Category Archives: Wilderness
I felt like this was the season I needed to take on the Colorado Trail. My trek in the Lofoten Islands of Norway got me in pretty good shape but it also meant I would get a late start on the CT. That translated to starting in Durango with the northbound goal of hiking to Denver. Normally I don’t focus on the through hike concept but I did initially hope to complete the entire CT. I was definitely onboard for the complete CT during my first week on the trail.
I knew that acclimating to the altitude was going to be critical for an old backpacker who was coming from an elevation of about 300′ in Oregon. So driving to Colorado was an excellent way to acclimate. Over about a week I adapted myself to the higher elevations of Colorado which enabled me to at least survive those initial days climbing up from Durango into the San Juan Mountains. Overall I believe that a late start on the CT is enhanced by taking on the northbound approach. Some positives were guarantees of maximum beauty in the San Juan’s, good water access thanks to a good snow year, and the sun is typically at your back (helpful for solar charging).
I was able to leave my car with a friend in Colorado Springs and receive a ride to the Durango Junction Creek Trailhead. I spent the night at the NFS Campground and started out on August 15th. I knew that the elevation climb over the next couple of days would be the greatest vertical change on the entire CT, close to 5000′ to Kennebec Pass but much more than that with the various undulations. The vertical alone would be tough but climbing from 7000′ to 12000′ feet is the real challenge. Once I reached 11000′ feet I was sucking air. Climbing at high altitude was slow and tiring, but thankfully I was not getting sick so my acclimation had worked.
The first day turned out to be longer then I might have planned, but water and campsite options dictate your decisions, So I had to go 14.5 miles with about 4000′ total ascent to Junction Creek for my first night. Yes you can push yourself the first day, but I sure was tired sharing the limited campsite space with about 15 other SOBO backpackers. I was getting acquainted with my various navigational aids: Guthook App, CT Databook, and my Garmin InReach Mini. Goal for Day 2 was Taylor Lake which I knew would push the altitude envelop but would set me up for the next days at that elevation. However, the 4000′ climb to Taylor Lake was brutal since high elevation took its toll. The last 500′ I would go about 20 feet and then rest, but I only had to cover about 8 miles so I had the time to slog along. I did have a bit of a headache at Taylor Lake, but nothing bad.
The trail to Taylor Lake was truly stunning. The beauty of the San Juan’s was exploding in perfect weather. Taylor Lake turned out to be a very nice campsite.
Day 3 would mean mostly hiking around 12000′ which amplified every uphill section. I was encouraged though because my body was not rebelling and I had hopes for getting stronger. However, water was known to be scarce in this section with a small seep of a stream as it was called as the only water for 22 miles.
The seep came after 7 miles which made for an easier day since that was my only campsite option. Unfortunately the seep occurred in a few places and from my northbound approach I ended up choosing to filter water out of the less desirable seep which ended up clogging my Katadyn water filter with mud. Oh well, live and learn.
But I did take advantage of the great viewpoint campsite just north of the seep. The following day meant 15 miles to the next reliable water, however, the terrain was not that tough so it turned out to be a good but I was tired. A strong motivator was the incredibly beautiful scenery that epitomize the San Juan’s. I do believe this is the most beautiful portion of the CT.
On my 5th day on the trail I was beginning to understand my challenges. One problem I have is loss of appetite while on the trail. This was not going to work for a sustained period of time so I would need to increase my calorie intake. I decided to address this issue in Silverton when I resupplied. Yes, Silverton, now I was starting to think about those nice cold IPA brews that I would have in town.
Blackhawk Pass presented some of the best hillsides of flowers that I saw on the CT. But not just here, the flowers were awesome throughout my CT Trek.
I was truly in heaven. The weather was fabulous and the scenery was amazing. My last night before Silverton was the beginning of many nights of being totally exposed above tree line, but the weather was cooperating. However, this day ended up being filled with smoke from a controlled burn.
My final push into Silverton at Molas Pass presented the most risky weather situation I had to deal with. Storms were forming but I felt like they were going to miss me to the south. Wrong, they moved north and overtook me when I had very little cover.
The hail was large enough to hurt so I had to essentially dive into a tree and hope that lightening would not choose that tree. I was lucky because a strike occurred very close as in the light and the sound were simultaneous. I was able to finish out the segment and hitchhike a ride to Silverton from the Molas Pass rest area.
