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arctic adventures :: Lofoten Norway

By Monday, September 7, 2015 , , , ,

Well, most of these pictures and stories have already been posted to Facebook/Flickr, but I've finally got the video ready to share.  Just as I'm writing up this, post the song I used for the video started playing.  The funny thing about creating trip videos with a song is that the moment the song comes on you remember the trip.  It's the same way with the Patagonia movie and the Titcomb Basin movie too.  And it's not just remembering the events of the trip but also the emotions and wonder and all the good parts.

Be sure to watch all the way to the end...

:: the stories ::
::Getting There ::
We left California for Lofoten in the middle of July with not much in the way of a plan. Just a map, a ranked list of places we wanted to see, and bags filled with camping gear and freeze dried meals. Two weeks of freeze dried meals allowed us to learn just what the best options were and had us dreaming of home-cooked meals well before our return travel date. We fit the gear (and the food) into our backpacking bags and tucked them inside Army surplus duffels for added protection during the plane flight. We munched on breakfast sandwiches at the airport because there was no way we were eating before we left the house at 5am. And then we waited…
“We really don’t want to leave you,” long pause, “but we’re totally about to.” The gate agent called over the loud speaker after paging a set of missing passengers for the 5th time prior to the plane doors closing. That wasn’t our flight, so we just laughed and continued waiting.
Storsandnes Beach
Storsandnes Beach
Our travel had us going – big plane to bigger plane to smaller plane to rental car to ferry. If you ever want to know how to get more than 24 hours in a day all you have to do is travel across an ocean. Landing, it was like we were in a different world where everything was clean and hushed - well we were in Norway. The people working for the airlines road between the gates on foot-powered scooters. The janitor pedaled from one restroom to the next on a bike with a built-in utility cart at the front. The bustle and glare of Newark were replaced by muted calm in Norway. Upon picking up the keys to The Bump – our 4-door Kia hatchback – the rental car agent smiled at me while saying, “I think you will like the color,” and turning to Lukas, “but you, not so much.” We couldn’t tell if he said it was berry pink or very pink, but either description would have been accurate.
Driving after midnight

:: The Bump ::
The most affordable rental car option was, of course, a stick shift. Lukas hadn’t driven one in about 10 years and between high school and the days before the trip I had clocked a total of two lessons in a stick. So Lukas drew the short stick (pun totally intended) on that one and was our main driver for the trip. He took the bump slowly around the parking lot a few times before deciding it was all coming back to him and pulling us out onto the main road. With days of driving, the jerkiness subsided and he had us zipping along the winding roads of Lofoten by the end of the trip. But me, not so much.
The Bump
The Bump, again
My main stretch of driving came when we headed 8 hours north to Senja. On the open roads it was almost like I knew what I was doing. But have me pull into a gas station or start to slow down and everything unraveled. In my excitement for being nearly done with my driving shift (and for doing so with such aplomb) I would immediately forget all about the clutch and we would come to a whiplash inducing jarring halt. The worst though, was a late night when I managed to go into the wrong gear going up a hill. The sudden stop threw us both forward – me grabbing onto anything I could. In my surprise I gripped the steering wheel while also turning on the windshield cleaning system. There we were, after midnight, stopped on a hill with the windshield wipers going during a rare non-drizzly moment.

The Bump was so much more than just a vehicle to get us from place to place. In multiple forms it served as our drying machine. Seriously, Norway was nothing if not damp. Water seemed to be constantly drizzling from the sky. There were lakes and streams and the rugged, ever-present coastline. The ground, itself, was like walking on a soggy sponge. This made everything lush and green and mysterious but also… things got wet. So we got creative on how to dry them off.

