Tag Archives: hiking

View inland from lodging at Lofoten, Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Lofoten, Norway, Part 1

Hiking in Norway is a great adventure, and I hiked in different regions, each time going further north to my final destination above the Arctic Circle. Our two guides and small group of hikers left Oppdal at 3:45 am to drive 1 ½ hours to Trondheim Airport.  That morning, I saw deer on our north woods scenic journey. Our flight took us north to Bodo, then a transfer to a ferry for a 3 ½ hour crossing to Lofoten, a group of islands above the Arctic Circle.

On the ferry crossing, I saw a long row of islands in the distance: the last barrier west towards Iceland and Greenland. The Gulf Stream keeps this area warmer than I imagined possible above the Arctic Circle. On some of the uninhabited islands are large colonies of seabirds including puffin and cormorants.

Between Vaeroy and Lofoten is one of the world’s biggest tidal currents.  As we approached Lofoten Island, it was an awesome setting of steep mountains touching the sea, with a few protected harbors of fishing villages. The mountains are awe-inspiring, with patches of snow hidden where 23 hours of sun a day still cannot melt it.

We were headed to Henningsvaer, a small fishing village with a population of 500. Here cod is dried on large racks—the same method used by the Vikings 1,000 years ago. I stayed in a red painted rorbus, a cabin on stilts. There were several of these refurbished fishing shacks right on the village wharf. The sun set for less than one hour during this time of year, but I had no trouble sleeping until I was awakened by the loud shrill of sea gulls. I soon opened the outside door and walked on the wharf. The sun was warm and welcoming.

After a hectic schedule of travel and hiking, we spent the morning at an authentic Viking site, now the Lofotr Viking Museum. The “find” is on top of a hill, and it features an excavated chieftain’s house, boat house, and smithy from the Iron Age. The house is 83 meters long, 8.5 meters wide, and two stories high. One hundred people could live in this dwelling which is full of artifacts, benches, and fire pits. As I viewed the harbor below, it was amazing to think that 1,000 years ago, the Vikings sailed from this site to Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, Canada.

The best way to get about this area is in small boats that the fishermen use to ferry people from place to place. Other than the people who live here, tourists come to hike in the summer and ski in the winter. It is a beautiful place with extreme and varying weather conditions.

Lofoten is a far away destination to gain strength for the body and soul. I enjoyed the strong natural character of the area, the gracious people, the comfort of good food, and a warm haven to rest. Next, I looked forward to hiking here.

(posted October 11, 2016)

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)

Madelyn Given at the Mardalsfossen Waterfall, Romsdal Alps, Norway.

Scandinavian Adventures 2016: Romsdal Alps, Norway

For days I had been hiking, then traveling by plane, boat, or minivan to another mountain region in Norway, always going further north. The countryside is filled with forests, and most of the mountains are woodlands with snow and ice still present at higher elevations. The villages are small, and the roads are paved with many long tunnels through mountains, under water, and between the mainland and islands.

The people of Norway are friendly, healthy, and happy. The food is so natural and food prepared for us was delicious, healthy, and an excellent energy source for hikers. Bread is baked daily, fish is caught daily, and vegetables and fruits are served from the garden each day. It is a country where the majority of people still live healthy lifestyles. People walk, bike, and hike everywhere at all ages young and old.

I came to Geiranger by boat and small ferry, and the next day we left by minivan to hike Trdlstigen. The road to get there was narrow, with serpentine turns up to a high plateau, a place where herds of reindeer migrate. It is a huge, flat plains area high above the valleys. Ledges jut out here and there and at one place I carefully crawled out and daringly looked straight down, 2,788’ below me. I walked about on this exposed, rocky plateau with moss and little vegetation. I looked for reindeer but to no avail that day.

Later our guides drove us to Isfjorden to hike in the Romsdal Alps. This valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and Norway’s most famous peaks: Romsdalshorn, Trollwall, Vengetind, Juratind, Kirketaket and Torshammaren. I hiked all day through alpine meadows, rushing streams, and glistening lakes with awesome views. It was beautiful, serene, and peaceful. The weather was sunny and warm every day.

We hiked until about 6 pm and then headed to Hotel Aak, really like a country home and the oldest tourist hotel in Norway. I was told that Winston Churchill’s grandfather stayed here while he came to hike in the mountains. It is a very cozy mountain inn noted for its incredible cuisine. It wasn’t long before we sat down to dinner of baked salmon, fresh rolls, and wild strawberries and cream. It was serenely quiet without traffic, city lights, or sirens blasting. It is truly a natural setting, and the air feels so fresh here.

Trollwall, in the Romsdal Alps in Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Trollwall, in the Romsdal Alps in Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

The next morning I woke to the smell of bread baking below in the kitchen. I walked alone by the river and came back ready to join my guides and hiking companions for an early morning breakfast. Our guides drove us to a trailhead for an all day hike up to the Mardalsfossen Waterfall, the 4th largest waterfall in Europe and longest in Norway. It was a moderate hike up the mountain and pleasant to hear and see the waterfall along the way. My guide told me that 10% of the waterfalls in Norway have been converted to hydro power. Dams are built and the pipes convert the water to manmade reservoirs. Later, I saw a few of these waterfalls, now with just a trickling of water—those would have been beautiful, powerful waterfalls, but now they are supplying electricity for Norway. After our hike we drove to Aursjovegen Plateau for another view of the great mountain peaks and the Trollwall. This is a great piece of nature, a high ridge with many tiny peaks, like a comb with missing and broken teeth. It looks like a top of a wall with silhouettes of trolls standing there. It is an impressive area to hike and many Norwegians camp and spend their vacations in the Romsdal Alps.

There is nothing more rewarding for hikers at the end of a day than a great dinner. Back at our historic tiny inn, while we had been hiking all day, an extra chef and cook joined the main chef and staff at the Aak, and in this rustic setting, they prepared a most fantastic five-course meal for 12 people. When I entered the dining room, each individual setting at the long table was set with six goblets, five forks, five knives, and a bread plate.

I knew this would be a Norwegian meal to remember. The first course was lox: large fresh salmon that had been prepared the night before, wrapped in a thick coat of salt with fresh dill. Before serving, the salmon is rinsed and the lox have become a magnificent delicacy. The second course was poached fresh cod, caught locally, with a creamy dressing. The third course was roast veal with mustard dressing; the fourth course was roast reindeer with loganberries and boiled native potatoes. The fifth course was a dessert flan with cloudberries and whipped cream. All that in addition to side dishes and vintage wines! We applauded the chefs and staff after each course, as they truly had outdone themselves. It was the most elegantly prepared and delicious food, and I will remember this experience for a long time.

After eating a meal that rated at the top of my list in a lifetime, I needed to take a short walk. It was still light outside; I had no worries there, as it stays light this far north most of the 24 hours this time of year. The mountains were all around me, and the path went along the river. I walked upstairs, took the large brass key, and unlocked the door, then noticed a sign on the door reading Churchill Bedroom. It wasn’t long before I lay in bed, reading and writing in my journal, calling it a day. Each day seemed to get better as our small group continued our journey north, with more days of hiking still to come.

(posted September 20, 2016)