The Best Free Food On The Trail!
When it comes to hiking snacks, it’s hard to beat fresh, wild blueberries, found right beside the trail. As 17% of Sweden is said to be covered in blåbär (bilberries and wild blueberries), they seem practically everywhere along the Kungsleden route, so you can enjoy handfuls of fresh blueberries as you walk! Growing in abundance on small bushes close to the ground and usually ripening in August, wild blueberries are easy to pick, and when sweet and juicy, hard to resist.
Blueberries are considered one of mother nature’s leading antioxidant ‘super fruits’, thereby providing huge health benefits on a trail where it is otherwise difficult to obtain fresh food. As with wild camping in Sweden, berry-picking is permitted under the Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten), but in some cases you are only allowed to pick as much fruit as you can eat on the spot. We picked blueberries daily during our Kungsleden journey, adding them to muesli for a tastier breakfast, and incorporating them into our morning and afternoon snacks, often eating them by the handful to ward off any hunger pangs or to give us an energy boost! It’s amazing how adding just a little fresh food by making the most of what’s on offer for free along the trail can liven up your backcountry menu, and perk up your mood!
They also help to take your mind off some of the annoyances on the trail, which on Day 10 was none other than mosquitoes. To them, we are the best free food on the trail! We knew they’d catch up with us at some point and today there was no avoiding them. They were out in force and out for blood! So it was head nets on, heads down, and feet forward as we made it our mission to escape the clouds of biting bugs now following us along the trail…
Don’t underestimate those little balls of juiciness in boosting your morale! We feasted on wild blueberries daily along the Kungsleden.
Day 10 – Wild Camp (near Tjaurakatan) to Wild Camp (Suonergarssa) (16 miles/ 25.8 km, 10 hours) – Monday 22nd August, 2016 – ‘Mosquito Madness!’
We had big ambitions for today, setting the alarm for a 5:45am wake-up call in readiness to hike a mammoth 30 kilometres! However, despite all good intentions, we didn’t actually break camp and get away until 8am due to some dawdling whilst attempting to let the tent dry out from the cold morning damp (although not very successfully!)
Preparing breakfast and hoping the tent would dry out in the early morning sun.
We don’t mind early starts when the weather and scenery are so good.
What a glorious morning! All packed and ready to continue north…
Looking out over the Arctic tundra in beautiful early morning light.
Taking a rock hop across the stream.
Back on the trail at last and raring to go, we followed the rough track uphill to a ridge where we could see a thick layer of cloud hugging the valley bottom below, hence we were witnessing our first ‘cloud inversion’ on the Kungsleden. It provided a great opportunity to take off our packs and do some time lapse photography, whilst also flying the drone to show both the cloud inversion and where we had walked from. It wasn’t very long before the clouds dissipated however and we began heading downhill towards Tjieggelvas Lake.
Reaching the top of the ridge we spotted the cloud inversion hugging the valley below.
Wayne made the most of the opportunity and got the drone out again.
It wasn’t long before the cloud disappeared revealing Tjieggelvas Lake.
The Kungsleden then weaved its way downhill and around Tjieggelvas Lake. The next 16km or so we found ourselves literally wading through boggy, waterlogged meadows on low ground which were bug infested hell zones. Our feet were soaked again as there were just not enough wooden boards laid in the worst affected areas – if any. We also had to resort to wearing our head nets at one point as there were swarms of biting gnats hovering around us and clouds of mosquitoes on the attack. We couldn’t decide if we smelt good or really quite bad to be attracting them in such large numbers! Just from this brief encounter with the pests, we can definitely see the benefits of hiking later in the season. They were too annoying to stop and rest properly, (they even prevented us from picking any blueberries!), so we pushed on aiming for the tree line where it would be cooler and hopefully bug free. Of all the days we wanted a breeze to keep them at bay, but one wasn’t forthcoming.
Donning our head nets to prevent getting massacred by mosquitoes! Today they were particularly savage!
Few clouds for reflections today, but we weren’t complaining about blue skies!
