Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trekking The King's Trail (Kungsleden)

Sept. 21-24, 2016

In my previous blogs, I kept mentioning about a major event last year that I must store in my cyber treasure chest. I kept putting it off, using my available time instead to record the recent events. And then I realized that it's been a year since the memory was born. So now, I have to write it down before getting into this summer's big events.

Our hiking in Marsleden (see my blog here: The Marsfjällen Trek ) prepared us for the big leap that we had planned for the following month. In our Marsfjällen trek, we hiked the 7-km. trail to the mountain shelter, while this time in Kungsleden (the trail in Vindelfjällen), we would hike 11 km. northbound to the first fjällstation or mountain cottages where hikers who don't like to sleep in a tent are provided a rented accommodation complete with amenities. This time, it was only hubby and I in this venture.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." - John Muir

Day 1

Off we drove to Hemavan. We parked our car close to the trailhead, beside the Naturum building, heaved our enormous backpacks onto our shoulders and started the steep uphill hike. We ascended strenuously, panting for breath while our hearts hammered with excitement. We passed through forests of crooked birch trees and ferns that had already turned golden. We kept treading the narrow rugged path until we came to an altitude where the terrain eased off and the forests thinned out. We walked past thickets and bushes as the sun started to sink.

We had to find a campsite to pass the night. We started the hike late, so we couldn't get to the "fjällstation" that same day. We found a flat ground with a brook nearby where we could get our water supply. We set up our newly purchased mountain tent which we used for the first time.

The night was chilly but the sky was clear, revealing the stars in a way that I could never see in light-polluted places. The Milky Way stood out distinctly amidst the star-studded space. My lens size could capture only the lower tip of the galactic band. I stayed  outside our tent for a longer time to gaze at the celestial marvels. I could see the Andromeda galaxy, meteors zipping across the sky, coiling clouds, the rising moon and a faint glow of the aurora borealis. My heart burst with appreciation and gratitude for such nocturnal gifts from a Creator whose dynamic energy is inexhaustible (Isaiah 40:26). I could stay out the whole night watching the shifting wonders of the heaven, but then, the frosty air threatened to freeze my face and fingers. So I had to crawl back to our cozy tent and have a restful sleep.

Day 2

We woke up to a lovely morning when the sun was just coming out, its warmth gradually dissolving the mists that shrouded the mountains. We sipped our coffee while enjoying this refreshingly beautiful morning, and then we ate our breakfast.

We dismantled our tent and moved on. The weather just kept getting better as we hiked on. I trailed behind my hubby so I could take snapshots of him in broader settings for a well-defined view of the surroundings. Of course, many lovely things along the way also caught my beauty-seeking eyes, which I voraciously photographed.

We kept hiking the narrow trail, roller-coaster and serpentine in some sections, treading on a variety of earthly elements such as soil, stones, mud, wooden planks and water (several brooks).  

Tough but thrilling.

And definitely beautiful!

At last, we caught sight of the mountain cottages, Viterskalsstugan. We stopped for a while to inquire of a good place to set up our tent, which should be a little farther from the "fjällstation". We found the ideal place, beside a river and within sight of the cottages.

A few steps beyond our campsite offered us a view of the sought-after attraction in this part of the trail, called Syterskalet, a U-shaped valley with steep sides of the two huge mountains with glacial summits, the Norra Sytertoppen and Södra Sytertoppen.  That's what we aimed to see. Unfortunately, fogs rolled in that afternoon, so we could only see the bases of the mountains. We stayed in our tent for the rest of that day on account of the persistent shower and piercing wind. We hoped for a clearer weather the following day.

Day 3

The weather was no better this day too. Undaunted, we set out anyway to Syterskalet, hiking alongside the winding river that runs through that valley. The fogs hadn't lifted up either, thus concealing the two mountains. We tried to walk up the slope of the northern mountain and see if we could reach the nearest glacier. When we got to an altitude with a marshy terrain, we couldn't go on. The glacier was too far and it was quite tough to walk across a fen to get there. And so we just sat on a boulder by the edge of the fen and watched the river below while eating our "fika" or snacks. That was all we could do that day.

Day 4

Still misty. The mountains remained obscured by thick fogs. We decided to not stay here longer and travel back home. We comforted ourselves with the thought that we had a reason to come back here in the future, to see the whole of  Syterskalet and set up our tent right there. I'm not implying that we were disappointed, no, not in any way. The hike alone was thrilling and awesome. And the views were just so amazing! I enjoyed every step of the hike no matter how arduous.

We packed our camping stuffs and started the hike back. As we slogged our way through the rugged trail, the weather started to play along. We stopped here and there to take pictures, to rest a bit, to pick blueberries and stuff into my mouth when I was hungry, and to speak with other hikers going to the opposite direction and a group of cyclists who dared to bike along the rugged trail. All these took much of our time and found ourselves racing against the setting sun. We debated whether we would camp one more night or move on. We opted for the latter, summoning whatever strength we had left to be able to get to our car before it got dark.

Finally reaching our car that had been parked in all four days almost felt like home. But the next question was, since it was too late to travel all the way back to Umeå, where should we pass the night? We settled on sleeping in our car! That was still part of the adventure. But first, we had to find a restaurant and eat a good dinner.

It was still dawn when we started off. We dropped by these rapids to get some long exposure shots before we headed home.


Looking back to our Marsfjällen hiking, I had thought that it was really an difficult hike, even proclaiming myself  a certified hiker afterward. ☺☺☺ But this one turned out to be more challenging, more exhausting, yet exceptionally gratifying.  I have lived the words of the quote mentioned above. The mountain's "good tidings" have been etched in my whole being. And the joy that had filled my heart then lived on for a long time....

...until it was surpassed by something greater as an upshot of a more daring adventure that we have had this past summer, which I'm going to write in the future.

Stay tuned!

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