Hi, everyone! We have arrived at the third and last stretch of the hike I did with Lilli two years ago. Living through this trip as I share it with you has gotten me all excited for this summer. Just looking at these photos coaxed that lovely memory cocktail of sounds, smells and sensations; the heat rising from rock, hovering between the trunks as we wandered, and the cool breeze sweeping in from the ocean–salt, seaweed, and minerals. Even the moss and lichen has its own distinct scent. And the pine trees. Oh, the smell of resin and pine needles is divine.
After leaving the beautiful tarn behind, the landscape soon began to rise. At one point I had to lift Lilli up by intertwining my fingers and letting her step on my palms, and at another climb I got up first, then pulled her up while she found purchase with the toes of her shoes. On the way back, though, she told me she would brave the drop herself and she sure did. I kept my camera stowed away during these moments, though, ready to pounce to the rescue. Once the trail leveled out, I got my camera out again.
Lilli didn’t get tired of me taking photos, either. She was happy stopping and taking it slow, but at a particular moment after posing for a dozen photos in a row, she turned away and pretended I wasn’t there. Hah.
My steadfast little girl might not have said anything about getting tired, but hiking across a shifting landscape like this does wring the juice out of you. In a nice way, I think. In such a way that makes taking a break feel so good. So we found a spot with a great view and sat down to take many long breaths. And to refresh ourselves with water.
As I am sure shows and seeps through my words as I write, wandering nature and adventuring through all that it has to offer fills my heart and soul with joy. Getting to do this with my daughter–I count myself so blessed and lucky to have been given this wonderful human being to guide and nurture. And to be part of, whether close by or from afar, her very own journey in this life.
I may have this sneaky old habit of being very hard on myself, one I do many battles with still, but I only hope that by the time my little girl wants to try her own wings, I have given her a solid foundation to push off from.
On the last stretch, before reaching our turning point, and that preciously needed coffee and picnic smörgåsbord, we both kept our eyes all but glued to the horizon. The views from up here were absolutely breathtaking.
And this almost concludes our trek through Skuleskogen–for now. At the end of June, Lilli and I will get in the car–Loke will be joining us, too–to begin our road trip. Our first stop is Terranova, a natural science exhibition which presents Kvarken archipelago, elected as Finland’s first natural heritage site in 2006. It is a permanent part of the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vaasa. After that we will travel straight to Svedjehamn on Björkö in Kvarken archipelago, about 40 kilometers from Vaasa, and do a little exploring. I will talk more about that later in another post, since I have exciting plans to document our adventures this summer. In other words, there will be more mother-daughter hikes to come. And then some.
Some Last Words
The famous last words–no, not really. That just popped into my head when I wrote the heading text. I do want to get a little nerdy, though, and I have saved a little for the end credits. In every post I have written I have edited out my tendencies to transform my storytelling into information dumps. So, here we go. Short but sweet.
Did you know that twenty thousand years ago Skuleskogen National Park was covered by a 3 kilometre thick layer of ice? Can you imagine the weight of it? That pressure? Now, think of that melting, moving, sliding. The High Coast in Sweden, in which this park we have ventured through is situated, and Kvarken archipelago in Finland, forms a unique area. Together they are one of the few places in the world where traces of post-glacial rebound are so clearly visible. Flads and gloe lakes, deep crevices, vast rock fields, caves and tunnels carved by Mother Nature’s able hands. And watch that ancient rock rise up, still, at the pace of 8 mm per year. Skuleberget–Skule Mountain–which is right across route E4 from the National Park is impressive and definitely worth a visit. If you are into climbing, they have Via Ferrata facilities.
Lastly, did you also know that this post-glacial rebound process creates around one square kilometer of new land every year? In a couple of thousand years our descendants will be able to hike across Kvarken. It is just too fascinating and powerful to imagine. And too cool information to not add as an afterword.
If you have read this far, I want to thank you for joining us. I have honestly enjoyed writing about this and going through these photos so much, and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see your likes and follows. Thank you! As always, I look forward to sharing many more adventures with you. Until next time, and see you soon!
