It’s impossible not to notice: The premature feeling of spring in the air. With a temperature above freezing, the powdery snow has finally settled. We walk a couple of hundred meters on foot from our house, Siri and I, put on our snowshoes and leave the road behind us. We follow a snowmobile track covered in yesterdays snow, meandering our way between the pines. Outside the residential area, inside the forest, we trample a small loop on top of the track. Only a few hundred meters. Not much. But enough.
We hurry home, stuff ourselves quickly with a few slices of bread before heading out the door again. This time along with mum. And two fatbikes. It’s easy for all to see out on the track: Fatbikes make you smile. Period. And when it turns out that our youngest daughter actually is able to ride mums XS Surly Pugsley, and we see the huge grin across her face and hear her giggling between the trees, it’s equally evident that this could get expensive.
It’s probably not a secret: We love outdoor life. A lot. During our former book project (sorry, it’s in Norwegian), we wanted to try a variety of different forms of outdoor activities. This resulted in many magical trips with the children, where the best are collected in our new book. Now the project is finished, and a growing restlessness has knocked on the door.
We are clearly still hungry for the outdoors. Very hungry. And perhaps especially hungry for longer trips. To enjoy the feeling of being on the way. For a long time. Reading about others traveling across Norway in all directions fuels our own longing for long trips. But why don’t we simply just go ourselves?
Fair enough, the length of Norway is a bit too long on our part with the kids. For now at least. But crossing Norway? On foot? By bike or on skis? Or how about a canoe?
Or even better: How about crossing both on foot, by bike, on skis and in a canoe?
In recent months, television viewing has had to give way to the close inspection of maps and aerial photographs in the evenings, as so many times before. Slowly routes have shaped up and are now mostly settled. We have chosen four different starting points: two from fjord to fjord and two from the Swedish border to the coast.
The first step is often the longest. But now we have said it: We’re going. We’re going to cross Norway. Then the rest will take care of itself.
Below is a small potpourri from our crossing of Norway by bike from Trysil in the east to Årdal in the west this summer. In slightly random order, by the way.
It´s been quiet here on the blog for a while. Very quiet. And there´s a good reason for that: Last winter was spent as a teacher, freelance journalist, author and father (and probably part-time nutcase), all while I was maintaining my primary blog in Norwegian as well as Bushwhacking Scandinavia. It became very clear at one point that something had to go. At least temporarily. And that something ended up being this very blog.
In August 2013 two important things changed: Firstly, our new book about outdoor life with kids finally hit the bookstores (I´m afraid it´s in Norwegian, but the photos are nice, if I dare say). And secondly, I reduced my position even more at school. And that last move makes it possible to write a word or two and drop a photo here on Bushwhacking Scandinavia now and then, which is exactly what I plan to do.
And though I haven´t written a word on the blog, this is by no way indicative of our outdoor life this year, highlights being a two-time crossing of Norway with the kids this summer, first by mountain bike and later by packraft. Don´t be surprised if a photo-potpourri hits the blog in the near future.
We only walked a couple of kilometres from our house and into the woods. The camp was set at dusk just far enough away that we disappeared into our own world as darkness spread through the pine trunks.
It was on this trip that Sif grew into her role as the family’s wilderness chef. Whether it was because she was tired of freeze-dried food, couscous, rice, sausages, oatmeal or other basic outdoor food I’m not sure of. What I do know is that she spent most of the afternoon at home frying minced meat, caramelising onions, grating cheese, cutting vegetables, making damper and much more, before she packed all of it into small boxes and bags. With a determined look on her face she raised the bar for our family’s future gastronomic ventures in the outdoors and served us wilderness pizza warmed on the fire later in the evening. The English style breakfast next morning with eggs, bacon, baked beans and damper heralded perhaps a new era – farewell to freeze dried food.
You know how some people want to make a competition out of anything? Without you knowing it, it has now entered the hiking scene. Who would have thought that a pleasant little thing like going outdoors could have anything to do with competing? But the competition is there, even if you weren’t aware of yourself entering it.
They call themselves ultralight backpackers. They will tell you that if you’re not carrying a featherweight backpack that hurts your back and sleep in a sleeping bag that is just shy of keeping you warm at night, and if you, god help me, are camping in a tent and not under a flimsy tarp, then you are lacking skills, my friend, you are lacking skills.
