Rødekro Aktivitetspark Shelter to Flensburg
An outrageous amount of calories found the way into my stomach yesterday, challenging my digestion and thus making me comfortably warm throughout the night.
Getting up on the last day is never an issue, especially not today as I'm looking forward to a warm place to stay for tonight. Great motivation.
But I have to deserve it. It's a long walk, the first half in rain (which wasn't forecasted) through very wet terrain. Shortly before crossing into Germany, I stop at the church of Bov. Not for a prayer but these churches usually feature a warm toilet. No exception here and I use it to change for dry, city-suitable clothes.
Crossing the border is - as usual - a rather emotional thing. Another milestone.
Denmark, country number four done and dusted. Or as my Kiwi friends would say: I knocked the bastard off.
Now let's tackle country number 5: Germany! For now it's only for a couple of kilometers but somehow they manage to ignite my Germam Wanderlust for next year as I stroll through the adorable old town of Flensburg in the last rays of the sun with it's bustling Christmas Market. There won't e Christmas Markets next summer but longer days and milder temperatures will definitely make up for that.
So that was it! A hike across Denmark in November. 13 days, a bit more than 500 kilometers.
It was certainly very different to my previous hikes. Not necessarily the landscape (which is similar to Sweden's southern part) but the hiking in constantly cold temperatures. Something, which turned out to be more challenging as I was anticipating. Luckily it was mostly just the cold. Rain was rare and only light when it did. Being outside nearly 24/7 and thus keeping myself warm wasn't always easy. It required a lot of eating. Fuel for my body. I could have worn morn but I more often than not had the impression the cold came from inside as well. Lack of sleep maybe despite the long nights.
Long nights. Another point I want to take up. When deciding to head to Denmark, I completely neglected this point. With only 8 hours of daylight the days are awfully short, requiring me to walk in the dark. Initially I had to get used to it but it somehow grew on me. Time at night was passing quickly and the moment the eastern sky turned from black to blue was always magical. In fact I remember every dawn of this little hike.
Last but not the people. Well, I can't say much about them as I have hardly met anyone on my hike. The few people I did meet though were wonderful.
I didn't mind to hike in solitude these two weeks. I actually enjoyed it. Still, if I'd continued, it might have become lonely.
Would I do it again? Maybe not. Do I regret it to have done it in November? Definitely not. I loved the challenge and am super happy I could master it.
Maugstrup Plantage Shelter to Rødekro Aktivitetspark Shelter
A lot of rain overnight, a lot of moisture in the air, a cold night. Unsurprisingly, there's fog in the morning. Eventually the fog lifts, it stays grey and dull though. No wind, which makes it quite a pleasant walk nonetheless.
A walk which is mainly along farm tracks and secondary roads with very short bits of hiking trail. My backpack feels light (well it actually is light) and my legs feel fresh - even after all this walking on hard surfaces. I have to thank my body for playing along so nicely. Initially the beach, followed by the cold and as mentioned, all the hard surfaces. It could have been so differently.
It's early afternoon, when I'm approaching Rødekro, where I immediately set course to the supermarket for my last shopping in Scandinavia. I stock up on food, which I grew fond of during my last 112 days in Scandinavia. I will have to carry it 40 kilometers tomorrow but I don't mind to carry these good tasting memories in my backpack.
The supermarket is just a stone's throw away from the shelter, where I arrive shortly after. Luckily it's available for staying as there wouldn't be many other options around. I have a lovely and very rare chat with some locals, before I get ready for the night. I am already in my sleeping bag, finishing up my book, when the lady I was talking to before returns, offering me a warm soup, sandwiches, coffee and beer. What a wonderful, unexpected surprise. Trail magic at work. I eat the sandwich and soup as long as it is still hot. It's so filling actually that I decide to postpone my mac and cheese and porridge for later tonight. It's going to be a full blown three course dinner tonight.
After drinking two cups of coffee and feeling a little excited as it's my last night on the trail, I won't be able to sleep so soon anyway.
Skodborg Shelter to Maugstrup Plantage Shelter
Without luck, I am trying to find my motivation to get up this morning. It seems to have disappeared. Doesn't matter, as it's, after pushing the two previous days, going to be a short day out on the trail.
At around 07:30 nature is calling and I decide to take it as a sign to pack and hit the trail.
While the first half of the day is fairly pleasant to walk in sunny weather through forest and the town of Jels with its lovely windmill the second half is a bit more a struggle. Wind (after westerly wind 2 days ago, southerlies yesterday now it's blowing from the east) and some light rain making the walk a bit less pleasant. After a short 7 hour day I reach my basic shelter in a pine plantation. It is super simple and I love it. I get comfortable, read my book, cook dinner. Lentil soup with chocolate porridge as dessert it is.