Hello, everyone! First I would just like to say that I am seriously so excited so many of you liked joining us on the mother-daughter hike. Today, before we continue, I have a (sort of silly) confession to make. My daughter was born in 2008, which means I did a slight miscalculation. She wasn’t eight the summer of 2015, she was seven. As I write this, I have to pause and count on my fingers, just once more, to be certain. Yep. Seven years old. What a little champion. Additionally, we had a little talk about that I am sharing this hike with you, which she thinks is pretty cool, but she wants me to refer to her as Lilli when I talk about her.
If you only just now dropped in, then you can find part one here. Alternatively, stay till the end and read part one once you’re finished. Whichever works for you!
Okay. Let’s Do This
After Lilli and I had walked for what seemed like hours–in reality much less–we breached a clearing. We had reached a tarn connected to a mire, only one of several. A wooden walkway had been laid out to enable crossing. My camera was out all the time, so when Lilli found some leaves and told me I had gotten muddy, then decided she would clean it, I had to capture the moment. She is so sweet.
You know, I often stop and think about how different it is out here, walking among creaking trees, the faint whisper of water as it makes its way through pathways it has found over the years. The echo of an owl, eerie yet so beautiful. This place is full of life and movement but not in the same way as a city or even a small town. It has its own pulse, though. A beating heart to which my own answers. The pace varies, but the baseline changes. A rhythm more in tune with the precious life we truly hold in our hands.
Out here, I learn to listen–really listen. Our inner voice is so important, but it’s not the sound, not the words, not the volume that counts. It’s the bond, the trust. I acknowledge I know so little and it’s all right. I open myself to taking it all in, to learn and grow.
Every time I have stepped into the wilderness I have come back revived and at peace. And every time my belief that nature is the best therapy grows stronger. There are even scientific studies on the benefits of getting out into the wild. I read an article recently; they measured what actually happens in some parts of the brain, and the conclusion was it lowers the production of stress hormones. I found that fascinating.
Okay. Confession time, again. When I first talked to Lilli about going hiking, she wasn’t overly enthused. She loves spending time with me, this is true, and she enjoys picnics and doing things with us, her parents, but when it comes to trying new things she has been wary and reluctant. Some coaxing and time to think it over is required. What enticed her initially was the true fact that a movie made of Astrid Lindgren’s Ronja Rövardotter was partly filmed here in Skuleskogen. There is a big crevice Ronja jumps across at one point and it exists for real. Slottdalsskrevan. (The Castle Valley Crevice.) This kept Lilli going, but by the time I realised we wouldn’t make it and told Lilli so, she shrugged and said it was all right. She had gotten to do so many cool things already and was happy with our very own adventure, wherever or however far it would take us.
As we continued our journey I did see changes in her. Of course it was a long hike, and kids ask are we there yet? (Adults, too, actually. Ahem.) But she didn’t ask are we going home soon? Honestly, she didn’t tell me she was tired until I started packing up our picnic and told her it was time to return home. I saw she was, though, but I also recognised that peacefulness, that serenity in her when we sat on top of a mountain and looked out over the ocean, forests, and peered down at our destination that would have to wait until another time. And since then, at the mention of a hike, her eyes have lit up. I know that belief is a powerful force in our world, but could it be, when even her teacher has said Lilli has really transformed over the past two years–more courageous, more secure in herself, and is among the first to jump up to make presentations in front of the class–could it have at least some connection? I don’t know, but I can honestly say I believe so.
And so, my lovelies, what will also have to wait until another time–next time–is the conclusion of this adventure of ours. As Lilli and I left the second tarn we came across, I turned and saw what looked like a magical gateway. I tried and failed to capture the mystique in the contrast of light and shadow. With a little help of Lightroom I managed to tweak the photo, although not at all to my satisfaction (there is so much stuff you can do though!). I actually ordered a book on photography and how to move from point and shoot to the magic of the manual settings. So maybe I will be ready for my second chance at that perfect shot this summer. Either way, I will keep on snapping photos. And I will keep sharing them with you.