And if you have slimmed your backpack to a nice, comfortable weight, they will start to pick at you, yes you, ’cause why are you using those trekking poles, when there are lighter alternatives out there. And that silly, heavy backpack of yours, why haven’t you at least cut off the superfluous straps and got rid of that daft lid on the top? And when you have found a pair of lightweight hiking boots, they poke you in the rib with their featherweight hiking poles and say “hey, stupid, why aren’t you walking around in running shoes like us smart ultralight backpackers, are you afraid your feet can’t take being wet 24/7?”.
You thought you had a clever cooking system, but they’ll tell you that you must be a total nitwit for leaving the house with anything more than a micro cooking set for one person. When you try to explain to them that you only have one cooking system and that’ll have to do because you now and then like to bring your family along, it will be to no avail. ‘Cause you obviously have no skill.
Are you bringing a DSLR to take pictures? Are you totally out of your mind? Any smart backpacker wouldn’t use anything heavier than a Micro Four Thirds system, they’ll say, ignoring you when you try to explain that you do it for the sake of image quality. – Image quality? You must be lacking skills!
If you confront them with their elitism, they will say “no, there is no elitism”, while some may frenetically try to cover up their footprints. But it’s there, on the net, if you look for it. It’s not pretty. It’s infantile.
I will tell you this, my friend. Let them have their silly competition. Let them think they are better than the rest. Let them think they have supreme skills. At the end of the day, why do we go outdoors? To compete? Or to enjoy ourselves?
Am I exaggerating? Yes, big time. Am I generalising? You bet. Is this written tongue in cheek? Absolutely.
The evening is closing in and we only have a few hundred meters left down to the tiny wharf, when she says it. We are about to finish a kayak trip down our local river Numedalslågen. Instead of eating supper at home, we had put a simple pasta salad in a bag, cycled down to the river on our bikes and paddled up to the little island we knew upstream. There were no mosquitoes out there on the island, and we could sit on the hot rocks and eat while we looked at the current drawing patterns on the water surface around the island.
Later, wild joyful shouts spread through the air above the river as the girls were playing in the swift current with their kayaks. Then we pointed our kayaks south and paddled towards home. It didn’t take long before we saw our first beaver.
And that’s when she says it, shortly after the evening’s first beaver encounter, while quietly drifting down the river:
– The sound of a paddle in the water, I think it’s the most beautiful sound I know.
There are a lot of things that aren’t wise. And to go on a family overnight trip with hammocks at the peak of the midge season is definitely not the smartest thing to do. We did it anyway – there weren’t that many midges in the forest any more, were there?
But there were. The plan was to hang our four hammocks in a beautiful, ancient pine we knew. The memory of the great tree had apparently grown bigger than reality. When we finally found our way back to the tree, it soon became clear that it would be difficult to set up the hammocks there. Of course I had to try it anyway. The midges did what they could to ruin the project.
It ended in total resignation. It simply was not possible to set up the hammocks in the tree of our dreams. Instead, we found a nice cluster of pines higher up on the hill. Now, I could have written that «shortly after the four hammocks hung among the trees», but it would be to idealise, it wouldn’t be honest, because it took a long time: Soon, one of the hammocks was put up too low, then moments later it would be too high. And you can let yourself fascinate by so many animals, but I have a hard time finding anything fascinating about midges, that is, unless they hover like clouds glistening in the low evening light. Then even I will have to admit that they are actually quite a beautiful sight.
And now, at last, we are hanging here, under the canopy, each in our own hammock. It is odd, strange, like sailing into sleep. I think I can get used to it.
The next morning a wind blows like a salvation through the trees and takes with it the majority of the midges.
Bushwhacking Scandinavia has been rather neglected this spring. And for a good reason. Since starting blogging on our Norwegian blog a year ago, we have increasingly had success getting our material into different Norwegian outdoor magazines. Writing for different magazines, feeding the Norwegian blog with weekly posts, working on a larger project, all while being squeezed in between the daily routines of our jobs and general family life, leaves little time to keep Bushwhacking Scandinavia up to date. Hopefully we will be able to get some more stuff out here in the future.
FJELL magazine is a new joint project between tourism businesses in the Jotunheimen, Dovre and Rondane area and a few local newspapers. We were lucky to be allowed to contribute to the initial release – and Siri had the honour to star on the front page.
Take a look at the online magazine below: It has a great layout and contains a lot of interesting and varied reading in both Norwegian an English. Did I mention it’s free?