From Macro to Micro…
There are few places on earth that have the power to make you feel like you are on another planet. A mere 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, among the highest peaks of Swedish Lapland, the Kungsleden trail is one such place. In the summertime, the sun does not set for days on end, and the terrain varies from arctic tundra to fields of green that span as far as the eye can see.
The Kungsleden will bring you face to face with some truly stunning features of the natural world, and on this particular day, we revelled in seeing nature at work along the trail…
Beginning Day 6 of this magnificent trek…
Day 6 – Wild Camp by Sjnulttjie Emergency Shelter to Adolfström (14.7 miles/ 23.7 km, 11 hours) – Thursday 18th August, 2016 – ‘In Pursuit of Cake!’
Having set the alarm today for 6:30am we awoke to misty skies and fine drizzle. By the time we’d packed away our gear and let the tent air, the emergency shelter had been vacated so we decided to move inside for breakfast, which was out of the rain and away from the bugs! After setting off, it was once again a very sociable day on the trail that saw us stopping and chatting with several other hikers – of German, American, Dutch and British nationalities – tackling the Kungsleden in the opposite direction.
After camping in the vicinity of the Sjnulttjie Shelter we packed up our gear and went inside the hut for a rain-free breakfast.
All emergency shelters have a wood burning stove and an ’emergency’ supply of wood should you need to use it.
Preparing to head off into more birch forest… Our aim for the day to reach Adolfström.
In spite of the drab weather, we were very much looking forward to today’s section of trail! The reason being we had heard many good things about the café in Bäverholmen that we would pass on our way to Adolfström.
The river was full and fast flowing, so thankfully there was a bridge to take us across.
We have found that large rivers along the Kungsleden route are so well bridged that you shouldn’t encounter any dangerous crossings.
Today the trail crossed from one administrative region to another, and we could immediately see the difference in trail maintenance – whether it be down to a change in local authority and who is responsible for maintaining the trail or whether it’s because this is considered the least popular section of the Kungsleden and therefore doesn’t get as much money spent on it, we are not sure. But there is definitely a noticeable difference by way of large boggy areas and not so many wooden boards. We also found there to be lots of broken boards and heavy erosion of the trail, as foot traffic had widened the trail with people trying to avoid the worst sections of ground. As we were constantly watching our footing and trying to avoid the worst of it ourselves, it slowed down our pace somewhat. But on the flip side, slowing down gave us chance to appreciate the flora and fauna along the trail. Rather than looking to the distant mountains and considering the grandness and vastness of the trail as a whole, it was good to focus in on the little things right in front of us.
17% of Sweden is said to be covered in blåbär (bilberries and wild blueberries) so they inevitably play a prominent part in Swedish cuisine. Growing wild on small bushes close to the ground, blåbär are found in abundance along the Kungsleden route so of course we enjoyed handfuls of fresh blueberries as we walked!
With a slower pace we were noticing the micro elements of the trail… Birch leaves change from green to yellow as fall fast approaches.
The rich foliage shows more signs of autumn as the trail becomes painted in the red, orange and yellow palette of leaves.
Wayne was still struggling with his feet and took some painkillers to take his mind off his blisters. Due to this and the fact we needed to tackle some laundry and more importantly – take a shower, we had decided that we would stay in the church hostel in Jäkkvik the next evening. With it being recommended by every hiker we passed that had already stopped there, and having heard so many great things about the place, we would be foolish not to make the most of the opportunity. We also took some respite in the huts along the way, stopping for a long lunch at the Badasjåkkå Hut.
Badasjåkkå Hut, a perfect lunch stop on our way to Adolfström.
The hut was equipped with two picnic benches, and log burner and bucket for heating up water. The Swedish hut system really is a fab set-up!
We enjoyed reading hiker’s comments and perspectives on the trail in a visitor book that had entries dating from as far back as the 90s!
After leaving the hut we walked through one of my favourite sections of the trail in the south. It was a woodland walk along the Laisälven River, where we enjoyed stopping and admiring the wild flowers and marvelling at the tremendous size of the mushrooms growing in abundance along the damp forest floor. What surprised us along the trail was the prominence of spear thistles – the national symbol of Scotland that we saw frequently on our West Highland Way walk. With their vibrant purple petals they were the prime attraction for bees and wasps.
Walking through dense woodland, red paint flashes are marked on trees to signal the way.
It was a very enjoyable woodland walk as we stopped to admire the wildflowers and see the changing colours of autumn come to life.
The spear thistle – the national emblem of Scotland – is also a regular feature along the Kungsleden trail.
Nature at work as the seasons change…
Vibrant red Lingon berries that grow on low bushes in Swedish forests are traditionally used for making jams and eaten with meatballs.
Mushrooms along this section of the Kungsleden were of mammoth size!
NOTE: There are several hundreds of different species of mushrooms and fungi. Many of them are delicious; others are deadly, so beware if you decide to pick them to spice up your trail food. Karljohan is one of the most common and edible mushrooms, appearing in small clusters all over Sweden with pine, spruce, or several other trees. It is compact and surprisingly heavy, with big specimens weighing close to a kilogram. Many animals and insects, particularly snails, love karljohan, so it’s quite common for something to have already nibbled on your find. Generally, you will have to walk further from the trail to find anything substantial, as mushrooms within easy reach will have already been picked. Another popular mushroom variety is the kantarell or golden chanterelle. It is considered by many chefs to be equal to the truffle and is a prized find along the Kungsleden from July to September.
