Day 15 St. Olav’s, July 30th, 15km, Backen > Värmon
Because we stayed so long visiting Goran, our generous host from the night before, it was late when we finally got on the trail. We let go of the mileage requirements we usually placed on ourselves. Instead, we accepted and embraced this change in the schedule. After all, it’s not every day that you get to hang out with a retired engineer, ice-yachting Swede.
We were getting low on water and saw some people outside a house just off the trail.
Andy asked if we could fill our water bottles and the woman happily ran off to fill them. When she returned, she called her daughter over and we began talking about the hike—where we’re from, how far we’ve been, where we’re headed.
They asked where we were staying that night and we said we weren’t sure yet, that we would walk until we were tired and then find a spot to camp.
They mentioned they have a family summer cabin just a few miles down the road and we were invited to stay there. Luck strikes again!
We exchanged contact info and the woman, Cecilia, sent me the location in a text. About three hours later, I texted that we were close to the property. The dirt road led up to a gorgeous old wooden farmhouse surrounded by lush, green fields and thick forests.
We looked at each other like holy shit, are Swedes the best people on Earth or what?
Cecilia met us on the road and invited us into the house. She explained that it was her husband’s family’s property and that it had been in the family for something like 400 years.
Andy and I blinked as we tried to comprehend that this farmhouse had been around longer than our own country had been in existence.
Cecilia invited us to sit at the kitchen table and offered us cold beer and food, which we were more than happy to accept. She introduced us to her husband, Jonas, who was delighted to hear our story.
As we drank our beers, Jonas regaled us with adventurous tales from his past life. He and a friend had traveled extensively as younger men. Our favorite was a story in which they used fake passports to gain temporary employment in Australia, due to some tricky work visa rules.
He had a sparkle in his eye as he re-lived those days. We could tell by her reaction that Cecilia hadn’t heard all these stories.
After a couple of hours of visiting over food and beer, we were shown to our lodging. It was the most delightful mini cabin at the top of a hill, overlooking the property that once served as the quarters of the groundskeeper. It was perfect. Cecilia insisted it wasn’t much and I insisted that she put it on Airbnb.
We were shown the showers, which were located in the barn. The showers looked like something from a fancy resort and the water was piping hot. Hot showers and real beds were the icing and sprinkles on the cake, especially since we still hadn’t patched the leaks in our air mattresses.
Once again, we were humbled by the generosity and hospitality of the people we met along the trail. What great fortune we have had talking to strangers.
Thank you, Cecilia and family!
Day 16 St. Olav’s, July 31st, 20km, Värmon > Hälleberg
The next morning, we said farewell to Cecilia, thanking her once again for her hospitality.
We rejoined the trail which took us through an outdoor museum about the ancient tradition of using deep pits to hunt moose. Hunters would dig a pit in the forest and place sharpened spikes in the bottom. Next, they would put a loose covering over the top, like tree branches and leaves. Then, they would chase the animals through the forest, toward the pits. The animal would fall in the pit, probably be impaled, and the hunter would finish the animal.
Though they no longer use pitfalls (they are now illegal) many of these pits are still around the area. It makes me a little nervous to traipse through the woods.
The trail took us to another museum, Glösa Ålgrike. It was hosted by a delightful and very knowledgeable man who told us more about the history, culture, and wildlife of Scandinavia. He was dressed in animal skins and looked the part of a mountain man.
He offered us coffee and snacks and encouraged us to check out the animal carvings in the rocks nearby. The engravings are thought to be as old as 4000 B.C., chiseled into the rock and painted with red ochre.
After the rock carvings, the trail leads us through a dense forest.
The way was not marked as well here, and we got frustrated trying to figure out where to cross the river to stay on the trail. It was getting late in the day and we had no idea how much longer we would be in the forest.
We paused to collect ourselves and check out these “giant’s kettles”, craters in boulders created by smaller boulders crashing downriver over time. We considered setting up camp here but decided to give one final push to try and get out of the woods.
Sure enough, we soon found the bridge to cross the river. Shortly after, we were in a small village. We could tell it was farmland and that people lived here, but we didn’t see anyone around.
We spotted a picnic table along the road with an Olav’s symbol on it and decided to camp in the clearing next to it.
It was late, and we were extra hungry, so we each had two packs of ramen and eggs.
I thought about the man we met on the Camino in Spain over the summer. He got kidney stones from eating a diet high in sodium. He was forced to spend some time in a Spanish hospital before completing his roundtrip Camino.
I shuddered at the thought, fearful that those might be lurking inside me, waiting to declare war. I drank some more water, hopeful that it would keep any maladies at bay, at least for now.
The outside temperature was dropping fast, so we bundled in our sleeping gear and got in the tent.
As soon as we were settled in around 11:30 pm, I heard a vehicle pull up on the road near our tent.
I was scared and felt vulnerable. Was it an angry farmer that wanted us to leave?
The car door opened, and soon I heard a soft “Hallo? Hallo, are you sleeping?”
Them: “Do you want to come inside? It’s getting cold. I have an extra room and a shower you can use. You can leave your tent here and come back in the morning?”
Apparently, there is a hostel right across the road from where we set up, and this kind soul wanted to make sure we were comfortable. It was the furthest thing from an angry farmer trying to chase us off the land.
We thanked this person but said no, we’ll stay here, but thank you so much for checking on us. We had just gotten warm and didn’t want to move from our cozy sleeping bags.
The fact that this person went out of their way to check on us and offer better accommodation warmed me to my bones. The hospitality of people along the trail continues to amaze. One day we hope to be able to pay it forward.