Yes, it's cold (not the porridge but the weather) , yes it's wet. Not comfortable, really, I've come out of my comfort zone more than enough. Especially after spending nearly all of the past 11 days in shelters. Yet, lying in my sleeping bag, candles burning peacefully beside me, listening to the rain in solitude - enjoying and appreciating the simple things the trail offers. I already know I am gonna miss it.
Vingsted Shelter to Skodborg Shelter
A cold night, a cold morning. Luckily there's a heated toilet, where I spend a bit more time than usual to soak up some warmth before heading into the night at exactly 04:00. The first 4 hours are night hiking, the time and kilometers usually passing quickly. Probably because navigating the small backroads and paths need more concentration than during daylight. Again I find some shortcuts, which means a bit of road walk. Well, the official trail is road walk as well, just following quiet roads.
By 09:30 I reach Baekke. Time for resupply and to treat myself with some sweats. In the cold, I will burn their calories in no time. Initially I was planning on staying here but it's obviously way too early so I push on after finishing packing and eating. 2 hours after Baekke, I pass through Vejen. An neverending, straight road takes me through the town, passing what feels like a hundred barber shops and hair styles studios. The only reason I would visit them was to escape the now unpleasantly stiff, cold southerly breeze. However, I keep on pushing. The shelter I was initially eyeing is closed for construction. So there's no other way than to push on some more. After 40 kilometers on hard, flat surfaces, my body feels stiff. The cold wind does not help.
At three, 11 hours after starting, I make it to Skodborg. Town number three today and my today's spontaneous destination. Luckily my hexagonally shaped shelter offers a good protection from the wind for my 3rd last night in Denmark. Time sure is flying.
Højderyggens Shelter to Vingsted Shelter
Except for the first couple of kilometers through forest (where I actually got a bit confused at one point in the night and walk an unintended full circle - I'm mildly pissed off when I suddenly walk past the same sign again a couple of minutes again) the big chunk is on backcountry roads, with not much to write about. Well, maybe I should mention that I don't head into Jelling as planned. Instead I take a shortcut straight towards to the south. Saves me a some kilometers of roadwalk.
So let's write something about the weather, which I think, being a weather observer at work as well, was fairly interesting today. It starts with drizzle this morning, not too cold calm air. Roughly four hours into the hike, looking towards the west, I can see a clear line between clouds and blue sky approaching me. The line is nearly completely straight, right across Denmark reaching somewhere from the south west corner oto Copenhagen. At this point it is obvious that a front (most probably a cold one) must be approaching. I enjoy the good weather period as much as I can because I know, showers, wind and cooler temperatures will follow behind. And sure enough, roughly an hour later I spot the first towering cumulus to my right. The wind speeds must be high further up in the air and the clouds are here in no time, luckily bringing only a few showers but blustery wind and colder temperatures. These temperatures are supposed to stay. Especially in combination with the sky, which by now is clear again as the front passed through, getting up tomorrow morning will be on the chilly side again.
Christianshøj Shelter to Højderyggens Shelter
A dull, unspectacular day. On and off drizzle, mostly through forest on wet, partly muddy trails.
Two things worth mentioning though:
I rejoined the official E1 today, after leaving it in Halmstad. It feels good to be back on it!
Second point: planning. I couldn't just do nothing at all yesterday. So I risked an outlook for the coming days.
From yesterday's Christianshøj shelter it's roundabout 250km to Flensburg. My goal: arrive there on the 29th at sunset. 6 days, roughly 40km days. Ambitious but absolutely doable since the terrain is generally flat and fast going.
The itinerary looks like this:
24. Christianshøj to Norre Snede
25. Norre Snede to Jelling
26. Jelling to Baekke
27. Baekke to Vojens
28. Vojens to Rodekro
29. Rodekro to Flensburg
Usually, I never plan my hiking itinerary so detailed as I don't want to be too fixed on the schedule. But I thought I'd do an exception. Let's see how it works out.
These long days also mean plenty of walking in the dark. Today it were more than 3 hours. While I don't particularly like it as it uses a good amount of concentration not to get lost or to stumble into things (especially in the forest), I find it kind of intriguing as well. My world is reduced to a small buble: only as far as the beam of my head lamp reaches.
Viborg to Christianshøj
Yesterday, I left the waiting room shortly after 17:00 for some sightseeing and shopping. The city makes a great impression on me, with its wonderfully decorated old town.
Ingeborg, my last night's host, was already awaiting me. What follows are a hot shower, interesting talks, delicious food and a good night's sleep.
Today, I start into my day slowly as I don't feel like rushing but rather enjoy the warmth of the flat a bit longer. Still, by 07:30 and after a filling porridge, I have to say goodbye to my lovely host, who actually walked the same trail to Flensburg as well and could thus provide some helpful information. It's blue hour when I step out of the flat. In combination with the golden Christmas decorations a nice view.
