May, I Walk

Hiking a part of Rondanestien, Norway, May 2018

Southern Norway experienced a bit of a heat wave in late May 2018. I had a week off work with no plans. Since nowhere else seemed like a better place to be, I just strapped on my backpack and got on the Rondanestien long distance trail, not knowing how far I would make it. Here’s how five days of that looked like.

(The photos look a lot better if you click on them to open a larger version.)

Fields in Eidsvoll, just north of Oslo Airport.
Oslo Airport is surrounded by farmland. It’s actually a preeetty good place to start your hike. This kind of scenery will immediately greet you. In about two hours you can walk to Maura, where you can stock up on whatever you need for your hike.

Summer has arrived in rural Norway.
There may still be snow on the ground in April, but when Norway is hit by warm weather in May, the landscape explodes in intense colours. This year the winter and summer are separated by the thinnest slice of spring. The cows don’t mind.

No rain for weeks is unusual for Norway, so this kind of dust cloud is a bit of a novelty.
Several weeks in a row with no rain is unusual for Norway. Dust clouds like this are a bit of a novelty. For a hiker it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, hiking in the heat can be strenuous. On the other hand, the bogs and marshes are probably nice and dry and good for walking now.

The trail is joined by the pilgrims route to Nidaros, so for a day and a half the yellow arrows helps us find our way.
For a couple of days, the trail I follow is the same as the one used by pilgrims on their way to the cathedral in Nidaros/Trondheim. This means that there are good facilities for hikers along the way, and that the trail is thoroughly marked. These yellow arrows are of the same kind that you find on famous pilgrims’ ways like Camino de Santiago through France and Spain, or Via Francigena to Rome.

Along the pilgrims route there are more facilities for hikers than elsewhere. Like this luxurious bench near Sundet, for example.
Among the many facilities for hikers is this luxurious bench to rest on in Eidsvoll. You take what you get.

Humor of the forest.
After Eidsvoll the trail enters the forest. The next three days or so will be wilderness. Still, even if I don’t see other people, I see proof that humans occasionally come here. Some weird person has for some reason put up this piece of art, “Rear view of woman picking berries”, in a place where few people will ever see it.

Somewhere deep in the wilderness there's a wood artist.
A few kilometers further on this strange statue stands above the trail. I think it’s some kind of lumberjack, made from an old tree. It’s quite well done, actually.

Ants are awesome.
I love hiking, but the thought of the many insects I trample to death saddens me a bit. Ants are awesome, and they typically live for a few weeks, sometimes a few months. Unless they’re squashed under a shoe, that is.

Hiking just a few weeks after winter means navigating between many fallen trees across the trail.
Last winter came with unusually huge amounts of snow. The trail is covered with evidence of this. Many trees have fallen under the weight of the white. I must criss-cross between the many corpses littering the trail, and this hike becomes much harder than it could have been.

Lysjøen, late in the day.
Fortunately, sometimes the trail leaves the forest and edges a lake instead. This is good in every way. The hiking gets easier and the view gets a lot better. Like here, at Lysjøen, late on my first day on the trail.

Nice sunset to finish a long day of hiking, at Granerudsjøen.
By Granerudsjøen I find a good spot to pitch my tent after a long day of hiking. At this late hour, close to midnight, even the mosquitoes are calming down, making it actually possible to sit outside and enjoy the summer night.

Deep in the forest there's a cemetery in a place where people used to live, Hagajordet.
Continuing my hike into the deep forest next morning, I’m reminded that people used to live here. At Hagajordet there’s this old cemetery. Every bump on the ground is an old grave. Once a year, a priest would come by and perform the funeral ceremony for all new souls in the ground since the last visit. It’s been 140 years since a priest last came here, but the place remains a peaceful patch, heavily dominated by trees.

During the first part of Rondanestien, the main drink is mostly luke-warm earthen tea.
As long as the water is moving, it’s generally okay to drink. The red/yellowish color is caused by iron, of which there is a lot in the ground around here. Not having much choice, this is what you as a a hiker drink. It doesn’t really help to think of it as luke-warm earthen tea.