Thank you for coming along on this adventure, and I look forward to seeing you soon!
Whenever I look back on the hike I did with my daughter almost two years ago now, apart from being filled with wonder anew, I end up saying we have to go back there. Not only because we truly had such a great time, or the fact that we got to see only a fraction of all there is to explore, but the one thing that kept my daughter going, the place I promised her we would see we didn’t reach. We simply ran out of time and would have run out of daylight if we had continued. So this summer we will return; at the end of June we embark on a road trip that will take us up through Finland and then down through Sweden. More on that in another post, though.
Today my daughter and I will take you through a portion of the 19 kilometer long hike we did on the 25th of July, 2015. I was 34 and one hiking experience richer than having no idea. In other words, I still had no idea what I was doing. My daughter had turned eight some months before. But we had food. We had sandwiches, apples, carrots, hot chocolate, coffee and lots of water. Our destination: Slottdalsskrevan in Skule-forest National Park. We started at Entré Väst–the western entry. As far away from Slottdalsskrevan you can possibly start. But what is an adventure without challenges, right?
While far from all of Skule-forest National Park is accessible to you who for any reason are reliant on a wheelchair or similar, it is quite awesome they have built ramps and constructed pathways to make some areas more attainable for everyone.
Also, before getting deeper into the park, the trail consisted of wooden walkways, which my daughter very much appreciated. Especially on our way back. She kept asking when we would reach those wooden planks. Still, she remained in good spirits the whole time. She continues to impress me with her valiance.
While walking, we talked about all kinds of things. Often my daughter would ask me questions I had a hard time answering, due to a lacking vocabulary in the Finnish language. I would say I am satisfactory fluent in Finnish–so long as the topics are on every day things. I don’t believe in regrets, but if I would count one, it would be that I did not speak Swedish with my daughter as much as I should have during her first years. And my partner and I speak English at home, so the only times I practiced speaking Finnish was at work or when we would go visit my partner’s parents. In any case, with the rich and vivid beauty that surrounded us on our journey, words were soon forgotten and we settled into a slow pace, taking in and investigating whatever took our fancy.
Compared to my hike with Loke, this adventure was much less challenging, that I must admit. On the other hand, for my daughter, it was most definitely the toughest thing she has ever done. And still she hiked those whole 19 kilometers like a pro.
These forests–I just love these old forests. They are like taken out of fairy tales from my childhood. My all-time favourites were the stories illustrated by John Bauer. I urge you wholeheartedly to Google him. There is such mystery in his images. Also I simply adore trees. Especially those found in primeval forests (wild-woods?). To think of the ages they have borne witness to, all they have seen and survived, endured. The feeling is equally humbling and… I can’t find a word. Mäktigt. It’s silly, right? A word in the mother tongue has a distinct emotion tied to it, and even after browsing what seems like a hundred synonyms in English I can’t find a word to which I get that same connection. Strengthening and encompassing, vast and powerful. All in the same word. What would be that word? Majestic? Vastness?
Anyway. Mäktigt can also be used to describe something that is too much. Which this post would be if I took you through the full 19 kilometers. So I will stop here and wish you who are celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend a wonderful day. I will be spending at least the first part of it in bed, as ordered by the man and the daughter. As commanded, I say! (The man also added “Prepare yourself for tomorrow now. Bring your laptop with you to the bedroom before you go to bed so you have something to do.” He sure knows me well–I have a hard time staying in bed once my eyes are open, or even only half-open. So I also decided on a precautionary Night Owl Session. You know, to force myself to sleep longer. Just in case.)
What do you think when you hear hiking? Even now, although it really has nothing to do with what hiking means to me, a huge backpack larger than the person carrying it appears in my mind. I’m seeing Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild, lying down on the floor to get into the straps of that monster of a thing. Great scene, and great movie, too, by the way.