It takes me awhile to navigate out to the city. But once I have made it, a proper hiking trail with initially great views over two lakes is awaiting me. After walking on hard surfaces for 3 days, the soft forest soil feels pleasant to walk on.
For once I can't complain about the weather. Only light winds, sunny and not too cold. In fact, it's perfect hiking weather.
My body feels good today. So good that I walk the first 4.5 hours without taking a break. At this pace I will make it to my shelter well before sunset. After zigzaging through some more forest and with the very last sun rays, I make it to my shelter, where it's back to my normal routine. Unpack, cook, eat and crawl into my sleeping bag as it gets uncomfortably cold quickly. Might not sound too attractive but I actually start enjoying this simple, lazy after hike lifestyle. Dolce far niente without feeling bad.
Lerkenfeld A Shelter to Viborg
It's a cold night. I don't sleep much. Not because I'm cold. My sleeping bag keeps me comfortably warm. It's the getting out of the sleeping bag that keeps me awake. I'm not feeling like getting out into the cold at all. I use my awake time to send a couchsurfing request for Viborg, where I should arrive this evening. A warm place and finally some social interaction sounds tempting. But I don't have much hope it will work out. It is 3 in the morning.
I try to fall asleep again. Without too much success. So eventually I find enough motivation to start into the day. As mentioned a while ago, I have a strict routine to get on the trail as efficiently and fast as possible. I get dressed as much as possible while still in the sleeping bag. Down jacket and watch it is today. All the other clothes I am already wearing. Then, still in the sleeping bag, I deflate my mattress. Once all the air is out I crawl out of the sleeping bag, stow it, the mattress and another sheet I use to protect my mattress in the backpack. Also some other stuff like batteries (which I keep in the sleeping bag as they hate the cold as much as I do) go into the backpack. Sandals on, a quick pit stop at the toilet, switch on the GPS tracker and off I am. 20 minutes or so.
Usually, as soon as I start walking I warm up quickly. Not so today. Maybe it's because I am tired, maybe it's because it really is really cold, maybe it's because it's all flat and I don't need a lot of effort. I don't know. Shorty past six, I have been walking for roughly an hour, I meet three Monday morning runners. They inspire me to try some slow, easy jogging to get a bit warmer. And it helps a tiny little bit. Why didn't I think of it earlier...?
Dawn is long so far up north and I can enjoy a spectacular burning sky for a while until the sun finally rises. Time for a break. I notice the water in my bottle is nearly completely frozen. So it is cold indeed. I'm happy I decided to put on three pairs of. Two on my feet, one over the gloves on my hands. Conveniently, there's a bakery right across the street. After being out in the cold for three hours, I think I deserve a little treat. The chocolate tart (I think that's what they call it) tastes excellent.
I'm about to continue, when a local approaches me. He is amazed that I am walking in sandals and calls me as tough as a Viking and offers me to grab a to-go coffee at home. I gladly agree.
Happy to hold something warm in my hand and having just had my first real conversation with a local, I continue.
Even though the low sun is not too strong, it sure makes a difference and walking gets quite pleasant. It's also when my Couchsurfing request gets accepted. What a nice, unexpected surprise. Knowing I will stay in a dry place tonight makes me fly along the rail trail until I leave it shortly before approaching Viborg. It's been a pleasure to walk on it. I certainly will miss it.
As my host won't be available until 18:00 I have some time to kill in Viborg. I install myself in the waiting room at the train station. Nice and warm in here and not too busy. I use the time to write the blog and plan the next couple of days. Hopefully with tonight's warm and dry place and some good conversation I can gain some well needed motivation.
Aggersund Shelter to Lerkenfeldt Å Shelter
*Apparently Day 102 didn't show (correctly) on my blog. It should be there now and ready to be read*
Rain made for a noise night in my tiny little shelter - a shelter with a door, which helped tremendously to keep the warmth in and the wet out.
By the time I'm about to leave it's mostly dry. Dry but cold as the wind changed from west to north. I struggle to get my body warm for most of the morning, while I'm following a disused railway track. I'll call it rail-trail. Walking couldn't be easier. It's a continuous gravel track. Wonderful to follow as it passes tiny forests, villages and plenty of farmland.
Today, though, it is not the view which keeps me going but rather the anticipation of food. After 5 days without resupplying it's time to feed my backpack and stomach in Aarse, a rather large town with plenty of shops. Aldi, Lidl, Netto,... I opt for Coop though as I assume as they have the brands I'm used to from Norway. Walking into the store it turns out I am right. Not necessarily a good thing, though. With an empty stomach and and all these familiar foods, I of course over-buy. I have a hard time fitting everything into my pack. Bread and chips remain in my hands for on-the-go-snacking. Initially, my plan was to stay in a shelter in Aarse for the night. However, it does not look to inviting so I continue along the rail-trail for another 7 kilometers or 1.5 hours, which I mainly spend snacking and admiring a fabulous sunset over the flat, endless Danish farmland.
