St. Olav’s: Sweltering in Sweden

Day 11 St. Olav’s, July 26th, 11km, Anviken > Hållstasjön

Around 7 am, I woke up sweating and fought my way out of my sleeping bag. The morning sun hit the tent with a midday intensity. It was like being inside a broiler.

We came north to get away from the heat. What the hell?

We cooked breakfast and packed up camp, happy to have recovered from yesterday’s hangover.

We took a rest in Pilgrimstad, enjoying fresh, cold spring water and sitting for a bit inside the pilgrim rest area. It was so nice and cool inside that we didn’t want to leave, but we knew we needed to keep moving.

We stopped for a swim in the lake on our way out of town. These breaks took a while, but they felt necessary.

When it was time to start looking for a camping spot for the night, we spotted a perfect, tent-sized area on a small beach by another lake. There didn’t seem to be anyone living in the houses nearby, so we didn’t worry about bothering anyone’s lake spot.

We set up camp and Andy cooked our dinner. Views like this make $0.30 ramen dinners feel fancy.

Day 12 St. Olav’s, July 27th, 18km, Hållstasjön > Ope

Will hike 4 food

The next day, we made a grocery re-supply and then treated ourselves to a big, delicious meal in Brunflo. Our hiker hunger was real, and we had to take advantage of meals like this.

It had been less than two weeks since we began St. Olav’s, but we could already tell that we were losing more weight on this hike compared to the Camino. After we took the pictures with our pizzas, I joked that we looked like bobblehead dolls: big heads, small bodies.

On the way out of Brunflo, we stopped to see the town’s impressive stone church tower from the middle ages. It served as a storage place for the Bishop’s tithes and as a shelter for the people during wartime.

Just outside of Ope, we found a great spot to camp on a bluff overlooking a lake. We set up the tent, then carefully picked our way down the bluff to the water to enjoy a sunset swim. I usually skipped swimming in the evenings because the water was cold and the air was chilly. But the heat of the last couple of days changed my mind, and I soaked in the cold water as we watched the sunset.

Day 13 St. Olav’s, July 28th, 18km, Ope > Frösö

We awoke to another very hot day. My energy was sapped before we had even walked a mile.

We took every opportunity to refill our water bottles and rest in the shade.

We were walking into Östersund, the capital and the only city in Jämtland county when a local couple stopped us. They were excited to welcome a couple of foreigners to their city and happy to point out that we were having perfect summer weather.

My God, I thought. Those winter months must be brutal to be so excited for two weeks of sunburn and mild heatstroke. I guess that’s what we get for walking around with heavy packs instead of hanging out at the lake.

We learned about Storsjöodjuret, the legendary monster living in Lake Storsjön. We didn’t see a monster, but we did see a hot pink flamingo being towed by a boat full of happy Swedes. It seemed like everyone from miles around had come out to enjoy the hot summer day.

In town, we had another opportunity for a big meal of burgers and fries, so we took it. We continued through town, stopping for groceries and an afternoon treat of fruit juice and ice cream bars.

We stopped for the day at a campground outside of Östersund.

Here we took showers, washed clothes, and enjoyed some WiFi. Then we lounged around the area outside the tent without being devoured by biting insects—a very rich evening. We continued our reading of Around the World in 80 Days while we enjoyed a beautiful sunset overlooking the lake.

Our weather apps told us that there was a cool front on the way. We could feel it in the air, and we were hopeful that it would bring some relief to our days.

Day 14 St. Olav’s, July 29th, 20K, Frösö > Backen

End of the second week!

This was the first day in over a week that I didn’t wake up sweating. The air was cool and there were clouds in the sky. Our weather apps say there may be rain in the next few days, but we’re willing to accept that for cooler temps.

If long-distance hiking in the summer has taught me anything, it is to be thankful for overcast days.

We took our time leaving the campground, then stopped for a very informative chat with a tour guide at Frösö Kyrka. The bell tower has a stave-like design typical of this region.

This was one of our favorite days on the trail. Part of it was the relief of cooler temperatures. But another part of it was that we were finally finding our groove on this trail. We were getting used to its nuances and to the rhythm of setting up and breaking down camp every day.

It started to feel like this was our way of life. This was just what we did now. We never wanted this walk in the wilderness to end.

When you ask a Swede for a place to camp…

The clouds stayed all day and around 8 pm it started sprinkling. We saw a clearing near a nice dock and walked up to what we assumed was the owner’s house to ask permission to camp. The house was impressive, set back off the road in the middle of a sprawling, rich lawn.

We introduced ourselves and explained what we were doing. The man introduced himself as Göran and seemed surprised to have visitors. He said we were welcome to set up our tent and that we could also use the outhouse nearby.

I never thought I would feel so grateful for outhouses. It was certainly setting a new standard for what I considered luxurious.

As we got back down to the dock, it began to rain. We quickly set up camp, using the small porch of the boat dock to keep our packs dry. Once the tent and sleeping gear was up, we stowed our packs in the tent and used the small porch for shelter while we cooked dinner.

It was chilly that evening, and I was so happy to put on my pullover and warm socks before I burrowed down in my sleeping bag. The rain continued through the night, and we drifted to sleep, cozy and dry in our tent.

Day 15 St. Olav’s

The next morning, we slept in until 10 am, greeted by cooler temperatures and no rain. We slept well but woke up to deflated air mattresses. We used the lake water to find and mark the small holes to patch later.

Göran, our generous host, came down to visit us and unlocked the dock house so that we could sit inside while we cooked and ate breakfast.

He and Andy hit it off immediately, as Göran also is an engineer. He was a structural engineer and had spent most of his career working on building projects internationally. Although he had settled into his retirement, we could tell he, too, had an adventurous spirit and was thrilled that we were on our trip.

He invited us back up to his house, which he had designed and built himself. He then showed us his woodworking shop, where he built knife handles, bows, and an ice yachting rig. His favorite projects seemed to be the bow that he had made for his granddaughter, a very skilled competition archer, and his ice yacht. As a couple of Okies, we had never heard of ice yachting. But when we learned how these small sail-powered vessels can zip across the ice at up to 90mph, we were both thrilled and terrified for Göran.

He was very proud of his home and shop, and he seemed happy to share it with two American hikers.

We visited with Göran for much longer than we planned, finally leaving his property around 3 pm. Oh well, we said, that was totally worth it. Göran was a gem.

Having daily mileage goals is good and all, but taking time to meet and talk with people like this is so much more important to us.

Comments

  1. Janie Steele

    Beautiful scenery. It is so green and the lakes so pretty.

  2. Kathy Villarreal aka Mom

    Such beautiful terrain!!! Adventure on y’all 👣👣👣👣❤️

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