Section 1: The Far North
Covid-19 gave me a bit of a headache planning Section 1 of this trip. Not knowing if I can go ahead with my trip had a noticeable (negative) effect on my motivation to plan the hike. End of June, when Norway decided to open its borders for some European countries mid-July, I went ahead and booked my flights to the far north, even though at that point it wasn't clear yet, for which citizens Norway would grant entry for tourist purposes.
Then finally, on July 10th, 2021, less than two weeks before my scheduled departure day, the long-awaited news: Norway will open up for Swiss citizens!
Some well needed positive news, which boosted my motivation. High time to finish the planning!
Despite now stepping on the gas, this time planning won't be as thoroughly as during my previous hikes. While I plotted the route and with the help of this semi-official (?) website, created a spreadsheet with distances, resupply points and accommodation, I don't exactly know what surprises the trail will hold for me (which makes my hike even more exciting!). Still, I got all the gear sorted and I'm positive my body is physically capable of doing the trail.
To summarize: not perfectly but adequately prepared for the hike.
A hike, which will be challenging. Mainly because its remote nature. Towns or settlements are few and far between in northern Scandinavia, which means carrying lots of food. The longest stretch will roughly be 300km with nothing but some huts in between, which might or might not offer some basic resupply options. Ergo my legs need to carry around two weeks’ worth of food. To make this slightly more bearable I opt to leave my heavy full frame camera behind and instead go for a semi-professional compact camera. From what I've learnt so far from my new toy, I'm of good cheer to snap some great photos of the hopefully spectacular landscape which I'm looking forward to showing you on my website.
Huts in Norway are scattered all over the place. However, they are rather pricey to sleep at, except for some small, free shelters. Therefore, the tent is where I will spend most of my nights, maybe a hut occasionally should the weather be throwing its worst at me.
Speaking of weather: This will probably be the most challenging thing. Being well north of the Arctic Circle the weather can be harsh - even mid-summer. Snow and high rivers can slow down or even prevent progress. However, who said it's going to be a walk in the park...
While my initial plan was to hitchhike all the way up to the Cape, I quickly scrapped this idea, when Corona made its appearance in Europe. The chance of drivers picking me, a wild looking, bearded fellow up, would sink from small to sub-zero. Hence, as mentioned before, I'll fly into Alta, stock up on food and gas there before heading to the Cape. Well, I'll still try my luck hitching as I love doing it but could easily catch a bus, should the need arrive. On the way I hope to drop a food package in Olderfjord, to pick it when I pass by on my way south.
Section 2: Midt-Norge and Sweden
New year - same shit. Not exactly the words I was hoping to continue my blog with. However, the once more extremely uncertain Corona situation makes planning challenging. Not knowing if I can fly to Norway or not has an adverse effect on my motivation. Obviously, you might say I should stand above something like this. It’s easier said than done.
Anyway, eventually I have to start planning. In fact, it’s high time when I finally find the motivation to book my flights (which get cancelled and rebooked several times), go through the trail notes (which are not many because they stop once I cross into Sweden) and get my gear ready. All this despite not knowing if Norway will open its borders by mid-July.
If everything works out as planned, I’m flying to Oslo on the 20th of July, where I have to get, time permitting, a gas canister (which I can’t carry in the plane) and then board a night train to Lassemoen (because of my late booking flights to Trondheim, which would be considerably closer, are prohibitively expensive). After completing the 12-hour train ride, it’s a short hitch to Skorovatn, where I finished my hike last year.
The first 250 kilometres will, as it currently looks like, be the most challenging ones. Basically no visible path and no markings. Similar to Børgefjell National Park last year. From there it will be easier hiking. Flatter, marked trails and open areas will eventually give way to forest. Less views but more sheltered. Which I don’t mind, especially since I plan to hike well into October.
Besides the remoteness, river crossings and challenging navigation of the first part of the trail (Norway), the second part I have to keep an eye out for wolves and bears. However, after talking to many locals last year, it seems like these animals are rather shy and I would be more than lucky to actually spot them. Still, I will take the usual precautions like not leaving food lying around my tent etc.
My goal is the southern terminus of E1, which is either Varlberg or Halmstad (depending, which website you take as reference) or around 2000km.
Section 2.5: Denmark
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.
Section 3: Germany
Back on track: After deviating slightly from the official E1 route in Skane, Sweden and the northern part of Denmark, I intend to follow E1 more or less exactly all the way to the Swiss
border. Roundabout 2000km.
Resuming my hike in Flensburg, I will initially follow the Kiel Bugt past Kiel to Lübeck, where I will leave the sea and head inland to Hamburg. From there, E1 takes me south, skirting around Hannover and through the Sauerland into Frankfurt. Still on a more or less southerly heading, I'll cross the Black Forest. Shortly before reaching Basel, E1 makes a sharp, eastbound turn towards the direction of Lake Constance, where I will cross the border into Switzerland.
For the 2000km I budget 2 months. Average of 33km a day. Ambitious but absolutely doable as I crossed Scandinavia with a higher daily average on more undulating and challenging trails. If all works out as planned, I intend to hit the trail in the end of May, making use of long days and hopefully not to high temperatures. Unlike in Scandinavia, left over snow won't be a problem this time.
While Scandinavia required its fair share of planning, especially regarding food resupply and naviagtion, the hike across Germany should be straigh-tforward in this regard. According from what I have read and heard, the trail is adequatly marked with plenty of possibilities to stock up on food. Yet, what I see as a challenge is finding suitable places to pitch my tent. The "Everyman's right", which is a beatuful thing that allows you to pitch your tent litterally everywhere you want, does unfortunately not apply to Germany. Apparently they are rather strict when it comes to freedom camping with only bivvying being tolerated here and there, which might be a possiblity if the weather is on my side. Otherwise, I'll try my best not to get caught in my tent.