Arctic Spring – Night Snowmobiling

There was an outing that was on the itinerary that escaped Jen’s attention to detail – a snowmobiling outing after dark with dinner (link). Snowmobiles? Driving them? Not for some of us. Lily and Bryant, however, thought the idea was pretty cool. So, Jen and Hil skipped it, while Bry and Lily revved it.

We started out getting picked up from the hotel, then a stop at the guide’s office for winter clothes, then a stop at the Ice Hotel for the other 2 customers (a doctor couple from Stockholm – she was a psychiatrist and he was an ER doc), and then finally to the garage to get the machines. Here is a pic of the garage, and Lily getting all suited up for the adventure!

After the obligatory safety demonstration, we were off. Bryant and Lily on one, the Stockhomers on another, and the guide out front on their own machine leading the way. These were pretty simple machines to operate, save the weird thumb-throttle that was a lot more like an ATV throttle than a motorcycle (which I am more used to).

The route was a mix of trails thru forest and across the frozen Torne River and Sautusjärvi lake. The ride out was still light, and it was pretty easy to follow the track of the guide in front. The main thing was to stay on the track. The show was very deep and soft on either side of the track, and the risk of the big touring machines nose-diving and being stuck was a big one. So, stay on the track!

We arrived at a low, octagonal wooden hut with benches around the inside walls and a fire pit in the middle. The guide made a fire and set to cooking dinner, which was a delicious reindeer stew made from smoked, salted and sliced meat called suovas in Saami. Here is the outside and inside of the hut.

After dinner, we rode back. It was a lot harder to follow the guide’s track in the dark, but we managed. Along the way, we stopped to look for auroras and to hear the Saami constellations story. Basically, the Big Dipper is the bow of a hunter, and the “w” of Cassiopeia is the horns of a great moose (and other stars make up the body). As long as the hunter shoots over the North Star, then all is well. If the hunter hit the North Star, then the heavens would fall down and things would be bad. Luckily, the North Star has not fallen down … Another stop along the way was for the guide to explain the giant crack in the river ice and the differences in the levels of the ice due to the levels of water under it.

Of course, all the pick-up logistics had to be reversed, and Lily and Bry were finally back at the room by about 12:30.

Arctic Spring

We decided the risk of traveling within Sweden was minor and booked a trip to Kiruna, the northern most city in Swedish Lapland. It’s north of the Arctic Circle in Sàpmi (Sami cultural region) taiga forestland with long winters.

Traditional Sami foods, cooked over the fire in a làvvu reindeer, moose, lingon and cloudberries prepared in different ways, as well as many gourmet dishes awaited us at the resort hotel, which caters to foodies. So we enjoyed lots of caviar, smoked fish, meats (and even eggs) artichoke whiskey soup with cauliflower chips and freeze dried beets, pickled squash and shiitake risotto, and wonderful desserts and breads. Birch burl “kuksa” of coffee or lingonberry juice were a nice authentic touch.

Reindeer stew!

The weather was good, melting a bit during the day and freezing when not in direct sun, making for very slick surfaces. I couldn’t do much walking, but it made for some fast moving dog and reindeer sleds! This guy’s name means Power and he was running so fast that I missed a shot of him pulling Lily and Bry on the sport sled.

The sled dogs were extremely fast and on icy spring snow pack; they had to use a smaller team of dogs to prevent them from going too fast.

For me this trip was a lot of Type 2 fun, appreciated more after it’s over than while it is happening. I tried to embrace the opportunity to try some new things, including the outdoor spa, which I genuinely enjoyed and would do again! Usually hot tubs and saunas are too warm for me but the outdoor versions kept me from over heating.

Lily discovered an interest in snow mobiles and Hilary took to nighttime photography, more on those adventures later.

Canoe Camping!

While Jen was exploring Sölvesberg, Hillary, Lily, and I were canoe camping on nearby Lake Ivö (or Ivösjön I Svenska).

In order to orient, here is a map of Skåne where we were, as well as a map that shows where we were.

We went up on Friday, dropped Jen at her B&B, and then went to the outfitter (Wetlandi, at #4 on the detailed map). They transported us to the entry site (#1) on the Holjeån River, where we picked up the boat, transferred our stuff to a barrel, and set off!

The river level was low, so there was a lot of exposed logs and rocks to navigate around. But the current was super-slow, so we were able to handle it just fine. Our first campsite (#2 on the map) was on the river, and (it turns out) also on a farm field. The site was OK, but the sound of the farm equipment working until 10pm was kind of a downer. The kids did like sleeping in a tent again!

Day 2 saw us finish the river, and out into the lake. There was a nice stop to use the toilet, and then on to our exploration of islands for a camp site.

We finally found our place on Slättön (#3 on the map), and set up camp by a big rock. We also did some explorations and wading around other islands. It felt pretty BWCA-ish.

Finally, we paddled out, and dropped the boat and borrowed gear at the outfitter to go get Jen and head home. Overall, super-nice trip that had some backcountry feeling, even though it was in a pretty populous area.