Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Day 13: Crossing the Arctic Circle!

August 28: It started to sprinkle about 2:00 in the morning which thrilled me to death. The weather forecast predicted rain, but that it wouldn't start for a couple of more hours then linger until a little after noon. I hoped the storm was blowing in faster than expected which meant it would pass by and finish sooner than expected. Preferably, while I was still tucked warm and snug in my sleeping bag under my tarp. =)

Checking out the rain situation from under my tarp. *nodding*

When the sun did rise, Karolina and I were in no hurry to get up since we were stranded on the shore of Lake Riebnus waiting until the 10:00 charter boat was ready to take us across. The rain finally let up by around 9:00, and we quickly broke down camp at about 9:30, just in time to miss the last of the rain and catch the 10:00 boat. It worked out well!

We shared the boat with two guys from the Czech Republic who had arrived at the shore late the night before, hiking in with headlamps.

The boat ride was fast and therefore the windchill was cold, and about 15 minutes later we arrived on the other side of the shore where we paid for our trip across.

Karolina and the two Czech guys on the boat across the lake.

Me (not looking especially happy with the cold!) and the boat driver.
 For the first few hours of our hike, our topo map led us to believe that the trail was flat--but the going was slow with all the roots, mud and water on the trail. It wasn't until we climbed out of the trees to a high plateau when the trail became a lot faster and easier--but a few sprinkles came out late in the day to nail us. What's with all the rain in Sweden?! Argh!

In the afternoon, we crossed the Arctic Circle. You'd have expected there to be a sign or something to mark such an important arbitrary line in the ground, but this was the line that marked the land of the midnight sun. Not that we'd get a midnight sun--unless you're here on the summer solstice, you'll miss it and it was well past then! The further into the arctic one traveled, the longer the midnight sun would last.... but we were still too late for it. We were just hoping to beat winter before it settled in because this was also the land of the noontime moon! Not that we planned to hang around on the trail until there was 24 hours of darkness, but daylight was diminishing at a remarkable rate--we were losing well over an hour of daylight every week.

We made our own line in the ground representing the Arctic Circle since there was nothing readily obvious actually on the ground.

Using our topo map, we tried to figure out exactly where the Arctic Circle crossed the trail then created our own line on a piece of scrap paper with our feet next to it for a photo op. About 100 yards further up the trail, we found a very homemade-looking sign hung on a tree supposedly marking the Arctic Circle. We never pulled out our phones to check our accuracy--the land all around the area looked more-or-less the same and if we were off by a hundred yards one way or another, it didn't really matter. But if our topo map was accurate, I think we did our photo op a little bit north of the Arctic Circle--in a location out in the open which had better light for taking photos. The homemade-looking sign we found was even further north, however, and I felt pretty confident that it wasn't in the correct location--maybe 200 yards too far to the north. But, of course, that's dependent on our topo map being highly accurate.

But still, we stopped to take photos with the sign that looked like someone carved into a piece of wood while sitting in camp around a campfire.

This "Arctic Circle" sign looks very homemade and unofficial--and we were pretty certain that it wasn't even located in the correct place!

The day was mostly depressing, dark and gloomy, so our excitement about entering the arctic gave us a moral boost.

Late in the day, we crossed a few broken bridges across creeks. We went around the broken bridges, but at one of them I slipped and fell into ankle-deep water. Splash! I got up, cussing at the rain, water and broken bridges. I wasn't hurt, but it made me frustrated and angry. Karolina wished she was fast enough to get a photo of my plight or, even better, a video of the fall but alas, there is no photo or video evidence of the fall.

My feet were soaked completely through, like dunking them into a bathtub, and the side of me that fell into the water was wet from my torso to my feet. My arms caught me from submerging my head and shoulders in the water.

It was late in the afternoon now, and I was wet, tired and cranky and just wanted to find a place to camp. We kept our eyes open for options, but everything was just so exposed to the elements which was less than ideal with all the rain and wind.

Finally, we settled on spot which had a small, nearby hill that served as a less-than-ideal windbreak and put up camp.

This was the broken bridge I was trying to get around when I slipped and fell into the ankle-deep water. Argh!

Both Karolina and I had purchased some of those freeze-dried meals while in town. They aren't my favorite because they're typically ridiculously expensive, but they're relatively fast and easy to cook and require no cleanup. Fast and easy sounded good to me this evening, though. I didn't want to cook my usual mac 'n' cheese or Hamburger Helper-style meals which take a lot longer and are a lot messier. Nope, for this meal, all we needed was boiling water.

And since that's all both of us needed, Karolina asked if I would boil enough for the both of us. I agreed to do so, and while I was working on boiling water--and during a short pause in the rain--she collected blueberries for the both of us. I'd sprinkle my share of them on my cereal in the morning.

She came back about 15 minutes later loaded down with an astonishing number of blueberries. How she could pick so many so quickly amazed me. We poured the boiling water into the dinner packages and waited several minutes for the meal to hydrate before eating them. And after we were done, we crumbled up the packaging and added it to our trash. Cleanup was done!

