Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Day 22: I see students.... everywhere!

September 6: Karolina and I woke up to another beautiful morning! This string of nice-weather days was starting to annoy me. What would I have to complain about if not the weather?!

Students. Turns out, the answer is students. *nodding*

We hit the trail at a relatively early 8:00am, and soon caught up with a very large group of young people. They were spread out widely, yelling loudly back and forth to each other and generally being annoying. Later we would learn that there were a whopping 26 of them, but it took awhile before we realized how bad it would be since we first caught up with them in groups of three and four.

But then I had a bigger worry: boats. Maybe an hour or so up the trail we'd reach another lake that required a boat crossing, and we did not want to get stuck behind 26 students (plus additional teachers!) waiting for our turn across the lake. This lake actually had a motorboat option, however, and I hoped and prayed that the large group planned to use it. Karolina and I wanted to row the 1 kilometer across the lake. It would take hours for them to all cross using the much slower rowboats.

So we pushed hard, hoping to beat the large group to the shore. And we did beat... most of them. There were a few students on the shore when we arrived and the one and only boat on our side of the lake left us behind. Drats.

We set down our packs and waited for the boat to return. We hadn't stopped to rest since we left in the morning, trying to get ahead of this large group, and now was as good as time as any for a break. As we waited, more and more of the students arrived piling up near the dock.

One of them pissed me off by washing his hair with soap in the lake. Have they learned nothing about Leave No Trace? Even biodegradable soap isn't supposed to be used in lakes. My dislike of the group intensified. Karolina and I joked that they must be French given how rude and obnoxious they were being.

We could watch the progress of the boat as it moved across the lake. After arriving at the other side, two boats started coming back after a five minute delay, and maybe 45 minutes later, two boats returned to our shore. Except they didn't land by the boat launches, but rather the dock. The students were stealing our boat!

I was angry about how all this was turning out. What the hell was wrong with these people? I walked over to the dock to express my... frustration... though I tried to be nice about it. "Is everyone planning to cross in the rowboats?" I asked. "Because we really don't want to sit around hours waiting for y'all to cross--especially since we got here before most of the group did!"

One of the teachers seemed to understand my plight, but asked if we could wait and take the next round-trip after the boat returns again. What?! WHY?!

I didn't like this idea at all--the group as a whole wouldn't get across any faster if we took this boat or the next one. But seeing as we were outnumbered by more than 20 people, I felt glad at least they wouldn't make us wait for all of them to cross.

Once again, the boats left without us and we waited impatiently for them to return. Again.

And I continued growing more and more annoyed with the group. There were three boats in total, but they were only using two of them to ferry their group--and leaving the last boat unused on the other side of the lake. How was that helping anyone?

One of the teachers said they left it there so people hiking southbound would have a way to cross the lake. What kind of stupid logic is that? What about hikers--like us!--who wanted to go northbound?! I get it, they don't want to block southbound hikers from crossing the lake, but with three boats constantly being ferried back and forth from shore to shore, whatever wait that a southbound hiker would have to suffer would be short--maybe 15 minutes at worst if they boats were evenly spaced out.

Which they weren't. The two boats were crossing back and forth in sync with each other. Some southbound hikers would actually work out well for everyone--they could ferry the boats back and the students wouldn't have to make the round-trip themselves. But it would go faster for everyone if three boats were in play.

It's like they didn't consider the ramifications that hiking in such a large group would cause. I was just angry about the whole thing. I'm not against classes coming out to the backcountry for educational purposes, but they should have considered bottlenecks like this and have a planned worked out to minimize the disruption to other hikers.

For any large groups, this is what you do: use all three boats! Don't have them row back and forth in sync with each other. Space them out a bit. And finally, all other hikers should have first priority. If a southbound hiker arrived--no problem--the large group was going northbound and they didn't have to row a boat back. If a northbound hiker arrives, approach them and give them the first available boat so they don't have to wait. The extra wait for the large group would be negligible and the goodwill towards the other hikers would be priceless. It's not their fault your group has caused such a backup.

So these are the thoughts running through my head as we waited for our boat to return. Again.

After another 45 minutes, the boats arrived again and Karolina and I hijacked one of them. The student who had rowed it to our shore asked if it would be okay if we paddled (his arms were tired from rowing back), and I had no problem with this. I wanted to paddle. I enjoyed the paddling. In moderation, of course. =) And this was only a simple 1 kilometer crossing.

