Can trekking in the mountains be a “hikefulness” experience which you can enjoy in all your senses and after you are back home feel fully re-charged? I know it can. You just need to slightly tweak the “ordinary hike” and add that “little extra”…
Hiking the mountains is a complete experience combining the beauty of the surrounding environment, physical activity, feeling of presence, good food and mostly, sharing all these moments with others. This is what I call “hikefulness”. A refreshing “bath for your mind” which energizes your soul, charge you up with endorphins and hunger for exploring new horizons.
Second week in August I have a pleasure to guide a group of international girls through the Swedish mountains under our signatory “hikefulness” mountain escape weekend. For the majority of the girls it was an absolutely first time in the Swedish mountains and hiking longer distances. The plan was to hike between 15 and 20 km per day. Expectations were high already before the trip followed by lots of questions on our FB group.
When you try new things, it is very easy that the expectations do not always match the reality. Lots of small “mistakes” or bad planning can “make it or break it” and can mean that you might lose your interest. The first impressions are very important and I really wanted to show the girls the mountains in their very best, so they get hooked on hiking.
To prepare correctly for the trip, we met few days before and discussed all the practicalities, what is needed to bring, what to leave at home.. We checked the weather forecast and discussed the transport and the plan for the coming days.
All was set and we were ready to go!
THE EVENING BEFORE
We met Thursday evening at 9PM at the train station in Stockholm taking a pre-booked night train towards Jämtland (Duved). We booked six-bed cupé just for us. Having one extra evening together was a great choice and of course we started with a small kick-off party. An easy start where we got a chance to get to know each other slightly better. Already there I could see who will be the party runner during the next coming days.
DAY 1 – THE MOUNTAINS
We woke up with the voice of the train conductor welcoming us in the region Jämtland, as well as inviting us for a breakfast in the train restaurant. The landscape has changed over the night as the train was rolling closer and closer to the mountains. The sunrise over the horizon with the mountains in the background was too attractive to let go so we ended up looking out from the windows and forgetting time, including the breakfast invite. The end station came before we realized we are hungry. Well, my plan was anyway to eat breakfast at the first mountain hut.
When we stepped out from the train the air was worm and sky clear. The expectation level has risen dramatically as well as the enthusiasm. We changed for a 45 min bus drive from Duved to Storulvån. A very well-known mountain station nicely located in an open valley surrounded with rounded peaks. Here the public road ends and all the hikes start. This is the first impression of huge open landscape which is so unique for the Swedish mountains. It is always overwhelming regardless how many times you have already seen it.
Before we changed our clothes and made ourselves ready for the hike, it was time for breakfast. We found a cozy place at the station terrace facing the mountains. We could not wish for a better view. While sipping our coffee over the map discussing our trip plan, it was almost impossible to ignore how the mountains are calling us. Although we had quite a lot of time and the coffee tasted so good, the day was too perfect to spend it in the mountain hut, so we geared up and started our first day of hiking towards Sylarna massive. An impressive mountain range between Sweden and Norway with Jämtlands highest top – Storsola (Templet) rising up to 1,727 meters above the sea level.
Already after the first kilometer I have heard unaccountable number of “woows”. Quite quickly it was clear that this word will be very popular during these 3 days. We were only at the begin of our trip!
As the day progressed, we were slowly cutting down our kilometers from the 16km distance. The elevation is not so dramatic, so the hike is pleasant with lots of beautiful views and possibilities to rest. We stopped often, discussed flowers, mountains, life in general and our outdoor experience. After about a half of the hike it was time for lunch. We sat down close by to a small mountain stream from which we also re-filled our water supplies, relaxed for a while and cooled down our feet in the fresh mountain water.
Around 5PM we reached Sylarna. Pleasantly tired after the hike we checked in to the Sylarna STF mountain hut, took a shower and spent the rest of the afternoon outside on a warm sunny terrace with Sylarna massive in the background. A cold beer was the best reward after the long hike and tasted just right!
Our hungry stomach reminded us that it is time to eat. The food in the huts is always locally sourced. You can therefore be sure that the dinner will consist of delicacies. Tonight, we were served with moose-stew with potatoes served after a delicious starter made from local cheese and char plate. OMG! I know that the food always tastes better when eating in the mountains, but this was just an explosion of tastes! The view from the big windows facing the mountains in the freshly renovated restaurant was as magnificent from inside as when sitting outside. It was so cozy there so we just enjoyed the evening, chatting and watching the sunset show.