I arrive at my shelter at dusk. No time to waste as I need to repack all the food I bought. Takes me a wee while. By the time I finish, it's pitch black and cold. And temperatures will continue drop below 0°C. Glad I have my warmer sleeping bag with me this time. After cooking some broccoli I slip into my sleeping bag. Something I was looking forward to as well. Finally time to relax. I spend the following hour reading a few pages of the book "Alert" I started yesterday. It's well written and so far incredibly captivating.
Now it's blog writing time, followed by some more food. Havre gryn, or porridge, is on the menu. Not that I am still hungry but I have to make space. So typical me...
Langdal Shelter to Aggersund Shelter
After yesterday's sunny day, a grey, dull day with on and off drizzle is awaiting me. Because of this not overly inviting weather as well as some well needed regeneration, I decide to keep my walk short today and tomorrow. Hence, there's no need for another early start and I leave my shelter during dawn. Opting for a short day usually keeps my motivation low. No difference today. So I don't mind it's a simple walk. Road and cycle paths all the way, easy navigation. Finally, for the first time, the wind is not affecting me any more. At least not until I cross the bridge over Limfjorden, where I get hammered by horizontal drizzle. It's only for a couple of minutes though and shortly after I check in at shelter number five. My watch says 13:13. Sound early but considering it will be dark in 3 hours it's nice to finally have some time to just relax, read and enjoy a hot cuppa tea with daylight. The last couple of days have mostly been hike - eat - sleep - repeat (and write the blog of course ;). Not that I mind but every now and then it's good to change this habit.
So what's my first impression of Denmark after leaving the beach? Considering winter is just around the corner and in combination with the dull weather everything sure looks depressing. However, I guess most countries do in this setting. Still, the landscape consisting of pine tree plantations, wetlands and plenty of farmland has the potential to look attractive. As the weather should improve again shortly, I am therefore looking forward to hiking through and enjoying the scenery in sunshine.
For the people: well, anyone but me seems to be out and about in this weather. So far, I haven't had a single conversation (of more than 3 words) with a person from Denmark as there is simply no one to talk to.
Doesn't bother me (yet ;). Sometimes I enjoy these quite times, too. Enough talking when I am back home again.
Kajholm Shelter to Langdal Shelter
A stormy night, poor sleep. So it doesn't really annoy when the alarm goes off at 04:00. I'm already wide awake anyway.
The moon is shining brightly, making wayfinding through the forest and back to the road a piece of cake. I follow the road for a couple of kilometers back to the beach for another night of beach hiking. Or that was the plan at least.
The closer I get to the beach, the stronger the wind. Once I get to the beach access ramp, I notice the sea coming all the way up to the dunes/cliff. Even though the tide is going out, following the beach would be a bit of a suicidal mission. So I go for the safe option and follow the road, for 15 kilometers running more or less parallel, a couple of kilometers inland.
By the time I get to the beach, the sun has risen. With the tide completely out, walking on the hard, wide beach is easy - if it wasn't for the strong 40 to 50 knots wind (80 to 90 km/h), which is slowly changing from a cross into a head wind. Still, I am feeling much more energetic than yesterday. Slowly, I think, I am getting back into the Thru-hiking routine.
The last 5 kilometers where a real struggle though. The breeze stiffer than ever and the sand getting soft, I have to force myself to keep going, as I am unable to exit the beach due to a stupid military firing range. Exhausted (but also somehow happy) I am finally turning my back to the sea, heading inland. 100 kilometers of beach walking. Remote, wild, beautiful and challenging. A bit like 90 Miles Beach on Te Araroa. I'll definitively remember the last 3 days for a while.
Heading inland means I finally can enjoy a bit of tailwind. Amazing what an impact the wind direction has. Still, despite the wind pushing me towards my shelter, I start feeling tired. Therefore, I am relieved to spot my shelter in a pine forest plantation. Simple but a dry roof over my head. I can't ask for more.
Østerklit Shelter to Kajholm Shelter
I went to bed early last night so by 4:30 this morning I am already wide awake. Not a bad thing as I have a long day ahead of me. Packing goes much better than yesterday so by 05:00 I hit the beach. For the first time on a through hike, I hike along a beach during night time. It feels special, a bit eerie even at first with the dunes on my left, the sea on my right. I can't really make out neither of them in the dark. Two river crossings add a bit of spice. One seems to tricky to ford at night and I decide to head inland, where there luckily is a bridge not too far away.
