Madelyn Given at the summit after a long day of hiking from Oppdal, Norway.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Hiking the Trollheimen in Norway

While in Norway I had hiked on different mountain ranges, and now I was headed to the small town of Oppda, in a valley surrounded by the Trollheimen, home of the Trolls. This is considered the most diverse and beautiful of all the mountain ranges in Norway. My last stay was at an old farmhouse with great hosts and wonderful food, which was great for hikers with good appetites.

Now we were headed to a new hotel, busy with skiers in winter and hikers in the summer. To get to this tiny village, we took a car ferry across a glacier lake and then a long drive, mostly through mountains, with long tunnels. Norway is a country with lots of tunnels. On our way, our head guide took us to her farm to meet her family. She lives on a six-generation place belonging to her husband’s family. It sits on a steep side of the mountain and to walk from the barn to the house to the fields is a feat in itself.

I wondered how dangerous it would be to raise a family here, but I soon found it wasn’t a problem when three school-age children scampered out of their grandparents’ car and ran across the ledges to the house to hug their mom, our guide. Her husband had been doing farm projects and rode into the yard on a four-wheeler to greet us. After a short visit, the children were on their way, with grandparents babysitting, and we were on our way to Oppdal for the night.

When we reached Oppdal, I was tired, as we had hiked all morning to Kavli Moen Gard, a mountain farm closed off in winter—yet the family was self-sufficient. For generations, the same family lived here year-round, but now they live here only in the summer.

A house near Oppdal, Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.This rural home has the traditional sod with grass-covered roof. The owner was making ice cream in the stone milk house. A mountain stream runs though the building, and inside, the milk it kept cold by placing it in a water tank with the ever-flowing cold mountain water swirling around it.

There is a lake for fishing and great hunting. Sheep and cows are free to graze on the nearby pastures. As we neared the farm, the fat, healthy cows were grazing along the path. It was a beautiful, tranquil place. We stopped long enough to enjoy a cup of tea along with our lunches we had packed early that morning.

Then we headed down the mountain and were on our way to Oppdal. After settling in to our mountain resort and dinner, I began to think about my next day’s hike.

We were on the trail early the next morning for a full day’s hike. The paths were good, and the weather was sunny and warm. The trail had a gradual rise of several thousand feet to a plateau, and then another steeper climb to a radio tower on the summit. In every direction we saw snow-capped mountain peaks, forests at lower elevations, and valleys, with only the small village of Oppdal far below. We had done a full day of hiking by the time we arrived back at the hotel.

Later, my guide offered to take me to a nearby Viking cemetery. Vangfeltat is the largest Viking graveyard ever found and the third largest cemetery in Europe. There are no markers or headstones, just mounds, thousands of them, spread out through the woods all around this area. Researchers have not found any children and few women buried here. Only certain Vikings were buried here, over a long period in history.

When a Viking died, he was carried here along with his possessions on a wagon, and dirt from his homestead was carried here in that procession from home to this site. The body was placed on the flat ground and cremated on that spot; dirt was placed over the cremated body and his possessions, forming a mound. There are no signs we would recognize as belonging to a graveyard; only the ancient mounds everywhere are a clue that this is an ancient site where something significant happened with mankind.

Every day there was something special to look forward to learn, see, and do. Hiking in a different part of the world is an adventure and every step is memorable.

(posted October 4, 2016)