Then we wrote in our journals, read books and practiced a bit of Polish before getting in our sleeping bags and calling it a night.

Arriving at the other side of Lake Riebnes. When we arrived, two southbound hikers needed to cross the lake so they're now loading up into the boat for the trip back to the other side. The guy on the shore is one of the Czechs that traveled to this side with us.

Lots of broken bridges today!

This is a giant ant hill!

During a snack break, I threw out my tarp to help it dry from the rain the night before.
Karolina yawns, taking the rain in stride.

I'm just trying to stay warm. It's not only raining, it's a cold rain!
Reindeer. Of course... that's why it's raining. *sigh*

And another broken bridge....

This is an old Sami hut which we thought, hey! Maybe we can escape the rain in there? But it was cramped, cold and dark inside and decided that we'd be better off outside instead. The weather was bad, but it wasn't that bad! Not yet, at least....

And now some videos.... Here is the boat as it approached the end of our journey.

This is Karolina getting around the broken bridge.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Day 12: Boats, boats and more boats!

August 27: Karolina and I woke up to a beautiful morning! She cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast for the both of us again--twice in two days, now. I was feeling spoiled! =)

Then it was time to do some town chores. We picked up our laundry which had dried during the night, but the main thing we needed to do was grocery shopping. We needed food to last us five days to our next resupply point.

In fact, we had to buy food that would pretty much last us until the end of the trail. We had shipped two mail drops ahead on the trail with food, but this was the last real grocery store we'd see until we hit the end of the trail.

So I bought about a week's worth of food and my pack was heavy. Between that and carrying a laptop, I wouldn't have been surprised if my pack weighed 60 pounds.

The next section of trail was going to throw something new at us: boats! The trail passes over a few lakes that require a boat to get over. Some of them have rowboats stationed at them so hikers can row themselves across while others have ferries and--for a fee--will motor you across. And some lakes have both.

Today, our first lake crossing would require rowing about a half kilometer, then at the end of the day we'd reach a lake that required a motorboat since no rowboats would be available, so we scheduled our day around the motorboat. It would pick up hikers twice a day, at 10:00am and 6:00pm. We'd never get there in time for the 10:00am boat, but we could totally make it to the 6:00pm ferry.

At least, we thought we could. Karolina examined the maps and announced it was about 11km away. It wasn't until we were a couple of hours into the day's walk that we realized she had misunderstood the scale on the map and that the lake crossing was closer to 20 kilometers away. We might still have been able to reach the boat in time if we rushed, but neither of us felt like rushing. Our plan was to camp by the lake's shore--one side or the other. It would have been nice to get it out of the way today, but it wasn't a problem if we didn't.

Anyhow, that wasn't a concern for us. Not for the time being, at least. We'll cross that lake when we get to it. =)

Karolina checks out some moose poop--because she finds poop fascinating. =)

The trail stayed mostly flat at first, following the shoreline of a large lake. It zigged here and zagged there, then passed by some sort of water control structure linking two lakes before entering the woods and dumping us out at the shore of another lake.

When we went uphill, my thighs were burning with exhaustion, and I knew it was because my pack was too heavy. I'll get a lot of aches and pains during a thru-hike, but it's unusual for my legs to get tired. It's probably the strongest and most-used muscles in my body! Karolina seemed to think it was funny--some sort of cosmic payback for always making backpacking look so easy. *shaking head*

We missed a turn and ended up at a shore with no boats. After wandering around a bit, we realized our mistake then headed up the correct trail to another shore where we found a guy about to push off across the lake. He heard us coming up the trail and delayed his departure in case we needed to cross as well for which we were very grateful!

The reason we were so grateful is because there are (usually) three boats involved. There's supposed to be at least one on each side of the crossing so hikers in either direction can cross, then there's a third boat which can be on either side and insures that there is always at least one boat on each side.

So, for example, if we arrived and there was only one boat on our side, we'd have to row it to the other side, pick up a boat to tow back to this side, then cross a third time to get back to the other side and leave the crossing with at least one boat on each side.

If we arrive and there are already two boats on our side, however, it's much less work. We just take a boat, row across, and we're done.

For some unknown reason, this particular crossing had four boats--but only two of them were on our side and had our friend paddled off without us, we'd have been stuck with just one boat on our side and would need to row across three times instead of just once.

We made introductions and learned that the hiker was from Germany. We piled into the rowboat and he started paddling. Being a novelty, though, we all took turns at the helm, paddling for 5 to 10 minutes before switching off to another person.

Our new German friend, whose name I have long since forgotten. =)

We made a note of the time it took us to cross so we'd have a better idea of how long future lake crossings would take, and we took about 20 minutes to cross the half kilometer channel. The paddling was difficult and awkward--none of us were used to it--but I think we improved even in the short time we spent paddling. The rowboats might have been for rowing, but they weren't particularly sleek or efficient in their design.