At the time I did my first Hike with Loke, I had a normal backpack, a generic thing with a laptop pocket. It wasn’t until later I invested in a larger pack, which I tested by executing a brilliant expedition to walk all the way from Härnösand to Ramvik, along a busy road (I had to turn off and take the old E4 at one point, because you can’t walk on a motorway, which made the trip longer). I filled my brand spanking new hiker’s rucksack to the brim with anything I could find, because I had to try it, right? If I couldn’t walk 35 kilometers along the E4 and a country road with a load of 20 kilos on my back, how would I be able to manage in the wilderness where I couldn’t call a friend (or in this case my mother) to the rescue when I had more blisters than toes and the frame of the backpack was digging into my flesh? Yeah… Did I mention it was brilliant? Not-so-brilliant. What can I say? I’m a stubborn nutcase. But blisters and bruises aside, I had an great time. I had food with me that time, and climbed up some rocks along a windy road and sat there to enjoy my cold dinner and smiled at passersby.
My hike with Loke both was and wasn’t one of those not-so-brilliant ideas. Not only because I packed nothing to eat but a third of a 150 gram bag of roasted soy beans I didn’t even know about–I discovered it later, long-forgotten in a hidden pocket. I did, however, have the sense to bring several liters of water for Loke and myself. But I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. None.
The online site I visited beforehand to read about the trail told me it was a 9,8 km challenging hike, but as I sat on my father’s balcony on the other side of Ångermanälven, I did my own evaluation of its potential challenginess. Its starting point wound down the cliffs from the High Coast Hotel and snaked below the bridge and into the forest. It didn’t look that bad to me, I had walked Loke in that area before–how challenging could it be? And, hey, I had hiking boots! And layered clothing, layered socks. I got this, I thought. I have read up. Additionally, I had been running and walking 8 – 10 km several times a week for months (which never took me more than two hours at walking pace), not to mention going strong on a training program, so my body was in tip-top shape. I had the stamina, I had the strength.
Let’s do this, Loke! Not only his tail wagged–all of him wagged with it when we left the house.
Loke and I got in the car and crossed the High Coast bridge around 9-ish that morning, and then we were off. I took a photo with my phone of the map at the start of the trail, you know, just in case.
So how long did it take before reality ate through my bravado? Taking into consideration I have this stubbornness, which with years of experience in its company I can readily say has in equal measures been my greatest ally and most damaging adversary, I didn’t admit to the challenging-part until I was on my way back home. Half a day later. Along the country road. Because no way in this universe was I taking the trail back, like I had planned. Loke and I would have crawled on hands, knees and haunches across my dad’s threshold long past midnight. If we had even made it that far. We might have had to crash at this charming wind shed I passed high up along the trail.
Where Is The Trail? This Is The Trail
I mentioned I took a photo of the map before I started walking. Next to a row of parking spots facing the river and cliffs at the Hotel is a big board with various information about the area, including the trail. It tells you the trail is marked along the way. So I followed those marks. While I wouldn’t recommend hiking the way I did, I have to give it to these folks who maintain the trails–great marking. Without them, I would have been so lost.
But before I got to the trail-trail, I had to walk along small country roads and through a couple of small villages. Signs along the way told me I was headed in the right direction. And then I got to this bridge, one that was also built nearly 20 years ago. Before that–you guessed it–a ferry took you across.
To be honest, I can’t remember anymore how long it took me to get to this point, but long enough for me to get a little emotional. I gave out a shaky breath and teared up when I finally saw a sign pointing me into the thicket.
The World Heritage
Remember I asked before what you think when you hear hiking? Besides backpacks and hiking boots, to me, it’s about getting away from all the noise of civilisation. Away from whirring buildings and rumbling vehicles–away from all that the Industrial Revolution brought with it. Our modern society. (Well, some of it. I do love my phone, and my camera, and my laptop. Heh.) I certainly wouldn’t have had my hiking boots without it, though–with memory foam!–and my feet truly might have been chopped pork at the end of the day. And as I write this it hits me that those bridges wouldn’t have been there, either, and I would have had to row a boat across. Or maybe there would have been a ferry man with a raft on a rope? No? Too wide across, probably. The thing is, by getting away I gain perspective, and I can see the things I take for granted. I appreciate and am grateful for what I have–which is so, so much–but don’t even think about when I am smack in the middle of it.
