St. Olav’s: Final Days of Olav’s

Day 30 St. Olav’s, August 14th, 20km, Stjørdal > Hommelvik

30 Days on St. Olav’s

We slept well behind the grocery store, but we decided not to push our luck with our stealth camping. So as soon as we woke up, we packed up and rolled out.

We walked a couple of kilometers to the Værnes Church, one of the oldest stone buildings in Norway, built in 1100. Lucky for us, it was open, so we had a look inside. The frescos and tapestries on the walls were beautiful and very unique.

We decided to make our breakfast near some benches behind the church, near the graveyard. It might seem creepy or off-putting to hang out near a graveyard. But Scandinavian graveyards are very peaceful, well-tended to, and there’s always fresh water available.

We drank our coffee and ate our breakfast sandwiches, then refilled our water bottles and hefted our packs into place.

We stopped in at the Værnes Museum and Visitors Center and got a very beautifully designed stamp in our passports. The stamp was inspired by the rosette of the church and designed by the woman running the museum. She was amused to meet a couple of Americans and we were happy to be the novelty.

We followed the trail out of town, walking under a low, cloudy sky. So far, the rain had held off and the sun kept trying to break through the dense cover. We had less than 50 kilometers (under 30 miles) left on St. Olav’s and I was hopeful that we could finish without any more rainy days.

Because of our long walk the day before (when I was highjacked by my lizard brain), we were ahead of schedule. So we decided to take a side trip.

Welcome to Hell.

We went to Hell.

It was pleasant and much cooler than we expected.

Hell is a small town in Norway with a population of 1600 people about 33 kilometers from Trondheim. I was expecting a full-kitsch tourist trap. T-shirts, postcards, and shot glasses saying things like “My friend went to Hell and all I got was this stupid T-shirt”.

But apparently, Norwegians are above the capitalist cravings of kitschy souvenirs. There wasn’t much more to Hell than this train station and cute little telephone booth.

Missed opportunities.

After we departed from Hell, we got back on the trail. The path was full of roots and very muddy. Crossing it is a fun game of strategy. Fun for me, anyway, because I sent Andy ahead to find all the slippery and muddy parts.

By late afternoon, we started looking for a place to set up the tent. A couple who had been out picking blueberries stopped to talk to us. They asked us about the hike we were on, which eventually lead to:

“Where are you traveling next? How long are you traveling? You’re doing what?!”

We gave them the highlights, trying to summarize our major life decision to a couple of foraging Norwegians with berry-stained hands.

We talked for a few minutes, but the waning afternoon light gently urged us all to keep moving. We were running out of daylight and the temperature was dropping quickly. The couple told us there was a shelter up the hill a couple of kilometers away.

The hill was more challenging than we expected and we arrived at the shelter panting. But having a clear, level camping spot was worth the extra push. We quickly set up camp, cooked, and ate dinner. Then we bundled up, crawled into our sleeping bags, and passed out.

Day 31 St. Olav’s, August 15th, 15km, Hommelvik > Vikhammer

The Homestretch

The next morning, after our usual routine of breakfast and packing up camp, we headed out on the path. Unfortunately, it led us through several bogs. Thankfully, there were usually narrow, wooden walkways that kept us from sinking in.

We nervously joked about how this walkway made us an easy target for a hungry bear or an angry moose. Like one of those conveyor belts that deliver food around a restaurant.

We came across a pilgrim rest stop with the verse:

“Come to me, all those who strive and carry burdens, and I will give you rest.”

It seemed all too appropriate for this point in the journey. So we sat and rested awhile, soaking up the sun and reflecting on how far we’ve come. Thirty-one days and hundreds of miles of walking and wild camping across Scandinavia.

How was it possible that we were already almost at the end of this journey?

We came across a lovely, newly built pilgrim shelter with a beautiful view of the surrounding bog, woods, and fields of wildflowers.

I imagined how many weary pilgrims will find warmth and comfort within its walls. How many pilgrims will rest there and contemplate the final kilometers of their journeys.

We continued, the numbers on the signposts getting lower, pulling us to the end. We were close enough to Trondheim that we knew we could finish the next day, a full day ahead of what we originally planned.

But we were feeling a complicated mix of accomplishment, gratitude, and bittersweet emotions. We knew the end was coming, but we weren’t ready for this part of the journey to end. We wandered closer to our destination, seeking out what would be our final tent camping spot for St. Olav’s.

When you ask a Norwegian for a camping spot

As we were searching for our final camping spot, we saw a man mowing the yard of a large property that included a house and two large barns. We stopped and waved, then waited for him to pull up to us and shut off the mower.

We explained what we were doing and where we were headed. Then we asked if he would allow us to set up our tent on his property. He seemed surprised at this request, but said yes and motioned for us to follow him to a flat, newly mowed area behind one of the barns.

We thanked him profusely and started setting up camp.

He came back a few minutes later and asked if he could bring us dinner. We politely declined, explaining that we had food to cook on our camp stove. But the whole time we were talking, he kept staring at Andy’s baggy clothes, concerned. He shook his head when we told him we would cook instant noodles and eggs for dinner.

“No, really, it’s no problem, I’m making pizza.” And he disappeared inside the house while we went back to setting up camp.

Before we even had our bedding unpacked and in place, our host brought us a giant pizza and a 2-liter bottle of soda. He didn’t make pizza, he ordered it just for us. It felt like we were getting a pizza party for walking so many miles.

It was so delicious and we inhaled all of it. The surge of calories made us feel high and bubbly.

We were so grateful, once again, for the kindness of strangers. We asked for a camping spot and we got a pizza party. It was the perfect way to mark the eve of our final full day of walking St. Olav’s and we fell asleep with full bellies and happy hearts.

Comments

  1. ridersgrimm

    We haven’t been to Hell, but we’ve ridden to Nowhere! 🙂

  2. Janie Steele

    The artwork in those altars is incredible. The kindness of strangers is amazing. I wonder if I could be that kind of person 🤔

  3. Kathy Villarreal aka Mom

    I have been to Paradise but not Hell! What beautiful photos and that pizza!!!! So many wonderful memories made 👣👣👣👣👣❤️

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