These rowboats were smaller than the previous ones we used. This boat could only fit three people comfortably--Karolina, the student and myself. Being smaller and lighter, I found it much easier and faster to row that the other rowboats we had used, and it took maybe 20 minutes to cross the lake.

We got out of the boat and threw our life jackets into the boat. There weren't enough life jackets for such a large group so they had to row the boats back along with the life jackets.

And after spending an hour and a half waiting for our turn to cross the lake, we felt no need to take a break on this shore despite the presence of a hut. Nope, we put on our packs and got the heck out of there. I couldn't wait to escape the group and they were stuck here ferrying the rest of their group across the lake. It was our time to get ahead of them! The one good thing about the students--they were rowing the boats back to the other side so we wouldn't have to do it ourselves to insure both sides of the lake had at least one boat.

The rest of the day was wonderfully uneventful. The trail climbed steeply up a hillside from the lake before leveling out at a plateau with great views.

We decided to camp at the Kaitumjaure hut for the night because there were rumors of a family of moose that often feasted on the grass in the meadow in front. One southbound hiker told us that he saw them just that morning. We really wanted to see moose--even if it meant paying for a site at the hut!

Given the good weather and decent weather forecasts, we camped in a nearby site rather than pay for the beds inside to save money. It still cost money to camp next to the hut and use its facilities, but half the amount paying for a bed inside would have cost.

The hut also had a sauna which Karolina was keen to use. I told her to be safe in there--as much as I enjoyed the story of her nearly passing out in the last sauna completely naked and actually throwing up, I didn't want to hear about a repeat of the incident!

I kept an eye out for wandering moose, but didn't see any. Allegedly, they were most likely to be seen in the meadows in the morning than the evenings, but it didn't stop me from keeping a lookout for them.

We cooked dinner in the kitchen of the hut which was a luxury. Chairs to sit on! I rinsed some dirty socks and hung them up in the drying room. And it was considerably warmer inside than outside--especially after the sun set. And while cooking dinner, I was talking to the caretaker of the hut when she exclaimed, "There's a red fox outside!"

We looked out the window and sure enough, in the fading light, a red fox slinked across the landscape like a thief. We only saw it for a few seconds before it when down the side of a hill and out of view, but it was thrilling to see. A fox! That's not something I see very often! Even less often than moose! I wished I had time to get a photo of it, but even if my camera were ready, I doubt I'd have gotten a photo in the diminishing light. It was a thrill to see! Although apparently they've become something of a pest in these parts, pushing out the arctic fox which is "acutely endangered" on the Scandinavian mainland. Global warming has extended the range of the red fox which are larger and out-compete the smaller arctic fox. And the camo of a white fox is less useful when there's not as much snow to hide in.

Anyhow, after cleaning up our dinner mess, we headed back into the bitterly cold outdoors and to camp. It was the end of another day! The night seemed especially cold tonight compared to most nights. I think the lack of cloud cover--while great for hiking in during the day--didn't trap the heat in during the night. So we bundled up in lots of layers and curled up in our sleeping bags trying to stay warm. All-in-all, a pretty good day. Except for that large, stupid group. *grumbling*

Views of the glacier-covered mountains to the south were great in the morning!

Karolina is sad because there are no boats available for us... =(
Our boat is coming! Our boat is coming!
The hut on the other side of the lake. (This isn't the hut we'd be spending the night at.) The trail goes up the hillside behind it, just to the left of that waterfall.

The top of the waterfall! We're almost at the plateau where the hiking becomes a lot easier...
Well, okay, a little easier. Not as steep, but a lot more muddy!

Swedish bridges are built to fail! =)

Funny story here.... Karolina was tired of dismantling these gates in the reindeer fence and putting them back together again while I stood around taking photos and videos, so we switched rolls. I pushed the one board out in about 5 seconds and ducked through. It usually took several minutes for Karolina since it usually required taking out several boards. So I "kindly" offered to do this one, and she didn't think it was very funny when it turned out to be so easy! "You still have to get the next one," she told me. "But now it's your turn!" I replied. =) It also took all of about 5 seconds for me to replace the board I pushed out. Very easy! Too easy by Karolina's standards...

Katumjaure Hut--this is the hut where we would camp!
Karolina took this photo of the sauna. Which, I'm happy to report, she made it through without passing out or throwing up. Yeah! =)
Rumor has it that there is often a family of moose that feed in the meadows below the hut. We hoped to see some in the morning! *fingers crossed*

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