St. Olav’s: Weathering the Storm and Lizard Brain Takes Over

Day 28 St. Olav’s, August 12th, 19km, Ådalsskogen > Bulandsvatnet

The wettest day

The next morning, we headed up the hill to the creepy cabin. The porch gave us a great view and shelter while we cooked and ate breakfast. The clouds were hanging low, and it looked like it was going to be a very wet day.

We broke camp, donned full rain gear, and set out. Our boots were not waterproof, which is usually not a problem. In all our days of walking across Spain and now Scandinavia, we had encountered only a handful of mild, rainy days.

That was not the case on this day. We walked in nonstop, heavy rain for about eight hours.

We stopped for a break around noon in Markabygda and met a nice man who ran the hostel by the church in town. He let us in to see the church, then he let us take a break and dry off in the hostel. We enjoyed some hot coffee and trail mix while our boots were on the boot dryer.

We waited as long as we could before collecting our packs and setting out again. Except for our feet, we stayed dry and pretty warm even though the rain kept falling.

By late afternoon, the area where we were walking through appeared to be mostly weekend and vacation homes. This meant no one was around for us to ask permission to camp. And we didn’t want to make camp in the yard if no one was around.

We were exhausted and starting to get cold. My feet were so wet and shriveled that I was afraid of what I would see when I took my socks off. I had avoided bad blisters this far into our trip, but it felt like my luck was running out.

I started to feel despair at the thought that we would sit in our wet tent, peel off our wet socks, and still be wet and cold. But what choice did we have? We had to keep moving, looking for a place to sleep. I held on to hope that I would be dry again one day.

Finally, we saw a house with a car in the drive. Someone was home!

Andy knocked on the door.

A man answered, and Andy asked if we, pilgrims along the St. Olav’s path, could set up our tent in their yard. He said sure, but his wife, who had come to the door, nudged him and said something in Norwegian.

The man said, “Actually, why don’t you stay in our guest cabin?”

I was so relieved and grateful that I wanted to cry.

We accepted the offer, and they got to work. They put sheets and blankets on the bed, fired up the wood-burning stove, and turned on the heater so we could dry our things out. They brought a huge stack of firewood for the stove and pointed out that there was also an electric kettle in the corner.

We peeled off our sopping rain gear and draped our socks and other wet layers around the room to dry. It was a small space, so the heater and wood stove heated it up quickly. Our hosts fussed and fretted over us until we insisted that we had everything we needed. Once they were satisfied that we were happy, they wished us a good night and went inside the main house.

We made hot tea and ramen and enjoyed the dry, warm space we had been blessed with. The kindness of strangers continued to humble and amaze us.

Day 29 St. Olav’s, August 13th, 26km, Bulandsvatnet > Stjørdal

Waterproofing on a backpacker budget

We kept the wood stove raging all night, slept wonderfully, and awoke to mostly all dry clothes in our surprise guest cabin.

After the previous day’s soggy, pruney feet experience, I got innovative. I didn’t end up having blisters after all, but it was going to be another wet day, and I didn’t want to tempt fate.

I had some small plastic bags that happened to fit my feet. They were actually bags used for picking up dog poop. Even though we didn’t have a dog on this trip, I had picked them up from a pilgrim “take something, leave something” bin on the Camino in Spain. I thought they might come in handy one day.

We also had some empty bread sacks that fit Andy’s feet. Because when you’re backpacking, you find uses for things that you would normally overlook.

So even though we didn’t have waterproof boots, on that day, we managed to have dry feet.

I like to think that my Great Depression-era great-grandparents would have been proud of me for my resourcefulness.

We donned our rain gear once again, thanked our hosts again, and set out.

16 miles, $25, and sleeping behind grocery stores

We had enough food to last us through the day and for a meager breakfast in the morning. Then later that day, we would be in a town where we could fully resupply.

My rational brain understood this. We had enough food. We would not starve.

But my primitive, food-obsessed lizard brain translated it as:

*tHeRe’S nO fOoD. PANIC!*

And my primitive, lizard brain was the one calling the shots that day.

So what was originally going to be a moderate, 10-12 mile day turned into 16 miles.

Over mountains.

And through bogs.

In the rain.
To get to the closest grocery store before it closed.

For the last stretch, we were walking on asphalt along the highway. It had stopped raining, but the clouds were still dark and heavy. We were both tired and even my lizard brain was starting to question this decision.

Finally, we saw it in the distance. It was a beacon of hope, an oasis in the desert, a horn of plenty.

The grocery store.

We stormed through the automatic doors and dropped our packs next to the entryway. We tore through the aisles, grabbing our usual items, including some of the “scoop your own” trail mix. You select the variety you want and portion it into a paper carton.

I didn’t weigh it but it seemed like a normal amount, maybe two pounds. It had nuts, raisins, cranberries, and chunks of dark chocolate. It was going to be such a great, trail-friendly treat.

We also grabbed pastries and mini-pizzas from the bakery, juice, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. We headed to the checkout with our bounty.

At checkout, we learned that my little carton of trail mix cost a whopping $25 USD.

I gasped like someone punched me in the stomach.

Twenty-five dollars?! How is that possible? Did I miss the gold nuggets that were mixed in?

We cringed at the total, but accepted it and handed over the credit card.

After we checked out, we seated ourselves at a table in front of the entrance, just inside the doors. We spread out all our food that wasn’t reserved for future meals: chips, cookies, pastries, mini-pizzas, fruit juice, and the Ben & Jerry’s.

And much to the dismay of customers and employees alike, we chowed down.

At one point, Andy commented that we probably weren’t allowed to eat there. I snarled back between bites of food that I just paid $25 for trail mix and that I would eat wherever I damn well pleased.

The Norwegian teenager who checked us out kept looking over at us nervously. I realized that when you look positively feral, no one is in a hurry to confront you.

When we finished our feast, it was still raining. It was also dark, and we didn’t know where we were sleeping. We collected the remains of our groceries, shouldered our packs, and headed outside.

We wandered out behind the grocery store, around the loading dock, across the road, and found a flat spot near some trees, behind a mound of dirt. The area looked like a construction site being prepped for concrete. We reasoned that we could get up and packed before anyone could notice. Or be bothered by us sleeping behind the grocery store.

We decided to risk it and set up our tent in the rain. We had full bellies, full supplies, a dry tent, and no cops called on us. It was a good day.

(There were some lovely views today as well, I am glad my primitive brain let me stop long enough to enjoy them.)


  1. Kathy Villarreal aka Mom

    Lizard brain 😂😂😂. Thankful for the couple who offered the guest cabin! Beautiful scenery and hope y’all enjoyed every last crumb of the $25 trail mix!!! 👣👣👣👣❤️

  2. Janie Steele

    That was gourmet trail mix I guess. Sounds delicious and nutritious.

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