Eventually, dawn arrives. Shortly after I pass through the depressingly looking town of Hirtshals - not without getting lost...
Then it's back to the beach. Rain starts, getting heavier towards noon. In combination with the constant wind a pain. My mood reaches today's low. Was it really a wise decision to continue E1 in November?
Anyway, let's not think too much about it. It only makes it worse. Eventually I have to leave the beach as the government is desperately trying to stop erosion and save houses by putting massive rocks on the beach. They look terrible but I hope it helps at least.
After passing Lonstrup, the dunes are getting higher - huge! They remind me of the Giant Sand Dunes in New Zealand. It's a beautiful walk. The rain stopped, leaving only the wind. Which nearly blows me away on the dunes. Doesn't matter, if I fall, I land softly. I thoroughly enjoy my time in the dunes. Definitely a mood booster!
From the dunes it's only a short walk to my overnight place - a shelter in a pine forest.
A long day - especially since it was mostly beach walking, which I find hard on my body. Time to relax and recover for tomorrow.
Grenen to Østerklit Shelter
Distance: 30km (plus 10km to the trailhead)
8 hours sleep without waking up one single time. I must have been extremely tired yesterday.
Well rested I get ready for my day. It's taking me a bit longer than usual. Out of practice.
Eventually, I set off into the night, initially back the same way I arrived from yesterday. Then through the sleepy town of Skagen and onwards to Grenen, which more or less marks Denmarks's northernmost point. By the time I get there, the sky has gotten brighter. It's so windy and rainy, I keep the compulsory photo session as short as possible.
Once done, I hit the beach. Deserted, as expected. Plenty of birds and some seals.
I follow the coast for the rest of the day. A typical beach walk. Sometimes sandy, sometimes pebbly (not that often luckily), sometimes wide, sometimes narrow. Only the wind remains. Not with rain anymore but with sun. A welcome change.
With around 8 hours of daylight, there's not much room. So I keep on walking more or less without a break.
As I get closer to my shelter, I want to make a short detour via a small village/campground to fill up my water bottles. However, with toilets locked and all the water tabs in the campground turned off for winter, I continue - knowing that it will be a dry camp, no cooking, tonight.
The camp or shelter, which I reach with sunset (at 16:00) are beautifully located at the edge of a pine forest, overlooking a wide field, an ancient mill and the sea behind. Out of curiosity I check out the mill. Light is burning inside so I try to open door. Unlocked. I venture into the mill. I don't care too much about the milling stuff but rather am delighted to find a toilet and running water. No dry camp tonight at last.
Still, I need to be more careful with the water. At least as long as I follow the beach, which I will do for another two days.
But for now, I'm looking forward to my warm porridge, steaming nicely right next to me.
22 hours, 6 different trains. It's been an exhausting journey. Hence I will keep it short and sweet today.
Yes, it was long trip but luckily all trains were never really busy, especially as I got further north.
Speaking of the north: Skagen is on approximately the same latitude as Göteborg, which lies a couple of kilometers to my east. I never really realized how far north I'd resume my hike until today. It took me 7 hours from the German border up to the top of Denmark and the intercity trains weren't exactly slow.
Quite a distance to walk back. I roughly measured 500 to 600 kilometers while killing time in the train. It will take me a wee while.
But let me worry about it tomorrow. Today, I am happy to have found my shelter in the middle of a pitch black forest.
Being so far north, the days are short. It gets bright at 8am, dark at 4pm. So once I finally step out of the last train at 5pm, I step right into darkness.
While my mood and motivation in the train were, like last summer in Norway, low, they immediately get a boost once I spot the shelter (GPS saved my day ;) as it brings back many good summer memories.
It's only 7:15pm but I am already fully ready to sleep. The journey surely has taken its toll. No more trains tomorrow. I sure won't miss them but might dream of them tonight.
When I finished section two of my E1 adventure in Smygehuk last September, I was certain that I wouldn't be back in Scandinavia until next summer to resume my hike.
Well, at that point I didn't know that my boss would come around the corner a couple of weeks later, and force me to get rid of my remaining overtime (which I was hoping to use for next year).
As any discussion is pointless I start tweaking our shift plan to get some days off. Luckily there's a lot of slack in it, allowing me to take a couple of days off in a row.
This poses the question: what should I do with my unexpected free time?
I fire up Google, searching for things or rather trails to do. I stumble across El Camino de Costa Rica, GR131 on the Canary Island, the Fishermen Trail in Portugal. While they certainly sound interesting, none of them completely convince me. And it's a bit like shopping for a new jacket: if you look at it in the store and are not convinced it's perfect, don't pull the trigger. You will hardly ever wear it. Or in my case I probably wouldn't enjoy the trip or hike as much as I'd hope.