Another stretch of strenuous trail. Some machete required.
A few times I regret not bringing a machete. The number of fallen trees is just ridiculous. Later in the summer the trail will probably be cleaned up by volunteers from the Norwegian Trekking Association, DNT. Good people!

That's more like it. In this part of Romedalen, most of the trees are still actually standing.
In Romedalen I finally reach a stretch where most of the trees are still actually standing. This cheers me up a lot.

Claimed water closet, although it doesn't have any water and cannot be closed.
More facilities for hikers! This little outhouse has a sign that claims it’s a WC, a water closet. It doesn’t have any water, though, and it cannot be closed. Nature will eventually bury it.

An old dam forms a natural frame for a small pond in the forest.
The forest used to be both workplace and home for many people. Sometimes I see remains of that life. Here’s an old dam, forming a natural frame for this photo of a small lake.

Some moments from the trail stay in your head for a long time. It's hard to forget the intense sound of mosquitoes that was right here ...
Some moments from the trail will stay in my head for a long time to come. This one, for example. It’s hard to forget the insanely intense sound of mosquitoes surrounding me right here.

The lunch break room of the loggers of the past.
Back in the day lumberjacks would use rocks like this one as shelters, creating temporary walls by leaning branches and logs up against the stone. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Your home away from home, if you're not too picky.
An old cabin built for forest workers of days gone by is still standing, but just barely. It’s getting late, so I decide to stop here for the night.

When the cabin is so shady that you pitch your tent inside it to stay safe.
The cabin looks less inviting on the inside. A bird is nesting next to the window, and there’s a hornet’s nest in the corner. Any clever mosquito will not have too much trouble finding the way in by going under the walls. I end up pitching my tent inside the cabin. It works well.

Bathroom in the green. Not too bad.
Hiking through a warm day has left me quite sweaty, but it’s nothing a quick bath in this stream can’t fix. Strangely, after only finding warm bog water to drink during the whole day, when the time comes for a bath, the water is suddenly freezing cold. At least the colors are warm.

The Great Wall of not China.
It’s a bit surreal, walking in the wilderness, and suddenly finding a construction like this one. It’s not quite The Great Wall of China, but given the remoteness of the place and the few resources available to the people who built it, this is really impressive. Large dams were constructed to allow for floating of timber to places where it could be refined and sold to the world beyond.

Dams are still being built in the forests of Romedalen.
A bit further on, I discover that dams are still being built in the forests of Romedalen. This is the work of one busy beaver!

Sometimes the trail isn't very obvious. Better bring a GPS trail.
Sometimes the trail isn’t very obvious. It’s good thing I have a GPS trail I can use whenever I lose the actual trail.

Looks wet, is dry. A perfect time for walking across the moors.
As I was hoping, even the bogs have dried out. It’s the perfect time for walking across the moors.

In Norway we have the right to roam freely in nature, so fences are few. There are a few gates, though.
In Norway, everyone has “the right to roam”. This means you can’t really fence off a forest or wilderness just because you own it. But you can put up a gate, if you’re so inclined. As long as it doesn’t stop anyone from enjoying their hike.

Spending a night inside a cabin, costing me the princely sum of 100 kroner. Firewood and toilet paper included.
I spend the next night in a somewhat nicer cabin than yesterday, in Tingstadkoia. For just 100 kroner I get this place to myself, and that includes the free use of firewood and toilet paper. And how do I pay, you ask? By transferring money to the Trekking Association whenever I get back to civilization. It’s all based on honor. I could just stay here and not pay. No one would ever know.

On the wettest parts of the trail, planks have been placed to reduce the risk of being swallowed by a bog.
The ground isn’t always as nice and dry as it is now, so when the trail enters what usually is a nasty bog, planks have been placed in strategic spots, so that hikers can avoid being swallowed by the ground.

This art was made by tiny insects. Lovely.
The forest is full of this kind of art. Made by tiny and hungry insects. Lovely.

Someone has been working a lot harder than you this spring!
Some larger organism is probably the master behind this other piece of “art”. Someone has been working a lot harder than you lately!

