Day 17 St. Olav’s, August 1st, 20km, Hälleberg > Mörsil
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of horses snorting and stomping at us. It was a scary sound to wake up to, not being able to see them and not knowing just how sturdy the fence was that separated us. I had visions of them pawing the tent with us inside.
I unzipped and scrambled outside to see that we were being stared down by several curious horses. Thankfully, an electric fence kept them at a respectful distance.
We cooked and ate breakfast while we sat at the picnic table. The morning sun was warming us up quickly, and we were excited to start a new day.
To our surprise, a couple of pilgrims came walking down the road as we were finishing breakfast. Seeing other pilgrims here is such a rare sighting, so we eagerly invited them to sit and visit with us for a while. Hans and Astrid were seasoned pilgrims from the Netherlands. They had a lot of experience with long hikes and had also walked the Camino, so we quickly bonded over the shared experience.
They continued on their way, and we broke down camp.
The trail today brought us to the official halfway point— only 182 miles left!
This milestone skews our perception of time and distance. How is it that we’ve already walked 182 miles? And yet…how is it that we’ve only walked 182 miles?
I could already feel myself grasping to hold on to these final 182 miles. It didn’t seem like enough time or distance to soak up this beautiful place and these wonderful people.
We knew we needed to stop for groceries, and there was only one grocery store along the way. According to Google, we could make it with a comfortable amount of time left before it closed.
After a closer look at Google, we learned that it closed an hour earlier than we thought it did. By our calculations, we had about a 25-minute window to cover two miles and grab whatever provisions we needed.
If we weren’t burdened with heavy packs, this wouldn’t be a big deal. I mean, I’m not known for sprinting an under-ten-minute-mile, but Andy probably could have made it.
We quickened our pace but decided that our best shot would be Andy running ahead. He quickly gave me directions before he took off in long strides. The thought of missing out on groceries made me panic more than being separated and potentially getting lost. I shuffled along as fast as I could under the weight of my pack.
By the time I got there, I was out of breath, and I burst through the grocery store doors with a few minutes to spare.
The young clerk behind the counter looked at me, eyes wide.
I spotted Andy sweeping through the aisles, grabbing trail mix, coffee, bread, eggs, ramen. I shouted to him, asking what else we needed as I wove through the aisles.
I’m sure the employees thought they were under siege.
We grabbed our usual “grocery store parking lot feast” of chips, cookies, and juice and threw everything on the counter to pay. As soon as we exited, the employee locked the door behind us. No doubt they were thankful to have us feral hikers out of their store.
We made it.
We enjoyed our parking lot feast, scarfing down the calories, and packed away the rest.
Now to find a place to sleep for the night.
The trail led us to an outdoor museum, but it was already closed for the day. The way continued through the property and ended at a swimming area. There was a lovely beach with a shelter and outhouse nearby.
We decided this was the perfect place to call home for the night.
We set up the tent, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and fell asleep to the sound of waves gently crashing on the shore.
Day 18 St. Olav’s, August 2nd, 19km, Mörsil > Ristafallet Falls
We woke up to a beautiful morning on the lake. I could have spent all day sitting on the shore, staring out at the water. But I know that wasn’t an option, so we got to work.
We cooked breakfast, broke camp, and set out for the day. We passed a pilgrim break stop with a signature board for all the pilgrims passing through. There were not a lot of signatures from the US, which is pretty cool to us. We are among the few.
We kept walking and saw a sign for American burgers. We couldn’t resist. The restaurant was decorated with kitschy Route 66/Americana memorabilia, and it immediately felt comforting and familiar.
We both ordered burgers and fries, indulging in the options of bacon, cheese, and onions. I never wanted that meal to end.
After we licked our plates and fingers clean, we resumed the trail.
We were walking through a field when we were startled by another pilgrim approaching. He was a young man from Moscow, Russia, and introduced himself as Oleg. We had never met anyone from Russia, so we were excited for the opportunity to talk to him.
He was carrying a massive, unwieldy pack and admitted that this was his first time hiking and camping. What an ambitious first experience–a solo cross-country hike.
Soon we came to our stopping point for the night: a campground surrounded by a river and several waterfalls. It’s a beautiful area, well worth the camping fee.
When we were checking in, the young man running the campground was taking down our information. He asked for our phone number, country code first.
When we said “+1” he snorted, “You Americans think you’re number one at everything, don’t you?”
We were a little taken aback at his response, then Andy replied, “When it comes to inventing the phone, yeah, I guess we are.”
We left the clerk and went to set up our tent before enjoying the luxuries of the campground. Oleg set his massive tent up in the spot next to ours, and we all headed to the main area where we could shower, wash clothes, and cook dinner.
We enjoyed the camaraderie of eating dinner with a fellow pilgrim and getting to know more about Russia and its culture. As Americans, we don’t know much about Russia beyond the Cold War and the thuggish, organized crime portrayals in movies and shows. Oleg told us Moscow was a nice place to live, but that he never spent much time in the countryside because “the people are a little crazy there.”
Having grown up in a rural part of the country, I could relate. I knew of some crazies in my part of the world. Maybe people aren’t so different after all.
After dinner, we said goodnight and went to our respective tents. We fell asleep to the sound of the waterfalls and slept so very well.