So I keep on looking for other options until I come up with the idea to continue E1 in Denmark. Scandinavia in November? I quickly reject the thought. Too cold, too wet. But when my dad Fredy comes up with the same idea, I give it a second thought.
Yes, it's probably cold, yes, it's probably gonna rain more often than not. But then again, Denmark has a dense network of vindskydds (or shelterplads as they call them), which would offer me a dry place to sleep most of the time. And it's flat, easy walking. While bad weather might not be super pleasant to walk in, it shouldn't delay me too much.
And most important thing: continuing E1 would be something meaningful, purposefull. Something the other options were lacking. The idea to head to Denmark is growing on me quickly and starts making perfect sense.
Without dwelling on the subject for much longer, I buy a surprisingly affordable train ticket. All the way to Skagen, Denmark's northernmost town.
As the departure day is less than a week away, I can't afford to waste too much time and start planning and organizing more or less straight away.
As I am not following E1 straight from the start I need to plot a route. Luckily, I soon discover there are existing trails already and all I have to do is somehow connect them.
The route I come up with initially takes me along the North Sea Trail and the west coast before I join the Hærvejen or Ox Road, which leads away from the coast and will reunite me with E1 somewhere halfway between Skagen and the German border.
Resupply is straight forward as should be wayfinding and navigation in general.
Fast forward... Writing these lines I'm sitting in a intercity overnight train, somewhere between Zürich and Hamburg. A 12 hour ride. Plenty of time to finish up my preparation. However, there's really not much to plan or do anymore once I have finished this blog entry. I'll try to get some sleep even though I'm not overly optimistic that will work. Luckily I have a book lying next to me, ready to be read.
In Hamburg, I will have an hour to stretch my legs before I hop into another train for another 10 hours. ETA in Skagen: 1700 tomorrow evening.
It's a lot of sitting indeed. But all that sitting around will certainly guarantee a highly motivated me to hit the trail on Wednesday.
55 days, a bit more than 2000 kilometers. All in sandals once more. That is section two of my E1 adventure in a nutshell. Distance wise more, time wise less than I was expecting.
How come? Well, while the first three weeks are basically a continuation from last year, with plenty of pathless sections in rather mountainous terrain. At times navigation is challenging, especially during adverse weather conditions. Progress is good but 40 to 50 kilometer days are not really possible. The terrain soon gets flatter, completely different. The skiing town of Sälen, in fact, marks that very clear border, where I dive from mountains into the forest. Gone are the sweeping views, the river crossings, the exposure to the elements. The change is sudden. It takes me a while to get I used to the different environment.
More road walk follows, my pace as a result getting higher, I don't need to take anymore rest days. Walking in the forest becomes like a blur. I can't recall each single day. They all are simply too similar. The vindskydds, a wonderful discovery, are becoming the highlight and motivation of my days. Usually located near a lake, I spend many night in them. Sheltered from the elements. I love them, have them mostly for myself.
Without really noticing it, I am approaching Halmstad with big steps. It's only after Göteborg, still hiking in the forest, when I realize that I am actually really close to the finishing line. I don't feel like finishing though. It just doesn't feel right. If I finish now, all I remember is forest. And the location of Halmstad is bugging me a bit too. Somewhere along the coast. Nothing special about it.
But what can I do? Continuing south? I've got the time, I've got the energy. However, I just have to leave the forest, the ticks as soon as possible. So heading down south in the middle of Sweden is not sounding appealing at all as it's mostly through forest. It's only when I meet Julia, who draws my attention to Skåneleden, a coastal trail starting just south of Halmstad and following the coast for roughly 300 kilometers all the way to the south.
The discovery of the trail makes the decision to continue easy. It would add an additional element to my hike: the coast, something that I, as a landlocked Swiss, love. And it does not disappoint: Open views, plenty of beaches and seaside towns in warm late summer weather on nice trails are accompanying on my last week along the coast. It were these things I was missing and so, as getting closer to Smygehuk, I start feeling ready to finish this summer's hike at Sweden's southernmost point, where I arrive at exactly 100 trail days after starting in Nordkapp in 2020.
Having crossed the Scandinavian peninsula all the way from top to bottom feels great, better or how should I say, a bit more epic than crossing it from Nordkapp to Halmstad as I initially planned.
Yes, there was a lot of forest. Yes, there was a lot of road. While plenty of stretches might not have been as spectacular (or, let's be honest, as boring) as part one up there in the far north, it has still been a wonderful journey. Mostly great, warm weather, plenty of lakes to swim in, the fishing villages and beaches. And the vindskydds too, my personal highlights. And of course the locals, which were always friendly and helpful and sometimes went out of their way to assist me. It's the people that give my hike that special extra. In Norway as well as Sweden.
