Last week I was treated to an impromptu overnight camping trip with Frank (as noted in the last entry, posts are getting out of sequence). We had talked about trying to get a walk in this summer but the weather recently has not been good, so when a 24 hour ‘window’ presented itself, we took the chance.
We packed our rucksacks and Sarah took us to the drop off point on the other side of Senja. The weather here can be very localised, and as we arrived at the start point for the walk, sea fog was rolling up the valley. However, having got that far, we decided to press on and out walk it. The plan was to get just beyond the head of the valley, camp over night by ‘Frank’s’ lake, then complete the walk the next morning, a total distance of about 12 miles.
Finding the trail initially meant walking through some very wet areas, and I’m glad to report that my new $30 boots (bought in South Carolina), not only proved warm in the snow, but are completely waterproof, to at least 6 inches!
Having picked up the trail (denoted by red paint on trees and rocks for Tur), we walked through the ubiquitous silver birch woodland, crossing the river, and periodically glancing back to see where the fog had reached. It was very peaceful with only sound of the river and occasional waterfall on the valley side as the background to our theology talk.
After a couple of hours, we saw smoke ahead first from one fire, and then eventually 7. This signaled the start of our encounter with the first army, which turned out to be about 120 soldiers from the nearby Bardufoss base. We thought we would have some fun, so as we approached I asked them in English for directions to Oslo which raised a smile. We asked where they had set off from and a serious young man showed me a map, and it turned out they were doing the reverse of our route, so I asked him how long it had taken them – 3 days perhaps? I’m not sure he had a sense of humour because he was trying explain, even when the others were laughing.
Leaving their camp, just below the tree line, it was then very easy to follow the path: 120 pairs of boots make a big impression in wet ground. As we walked higher, we were treated to fantastic views back down the valley, with the fog now well below us.
At one point we found an interesting 3 toed footprint, so we are considering alerting the Discovery Channel about a possible location for either ‘Big Foot’ or the ‘Abominable Snowman’. We also nearly stepped on a large toad which jumped just in time.
Our third wildlife encounter was with the other army – Sveriges hemliga armé (Sweden’s secret army) – the mosquitoes (see picture of mug below). Known locally as Myg they are large (much larger than in the UK or South Carolina) and gathered in big clouds around us. The bites didn’t really hurt, itch or swell, but the Myg seemed to have missed the memo about staying away from mosquito repellent, which only worked for a few minutes. Hard to believe that possibly the worst outbreak of Malaria was inside the Arctic Circle (see point 8 here for more details).
Shortly before reaching the summit between valleys we began collecting fire wood, which Frank then carried for nearly a mile until we found ‘his’ lake, just over the top. We pitched the tent, built the fire, cooked super (soup and macaroni, with sandwiches, washed down with Earl Grey Tea), talked and prayed. The views were spectacular, and it became clear that the whole island must be surrounded by the fog, but we were well above it with warm(ish) air and clear skies. As we settled to sleep after midnight, there was still enough light to see for walking.
Below are pictures. You can also see some panoramas:
- Valley walk 1 – taken as we crossed the river.
- Valley walk 2 – taken look west, back down the valley after our first army encounter
- Valley walk 3 – our camp site and ‘Frank’s’ lake, looking east across Senja to the ‘mainland’ near Finnsnes
Part 2 will follow soon!