It has been a long long time since I've posted to PH. Sadly a big reason is I haven't done a lot of hiking in the area for a while. However, I recently took a trip to Sweden and thought I'd share a little on the three day backpack I was fortunate to go on while there.
My trip to Sweden has a bit of a Portland connection. I took my friend's father-in-law Eskil* hiking to Dog Mountain last year when he and his wife came this way for the birth of their second grandchild. Out of the time I shared with my friend's extended family I received an open invitation to visit them in Sweden. Not too bad, I just had to get myself over there!*Eskil: A good and proper viking name
Things came together for me to go this summer, and after three flights and about 18 hours I landed in Luleå (loo-lee-oh) airport in northern Sweden on July 29. I had a few days to get used to the time zone and see the area near their hometown of Sävast before Eskil and I ventured on August 1 on the three hour drive to Sarek National Park. Our drive took us above the Arctic Circle, the first time I'd been that far north. I got a good feel for the extensive forests of northern Sweden as our route followed along the Luleå River. Eskil pointed out several of the dams he helps manage and operate as part of his work.
Along the way we stopped in the village of Jokkmokk (pronouced like "yoke-mock") to visit the Sami people museum. A good reference point for the Sami in Scandinavia are the Native Americans here in the states. There were lots of displays on their life in the past and present. I thought it was especially cool to see the differences in their ceremonial clothing depending on the region of Scandinavia they resided.
Jokkmokk Dam with Sami-design paintings
I had a strong sense of being in Europe with the variety of cars parked at the trailhead.
We actually started our backpack by bike, tackling the first 10 km (6.2 mile) on mountain bike along a dirt road leading through the forest.
Iron man Eskil
At road’s end there's an option to ride by boat, but keeping it real (and to save on the money) we opted to backpack the next 6 km. But wow, we still paid a full price of admission taking this way. I learned from Eskil that it has been a wet and cool summer in northern Sweden. On each step Eskil took ahead of me a cloud of menace swarmed up behind. It’s not a good thing when you can no longer gauge if that’s a real mosquito buzzing your right ear or if your mind is losing touch with reality as you swipe at the unseen pest. Not much else to do but buckle down and get it done.
Break on the dock
No boat for us this day...on to Aktse!
In a bit over an hour and a half we came to Aktse, an established camp with cabins, camp store, and showers. If you were smart (or not cheap) to take the boat this is also where the drop off is. Eskil prepared a tasty meal of fresh boiled pasta with minced meat sauce. Good stuff! As the bugs were still tenderizing our skin we opted to push up the trail another half hour to get above tree line in search of some redeeming wind.
Master chef Eskil
Aktse's Midsommarstång (Midsummer Maypole still standing from the June festival)
Our campsite had great views, with the Rapa Valley below us and Skerfe summit awaiting us the next day off to the west.
I must say sunsets in the Arctic Circle really messed with my mind. I would see the sun nearing the horizon and intuitively deem it would set within a half hour. Two hours later, the sun would still be going strong, just a bit lower, but shifting more and more to the right. It never did get completely dark at night. I keenly understood the silly question I'd asked before coming if I'd need a headlamp for the trip or not!
Well, I'll start letting the pictures tell the rest of the story. The mountains to the west seem to hold off most of the weather coming in from Norway and the Norwegian Sea, leaving us with sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny conditions. In the expansive and sparse landscape of the north varied patterns of shadow and light voyaged around us. We made it to the summit of Skerfe soon before a couple from Germany, and later a pair from the Stockholm area.
Porridge breakfast prep
Butterfly or fly?
Peaks Gådoktjåhkkå and Bielloriehppe come into view again
Rapa Valley Delta
Eskil summits Offerplats (Suffering Rock or Place)
It was very cool to see many new flowers I'd never seen before.
Smörboll (butter ball)
Midsommarblomster (Midsummer flower)
Snusblomma (Snuff Flower, from the similarity in coloring to tobacco snuff)
Rödblära (Red campion)
What also struck me on this trip were the lack of birds and bird noise, or of mammals. Eskil told me many of the birds would have already have started their way south for the winter months ahead. With few mammals we didn't have to bother with hanging our food. And it was a nice convenience to collect water straight from the stream. I know many also do with backcountry water sources in the Pacific Northwest, but I've always been a bit paranoid about doing that myself.
I did get to see both a mother cow moose and baby calf, as well as a reindeer, but actually not at the park but on the drive to and from. What I never figured out is why an “elk” and “moose” is the same thing in Sweden. Eskil referenced elk several times on a drive before hand. It wasn’t until I saw a road warning sign with a moose on it that I understood he meant a moose. Even at a historical park in Stockholm the same refence was there so it just seems to be a different usage of the word.
The drive back back to Sävast was pleasant, with blue skies and lakes guiding our way as we passed the extensive forests of Sweden.
Bugs or no it was well worth the trip there. The memories and friends I will hold as special for the rest of my life.