I suppose that I can consider myself a writer or at least a blogger and with that comes occasional encounters that motivate you to write an opinion or post. On my recent flight from London to Dallas (10 hours) I sat next to a young woman whom appeared to be exhausted but a few hours into the flight she wanted to talk. She was from Santa Rosa, CA, returning from a trip to Portugal with her Yoga Class. The experience was supposed to be for renewal and relaxation, however, it sounded like personalities got in the way. I was able to relate to her through my experiences in California. And she was inspired by the story of my sister who bailed out of her life in Los Angeles and returned to our hometown of Lafayette, IN. I told her that it was my sense that Californians have a lot of anxiety and she agreed. She wants out of that world, but how does that translate for her.
Back home in McMinnville, OR, I needed to visit my favorite watering hole, The Bitter Monk, where I could select a pint of IPA on draft for about $5 which would have cost me $15 in Norway. So I sit down with this man and woman who appeared to be somewhat connected to the hiking community. When I asked, they replied that they were adventurers, which was a good segue for me. Mike was a real adventurer or wonderer and it appeared that he had lived a tough life. Erin was a different kind of adventurer, one who combined mind, body and spirit. She owns a nearby Yoga Studio. Over my next 2 IPA’s I learned about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and about Forest Bathing. All of this seemed like ways of defining what I already knew as one who feels at home in the wilderness. I was impressed that Erin was passionate enough to help others learn of the health benefits that nature provides.
And the kicker that caused me to write this post was an article I just read from the Dihedral “Adventure Heals the Soul“. The post promoted the Blog Adventure Heals the Soul and a new video that the author, Natalie Rhea, produced:
The video deals with aspects of mental health and how nature healed her soul. A quote from Natalie resonated with what I have found as well, “There is no competition in nature, nature is a disruptor of inequality”. Again I am impressed that people like Natalie are communicating the value that nature has provided.
This sense of healing or health obtained from nature was a significant take-away I had from my adventure in Norway. Nature was at the forefront of Norwegian lives and they seemed to be reaping the benefits of that healthy life. How could you not be healthy living a village like this.Village of Å
We came out from the Munkebu trek in the morning, got some supplies, and headed toward what would be our last trek on the Lofoten Islands, Andstabben. The trail looked great although we were warned that it had a few difficult sections.
We were also warned that the trail was difficult to find. And since we did not download a GPX file and were just relying on following a line on a map, we never did find the route to Andstabben.
However, we did have fun trying and our campsite over Lake Ågvatnet was pretty nice. The trailhead is the large tourist parking lot in the village of Å. We took the high trail to the south of the Lake trying to assume where it must cut up the mountain but we failed. We followed a potential trail up to a rock wall but somehow we just couldn’t find it. We also talked to another serious hiker who did not find it either. So we found the only flat area about the Lake and setup our campsite. The clouds were engulfing the Andstabben summit so we probably would not have completed the trek even if we had found the trail.
The morning brought a beautiful sunrise complete with a mirror lake.
The hike out took us past the Stock Fish wooden racks near the village of Å.
Finishing up our adventure in Å was appropriate for the ultimate Lofoten fishing village experience.
Coming out from Selfjord in the morning allowed us to resupply and start our trek to Munkebu, (Munkan), which offered one of the most spectacular 360 views of the islands. This trek was not part of the Great Crossing but it probably should be. This is a great hike with some of the most spectacular views of the Lofoten Islands. Our plan was to hike in far enough to setup for summiting Munkebu the following day with day packs and then return to our campsite for the second night. This worked out really well so that we could thoroughly enjoy the all that Munkebu offered.
The crowded trailhead is out of Sørvågen where the area offers nice lakeside park options for picnics. The beginning of the trail features a beautiful cascading waterfall. You have to climb some rock faces with the help of chains and then you pass by Lake Stuvdalsvatnet before you come to a rocky promontory.
We decided to camp just past where the trail veers to the right and begins its climb to Djupfjordheia at 510 m. We got an early start the next day so we were ahead of the other day hikers.
You then drop into a saddle area where there is a beautiful chalet that is used by the local hiking club.
The final climb to the summit begins right behind the chalet. This final climb up to 2513′ or 766 m is fairly straight up but the rewarding views are to die for.