The Toppig Spindelskivling, otherwise known as ‘Deadly Webcap’ in English is extremely poisonous. Reddish/brown, this mushroom is an agaric, with gills and often confused with a chanterelle which is lighter in colour. It can be recognised as having a cap that is convex instead of concave, that usually has a pointed tip in the middle. Other potentially lethal mushrooms include the Röd Flugsvamp, ‘Red Fly’, distinctive by its flat red hat with white dots, the Amanita Muscaria, in English known as ‘Fly Agaric’, also characterised by a red top with white dots, but with a dome shape, the Vit Flugsvamp or ‘White Fly Mushroom’, known in English as the ‘Destroying Angel’ and the Lömsk Flugsvamp or ‘Sneaky Fly Mushroom’, in English known as the ‘Death Cap’. (Often confused with a champignon – SO BEWARE!)
The trail took us alongside the Laisälven River.
All smiles as we knew Bäverholmen wasn’t too far away and the rain had held off!
In the wetter sections of woodland, boardwalks are in place to make it easier to cross the forest floor. This also helps minimise damage to vegetation.
Crossing the river to reach Bäverholmen. It is a lesser-known settlement that can only be accessed on foot or by boat, which offers private accommodation, camping and a restaurant/café.
After crossing the bridge there is a make-shift bench and fire-pit for a rest-stop or possible wild camp before heading into the village proper.
We were excited to reach another little gem right on the Kungsleden by way of the tiny settlement of Bäverholmen. Just as the Brits had told us yesterday, there is a fantastic restaurant/café named Värdshus selling homemade cakes and pastries, freshly baked onsite by a lovely lady chef who speaks good English. It is the perfect place for a pit-stop before continuing on to Adolfström. There is even camping on the green next to the restaurant with use of showers and utility block if you feel like hanging your boots up for the day.
The trail leads straight to a large green area which can be used for camping care of Värdshus restaurant/café. At a cost of 60 SEK per person per night, with use of showers/ utility block, it offers good value for money as an alternative to STF accommodation along the trail.
The jetty at Bäverholmen where you can pay to take a private motor boat across the Iraft Lake.
Värdshus also operates a boat service across the Iraft Lake if you want to save yourself the last 5 miles (8km) to Adolfström and a couple of hours walking on rocky trail around the lake that can be hard-going on your feet. Although we chose to continue walking, we enquired about current boat prices – 1 person 200 SEK/ 2 people 240 SEK/ 3 people 330 SEK/ 4+ 80 SEK per person – We were advised that the price was reduced the more people that travel, but that prices would increase next season.
*If you have a spare day in your itinerary, it is possible to enjoy a side trip from Adolfström, whereby you take a helicopter tour, which includes a flight over the local area and a boat trip to Bäverholmen where you will stop and have a meal at the restaurant. The cost for 4 people in the helicopter is 680 SEK per person and operates from the weekend after mid- summer to the middle of August.
Information board about Iraft Lake and the nature reserve, located in the centre of the green.
Flying the Swedish flag at Värdshus restaurant/café in the centre of Bäverholmen.
The fantastically friendly chef at Bäverholmen who told us she enjoys watching the British Bake-off!
Delightfully indulging on cake! A unique find on the trail…
After much indulgence and a reluctance to leave, we finally set-off on the last segment of today’s walk – 8km into Adolfström around the Iraft Lake, which was a woodland walk on a trail littered with rocks and roots that had to be carefully navigated, but by now we didn’t care – full up on cake, we were just on a mission to get to town! (Note: Although signage states Adolfström is 8km, we found the distance to be a little over 5km, which was a pleasant result!)
Reaching Adolfström around 7:30pm, we were much too late for resupplying at the little village shop. Towards the end of the summer season the shop has limited daily opening times e.g. 9-10am and 3-6pm. (On Wednesdays they are open an extra 2 hours from 7pm-9pm.) As the shop wasn’t going to be open again until 9am the following morning, we had to rethink our plans about the next day, especially as signage from Adolfström stated that Jäkkvik was 27km away, not the 21km we had worked out from our map!
Rejoining the trail and navigating around Iraft Lake.
We were appreciative of boardwalks and bridges over the worst sections of trail.
Dramatic evening skies.
Beautiful reflections on Iraft Lake before reaching Adolfström .
Along the main road in Adolfström, Johanssons Fjällstugor is a ‘Helicopter Tour’ business with camping and rental cabins at the rear. After walking along the main street and checking out the shop (through the windows as it was closed) and reccying out the other campsites (right at the end of the road there are two caravan and camping type places opposite each other), we decided to camp at Johanssons.
The Reception was closed by the time we arrived, but there was a lady in the opposite building joined to the house, who came out and was happy to take our payment and show us the facilities. Another English guy also arrived at a similar time to us who camped there as well. We paid 70 SEK (£6) in total for the both of us and we were very pleased to be able to take a hot shower after 6 days on the trail!
The facilities block was well equipped – it had ladies and gents bathrooms with separate toilets and showers. There was also a small kitchenette for washing up, plus a drying room, which was perfect for drying our towels and socks that we had hand-washed.
We camped at the rear of Johanssons Fjällstugor in Adolfström which we would highly recommend.
Watching the sun begin to set from our campsite. By now it was around 10pm.
As we couldn’t get supplies from the shop we had instant noodles for dinner (some of our emergency rations) and refrained from having a hot drink as we were concerned about having enough gas left to see us through the next day. Our plan for the following day was to get up early and hike for at least an hour before breakfast, as we definitely needed to get to the shop in Jäkkvik before it closed, which we assumed would be around 6pm. With restricted opening times later in the season, we were beginning to think that maybe we should have packed just a few extra rations to see us through the longer days…
We just hoped that we’d make it in time, and went to bed keeping our fingers crossed that the signage was wrong (again) and that Jäkkvik wasn’t going to be an extra 6 kilometres on an already longish day. Almost a week on the trail and we were looking forward to a bed for the night, especially after hearing such great reviews about the hostel that was coming up. But first we had to get there… Come rain, hail or shine!