Early winter Holmön IV

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

It is Monday. It has rained the whole night and it still rains. Most of the snow is history and everything is wet. After breakfast we decide to give the road to the southern tip of Ängesön another try. Indeed, it is almost free of snow and soon we are at the southern tip of the island where we walk along the coast. The clouds are grey and so is the sea. Some water areas are still covered with wet, brownish ice but the sea itself is open.

There are some marked hiking paths on Ängesön that we want to give a try. The guide book recommended “tåliga skor” – that means tough, durable shoes – due to the wet ground. The first path to the east has many deep water puddles and flooded parts. Partly the path is supported by wooden planks, but mostly not. The path leads through a quite old forest as we can see by the many lichens that cover the pine, spruce and birch trees. Snowless and wet as it is, it looks more like mid-October than December.

We try the other trail that leads to a shelter at the western coast of Ängesön. This trail is less wet and easier to follow than the other one. It is however not too easy to reach the rocky coast because of the marshland between forest and coast. It still drizzles and rains and everything is damp.

The hiking paths are nice but I would strongly recommend high rubber boots if you want to keep your feet dry.

After our “three course hiking” we return to our accommodation at Berguddens fyr. We’re still the only people, the place – as beautiful it is – seems less popular in winter time as the guest book tells us. While Annika prepares a warm lunch it starts to get dark outside. Grey clouds still cover the sky and it continues drizzling. The lighthouse starts sending its light beams over the Västra Kvarken, part of the Baltic Sea between Holmön and mainland.

Today day we leave Berguddens fyr. We were lucky to be change the booking for the ferry from 19 o’clock to 9 o’clock to avoid another rainy day – partly in darkness. At 8:20 we sit in the small waiting room, because it’s very windy outside. Waves break at the quay wall and after some the small ferry arrives and wobbles into the small harbour.

I have to admit that I get a bit nervous when I learned I have to back the car onto the ferry. The man however that pilots me onto the ship is fantastic and guides me much better than every rear camera. I am relieved, but get nervous again when I watch the man securing the car with belts. Is it so stormy? Will the belts hold?

First the boat trip is quite but soon the ferry starts to roll and pitch more and more. I stay in the inside of the boat where I feel safer. While Annika and I are hoping the best for the car, the other two passengers do not pay any attention to the rough weather. Probably they live on the island Holmön and they are used to something like that.

45 Minutes later we arrive in Norrfjärden. My car has survived this unsteady trip without any problems.The ferry needs several attempts to dock, but finally I can leave the ferry with the car. Annika, who already went ashore gets into the car and we drive to her home in Umeå. This drive takes only 30 minutes – less than the ferry passage.

It’s fantastic to have such an interesting and special place nearby. We’ll come again, hopefully with better weather.

 

Early winter Holmön III

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

It’s Monday, a quarter to seven in the morning. I turned out of bed half an hour ago. Not because I have to go to work, but because I’m a morning person. It’s Annika’s and my fourth day on the island Holmön. Tomorrow we will take the evening ferry back to the mainland.

We were lucky, when we walked back from our Saturday evening Christmas dinner two days ago. It snowed all the time. It looked very beautiful and it was quite bright outside because of the fresh snow cover. When we lay in our comfortable double bed at Berguddens fyr we could still see the snow flakes whirl through the window pane.

When we woke up yesterday the snow had turned into rain. We planned a car trip to the southern tip of the island Ängesön which is separated from Holmön by the sound Gäddbäckssundet. The gravel road from Bergudden to the main road apparently had already be cleared of snow and it was easy to drive. I turned right and headed south. We drove first past pastures and farms and than along Gäddbäckssundet, until we came to the turnout to Ängesön. This road was snow covered and probably isn’t used in winter time. The snow wasn’t deep and I decided to give it a try. We crossed the small sound on the only bridge and followed the snowy road.

It was harder to drive than expected, because the snow was so wet that it filled all the space round the tyres. My studded winter tyres are excellent for ice but less good for such mud-like conditions.

The landscape around looked bleak and cheerless, especially the lakes and ponds that were covered with brownish wet ice. It looked a bit like a film where an evil wizard had casted a spell on the landscape to take away all its beauty.

I had to drive very slowly and it would take us at at least 30 minutes to the south tip of the island, although it’s only 9 km. After 1 km I decided to turn.

We drove to the village of Holmön and made a stop at the church. The graveyard was still covered with snow and so it looked much more friendly than the landscape on Ängesön. As most protestant churches this church was locked and we couldn’t take a look inside.

We drove to the shop, bought food and ice-cream and headed back to our accommodation.

And would do you do, when you go on beach vacation? Of course you take a bath in the sea. And so did we even though it was a short one.

Back to Monday. I still sit in the kitchen and it’s still dark outside. The fridge has turned out and I can hear the surf splashing ashore. The lighthouse Berguddens fyr sends out its three-coloured beams of light but most of the snow had melted away and when I look through the window I can only see my mirrored face and the reflected laptop. It will take another hour, until it starts to get light.

Early winter Holmön II

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

Saturday, 8 December – 0 °C – it’s snowing and two centimetres of new, wet snow cover the ground. Annika and I made a hiking trip to Vedaögern in the south.

Now it’s pitch black outside and still snowing. Nevertheless we will leave our comfortable accommodation soon for good reasons: we attend the julbord – the traditional Swedish Christmas dinner – today.

Early winter Holmön I

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

When Annika and I made a two-day trip to the small island Stora Fjäderägg in August this year, we spent some hours on the island Holmön. We walked to a place called Berguddens fyr – Berguddens lighthouse – were you can rent a room.

4 months and 5 days later we stand at the shipping pier and wait for the small ferry Helena Elisabeth that shall bring us to Holmön. We booked a room in Berguddens fyr for four nights. With us is my car. Annika booked a place for it on the ferry that only provides space for a single car. At 7:30 the ferry approaches.

We have to wait, because first all groceries and goods have to be brought onto the small ship. Holmön has 75 inhabitants and a grocery store. Finally I drive the car onto the ferry where it is saved with wedges.

We are not the only people travelling to Holmön. Everyone is sitting in the inside beside of me that tries to make some photos. The foredeck however is covered with wet, salty ice and so slippery that I do not dare to stand there without any hold.

After about 40 minutes the ferry goes ashore in the port of Holmön. I have to back from the ferry with the car and I am quite glad about the rear camera. Then we take the main road, turn right into a snowy gravel road, turn right again into another small road through the forest and then we arrive at Berguddens fyr.

No one is there, but the house is open and warm and soon we find our large but cosy room:

Probably we will be completely alone in the house. Who travels there in early December? Already at 3 o’clock it is quite dark and the lighthouse has started to be active.

Days are short in December but we have a lot of books with us and even two musical instruments: A violin for Annika who plays viola, and an accordion for me who plays piano. (Did I mention, that we are alone in the house ;-) ?) And a book with many, many Christmas songs.

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.