We were the first to the summit but were joined by probably 20 hikers before we left.
We did take the high alternate route on our way down to rejoin the trail at Djupfjordheia on the way down.
The Great Crossing recommends Selfjord Bay over to a ferry boat on Kjerkfjorden but we opted for a two day trek over to Horseid Beach with a night at the beach and one on the saddle near the pass. We did some scouting of the area and determined that the more popular Kvalvika Beach was a bit too popular so we opted for the more remote Horseid Beach which after comparing with others determined that we made the right choice. This multi-day trek over to Horseid was a highlight of the entire trip.
The climb up to the pass took us around the bay and past Fageravatnet lake.
The trail had about everything with plenty of wet bogs to navigate. The route over the pass between Kråkhammar and Markan was just gorgeous.
We planned to camp on the saddle just before the pass on our return.
The hike from the pass to Horseid was a bit wet but then you reach the sands of the extended beach.
Plenty of campsites but we chose one right above the ocean rocks since the weather did not appear to be a risk.
The location was awesome and I even got a glimpse of the midnight sun when I woke myself up around midnight.
The next morning I spent a couple of hours just wandering along the rocks near the ocean taking in the magical beauty of this special place.
Here is a video that I try to capture the moment with.
We hung around for awhile the next day before we had to climb back up to the pass.
When we got to the saddle we could see that we had clear skies while the other side of the mountain toward Selfjord Bay was engulfed in a cloud.
The cloud was gone for our hike out the next morning but we still had plenty of wet and challenging trail to deal with.
Now on to Sørvågen where we headed up to the Munkebu Summit trail.
Jakob needed more time to rest his foot so I set out to complete the Great Crossing segments 4-5 which is Vikjorda connecting with Lake Store Krenggårsvatnet and on to Leknes. This was a 2 day trek which I was giving myself 3 days before meeting Jakob in Leknes. The trail starts our at Rebecca’s Cafe on highway 815 which unfortunately does not appear to be in operation any longer. The early kilometers presented a gentle climb around a lake before you are presented with the task to reach the ridge above, however, there is no trail so you choose your own route.
This was not difficult which is probably why no trail has evolved, however, a GPX route was important.
Once up on the ridge you rediscover a trail and work your way toward the peak of Dalstuva which is 534 m. I was prepared to crossover, however the peak was in a cloud so I opted to setup camp before the ascent. There were not many flat spots to setup a tent but the ground cover was a lush mossy bed which made for a really comfortable bed. All was good, the weather was not great but no rain.
I could hear the sheep bells in the distance but the next morning about 15 of them were perched on a ridge nearby wondering what the heck I was doing on their mountain.
The morning brought clearing of the cloud over Dalstuva so I headed up the peak. I was close to the top at about 10:00 am when the clouds came back and I found myself in a bit of a whiteout.
The trail was narrow and rather dangerous so I really could not proceed without visibility especially with an even steeper descent. So here I am about 50 m from the summit and I am stuck waiting for the cloud to clear. And it never did, so after a few hours of hoping and hopping up and down to stay warm I decided to be smart and just turn around.
This meant I would have to hitch hike to somewhere but it was better to be safe then sorry.
After doing Matmora Jakob realized that something was wrong with his foot/heel. There should not have been a problem, his boots were fine and he did not remember a misstep. But he needed to figure out what was wrong so we got a cabin at the Sandsletta campground. Jakob decided to go into Svolvær the next day and I would take on the Haugen to Svolvær segment which is basically a crossing of the the island of Austvågøya. I took Jakob’s Garmin which could provide me a GPX route, so I felt confident that I could handle this segment. The actual trailhead is located down a dirt road past some farm houses, but I was having trouble with the Garmin. Finally a farmer across his field figured out that I was lost and waved me over to the other side of his farm. He said just walk through his farm. Actually he had a border collie who was extremely friendly so it was a nice mistake having to cross through this farm.
Once I got on the trail I was feeling good. A lot of the initial climb required navigating through wet bogs and plenty of mud. You hate to get your dry boots wet but once you do it doesn’t matter if they get wetter. Once I got to the first lake, I got a bit confused as to which side of the lake I was suppose to take. Actually the Garmin was giving me a lot of trouble and we later figured out that it really did have issues. So I did head up the wrong side only to finally determine that I was not on the correct trail so I think I wasted a few km and probably 70 meters. I think it was the Norwegian Mobile App “OUTTT” that finally showed me where I was at and suppose to be.