DAY 2 – THE OPEN LANDSCAPE AND REINDEERS
We woke up very early as the weather should become worse in the afternoon with risk of thunderstorm, so we wanted to be on the go as early as possible to manage in time to the next hut. We ate breakfast among the first ones and prepared our lunch boxes. The huts offer take-away lunches where you can prepare your mix from the breakfast buffet. We stocked up with sandwiches, brownies, nuts and dry fruits and slightly after 8am were ready for our 21 km hike towards Helags. A long distance for today but easily walked as the path is almost all the time on the same elevation level.
New day, new mountain hut situated straight under the Swedish southernmost glacier – the Helags Glacier. Its top, Helags (1,796m), is the highest top of Sweden located south of polar circle and also the highest top of Härjedalen region.
The landscape which we were walking through on our second day has slightly different character comparing with the first day. It is a huge plateau framed by mountain peaks spreading around you. The nearest roads are between 20-40km in all directions, so you are really in the heart of the Jämtlands mountains. The hike goes through a picturesque environment of something which used to be once upon a time a glacier-covered landscape. It is very green plateau with small stone moraines, hills and lots of water streams.
This is also a perfect place for reindeers who can pastry without being disturbed. They like to be here since this part is not as popular path as the one which we hiked the first day. And we were lucky! During the day we saw about 300 reindeers running around us. A real life safari! Some were just running on the path in front of us. So close so we had to stop and wait until they run away in order not to disturb them.
We crossed lots of small streams and couple of rivers. You can find bridges and wooden planks at the majority of the places but there were also some spots where we needed to wade across. This time of the year it was low water so the wading went well with only ankle-level of water but this is not always the case. It is important to be prepared that the rivers can be really rough early in the season and filled with water.
We knew that the storm is coming in the afternoon, so our plan was to be at Helags around 4PM. During lunch you could feel the rain in the air and how the front was approaching. Still, we felt we have good margin and that we will manage to our destination just in time before the bad weather hits. It is always hard to believe that the weather can change in just a hit of stroke. Only half an hour after we arrived to Helags, the weather changed completely. From sun and 20 degrees to heavy wind, 8 degrees, fog and rain. We were so happy we were in a warm place!
A downside, though, was that the showers in the main building were broken so our hope for a shower before the dinner was gone. I was determined to wash myself anyway and the natural bath place in the form of a small glacier lake outside the hut was just calling for it. I do not know how, but I managed to convince the girls to make a quick dip together with me. The water was ice cold and the dip took 2 seconds, but it was so refreshing and definitely an experience to remember!
With fog and rain outside, the evening was set – another delicious dinner in the mountain hut in the form of oven baked arctic char with potatoes topped up with sweet brownie-rhubarb ice cream. A white wine to this was just the perfect combination completing the food experience.
After dinner it was time to go back to our small cabin, lit up candles since there was no electricity and spent the evening playing cards. Like during the old times! With the sound of storm whispering on our window we crawl into our beds and fall asleep.
DAY 3 – THE DEPARTURE
We woke up very early with sun rays entering our room. There was no sign of storm anymore, but the air was fresh with wind and temperature around only 4 degrees. Such a sharp contrast from one day to another. Yesterday we walked in shorts and tank-tops, today we put on all the warm clothes we had with us. The cold front really hit.
Helags glacier was covered in clouds. It was early morning, but we needed to continue our hike as we had about 12 km ahead and taxi pre-booked down in the valley at 11am. After a quick breakfast we were ready to say good bye to the mountains and start our journey down. This path is easily to walk. It is about 250 elevation meters down so the tempo can be fast. Although we had lots of temptations to stop thanks to yet another amazing views and lots of reindeers crossing our path, we made it just in time to the parking lot.
Happy but tired, we jumped into our taxi taking us for about 40 minutes drive over Flatruet, another signatory mountain road in Sweden, towards Funäsdalen. There we finished our trip and changed for a long eight hours bus drive back to Stockholm.
We spend 3 days in the mountains and hiked about 48km. But it feels like we were there for a minimum of one week. So many impressions, experience, memories, things we have seen, deep discussions, great company, delicious food, laughter, breaks with beautiful views, long evenings, bath in ice cold lakes….this list can go on…
Mountains and mountain hiking offer us time for being present, reconnect with ourselves and share these experiences with others. Mountains really talk to us. They open our hearts and souls and allow us to be right in the present moment. They show us how to enjoy the environment around us, allow us to re-charge and take some of their energy. The only thing you need to do is to listen to them, feel the harmony and open your mind.
This is a real mountain hikefulness!
text & photo: Simona