I’m up early, the cold wakes me up better than my mom ever could. I quickly heat up some oatmeal, and get as close to the little stove as I can without setting myself on fire (which wouldn’t have been the first time). When I’m done with breakfast I get dressed. After 2 days of hiking my body is already starting to feel the consequences. My legs are fine though, it’s my shoulders that have been doing all the hard work it seems. Not only the weight of the pack but the chafing of the straps on my skin have left their mark. It’s not very bad, the only (8) time(s) it really hurt was when I sprayed some Reflex spray onto it.
Still the sight of my backpack gives me pure disgust. I take out some more things I don’t think I will be needing and I climb up the little hill to were the huts are. I stop a second to check out the view (and take a breath.) I gave the hutkeeper my balast in the hopes that now my pack would now defeat gravity and pull me up instead of down. I also took the opportunity to sort out my trash, to get rid of a few extra grams. If only losing weight was always this easy.
By the time I get back, Matthew is also packing up. I test the weight of my backpack, and I can’t really tell if it’s my imagination or not, but it definitely feels lighter. I try not to think about it too much in order not to spoil the possible placebo effect. Matthew is not joining me for the rest of the hike, he is planning to do a different route that will take him back up north to Abisko in a day or 3 (or so he hopes). By the bridge we say goodbye and go our own way.
I’m really alone now. But it’s good, it’s nice. I enjoy the views and the sun and the views some more. The pack is definitely lighter, which I’m happy about. In the morning I had set myself some goals, since there is a bit of a time limit. My first stop would be the 2nd bridge I come across (I found bridges are the easiest way to situate yourself on the map, since they’re clearly marked on the map, and it’s very hard to miss them on the trail.) Sooner than expected I arrive at the bridge. Happy with the progress I’ve made, I find myself a nice place by the river to sit down and enjoy my Snickers.
The first hour or so after my little snack break is a breeze, I feel like my pack only weighs like half an elephant now and the Snickers gave me some energy. But then time seemed to slow down, together with my pace. The way to the 2nd bridge seems endless. The bit of trail between that bridge and the huts for the day (Tjäktja huts) seems even more endless. Only a bit past 4pm do I arrive at the Tjäktja huts. Well, the entry at least, the huts themselves are a few 100 meters further up, over a bridge and on a little hill. Since I had no trash, and still lots of water, I decided to keep going. I needed to walk a bit further each day to comfortably reach my destination in time (had to leave the trail a day earlier because of the bus schedule). I decided to keep going for at least an hour.
That hour again seemed to fly and it was 5 now.. The sun was dangerously close to being hidden away behind a mountain. As I wanted to at least eat while there still was daylight I started looking for a spot to set up my tent. I only wanted 2 things, water and a soft enough surface. I could not for the life of me find water and a soft surface. I tried not to panic, and use my adventure instincts which included listening for waterfalls and guessing how far away they were and praying to all the gods that there would be a nice patch of grass somewhere near said waterfall.
This well thought-out plan seemed to work beautifully because about 45 minutes later I had found a little patch of grass reasonably close by a tiny waterstream. I quickly set up my tent (aka threw it in the air and voila!) and heated up my fancy mac and cheese (fancy in that it had 3 bits of bacon in it). Having dinner while watching the sunset and some interesting reading (finding the bridges on the map), it’s as nice as it sounds. Probably even nicer. And if that wasn’t nice enough…
… AURORA TIIIIME!
Day 4. Again, I can not get up until sunrays start poking me. I had a good sleep this time though. Before I left I was worried I was not going to be able to sleep because of unknown sounds and such, but I am usually so tired I fall asleep almost instantly. + There is no sound apart from the waterfalls, which sound very soothing.
Today I will be crossing Tjäktja pass, the highest point of the trail. I camped right before the ascent, so about 15 minutes in the uphill started. It was fine though, if I can survive the Canadian Rockies with no training at all, I’ll survive this. The ascent isn’t that bad actually, not too steep and not very high either. There’s still a bit of snow left, the only snow I saw during the trip.
When I researched this trip, the view of Tjäktja pass was the most photographed area for sure, EVERY blog, album, review, had this image. And I can totally understand why. While the views throughout the trail are stunning, there is not much elevation going on. When on day 4 you suddenly have a view like this, you just HAVE to take a picture. So I did. You really can’t imagine how far you are looking at that point. Couldn’t even see the Sälka huts yet, and they are definitely in this valley.
On the top of the pass I met Randy, an American hiker. We had a little chat on the top, and later he quickly caught up with me. He told me he hadn’t talked to any one in 2,5 days and wondered if he could join me. I didn’t mind. But Randy was an experienced hiker. He was telling me about his hikes in the US, and his yearly hiking trips overseas. He didn’t have to tell me he was experienced though, I could tell by his pace. I was struggling to keep up with him, I was almost jogging my way to the huts. But conversation helps. We talked about hiking, youth, soccer and hiking poles. Apparently bridges are very popular on this trail/map as Randy was using them for orientation as well. We were both expecting a bridge to show up somewhere halfway the pass and the Sälka huts, but we never came across it.
By 1.30 pm we had already reached the huts! They very unexpectedly showed up, I was very surprised. Time had gone fast and so had we! We had been so focused on looking for a bridge we didn’t even think of the huts.
At Sälka me and Randy check out the little store.. It’s the end of the season, so there’s not much left. I didn’t plan on buying anything until I saw the last can of Sour Cream & Onion Pringles catching dust on the top of the shelf. So I took it. That cost me about 30SEK, which is about 3 euros (thank god for easy calculable rates). Expensive Pringles for sure, so I decided to keep them for later. After a little break at the huts, filling up on water and repositioning the tent on my pack (2 second tents are terrible for hiking. Great for setting up though!) we continue our way. I want to go as far as I can, making full use of the fast pace we did before noon to get further. Since Randy started a few hours before me, he’s getting quite tired and started looking for a place to set up his tent. About an hour later we pass by a spot upon a tiny hill that has definitely been used for camping before. 3 or 4 patches of grass, each with their own campfire circle. Randy decides this is the spot for him so we say goodbye as he sets up and I continue my way. I keep walking for another few hours, in search of the golden combo of water and grass. After more than 2 hours I reach another bridge. The spot is not ideal, but I am too tired to keep going and there is water, so I decide to make the best of it. Tent. Food. Sleep. But like every night I wake up around midnight, and of course I am curious. At first I didn’t see any lights, but after a while I see some faint clouds in the distance. It’s really hard to distinguish normal clouds from lights sometimes, so I take out my camera to be sure. I set it up, take a pic, and sure enough, AURORA TIIIIIME!
To be continued…