barbecue: yes! By the water: definitely! But where? And where to get food? Luckily there was a food store in Hissjö quite nearby. There we purchased food, something to drink and Elisabet asked for some plastic knifes and a fork, which we got.

Then we headed to Bäcksjön, a beautiful lake in the forest.

3. Forest lake and barbecue

There’s a grilling place at the southern tip of the Lake. Seven other cars parked on the same parking place so we knew we wouldn’t be alone.

Elisabet is quite independent when it comes to barbecuing. While I always have a tripod and rubber boots in the car for photographing, Elisabet uses to have a grill and charcoal with her. Soon our sausages, bread, halloumi cheese, asparagus and tomatoes lay on her grill getting barbecued and beside of some asparagus we ate it all. And it tasted so good!

After our meal Elisabet and I took another bath. We weren’t successful when it came to swimming because the lake is quite shallow and you have to go a long while until you can start to swim.

We were so lucky: Good food, great company, a beautiful lake, warm summer weather with a slight breeze and – not to be underestimated: hardly any mosquitoes!

Summer in Northern Sweden! It’s hardly imaginable that people skated on the ice of the Tavelsjö only two months ago.

From winter to summer in seven days.

I hardly can remember the intense snow fall a week ago, when I look at a day as today.

Today in a nutshell: sun, shorts, temperatures between 15° and 22° C, sandals, blue sky, t-shirt only, ice cream.

It looked like early spring with only some of the birches starting to come into leaf but it felt more like high summer with today’s temperatures.

Annika and I have been in the “Arboretum Norr” today, just five days later as last year. Last year we could see many different species of flowers, this year only some, mostly Tussilago and Alpine Penny-cress, the two flowers that use to bloom first in the season. No wonder, April and May has been colder than last year. But today warmth attracted many butterflies, such as this European peacock.

And Tussilago is a beautiful flower anyway.

Sport

I do ski tours with pulka in Lapland, I paddle in the wintertime, people following my blog must think, that I’m quite sporting and athletic.

Hahaha! Hahahahaha! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

I’m not kidding. My weight is way more than average, my condition is poor and some of my muscles show less activity than a sloth hanging in a tree.

The good thing: It’s possible to change substandard fitness and that’s one of my big issues for 2017. I started to exercise daily – not much yet, it’s more to get used to it than to optimise training – and I started to do cross-country skiing. Kind of real cross-country skiing.

Normally when I ski I take my fjällskidor – my nordic touring skis – and go my own way through nature. This is great for outdoor experiences but it’s more like going for a walk than like something you could seriously call “sport”. On the other side I have to admit that I found skiing in a readymade cross-country ski trail always quite boring.

Well, it’s not boring any longer when you try to be faster. Beside of my poor condition I realised  that my ski technique is quite basic, too. That’s why I started cross-country ski school in Skellefteå this week. Hopefully they will help me improving my technique. Of course we have to train by ourselves between the lessons.

There are worse things than practising skiing when the weather is as fine as it was this weekend: Blue sky, hardly a breeze and temperatures round -15 °C. Perfect conditions! So Annika and I tried some ski trails in and round Umeå. I really liked Olles spår, which is round 10 km and extremely easy terrain. When we arrived yesterday morning we looked at the parking place. It was stuffed with cars and skiers seemed to be anywhere – waxing the skis, warming up, preparing. We learned that there was a competition on Olles spår but that we could use it anyway. And so we did.

I tried to use better technique and to be faster as usual, which was both exhausting and refreshing. For the first time in my life I had the feeling I would do some cross-country skiing instead of taking a promenade just with skis attached to my feet. Anyway, most of the people were twice as fast with half the effort.

Much room for improvement …

Today we looked for ski trails round Strömbäck-Kont which I like for the beautiful scenery. Anyway we didn’t find a good one. The first place didn’t have a ski trail at all, the second place had one, but it was quite poor, since there was much less snow than in the town of Umeå. So we continued to the forest Stadsliden, and checked one of the trails there. Really nice, too, especially since it is in the city zone of Umeå. There were many skiers too but it never felt crowded.

And now to something completely different: The Baltic Sea starts to freeze over again. I had been ice covered before this winter but strong winds broke the ice cover apart.

I had a look in Skelleftehamn this evening and could see the moon was reflected on a thin layer of blank ice covering the Baltic Sea. The same view in Strömbäck-Kont some hours earlier: Ice covered rock coast and a thin layer of fresh sea ice – less than two days old – stretching from shore to the horizon.

So: no paddling tomorrow, it’s winter.

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!

Christmas promenade

A single photo from Annika’s and my Christmas promenade today. In Umeå we got more rain than snow yesterday and the trail Tavelsjöleden which we walked some kilometres today was completely covered with ice. However we both had spikes under our boots and so it was easy to walk. When we left the town behind the ground started to be covered with snow – just as much for a touch of winter.

Anyway it’s definitely much too warm for winter and we need colder weather and snow. Much snow! Loads of snow!!!

Taking advantage of the sun

Yesterday I took the car and drove to Umeå. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. Sounds nice, right? Well, it was nice but hard to drive. The sun melted the frost on the asphalt and the wet street reflected the low hanging sunlight. Sometimes it was really hard to see anything other than just a glaring white nothing.

Today the sky was blue and the sun was shining again. Sounds nice, right? Today it was nice since Annika and I took a longer stroll through the forests near Strömback south from Umeå.

The temperatures were above zero, but parts of the ground were still frost covered. We followed a path between Tjuvvarpet – a lake – and Matsund – part of the Baltic Sea. Anyway you could see neither lake or sea from the path since the forest was too dense and hid the waters which were just 100 meters away.

On the way back we made a short rest at a place on the lake near the hill Tjuvvarpberget. Most of the lake was still free of ice but near the rocky shore you could see the first covering of ice. It almost looked a bit wintry.

Apropos winter: If the weather forecast is right we will get at least 30 cm of snow in Skelleftehamn within the next eight days. Nevertheless I’m quite sceptical. Just two centigrade warmer and it will all pour down as rain.