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Sarek National Park—Conclusion September 8, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, camping, hiking, travel.
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This is the last picture I took on the trip.

This is the last picture I took on the trip.

Now I have bad news to share: my backup camera battery didn’t work.

Same brand, same size as my other battery. Fit into the camera fine… it was fully charged… but my camera gave me a message: “Battery cannot be used.”  I finally figured it out when I studied the fine print. My old battery was 3.6V 940mAh 3.4Wh. The one I purchased three years later was 3.6V 1100mAh 4.0Wh.

It was the morning of Day Seven. We stopped for a rest beside the Bierikjavvre lake. As we snacked and had some water, a group of 20 or so reindeer wandered over and paused to graze just a few yards away. This was the best viewing of reindeer we’d had on the whole trip! And of course that’s when my battery died. No problem! Insert backup…

Very sad.

 Bierikjavvre Lake.

Bierikjavvre Lake.

Friendly reindeer.

Friendly reindeer.

Days seven and eight featured travel over the longest distances of the trip. We proceeded northeast along a chain of lakes and crossed the boundary out of Sarek at a bridge, entering Stora Sjöfallets National Park. In the map below, you see a green boundary line and a place where we had to detour from our general heading to make use of a bridge.

The blue X's mark our route.

The blue X’s mark our route.  We went the length of the Pietsaure lake in boats.

It was as we approached the bridge that Christian gave us our test in navigation. The bridge was off in the distance, beyond big patches of marshy ground and several good-sized streams. In fact, I could not even see the bridge—I ‘d had my vision tested shortly before the trip and was due for a new pair of glasses. They’d been ordered but not arrived at the time I departed. So I was forced to just follow the others.

It was not a test in compass work but a test in judging the terrain and picking the best route. As it turned out, I think I could have found a good route even without seeing the bridge. It was a matter of picking up faint paths that led in that direction, and I am very experienced in spotting traces of human footprints.

We waded across wide, gravelly streams—these weren’t as difficult as some of the others—and crossed the churning Guhkesvagge River on the bridge. A water fowl was perched on a rock just below the bridge, waiting for a tasty fish to swim past. We walked another hour and reached our campsite for the night. I made a silly mistake when it came time to fetch some water for cooking, walking in the wrong direction for what seemed like a very long time until I came to a stream. There was another stream right on the other side of our campsite!

The next morning we had to cross a lot of boggy ground that was thick with scrubby willows. I was wearing shorts that day, and I began to realize long pants would given me better protection as we pushed through the scratchy     willows. The mucky ground was another problem. It  nearly sucked the boots off our feet! But pleasant conversation helped to take our minds off the conditions. That was the day that I had a long discussion about the Beatles with Ulf, who is very knowledgeable about music. At lunch I got into another fun conversation about “House of Cards” and “Breaking Bad, ” both of which are quite well known in Sweden.

We had a sharp deadline to meet that day. We needed to connect at 6:00 with Sami people who would take us in boats to their village, at the eastern end of the lake.  After lunch we crossed another stream, this one featuring a relaxed, slow current and a deep swimming hole. Several of the group took advantage of the swimming hole, diving into the refreshing water. It was sunniest, hottest day of the whole trip.

We crossed a high pass beside a distinctive conical mountain called Slugga and worked our way down to the lake, staying to the highest ground to avoid extensive bogs. It was here that friendly Bjorn presented me with an especially nice reindeer antler and insisted that I carry it on top of my pack.

The antler is proudly displayed in my living room.

The antler is proudly displayed in my living room.

We met the boatmen and had a chilly ride down the lake. By the time we  reached the far end, I was damp with the spray that came over the sides. But we had a warm supper waiting for us: a traditional Sami meal of smoked fish and potatoes. The fish was Arctic char, served whole. I noticed my tentmate Jarl, a lover of seafood, expertly dealing with the bones.

After dinner we had more walking to do, up over a pass. We stopped to camp in a meadow, where a gusty wind picked up as we were pitching our tents. But at any rate we all had excellent tent-pitching skills by now.

In the morning we had just a short walk down to the Saltaluoka mountain hostel operated by STF, the Swedish outdoor group. We took advantage of the showers and sauna and enjoyed a buffet lunch. Back in civilization!

We took a boat across the lake to Kebnats, where we caught the bus back to Gallivare. How different everything seemed now. When I’d taken the bus coming in, as I’ve described, I was consumed by worry over being two hours late, not realizing that other people on the bus were part of my group. Now I had made fifteen new friends. Gradually we parted company. Inge, who lives in Ritsem, said goodbye when we got on our bus. Others went different ways at Gallivare. Still, a good number of us rode the same overnight train toward Stockholm. We shared a table in the dining car and enjoyed more conversation.