I think this is when I started to question just what I had gotten myself into. I always backpack alone so there was no reason to be concerned except I was starting to realize that I did not have all of my typical data support plus I was on some island out in the North Atlantic. As I approached the second lake, know as Ice Lake, it was apparent why. This area had the most snow that I would experience the entire trip. Helpfully a day hiker had come from the other direction so I was able to track his footprints.
Nothing tough about getting through the snow, but the descent into Svolvær was not so easy.
I had just taken this selfie before the final descent. The trail was just OK going down and I was probably going a bit to fast when my left foot did not hit trail and I went into a double roll down the mountain. The small birch trees cushioned my fall.
Whoa, I was surprised that nothing was hurt other than the backs of my hands were all gashed up and bleeding profusely and I snapped a trekking pole in half. I was a bit shaken trying to figure out how to deal with all of the blood when a couple of Norwegian hikers happened by. Nina & Erik helped me bandage my hands and allowed me to finish the descent with them.
Our first segment or day corresponded to the Great Crossing’s first day which was to cross over Matmora Mountain from Delp to Sandsletta. We did have to add a few km due to hiking to the Delp Trailhead from Laukvika but the trail was well marked and my Lofoten Adventure had begun. I quickly realized that the trail tended toward difficult since it essentially went straight up, no concept of switchbacks in Norway. Soon we were greeted by the local free range sheep who had deposited many poop landmines along the trail.
The trail started out in a steep climb up to about 400 m where the first summit flattened out with fantastic views to the South, West and North.
A large cairn marked this first plateau where we signed the log book. The trail then stretched out over ridges and shoulders before the final accent to Matmora.
At the summit we got our first 360 view out over Austvågøya Island. Overall the weather was excellent but we did need to pull out our backpack covers for a short rain storm.
The trail down was steep but dependable and the lower areas were drier then we expected.
The hike to Sandsletta was not bad at all.
I can’t believe I did it. Many years ago I saw photos of this amazingly beautiful place called the Lofoten Islands in Norway. I then found a website that talked more to the backpacking opportunities. Then an opportunity arose to join a group that was to backpack the Long Crossing of Lofoten, but that fell apart. However, out of the process I did hook up with another senior backpacker from Switzerland who was interested in taking on this Long Crossing so the commitment was made. My earlier post Outside My Comfort Zone detailed some of the hopes and fears I had leading up to the actual adventure. In this post I will give an overview of the entire journey and then add specific trip reports for the various 1-2 day treks that comprised the overall adventure.
The adventure really began when travel commenced. In fact, I was probably most concerned about the travel. The three flights from Portland, OR to Oslo, Norway did not go as I would have hoped. My glitch occurred when my backpack did not make the connection in London to Oslo. In Oslo after diagnosing the problem I felt good about my backpack catching up to me that evening so that I would be fine for my flight the next morning to Bodø and then on to the Lofoten’s via ferry. That assumption was based on how lost baggage is handled in the US, but this was Saturday night in Oslo and nobody was actually concerned about my lost bag. So on Sunday morning when I realized that the process was not going to deliver me my backpack in time for my flight, I decided to find my backpack myself. I believed that my pack was on a late flight from London but no confirmation had been issued. The airport started waking up around 6:00 am but nobody could let me into the International baggage claim area until 8:00. My flight was at 9:30. Once I finally was able to speak with a baggage claim representative I was running out of time and they were not motivated to help, instead it was easier for them to assure me that my bag would be sent to me. Of course that was not going to work for my wilderness address on the Lofoten Islands.
So I resorted to serious begging and was finally able to motivate a handler to go search for my backpack. Thankfully, they did find my pack and I was just able to make my flight to Bodø and then catch the ferry to Svolvær. A lot of stress, but all part of the adventure.
I met up with my new backpacking partner, Jakob, Sunday night June 30th and we set forth our plans to hitch hike to the beginning trailhead at Delp. Hitchhiking didn’t really work, but we met a kayaking group who were headed in the right direction. We then got lucky where they let us off by catching a ride from a Swiss freelance writer who was working his way through the islands.