Finally arriving on the other shore, our new German friend continued on hoping to catch the 6:00pm motorboat at the next lake. We told him that we'd probably miss it, but if he can convince the boat driver to hang out for awhile, we'd get there eventually. (We didn't think for a minute that a boat driver was going to sit around for an hour or two waiting for us, however. It was mostly meant in jest!)

We took a short snack break before continuing on. The weather was beautiful and the rest of the day's hike had plenty of great views but was otherwise uneventful.

We arrived at Riebnes Lake at around 6:30 so we missed the motorboat, but not by as much as we had guessed that we would. A couple of people had already set up camp near the shoreline. We figured they had probably come across on the 6:00 boat then set up camp--which is initially what we planned to do in the other direction. Our German rowing buddy was nowhere to be seen so he had clearly caught the motorboat on time.

But it was official. We were stuck on this side of the lake until 10:00am tomorrow. Time to set up camp!

We chose a site with a view of the lake and shoreline. I was still itching to cowboy camp under the stars, but the weather forecast for overnight predicted rain so once again I set up my tarp. *sigh* Maybe someday....

I'm not sure what this structure is supposed to do, except control the water between two lakes.
Yep, still on the right trail!

Thank goodness there are two boats on our side of the lake!

And we made it!
I wouldn't try using this boat that we found at another lake....

A hint of autumn!

I really shouldn't just leave my camera sitting out. I didn't know about this photo until after I got home! =)

And, of course, we had to take video of us rowing the boat! So this is the video of me rowing.

And this is the video of Karolina rowing.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Day 11: Hoofing it to Jäkkvik

August 26: Finally! It was a beautiful morning! Karolina and I woke up early to hit the trail while the weather was good--there was no guarantee it would stay nice all day, after all! Karolina cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast and had enough to make breakfast for both of us which was pretty awesome. She had also purchased a carton of orange juice to wash it down.

The bacon and eggs breakfast was awesome! What a treat on the trail! =)

We packed up our bags and swept the cabin, cleaned the plates, pans and other utensils in the kitchen and made the beds, dumped out the trash and basically made the cabin ready for the next people. In these cheap places, it was expected that you'd do this before you left or they'd charge you extra.

Finally ready to hit the trail, we were off! Out of town, the trail led through trees then eventually climbed to a scenic plateau where it was a pleasant.  It was largely an uneventful day. We saw reindeer and joked once again that it meant that it would rain. No more rain!

Our goal was the town of Jäkkvik, our next major resupply point. Jäkkvik had a real grocery store and wi-fi, and hot showers were included with the price of the rooms. It sounded like a wonderful luxury, but it felt odd to hiking from one town to another. Usually towns aren't close enough that you can hike between them in a single day, but these two were separated by a mere 21 kilometers (barely 10 miles).

I'm eating breakfast! =)

As we neared Jäkkvik, we reached a the small, unmanned shelter just as a few light sprinkles started for the day. (It was the reindeer, I tell you!) It only lasted a few minutes, though, and we were under the protection of the hut so yeah! =)

After a quick snack break, the rain had already stopped and we continued our trek.

We arrived in Jäkkvik, which was a small town but large enough that we weren't sure where to go to find the hostel in town. Was it on the trail? A few blocks off? And neither of us had thought to write down an address for the place that I could look up on my phone.

So we followed the trail into town keeping our eyes open eventually spotting a big building that appeared to offer lodging. We tried to open the front door, but it was locked. Looking through the window, I saw a person far on the other side of the building and knocked loudly.

He came over and opened the door saying that he was a guest at the hostel but that we could wait inside until the owner came along, so that's what we did. We sat around killing time. I used the bathroom because, hey, why not? I had nothing better to do at the time.

Eventually a person came in through the back door and the guest told us that he worked at the hostel, so we expressed our desire to stay there and he said to hang on a moment while he found someone to help us. I guess he was more of a groundskeeper than the person who could help us.

Our hostel in Jäkkvik

The clerk at the counter soon arrived and walked us to an adjacent building. I had taken off my shoes while waiting for help and found myself walking across the gravel parking lot in nothing but my socks to see the room where we would be staying. We paid for our beds and settled in.

Our room was quite large and included a small kitchen and beds for about 6 people if I remember correctly, but the hostel was so empty that nobody else was assigned to it so it essentially acted like a private room which was nice. No worries about loud snorers or tripping over other people's gear!

We walked over to the grocery store where we bought enough food for breakfast and dinner. We decided to make spaghetti for dinner and, once again, go with the bacon and eggs for breakfast in the morning.

We made dinner, and I spent most of the evening online catching up with email and work. It was a good day!

Karolina poses at the Pieljekaise Hut.
Woah! That's a big antler!

We arrived at this shelter just as some sprinkles started to fall, so for the few minutes of the day when it rained, we could get out of it! =)
Hey, DoubleSaj.... you asked what I ate on the trail. During this stop, I ate olives. That's what's in the small bag in my right hand. (The left hand has the much bigger food bag with all sorts of goodies in it.)

Shadow games