For The Love of the Trail…
A journey begins with a single step, so the ancient mantra goes. After yesterday’s wonderful walk to Ammarnäs we were in great spirits. Whether it was in part down to the run of good weather we now seemed to be experiencing, the flat terrain and excellent pathways helping us to improve our pace, or simply feeling satisfied after indulging in a good old fashioned picnic, we were once again hiking for the love of it – not just to get the miles done.
Today, the views were grand with the wilds of Sweden exploding in autumnal colour, and we couldn’t feel better. We were finally making good progress along the Kungsleden. (Although our feet may not have agreed with that statement at the end of what was our longest walking day on the trail so far, despite taking a short cut! But more of that later!)
What is there not to love about this place?
Day 5 – Wild Camp by Vindelälven (Vindel River) to Sjnulttjie Emergency Shelter campsite – halfway to Adolfström (18.1 miles/ 29.1 km, 11 hours) – Wednesday 17th August, 2016 – ‘Talking the Talk Whilst Walking the Walk!’
Having in the back of our minds the preconceived idea (and incorrectly so) that the northern section of the Kungsleden is the most scenic, we expected that we’d be passing through a ‘much of a muchness’ section of the trail today in our efforts to reach Adolfström. But how wrong could we be? Instead, we were soaking up incredible vistas and musing over the wonders of Sweden with all kinds of interesting people. As we’ve found in the past, it’s the human element on any long-distance hike that can really brighten your days.
Getting lost in your own thoughts and savouring the freedom and solitude that comes with hiking in remote places is indeed one of the refreshing things about putting everything in a backpack and heading off… But unlike many other hikers, going it alone isn’t what appeals to us. As a married couple, travel, eating and walking are very much communal pleasures. And as a shared experience, we will relive the journey together for many years to come.
Whether it be between ourselves or conversing with complete strangers en route, we enjoy plenty of trail talk. We love meeting like-minded people and listening to their experiences of the world. Not only that, we become enthused by their avid descriptions of trails we’ve yet to set foot on. It’s always good to get first-hand suggestions for future adventures! So today, we were excited to encounter several people on the trail of varying nationalities who all stopped to talk to us!
Waking up to another glorious day on the Kungsleden.
Some personal grooming on the trail. With limited options for hair washing, one of my must-have items was dry-shampoo!
Our earliest start yet – we left camp at 8:30am, full of the joys of spring! (Or Autumn in this instance!) Only 48 kilometres to Adolfström…
The grassy trail made for easy walking. We covered 5 kilometres in one and a half hours, setting a really good pace for the day.
The route climbed gently uphill where dense pine forest changed into a thicket of silver birch. We instantly noticed leaves were starting to turn a beautiful bright yellow.
Out of one forest, heading towards another… Sweden is so heavily forested that open areas are the exception.
Thankful of the bridge and not having to get my feet wet!
Also thankful of the wooden boards taking us over boggier ground.
All smiles as we walked in the sunshine. It was even hot enough to take off our coats for a while.
Diverting off the ‘official’ Kungsleden and taking a short-cut provided us with an excellent track, which meant we could keep up our faster pace. The reds of autumn were beginning to win out over the lingering summer green.
The early morning weather was so good that we spied a big rock and enjoyed a rest break in the sunshine, taking off our boots and socks and getting our sleeping bags out to air.
On the map we used, it shows that there are two routes from Ammarnäs leading to Adolfström. The official Kungsleden route appears to go out to come back on itself, so we opted to take the more direct, alternative route to save us a few miles. This decision was also made after advice from the locals, who told us that we would still see good scenery in either direction, and that most hikers now take the shorter route as the ‘official’ Kungsleden path anyway. The track we followed also had orange paint daubed on stones at various points signalling the way and soon re-joined with the Kungsleden at the main trail junction.
Whilst walking along the track, we saw a helicopter transporting wooden planks and metal posts in readiness for building a rengarde – reindeer enclosure – built for herding and keeping the reindeer together during the winter months. It returned several times so Wayne managed to film it flying overhead. After taking the short cut we were hoping to get to camp a lot earlier than previous days – well that was the plan anyway.
Still a long way to go, but the route looked clear.
Bog cotton signals the need for a board walk. This one was rather sunken, meaning we had to tread carefully.
A minor rock hop!
Our whole lives on the trail are carried in these backpacks! By no means are we super lightweight, but they don’t look too big and bulky. Lessening the kit, and lessening the load… We keep trying anyway!
Another rock hop! This one needing a few choice moves for success.
Again, another fantastic flat trail section allowing us to keep a good pace.
And the view just gets better!
Summer fades to Fall. Autumn’s hues are coming to life.