However, the weather was not cooperating so we decide to rent a cabin in the town of Laukvika and start the trek on Tuesday. We were basically trying to follow the stages laid out in what was referred to as the Great Crossing of Lofoten.
Stage 1 was a hike from the hamlet of Delp to the hamlet of Sandsletta over Matmora mountain. This would be about 15 km and 1000 m vertical with the high point at 766 m (2546′). The trail was rated medium/difficult. The day’s trek was great, some rain and some sun and amazing views. This trek helped to define what hiking would be like in the Lofotens. Difficult typically meant more difficult than a trail in the US. And if the listing was medium/difficult then it meant half of the trail was difficult.
It was difficult because the trails are laid out for the shortest path, as in, straight up a mountain, the concept of trail switchbacks does not exist. Unfortunately Jakob developed a problem with his foot on this first day and the injury would influence his participation throughout the rest of the Crossing. After spending a night in Sandsletta Jakob decided to seek medical advice in Svolvær and I set out to conquer stage 2 by myself.
Stage 2 Haugen to Svolvær takes you from one side of the island of Austvågøya to the other over a snowy mountain pass. I was not concerned about taking on this segment alone, however, I did borrow, Jakob’s Garmin which could utilize a GPX file. Unfortunately his Garmin was starting to whack out which did cause me trail confusion. The weather was good and the trail was decent but the scenery was stunning which totally motivated my tiring body.
Hiking in the Lofoten’s is a lot about avoiding muddy wet trail sections which probably contributed to what could have been a very serious tumble that I took on my descent into Svolvær. A misstep caused me to take a couple of somersaults ending up without anything broken except my trekking pole. The backs of my hands were scraped and bleeding, but a couple of Norwegian hikers, Nina & Erik, happened by to help me compose and bandage myself. Now I was a bit more concerned about my ability to backpack in the Lofotens, plus I was hitting that second day exhaustion. Thank God, Jakob decided to rent a car and was able to pick me up at the end of the trail. We regrouped in Svolvaer to plan out the next few segments. Jakob needed a few more days to rest his foot so I decided to head out on my own again.
We decided I should skip segment 3 which entailed way too much road hiking so Jakob drove me to the start of Segment 4 Vikjorda which would connect with Lake Store Krenggarsvatnet and on to Leknes. This segment was referred to as a mountain crossing connecting with a more tame segment 5. I was planning on taking 3 days to complete these 2 segments so I felt good about the progress I made on the first day. However, this was a strange trail because it stated that there was no trail to get you to a ridge and that was accurate. It was critical to have a GPX route to follow. I found a good campsite which would set me up to go over the mountains the next day since the clouds were not going to allow that on this day. All seemed good the next morning when the clouds lifted but that changed quickly as I neared the peak of Dalstuva. I was only a 50 m from the first highpoint but a cloud was totally blinding me.
Combining poor visibility with a very narrow ridge to navigate, not to mention a steep descent on the back side I succumbed to fear and wisdom and decided to turn around. I ended up back on the lightly used highway 815 hoping to hitch a ride to Leknes. I finally got a hitch after walking about 6 km and was eventually able to meet up with Jakob in Leknes on that Friday afternoon.
Jakob was feeling up for an easy hike out of Leknes so we headed to Justadtinden for an overnight. We did not intend to go all the way to the summit so this simple trek worked out well with a great view and time to come out before rain was due on the next day. As the weather deteriorated the next day we did our reconnaissance work to plan for our next 2 day segment. We did explore the trail options around Nusfjord but were not impressed with what we found or were told about. However, we did manage to give a number or rides to very grateful backpackers on that rainy day.
We decided to spend the night in Remsberg and then modify Segment 9 by going from Selfjord Bay to the Lofoten’s most remote Horseid Beach and then return. We were entering our second week and the weather forecast was finally cooperating. We had also totally abandoned the idea of completing the Great Crossing at least as it was laid out. Instead we used it as a guide to hit the most impressive hiking areas of the Lofoten’s typically by choosing 2-3 day routes and this next trek was definitely a highlight.
We got an early start with the goal to go from Selfjord Bay over to Horseid Beach for the night. The climb over the pass was tough but the beach reward was worth it. We ended up camping on an ocean overlook with an opportunity to view the midnight sun. The location was magical and my hours of private time on the rocks the next morning totally validated why I wanted to explore the Lofoten Islands. We spent the second night on the mountain saddle before descending back down to Selfjord Bay.