Walking around the lake outlets much of the ground was saturated. We couldn’t avoid getting wet feet as there were few wooden boards in this area.
A calm, reflective moment on Lake Tjieggelvas.
After taking a break, clouds began building up quickly on the other side of the valley – great for photography, not so good if they brought rain!
The lake is enormous, and it seemed to take us the best part of the morning to get around it.
Taking the suspension bridge across the river.
The river was extremely wide and fast flowing at this section.
Earlier on, we had met an older Swedish couple hiking in wellies who told us that we’d be ankle deep in bog water at the bottom of the valley and they’d be no avoiding it! We had previously read about Swedes hiking the Kungsleden in wellies and weren’t sure how true this was – but having seen this couple, it was obviously their preferred choice of footwear – but not a very comfortable option in our opinion especially if you’re going to complete the full 270 miles! But with news of the bog, they also brought with them much better news about the weather. The forecast had changed from when we last looked, so instead of rain today and tomorrow, we could now expect clouds today and sunshine tomorrow, a much better prognosis.
Despite the increase in cloud, the weather forecast had changed and rain was no longer expected. We were thankful that the trail continued on a much drier track.
A pre-existing camp spot close to a stream. We still had a long way to go, with the next section of the trail taking us through dense pine forest.
Another famous berry along the Kungsleden is the lingon berry. Lingon berries are from the same family as Swedish blueberries. However they are sour flavoured, bright red berries, which become ripe for picking from late July and are typically used in jams and preserves. We also heard that they are a good accompaniment to Swedish meatballs!
Traversing another boggy section of trail. We were more than ready to get to higher ground.
As we traversed rocks and roots and faced more slippery sections of trail, it became a bit of a trudge once more with us cursing the lower woodland sections. Here the vegetation was noticeably different. Instead of walking through a canopy of silver birch trees, we were moving through a denser pine forest. On the positive side, it smelled wonderful, and literally gave us a spring in our step as the trail was littered with thousands of pine needles, which makes for a good, spongy landing!
Out in the open, reaching higher ground, and at last away from the mosquitoes!
The route was taking us around the right-hand side of the peak in the distance… Not too far still to go then!
Along the Kungsleden trail, you will come across reindeer fences, marked on the map as Rengärde. Reindeer fences generally run north-west to south-east and are used to keep the animals of different cooperatives (‘Sámi villages’) apart. There are gates where trails cross them. Otherwise, it is OK to climb across them, as long as you do not damage them.
Crossing a rengärde. Wooden planks have to be moved to allow passage through the reindeer fence.
Our mission was now to get above tree line again by 2pm, having decided that we wouldn’t head for the mountain hut as that meant heading back down to lower ground and more dreaded bog. We thought that we’d look for a camp spot along the river whilst heading down off the ridge, but still pitch above the tree line where there would hopefully be a breeze.
The Kungsleden will bring you face to face with some truly stunning features of the natural world.
Looking back to the lake we had walked around earlier that morning. We had covered a fair distance, although we didn’t make the 30 kilometres that we had initially planned.
The trail led us around the right-hand side of this giant lump of rock! It felt great to be above the tree line where the trail was much flatter and easier going, with not a mosquito in sight!
Someone had a similar idea to us and was already wild camping along the river.
Autumnal colour sweeps through the low growing heather.
Hiking down into the next valley we found a flattish area, sizeable enough to pitch our tent, that was sheltered by rocks.
The tent was up in no time and we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the u-shaped valley before dark.
We found an ideal flattish spot next to some fallen boulders that was both out of the wind and mosquito free. It was perfect as neither of us could walk much further. We had both made use of painkillers to keep us moving relatively pain free and we knew 25 kilometres was enough for today. It was more like fate anyway, as what an incredible view we were treated to once we had set up camp!
Still en route to Kvikkjokk, we went to sleep that evening very excited – not just at the thought of soon being able to take a shower, but that tomorrow was the day that we’d be ‘officially’ crossing into the Arctic Circle for the very first time!