New year - same shit. Not exactly the words I was hoping to start with. However, the once more extremely uncertain Corona situation made planning challenging. Not knowing if I can fly to Norway or not had an adverse effect on my motivation. You might say I should stand above something like this. Should... Absolutely. It was easier said than done.
Yet, it ain't all that bad! Last year I arrived here in Scandinavia as a stranger. As someone, who didn't know anyone, didn't know the landscape. I had no idea what to expect. This season, more or less exactly 9 months after finishing section one, I arrive in Scandinavia with the the comforting feeling of knowing and understanding this spectacular region a bit better. During section one, I made friends, got to know the the irks and quirks of the nature. So I despite all the things happing outside of my control, I eventually couldn't wait to plan and luckily hike section two.
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 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.
From Skorovatn to Røros, E1 continues to be remote and challenging to navigate as there are plenty of streches without any markings and/or visible tracks. The somewhat offical trail notes, good maps and GPS are supporting me to plot a suitable route through the wilderness. Again, step, technical parts are few and far between. Yet, plenty of river crossings add a bit of spiciness epecially after the rain that I had in the beginning.
The landscape remains mountainous and sparse after Røros until Sälen, which is already well within Sweden. Especially, a stretch between Røros and the border is particularly rocky and made for one of my hardest days.
As mentionned above, Sälen marks a big change in E1. The trail gets less exposed, remote and flatter. River crossings are mostly gone and resupplying is easier. A water filter might come handy as water doesn't look as pure anymore as further north. Expect a lot of forest, ticks and road walk until Halmstad. It's possible to spend pretty much all nights in Vindskydds (shelters, usually conveniently located near lakes), are making the use of a tent redundant.
The part from Halmstad to Smygehuk along the Kattegat Sea is your typical coastal walk. Beach walks, some headlands, picturesque seaside towns and fishing villages. Plenty of bathing possibilites with some of them even having Vindskydds. After a bit of inland walking through the flat farmland of the southernmost part of Sweden, it's only a couple of kilometers along the coast to Smyhehuk.