Once again, endless forests glided past the windows, and I listened to the peculiar sound made by the cables of the electric train. The journey of 16 hours seemed interminable at times, but I had a good book—Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov, which I had read every evening in the tent for a short while until sleep overcame me. But I could not sleep in the train—I never sleep well unless I can stretch out, and the problem was compounded because the woman sitting next to me had unfortunately doused herself in strong perfume. Nevertheless, we finally arrived in Stockholm, and the last glimpse I had of any of my companions was of Jonas, running down the stairs at Stockholm Central.

I will describe Stockholm in my next post.

I will describe Stockholm in my next post.



1. Kent Hackendy - September 8, 2014

Sorry to hear about your battery issue. 😦

Well, I just now caught up on all your posts — whew! What an amazing adventure! What breathtaking scenery! The account of of your harrowing stream crossing gave me a little bit of anxiety just imagining it. And I still have to laugh at your hiking companions taking pictures of your odd footwear. Heh!

Thanks for sharing all that!

Jenny - September 8, 2014

Glad you enjoyed it!

2. Al - September 8, 2014

Great pictures as usual. I guess this was maybe the ultimate adventure. Whats next ? Hey, maybe a solo trip across Grand Canyon in one day. Fall weather should help with an otherwise hot journey. Most do it from the North Rim to the South Rim. Less up hill that way. Big Horn sheep make it good for wildlife photos.

Brian Reed - September 8, 2014

Yeah, I hope you can take us along on more trips like this in the future Jenny. I recommend the Andes. You can do wild, remote guided trips there for a fraction of what it costs in developed countries. And it’s fascinating to see how the Indians farm and graze the landscape.

Jenny - September 9, 2014

Brian, I think I’m waiting for an offbeat destination to come to me. Maybe it will arise somehow out of my history writings.

Jenny - September 9, 2014

Al, I’d love to go back to Grand Canyon. I have been there twice, but both times only as a tourist on the South Rim. It deserves a better look than that.

3. Jarrett Morgan - September 9, 2014

Great write up to what looks like an amazing trip. I look forward to reading about you Stockholm trip next. How did you keep track of everything you wanted to write about?

Jenny - September 9, 2014

Thanks for your interest. I didn’t keep any kind of a journal, but the photographs jogged my memory each time I sat down to write. And so many of the experiences were impossible to forget!

4. Tom - September 13, 2014

Awesome hike, well told. I wonder, however, how you felt about being a part of an organized tour. On one hand you gain access to a place that would otherwise be impossible to visit. On the other, and you may not have experienced it here, there is sometimes the feeling of the ducklings blindly following the duck. The dispersion of the group going down the mountain may have been an unconscious rebellion by experienced and self-reliant hikers from this development. Obviously, you kept a keen awareness of your trip on the map. But any reactions?

Jenny - September 13, 2014

Interesting question, Tom. This is the second organized tour I have done in my life. The first was a walking trip across Bali. I was fortunate in both places. In both cases, the trip would have been nearly impossible without a guide. And in both cases, the leader of the group was passionate about the place, and the participants were not necessarily wealthy but were also passionate about the place. So even though the participants were paying money to be guided, there was not much of a commercial feel about it. It was a straightforward transaction: “We want to experience this place, you have the requisite knowledge, please take us there.” Both trips were strenuous, also. When I was researching the options, I found that other guided trips were offered in Lapland, all of them much easier than the one we did in Sarek. That would have been different, I think. There’s a popular trail in the area called the Kungsleden, and several trips I looked at involved being guided down that trail. I sensed that this wouldn’t work for me, for the very reason that I really didn’t need to be guided there. When we split up coming down the mountain, there was no sense of rebellion, just that each of us was consumed at the moment with the challenge and difficulty of getting to the bottom of the endless talus fields, and we just ended up getting separate. I think I understand what you are talking about, and I can see how it would be annoying for an independent person like me, but that was not the case here.

5. norman medford - September 13, 2014

Jenny,have really enjoyed reading and pictures about this trip! What year was Bali, and did you cover it like you did this one?

Jenny - September 13, 2014

Thanks, Norman, I appreciate your interest! I went to Bali in 1995, which was a long time before I started my blog. Here is a piece about it:

6. norman medford - September 14, 2014

Thanks Jenny, enjoyed the piece very much!

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