Coming out on the third day allowed us time to drive to our next trek which was to be summiting Munkebu which offered one of the most spectacular 360 views of the islands. We ventured down to Sørvågen where we headed up to the Munkebu Summit trail. We decided to camp at about 250 m and then summit the peak the following day with day packs. This worked out well for the 766 m (2510′) summit on this popular trail which did not disappoint us.
The view was fantastic. We had some chats with other hikers on top and I believe this was the first place that I ran into others from the US. We hiked back down to our campsite for a relaxing evening.
Andstabben Above Lake Ågvatnet Trip Report
After hiking out the next day we ventured down to Å to take on the Andstabben hike. Unfortunately we did not have a GPX file for this hike and we never did find the trail up and over the mountain so we settled on camping above Lake Ågvatnet.
The following day we relaxed in the village of Å by renting a cabin and having a great meal at Maren Anna.
This brought a close to our Great Crossing of Lofoten. I took the Moskenes Ferry to Bodø where I wanted to do some backpacking but the weather did not cooperate. There were definitely some excellent backpacking options on the coast north of Bodø where I was able to do some hiking on my last day before catching my flight to Oslo. However, I did squeeze in a day of golf above the arctic circle at Bodø Golf Park. I then spent 3 days visiting Oslo where I totally enjoyed that energetic city.
The goal was to complete Timberline Trail loop for the 3rd year in a row, but Snow and Weather dictated a different outcome. Scheduling this year required that I attempt the Timberline Trail on June 17th. Yes, a bit early but I knew there would be rewards of clear skies and few people. However, I did not think the snow depth on the Northeast side would create such a problem. Combine that with a snow storm that emerged from the gorge when we would have been crossing the high point and we had to adjust to a Top Spur extraction. Overall it was an Epic Adventure because I have never seen the views so clear and brilliant, rhododendrons blooming and nobody on the trail.
This is my annual trek to evaluate how old my body feels and I am very pleased with the results. My main concern for completing the loop was the severity of the river crossing, but they were totally acceptable.
I can’t believe I didn’t worry more about the snow pack on the north side. It wasn’t that you could hike over the snow, it was how it created severe inclines over what was the trail and then it engulfed the trail. We made it to the Wy’East area clockwise from Timberline Lodge before we determined that we had to abort. Of course we had already met 3 backpackers who had turned around. I do think we could have made it if it wasn’t for the weather. All week the forecast just kept getting worse with the prediction of snow. And the forecast turned out to be more than accurate which made for a tough night at Eden Park and the hike out to Top Spur.
Knowing that the best weather was at the beginning I decided to do my traditional clockwise route from the lodge and boy am I glad we did. Paradise Park was amazingly beauty and it looked like we may have been one of the first to spend the night up there.
We almost got a great sunset but the sun hitting Hood at the different intensities is just as good. Unfortunately we did have fairly high winds at our Split Rock campsite and then we got a couple of hours of rain starting at sun up.
The weather cleared to give us a perfect hike down to the Sandy with the most amazingly clear views of the Sandy River headwaters up to Mt Hood.
The river crossing was challenging but we did not have to get very wet.
Of course Ramona Falls was glorious and the hike up to Top Spur junction was hard since we took the lower Muddy Fork route where one from our party exiting to the Ramona Falls TH. As I mentioned the flowers we exceptional.
The second night we camped at Bald Mountain with a perfect night for sleep. Climbing up toward McNeil we were treated to a beautiful view of Hood, but fog and clouds were forming.
This is when the snow pack got higher than I expected. Not a real problem until about Eden Park where it became more treacherous and difficult to find the trail.
The rest of the way over to Wy’East only got more difficult, but it was still beautiful because the storm was forming to the north and Hood was backed by blue skies. Wy’East was the decision point because you have cell reception there and we had to coordinate for someone to extract us. We decided on Top Spur for the following day hoping that maybe we could get to McNeil Point.
But no, the weather started to deteriorate and we were happy to camp at Eden Park. The snow started to fall at 2 am and it was a cold wet mess for the rest of the trip out. This trek did provide some inspiration for my post about how complicated my dog Brook is: My Dog is Complicated