Norway doesn't have many fierce creatures. Our common viper is certainly not much of a danger, and they usually don't get much larger than this shed skin indicates.
Long distance hiking involves various calculated risks, but in Norway there’s at least little to no reason to worry about the wildlife. There’s only one species of venomous snake around, the European viper, and it’s a small one with a mild poison. This is the closest I get to having a good look at one on this walk. They usually don’t get much larger than this shed skin indicates.

Sometimes the forest turns incredibly cozy.
A forest can’t feel much more summer-like than this. Pure coziness.

Amazingly, some century-old wells are still working, and a really nice change from the bog water.
Amazingly, some century-old and aptly named wells at old farms are still functioning. When the only alternative is that horrible bog water, this is a really welcome change. Crystal clear, and really, really cold.

Many of the buildings we pass have long ago become more scenery than anything of practical use.
Most old constructions are in worse shape than that well in the last photo. This is more scenery than building.

Sometimes you just want to lie down and look up at the sky, dreading the moment you have to put your backpack on again.
Oftentimes you just want to take a break, lie down and look up at the sky, dreading the moment you have to put your backpack on again.

After two days of walking in solitude, it's a bit weird joining some locals enjoying themselves at a lake, with all kinds of cold drinks and snacks.
After more than two days of walking in solitude, literally not seeing anyone else, it’s a bit weird to suddenly come upon a large number of locals enjoying themselves at a lake, having brought with them all kinds of cold drinks and snacks. No one offer me anything, and I’m too proud, or possibly shy, to ask if I can please buy some calories from them.

A part of the forest recently visited by lumberjacks. Or crazy efficient logging machines, rather. Not the prettiest of sights.
The worst parts of the trail aren’t the ones with trees blocking the way everywhere. Not in my opinion, anyway. This is worse. When you come to a part of the forest where logging has just happened, you get this sad sight. I don’t mind responsible felling of trees, and this is definitely a sustainable business. It’s still not a pretty sight, and the whole area is full of sharp twigs and branches left behind by the lumberjacks/logging machines.

It's all too easy to understand why people back in the day thought that the forest was full of trolls. Because it is.
It’s easy to understand why people in the past used to believe that the forest is full of trolls. Because I see proof all the time that it is.

A perfect summer day comes to a pleasant end at Småsætra.
A perfect summer day comes to a pleasant end at yet another old farm where no one lives anymore.

There are no golden arches in this wilderness, but there may be some silvery ones.
There are no golden arches in the wilderness, but these severely snow-bent birches offer a few silvery ones.

Suddenly this beast came rushing towards me, making a horrible sound!
Suddenly this beast comes rushing towards me, making a horrible sound! It’s probably the most dangerous moment of my entire hike. It’s fascinating how quickly you adapt to life in the forest, where perfectly normal aspects of modern life become an annoyance.

I'm not happy with the stubbles, but I'm happy because I have just decided to return home from the trail. I lack the time to be able to complete the next leg of the trail. This is fine
I cross those railway tracks, quite satisfied with the last few days of walking. I’m not happy with the stubble, but I’m happy because I decide to go home from here. I lack the time needed to complete the next leg of the trail. The 140 kilometers I have just walked is enough for now.

Sjølisjøen is my exit point. The trail guide claims there's a nice beach on this lake, but reality says otherwise. My plans for getting clean before finding transportation home have to be adjusted somewhat.
Sjølisjøen is my exit point. The trail description claims that there’s a nice beach on this lake, but reality says otherwise. My plan for cleaning myself before finding transportation home is quickly adjusted.

A couple of super heroes battling it out at the most expensive diving board in Norway, possibly the world. At least it's in better shape than the pier at that lake in the forest.
I take a bus to Hamar, where the beach facilities are vastly better. As I clean up, a couple of super heroes battle it out at the most expensive diving board in Norway, possibly even in the world. Google it. At least it’s in better shape than the pier at that lake in the forest.

And then I went home.

To reach the end of Rondanestien, I think I have just over a week of trail left. I’ll go back sometime and do it. In the meantime, life at home feels extra nice after a few days of being deprived of all the luxuries my everyday life brings.

That’s a pretty nice takeaway from doing a hike of this kind.

You should try it sometime.

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