Speaking of these countries: which one do I prefer (I'm don't put Finland into this evaluation as I only spent 3 days hiking there)?
It's clearly Norway. It set the expectations for Sweden so high, leaving Sweden with basically no chance. On the one hand it's the open, more breathtaking landscape. The midnight sun. The clear, blue lakes, whos water you can drink with no need to worry. Towns and road are few and far between, which lead to that wonderful feeling of remoteness - solitude (out of 3500km I walked 3490 by myself as there wasn't anyone to hike with). A feeling that I somehow lost in the Swedish forests. I had to be careful that it didn't turn into loneliness. There were more people but at times I found it hard to connect with them. Something I never encountered in Norway, where I consider the people as more open. Many times I was told that people in the north are open, friendlier. And I can definitely agree.
So what now? Good question! It's been roughly a week since I arrived in Smygehuk. I teamed up with Julia and continued on Skåneleden for 80 kilometers. It felt good to walk with some company. Now I'm on my way north again. The Koster Islands to be precise. I spotted it on the map during one of these long, bright nights up north and I thought I have to visit them. It's the only thing I planned on doing after my hike. Everything else, I will simply let it happen. I will see where my travels take me until I have to return to Switzerland in early October.
Last but not least some stats for the first 100 days to be taken with a grain of salt:
Torup to Smygehuk
Saxtopsdammen to Torup
Rydebäck to Saxtopsdammen
Josefinelust to Rydebäck
Torekov to Josefinelust
Trönninge Beach to Torekov
Vessigebro to Trönninge Beach
Gällarpesjön to Vessigebro
Stora Hornsjön to Gällarpesjön
Hjälm to Stora Hornsjön
Norra Langvattnet to Hjälm
Stora Härsjön to Langvattnet
Abborrsjön to St Härsjön
Borås to Abborrsjön
Raska Minas to Borås
Jogen to Raska Minas
Södra Kroksjön to Jogen
Vitsjön to Södra Kroksjön
Röåsjön to Vitsjön
Stora Djäknasjön to Röåsjön Vindskydd
Kråksjön to Stora Djäknasjön
Södra Holmsjön to Kråksjön
Göljan to Södra Holmsjön
Storsjön to Göljan
Stjernfors to Storsjön
I sleep like a baby. It's windy and the waves from the lake are calming.
Yet, I wake up just past four in the morning for an early start. The way I like it.
E1 in Sweden: every day is a surprise. You never know how the trail is gonna be. Today: wet and overgrown. Slightly annoying to walk. It's a rewarding morning walk though as the views from Mackarsberg are fabulous. I have an early break, soaking up the scenery. There really aren't that many sweeping views anymore. Once I have enjoyed enough, I continue. After following the trail for a wee bit longer, I opt for a shortcut along a gravel road, as the trail is meandering east and west through forest. As much as I want to hike the complete Bergslagsleden, which is a part of E1, it's just too much detour at times. Even though I have enough time for all this meandering , the urge to head south is strong. Extremely strong.
Before noon, I rejoin the trail, which now leads me through farmland. A very welcoming change and, if it wasn't for the red houses, reminds me of home. While stopping for my lunch break, I head, like so often, straight into my midday crisis. Usually 20 to 30km hiked and nearly as much still to go, when your body is already tired. Not too motivating, really.
Anyway, I usually get my act together quickly. No difference today and so I am off again. 18 kilometers to go.
They are relatively easy kilometers. Plenty of blueberries to keep my stomach happy, a dry, well formed track. Initially along ATV and farming tracks then forest and eventually some boardwalk, before I reach Storsjön, my destination.
Another lovely vindskydd. Right by a tarn, just me and even an open shed with firewood.
Before settling in, I cut some not very dry wood, make a fire. Not easy. After a difficult, smokey start (I'm gonna smell like a smoked sausage tomorrow), it's burning surprisingly well.
A fire at the end of a day is something I really enjoy. Somehow rounds up the day nicely. No different today.
Before the now slowly dying but still warming fire, I'm typing these lines. Life is good.
Nothussundet to Stjernfors
Smedjebacken to Nothussundet
Spansfäbodarna to Smedjebacken
Gradbodarna to Spansfäbodarna
Brasjön to Gradbodarna
Södra Garberg to Brasjön
Sundetkojan to Södra Garberg
Sälen (Vindfallen) to Sundetkojan
Sleeping in, relaxing, eating, fixing one of my sandal's sole and a tent pole and buying food for my next 6 days stretch to Mockfjärd. So just the usual stuff I do on a Zero Day.