Natural beauty all around…
Walking for the love of it!
Panorama of the incredible vista sweeping before us.
Alone in the wilderness…
Or maybe not! Although we don’t have photographs of them, we did in fact pass 8 hikers all heading in the opposite direction, walking southbound to Ammarnäs. They walked in different group configurations and we passed them at various points throughout day – two lone female hikers who were American, a British couple together with a Swedish companion, two young French guys, and a very proud Swedish father whom, after chatting for a while, we discovered has a son who was at that very same time hiking the PCT in the USA. It was all very interesting stopping and conversing with them about their hiking experiences on the Kungsleden so far, and gleaning from them the ‘what not to miss’ bits seeing as they had literally just done the sections we were about to experience for ourselves.
It’s always worth taking on board personal recommendations and advice, especially as we knew very little of the trail overall with the limited resources written in English out there in print and on the internet. We were genuinely surprised to have seen so many people on the trail in a single day, particularly this specific section of the trail. It has the reputation of largely being missed out due to the fact that there aren’t any STF mountain hut facilities between Kvikkjokk and Ammarnäs, which is about 130 kilometres, or an 81 mile stretch of the Kungsleden where wild camping is the order of the day. (Unless you are willing to pay for private accommodation available in Baverholmen, Adolfström and Jäkkvik.)
As we reached this valley we were completely wowed and even more excited for what was to come further north along the trail.
The trail winds along the top of a flattish ridge affording views across the entire valley floor.
Giving our feet a breather and stopping to enjoy the amazing view!
The trail veers off down the right-hand side of the ridge leading to the valley floor.
The mountains are calling…
We stopped to top up our water supplies from the fast-flowing stream. The pouch that comes with our filter can hold 2 litres of water, so we always fill this before setting up camp to have extra water for cooking.
The Brits we chatted to had recommended camping by the Sjnulttjie Emergency Shelter, so that’s where we were aiming for. It made it our longest trail day yet! We covered 29 kilometres so that we could catch up with our planned schedule and maintain our 21-day itinerary. It also meant we would have less distance to cover the following day.
By the time we arrived, two guys were already getting comfy inside the hut. But we were happy to pitch the tent in a clearing just outside – it was such a lovely evening and we had a beautiful, serene view of the nearby lake as the sun went down. Wayne got a fire going and we saw a full moon crest over the mountains, which was wonderful. The only thing to disrupt this perfect scene of peace and tranquillity was a feisty cloud of mosquitoes intent on having their own evening of pleasure by feasting on us! Thankfully, we discovered that the smoke generated from the fire was very effective at keeping them at bay.
Looking for a clear, flattish spot to pitch our tent.
Dusk descends, and what a great view from our campsite!
As there was already a fire ring, we lit a campfire to keep the mosquitoes away! They seem to come out in force as the sun goes down.
Eating ‘al fresco’ around the campfire – a hearty concoction of instant mashed potato, tomato soup and tinned mackerel in tomato sauce.
We were tired from the day’s efforts, but not exhausted, although our feet were in need of a good massage with Deep Heat. We thought it would be our packs that would give us some discomfort during the first few days back on the trail, with having to get used to carrying a heavy load again. But our packs weren’t a problem at all. It was more a case of the tendons in our feet suffering a little with the long distances we had to cover each day, and especially so today as we had tried hard to increase our pace. Wayne was even getting a few blisters where his boots were pinching his toes. It didn’t help that his feet were swelling in the heat in Gortex lined boots and that he had bought new socks before setting off on the trail, which weren’t tried and tested, so were now causing him some problems. At least we had supplies in our first aid kit for treating our feet with. As we didn’t have any zero hiking days to allow for rest in case of fatigue or minor injury, we were both just hoping that Wayne’s feet wouldn’t get any worse. (Thankfully, it was only a minor discomfort for the next few days.)
We were very much looking forward to the next few days on the trail, having also found out from the Brits that there was a fantastic hostel and shop coming up in Jäkkvik. We were so desperate for a proper shower! (And some proper food!) They also recommended Baverholmen as an excellent pit-stop, emphasising that the cafe was an unexpected gem with an irresistible selection of home-made cakes. Well after hearing that, we just couldn’t wait to try them! We also learned that some of the boat crossings were not going to be as expensive as we had expected, so maybe we will get to dine out and try some reindeer meat along the trail after all.
Returning to civilisation would also mean some Wi-Fi. I was now desperate to sync my FitBit to see how many steps I had done today in the hope of earning a new badge! I knew on average we must be at least walking around 40,000 steps a day. Yes, we walk for the love of it, but we enjoy a bit of healthy competition too!