{The Stationary}
Open all doors and roll down the windows to increase airflow to maximum. Drape pants, socks, shirts, and various tent pieces anywhere you can find space. This method worked, but only really slowly and was inhibited by the drizzle that never let up.
{The Superhero}
To improve airflow, well above and beyond The Stationary, trap the wet clothes in the rolled up windows and drive down the road with pant legs and musty socks flapping in the wind like a cape. The ridiculousness of this method had us laughing (and checking to make sure no one was really watching). But it also wasn’t the quick drying method we hoped for and so, fairly quickly, it was nixed.
{The Musty Sauna}
This method was best for drying wet boots, seeing as how the first two methods didn’t address that particularly pressing need. Here we placed our wet boots under the floor heater vent on the passenger side and turned the heater up full blast for as long as we could stand it. This method worked wonders, if you could ignore the strong foot odor and the sweltering temps.
"a killer whale!" (or maybe not)

All those methods involved The Bump and while they certainly win points for creativity, they didn’t hold a candle to the best method – sunshine with a little breeze. It wasn’t till the end of the trip though, that we got to use the sun.
Troll Village

:: The Tunnels ::
With the landscape of Lofoten as jarringly peaky as it was, instead of going up and over the roads either went around or through the mountains. The 'through' option seemed to be the most popular, yet most of the tunnels had a half finished appearance and feel. The walls were often exposed rock in places with water (did I mention how it just oozes out of the ground) dripping from the ceiling. Memorable tunnel driving experiences include the one that was actually under construction with flickering lights that felt like a mine-shaft. Actually, they all felt like mine-shafts but that one really raised the heebiejeebies. There was also the tunnel that was so long they kindly put kilometer markers to let you know which direction was closer to the end.
the tunnels of Lofted
mine-shaft or tunnel?

:: The Hiking ::
The trails we took throughout our journey varied in degree by how well defined they were and more often than not all were utterly lacking in grading. More than once (looking at you hike to Kvalvika), we thought we were following the trail only to find ourselves coming face-to-face with a completely eroded, impassable hillside. Turning around didn’t do us much good until we saw the actual trail hundreds of yards below us and a sea of lush ferns and rocks in between. The hike became a bushwhack that involved our best attempts not to twist and ankle or break a leg falling into the moss hidden chasms between the boulders to get us back on the main path. There would be no keeping clean while hiking on this trip, nor keeping feet dry.

The one hike where we didn’t end up with sopping wet boots was the vertical scramble up Reinebringen. Instead of soggy ground, here we had to contend with dry, crumbly trail conditions. So much so that on the way down I almost had my head taken off by a tumbling boulder the size of an extra-large football knocked free by someone above us on the trail. We heard, “ROCK!” and then could hear it falling but couldn’t see where it was until right before it passed a foot or so from my head. I completely froze, but next time (there better never be a next time!) I’ll remember to duck and cover. That would have been hard to do though since at that moment I was on a narrow section of the trail where quick movements would not have been advisable.
find the photographer

It was most demoralizing to be struggling up a boulder, using the chains provided, only to get to the top and have your ecstatic bubble of pride burst upon seeing a family with a couple of tiny kids had just made it to that spot with no trouble at all. We saw some serious troopers of kids when we were out hiking.
Munken Selfie

The hike out to Horseid Beach won two awards – wettest feet and most deceptively long. First, when we disembarked from the ferry in Kerkefjorden we could see the path before us – a simple up and over to get to the beach. But when we made it up, the over part took forever. The saddle between the peaks was longer than expected. Then down, down we went at times finding our way over moss covered boulders. And then we reached the “swamp” – ankle deep water for which we stopped and took off our boots and socks. The boots and socks didn’t make it back on our feet until we hiked out the next morning because the weather was just that nice. How awesome! When we finally made it to the beach each step we took seemed to have absolutely no effect on moving us forward toward our goal of the grassy bluff across the beach. Slowly, slowly we made our way there – probably 30 minutes later (at least).
blue skies ahead
Horseide Beach
Horseid Beach
Horseide Beach

The most unexpectedly challenging hike award went to the hike we didn’t actually finish. We planned to hike out all the way out to Hermannsdalstind in one day, but were totally beat after reaching the Munkebu Hut. We rested, refilled our water and rethought our plans. From the pond at the hut we could just make out what we thought was the trail up to Hermannsdalstind. It looked even more challenging than what we’d already hiked and snow covered in places. Resting before continuing on quickly changed into finding a camping spot at the base of Muken and considering hiking up to Hermannsdalstind the next day without all our camping gear. But even that idea fell by the wayside. Maybe with more food we would have had the energy to make it happen. Still, Muken was beautiful and stunning enough to be more than just a consolation prize. We watched the never ending sunset with Tobias, a laidback friendly fellow traveler we’d met down by the hut earlier in the day while trying to find a flat and dry(ish) spot to pitch our tent. Each of us exclaimed softly at intervals, “Wow, this is amazing!”
it's just what we do
f'in it