Östfjällsstugan to Sälen Lindvallen
Tangasdal to Granfjellssätern
Stupsjön to Id-Persätern
Revlingsjoane to Stupsjön
Langtjonnbua to Revlingsjoane
Roros to Langtjonnbua
Stormolinga to Sjobakken (Roros)
Litlvola to Stormolinga
Distance: 30 kilometers
No wind, no river, no birds. The night is eerily quiet, the sleep quite okay.
As mentioned yesterday: I'm in no rush at all. If I cover 30 kilometers today, that's more than enough. So it's a lazy start into my hiking day, following up nice trail towards Kjolihytta. Dispite being overcast, the visibility is good enough to enjoy the view. Ahead and slightly to the left I can spot Storskarven, where I am to pass by in a couple of hours.
Yesterday, while going through the trail notes, I discovered that there will be another unmarked route today! The E1 GPX track, which floats around the internet and which I use as guideline, deviates from the trail note, makes a far, unnecessary detour. So I entered some reference points from the trail note myself, making way finding easier.
Even without my entered markers, I find my way easily. You can't go wrong. Follow a lake, skirt around a mountain and then through a gap between two other mountains. Easy. Especially with the now magnificent views and even some sunshine.
Terrain is a bit rough in the beginning but pretty smooth on the way down, from where I follow a dirt track to a gravel road. 15:00 and 30 kilometers done. I pitch my tent right next to the road, spending the afternoon with reading and planning - dolce far niente.
No use in going any further. Tomorrow's distance will hardly be 20 kilometers. Mostly on roads. Quick thing.
A short outlook: Monday morning I will head into Roros, do a little bit of sightseeing (I was told it's a pretty little mining town), shopping, charging batteries, then hike some more, maybe 15 kilometers out of town. My backpack will be heavy as I will carry 8 to 9 days of food - hopefully be enough for the 270 kilometers to Sälen. I won't be carrying y too much extra food this time. Should I run out of food, roads are never too far away, from where I could hitch towards food.
Fiskahogda to Litlvola
Thick fog is engulfing the hut when I head out to take my morning leak, careful not to let the hut get out of sight. That would be a shitty start into the day if I would not find back.
While out there I notice that it's considerably colder than yesterday. A typical autumn morning. After yesterday's long, fast hike I feel a bit rusty and my motivation to leave the hut is not what I would call high. Anyway, eventually I make it out of the hut. As the hut is about 2 kilometers off trail and I want to short cut back to it, I decide to go off trail. Terrain is easy but navigation with basically zero visibility is tricky. Mr GPS saves the day again. After a few hundred meters I join a reindeer fence I follow and which takes me back to the original, mostly boardwalked trail. At the end of that track, I pass a massive hut complex, before hitting the road to Stugudal. It's a miserable walk. Wind, fog, cold. Simply miserable and I can't wait for it to end. I left my gloves deep down in my backpack too. I could punch myself for doing that. I should know better.
12 kilometers later, I finally arrive in Stugudal. I head into the supermarket. Not mainly to buy something but rather to warm up. 20 degrees colder within one day. My body got definitely taken off guard.
The warm up helped and an hour later I am on the road again, which I am happy to leave after 4 kilometers as traffic gets heavier. From there it's a short (but steep) climb to Litlvola. The first time I'm not cold. It took a while. It's already 16:00 and after the previous long day I decide to call it a day. No need to rush anyway. It's only 60 kilometers to Roros. Too much for one day, but easy to hike in two days.
Speaking of Roros, there's hardly any accommodation left when I checked a couple of minutes ago. At least nothing affordable. I know, chances are subzero. However I try anyway: if there is, by any chance, a Roros person reading this blog, would you have 4 square meters of your lawn to spare for my tent? 😂 It would be highly appreciated!
Oian Airport to Fiskahogda
Ferslia to Oian Airfield
I didn't end up meeting my friends yesterday. So I pitched my tent high above a tranquil river.
Bustadtjonna to Ferslia
Skjaekervatnet to Bustadtjonna
The thunderstorm remained well south. So no problem there. It was a hot night though, without much sleep. At 04:00 I start packing, while the red sun is rising behind the mountains. Being so far north, sunrise and sunset take much longer than close to the equator. By the time the sun is fully up, I'm ready to hit the trail. What should I say? It is along marked trails, but still tough going. Not only wet, but also increasingly muddy. Some randomly placed boardwalks drastically improve the overall hiking experience. They vanish as unexpectedly as they appeard out of nowhere.
As the day goes by, temperatures get uncomfortably high. I'd estimate them to be just shy of 30 degrees Celsius. Luckily there are plenty of lakes and more than once I have a quick swim. Such a fantastic way to beat the heat. Also the constantly wet feet help to cool down.
It's been a long day on the trail. My legs are aching from the difficult terrain. Therefore, I am more than relieved when my intended camp spot is no swamp. In fact it's a sweet little spot overlooking the lake. A great treat after a exhausting day hiking.