By appreciating what I have, I am happier, more driven, more inspired. Nothing treats stagnating motivation, nor soothes a restless soul, like arriving at the top of a mountain you spent hours getting to. I used to–and still do, though these days I catch myself, mostly–obsess over really insignificant things, ridiculous things even. Imagined things. But when my foot touches the trail, when my muscles pull at my bones as I climb up a steep hill, droplets of exertion trickle down my back, my stomach makes a fist, and suddenly I am there. Looking out over a landscape that endured and was shaped by thousands upon thousands of years, incomprehensible weight of shifting ice masses. And it rises up, proudly. Here I am, here I stand. Look at me. Even today. In spite of yesterday, because of yesterday.
Hiking through our heritage–the wildness in general–reminds me there is value in every moment, no matter what it looks like. That it’s a process. The good, the bad, and that which escapes our attention because it happens so slowly, so discreetly. And the very real magic of it lines the soul. Heck, even now, sitting here and writing about it I am reminded. I am not there, but it’s in me. And it humbles me. How easily we forget amidst the crush of every day life.
The Way Down
Speaking of perspective, as I went through these photographs to gather the ones I wanted for the post I kept repeating one question to myself: Why didn’t I take more photos? Especially on the way there and on the way home? Wandering through the villages, the dense forest going up, that shack on the waterfront, the little lake and the picnic table along the road home. The answer is I for one was too eager to get as high up as I could so I merely forgot, and secondly, by the time I got down and out of the forest, I walked in the wrong direction before realising and had to turn back. I didn’t feel tired, not yet, but my body was running on reserves. Continuous walking, and in this kind of terrain, puts the body into a crazed energy burn.
Additionally, having built muscle over several months–that muscle needed more than I had given it. I am not about to do maths here, but my customary two slices of wholegrain toast that morning, and two cups of coffee with skim milk was nowhere near enough. So when I came off the trail and hit the road, and by the time I realised I had walked in the wrong direction–because where is that café?–I was beginning to feel a little shaky.
I believe that photograph was among the last ones I took that day. The camera stayed in its bag after I left the café. A very charming little spot next to the road, and the clerk inside was a warm and chatty fellow, telling me I was out hiking at precisely the right time. Later in the summer it gets really hot during the days, and, well–need I say more?
Regaining Balance & Re-fuelling
As I sat there, feet up and with Loke resting next to me in the shade, I experienced a sense of peace and serenity I can’t quite put into words. I mentioned that hiking for me is about getting away from the busy buzzing of our society. And there I was, back again among people moving around and talking, cars passing by, voices of children in the distance, boat engines… yet I was in harmony with it all. Because I had gotten back to basics and regained my inner balance. I had re-booted and was re-fuelling.
I may have had no idea what I was getting Loke and myself into when we set off that morning, I could have been much better prepared, done so many things differently. But that day I gained something truly valuable; the trail gave me a very important piece in a series of lessons that would take with me on my journey toward understanding myself and taking better care of myself. I didn’t grasp it to begin with, not really, not the way I do now–although I have a long way to go still–but I want to share what I wrote in my journal that evening, about peace and serenity, after eating two huge servings of my father’s roast beef and potato salad–yum.
I was so content, and although there were sounds all around me, for once the world was silent. I had peace. Serenity. And I want to achieve that again. More of it, and for longer periods of time. I just felt so amazing.
I did feel amazing, but what I didn’t grasp at the time was that it was within my power to gain it. My power. I claimed that power and challenged myself. I achieved that state of tranquility by dropping all the fears of not having the equipment, nor the experience, or the know-how. I put myself in a position where I allowed room for failure and mistakes. Room to gain. To learn. And it’s perfectly okay not to know.
