Day 22 St. Olav’s, August 6th, 21km, Medstugan > Liaberga
Our friend Hans had told us about a great hunting village along the trail, which we would be encountering on this day. He said that sometimes the lodge has vacancies for pilgrims. He told us it’s quite the experience, and maybe we’d get lucky and get a spot there for the night.
I spent the whole day hiking and daydreaming about a lavish spread of food. Meat, cheese, bread, and desserts. There would be so much extra food that they would encourage us to take some with us for the trail. And, I told myself, we were sure to be lucky. Because there were so few pilgrims on the trail, there was no way they were fully booked.
I was so certain this hunting lodge was going to happen for us that when we found out they didn’t have vacancies for pilgrims, I shook my head in disagreement.
No, that’s not right, we’re supposed to stay here, I thought. What about this lavish spread of food I’ve been thinking about all day?
The more reality sunk in, the saltier I became. We took a short break, eating some trail mix and drinking water while we sat on the ground outside the lodge. But I was ready to go. If I wasn’t going to be allowed to stay there, I didn’t want to be there a minute longer.
I hefted on my pack and sulked away.
The trail was bringing us to the Norwegian border and we saw on the map in our guidebook that there were two pilgrim shelters along the way. Since the hunting lodge didn’t work out, we hoped one of the shelters would.
The trail became much more pleasant once we were off the asphalt and away from the busy highway. I felt my mood lifting with each step.
We stopped at the first pilgrim shelter that happened to be located near a bog. The shelter was meager and we didn’t love the idea of sleeping there, so we decided to keep moving. But not before we discovered the treasure in the bog: cloudberries.
Once I spotted a couple of the golden berries hidden in the dense foliage of the bog, my eyes darted around, hunting for the next one. I was like a treasure hunter, searching for gold flakes in a pan of silt.
The next pilgrim shelter was seven miles away, so after a handful of cloudberries, we forced ourselves out of the bog and back on the trail.
And just like that, with no other living thing in sight, we walked across the border into Norway.
There was a very unceremonious pile of rocks marking the border, which was more than we saw at the France/Spain border. It was a very surreal feeling, a momentous occasion with no witnesses.
Almost as soon as we crossed the border, the scenery changed—more rocky, fewer trees, more bogs. All the Swedes that we had met along the hike kept telling us that Norway had much more natural beauty than Sweden. We thought they were being self-deprecating, that there was no way Norway could be that much better than Sweden.
But then we saw it for ourselves and began to understand. Sweden is beautiful. But Norway is something else entirely.
A short 4 miles after crossing the border we saw the second pilgrim shelter. It looked newly constructed and even had a wooden floor. There were also several picnic tables and an outhouse.
It is such a perfect, homey little spot and we were happy to call it ours for the night. It made me thankful that there were no vacancies in the hunting village after all.
We set up our tent inside the shelter. After getting so cold the night before, I’m thankful to have the extra shelter. We cooked and ate dinner at one of the picnic tables, then we headed to the tent for bedtime.
As I was snuggling down into my sleeping bag, Andy brought up the tent that I had gotten him for our second Valentine’s Day together. I didn’t recall everything from that time so I asked,
“Had we been looking at tents?” (“No”)
“Had we been talking about taking a camping trip?” (“No”)
“Did I get any input from you on what kind of tent you wanted?” (“No”)
“Well that was pretty bold of me.” (“Maybe a little”)
In 2014, I bought Andy a tent for Valentine’s Day. We had only “camped” together once–we slept in a tent in a pasture for the Gentlemen of the Road music festival in Guthrie, OK in 2013. So maybe buying a tent was a little presumptuous on my part. But Andy loved the gift and we talked about all the adventurous, nature-loving things we would do.
It was not until the summer of 2015 that we took our first camping trip with that tent. And it was a big one. Andy had bought us tickets for the Gentlemen of the Road music festival in Salida, CO. We were going to tent camp around Colorado for two weeks leading up to the festival. I had no idea he was going to propose on that trip.
We got engaged and found a mutual love for camping and “roughing it”, though at that time we still enjoyed the comforts of car camping. Who would have thought that four years later we would be laying in a backpacking tent on the Norwegian border reminiscing about that trip.
That first tent set in motion one of the greatest adventures of our lives together. Since then, we had camped in four countries and spent almost 30 nights in our new backpacking tent. It’s fun to think back about those newbies and their car camping and reflect on how much our outdoor experience has grown in a short amount of time.
Day 23 St. Olav’s, August 7th, 18km, Liaberga > Kong Carl Johans Klev
We slept so well in our nice, cozy shelter. Andy was always awake before me and that morning woke me up from outside the shelter. “I got you a surprise.”
I asked, hopeful and hungry, “Is it donuts?”
“No. Better, I think.”
What could be better than donuts?
Something much rarer than donuts.
A full cup of freshly picked cloudberries.
Cloudberries are not commercially grown, so they must be foraged from the bogs where they grow. Lucky us that we were sleeping right in the middle of a bog. It was a beautiful surprise and a great start to our morning.
We broke camp, saying goodbye to one of our very favorite camping spots of the entire trip.
As we were walking along the trail later that morning, I stopped to adjust my gear. I heard something rustling in the woods. Andy moved to investigate.
Suddenly, the rustling turned to a crashing sound. A reindeer came crashing through the woods, running right at Andy!
I was frozen, watching the whole thing happen from a few yards back. Those giant hooves. Those massive antlers. That big animal, spooked and moving fast.
It dodged him and ran away, straight down the trail as we both watched, mouths agape. We were speechless for several seconds. When we finally found our words, we laughed and thanked God that we didn’t become reindeer roadkill.
This was our first reindeer sighting, even though we understand they are very common in Scandinavia. And we learned this fun fact- did you know that reindeer and caribou are the same animals? Reindeer are domesticated, caribou are wild.
A little further on the trail, we met a very nice man who welcomed us to Norway. Then, he invited us to come inside his home for a break. We sat with him and his wife and enjoyed some lemonade and chocolates for almost an hour. She told us we spoke very clear, easy-to-understand English. It’s a compliment to us, and from this point on, we made a conscious effort to maintain it.
Since English is the only language we’re fluent in, the least we can do is make sure our English is clear and easy to understand.
After we thanked our hosts for the visit and the refreshments, we continued on the path. We decide to look for a shelter that we think is nearby.
We crossed a suspension bridge and followed the trail through the woods. Sure enough, we found a shelter on a clear, small, stream-fed lake. It wasn’t the best shelter we had come across (there was no floor), but the surroundings were great. So we decided to set up the tent in a clear area near the water.
That night, Andy finished reading Around the World in 80 Days to me, and we fell asleep to the sound of sheep bells clanking near the stream.