Too often in my past I tied up my wellbeing to the actions and words of others. Aware or not, I had given over my power to a nameless, faceless entity out of my reach. I thought I was cursed, I was being punished. Every possible reason for my misery ended up in blaming something or someone outside of my power to change. Yet I now believe the only one we can ever truly change is ourselves. We can inspire and motivate, we can set an example by which to follow, but it is and ultimately always will be the choice of that other person. Knowingly or unknowingly. And many of us don’t know. I didn’t know. Maybe I still don’t understand it entirely. That is all right. The road to insight often leads through the darkest and deepest of valleys, through trials of pain and despair. Light and dark. Without one or the other there is no contrast. Without moving yourself into a different position there will be no other perspective. That light will keep on hitting the same spot, the shadows will fall where they always fall.
With that in mind, if you have managed to read this far, I want to thank you for sharing your time with me. Thank you for listening.
Lastly, I would like to leave you with this photo of a dead tree I came upon during my hike. It was so incredibly cool I had to take a photo of it. I moved all around it, snapping shots, but each and every one disappointed me, no angle did the twistedness of this dead old tree justice, and I just couldn’t figure out why. I thought I was missing something, that I was–and admittedly still am–an amateur photographer without the know-how. And that may very well be the case, so, um… Moving on. No catchy last words to see here, folks.
I do hope, however, that whoever you are, wherever you are, you take the time out to find and gain your very own balance. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that is needed. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, backwards–or leaving whichever spot you are in and going to get a cup of coffee. Like I would do, right now, except I forgot to buy coffee. The only thing I went to the shop to get and I came home with everything else but the coffee. So tea it is.
If you would like to read more about the High Coast Trail, you can find details here. Or if you are curious about the surrounding areas you can check out Härnösand Municipality, Kramfors Municipality and Örnsköldsvik Municipality (my grandfather is from here!). Unfortunately I couldn’t find an English section on Kramfors’ or Härnösand’s webpages, but if you turn on Google translation for the sites you might be able to make some sense of it.
Lastly, I warmly recommend visiting The Outdoor Village (Friluftsbyn in Swedish). These guys are doing amazing things to pin the beautiful High Coast on the world map.
I was looking out the window a couple days ago–blue skies, spring birds chirping, glorious sunshine–and missed my home town with a vengeance. Even more so I wanted to get in my car and drive out into the magnificence of the High Coast, attempt the second stage of the High Coast Trail. I thought about how spoiled I became during the two years I lived and studied in Härnösand, Sweden (one of the many places of my childhood), having the World Heritage of the High Coast in my backyard.
I can’t say I don’t live close to nature, now. My partner is a farmer and we have acres upon acres of fields and forest. I have but to step outside the door and walk in any direction to get my fix. But strolling through rural farmlands and forests is not the same as braving the wilderness. Flat pastures can’t compare to the steep rise and fall of forest covered slopes, and even though a softly curving hill filled with swaying wheat and barley is beautiful, it isn’t as magnificent as standing on top of a mountain to be awed by the vast ranges and realise how small we truly are. Yet we accomplish great things.
So there I was with the pull in my chest, wanting so badly to go hiking, but then I got an idea. I may not be able to go trekking right now, not physically, but I have quite a lot of photos from my various adventures, and I am finally blogging, so why not combine the two and write about it? There are too many photos and thoughts to share to fit into one post, so to further my idea I decided that I would make a series–a blog series. Spread it out over a few posts. And I will call it My Love For The High Coast. Great!
To honor One Step At A Time I will set the goal to not get carried away with plans and structure. I know myself well enough to understand that the bigger the project the further it stretches out before me and the higher the chance becomes of me drowning in my still-lacking time management and organisational skills. But bit by bit is how we learn. And that is my motivation.
This is the beginning, then; the first stage and the introduction to a hike back in time. A trek through the past two years. Some adventures were smaller, shorter, and some bigger, longer. But they all meant the world to me.
I will begin with a long one, a hike that took me and my trekking companion, Loke–my beloved dog–nine whole hours (and perhaps even more) to complete. But–that is another post. Until then…