:: The Eating ::
When we grew tired of marveling at the landscape (ok, that never happened) we filled our time planning all the amazing meals we would have when we got home. It wasn’t a bad idea that we brought lots of freeze dried backpacking meals from home – the food in Norway was on the expensive side – but it did get monotonous pretty quickly. Apples from the grocery store became treasures with their sweet tangy crispness – chewing required! The best meal of the trip were egg sandwiches brought to another level with sautéed leeks. And even just eating the backpacking meal out of a real dish when we stayed the night in Å was a treat. The places we stayed in the two weeks were just about as varied as they come.
sunsets at midnight... or maybe it was sunrise

:: Sleep, what’s that? ::
When the sun doesn’t set until after midnight and it never truly gets dark the delineation from one day to the next becomes fuzzy. We would stay up for sunset/sunrise and then think about sleeping. Most sleeps happened in the tent – either at the campground in Moskenes or at the end of a long hike. Once, we just plopped our tent down on a beach for a few hours of shut-eye before continuing on to our next destination. A great thing about Norway was the ability (and right) to camp anywhere (within reason – i.e. not right next to someone’s house). More than once we passed the night in The Bump because the early hour and wet weather had us completely uninterested in setting up the tent. We “planned ahead” on the days the weather was expected to be the worst and got a room for the night but just booked day-of because that’s as far in advance as we could commit to.
camping below Munken

No matter where we slept though, each day ran right into the next and sleep was never the priority. With so much to see, golden hour in the middle of the night, and everything else open just during the day we were always on the go. So much so that on the drive back from Senja we both were so beat we ended up pulled over on the side of the road sacked out.


:: The Rest of the Story ::
The weather toyed with us – seriously, a storm that was supposed to pass much earlier dumped and pounded us while we held onto our tent. We thought our tent was about to break and heard from others that their tents did meet that fate. That night in Bunes and the wet hike out to the ferry was by far the most challenging of the trip. We tried to pass the morning in the tent distracting ourselves from the gusting winds by playing cards. That was after Lukas informed sleeping me that I needed to wake up. Somehow I was sleeping right through the storm of the century. When we couldn’t take it anymore and it was near enough to the ferry landing time that we wouldn’t be stuck on a dock in the rain for too long, we packed up and hiked out. We ended up waiting for the ferry in a warm hut on the dock with fellow weather drenched travelers. The ferry guy even agreed the weather report was WAY off.

But the challenging weather at Bunes just set it up all the more for the best part of the trip. We checked the weather back in town and in the afternoon took the fjord ferry back out – this time to Kerkefjorden – to hike out to Horseid. You’ve already heard about the hike out there, but here’s the rest of the story.

When we got there out tent was still wet from the night before but the sun was shining as strong as it ever was the entire trip. I held onto the corners and tossed it up into the breeze. It filled like a box kite in the warm air. Five minutes later it was dry. So was the rainfly and our boots were well on their way as well. I had been planning, at the end of our trip when we were back at the campground with warm showers, to jump into the ocean. If Tobias, the guy from Colorado we had met at Munken towards the beginning of the trip, did it then I had to too! The warm sun and the sparkling turquoise water at Horseid were calling my name. Lukas found me a perfect jumping rock and caught the whole thing on film – balks and all.
Arctic plunge

We spent most of our time in the southern/western part of the islands that make up Lofoten. It was hard to tell where one island stopped and another started as the coastlines were all cut deep by fjords. Each island and fjord connected by bridges and tunnels to the next. We ventured north to Senja (another island, not part of Lofoten) hoping to hike up Husfjellet but were thwarted by fog. We took ferries – one across the open water that had all passengers quickly snatching up the proffered barf bags. Ferries into the fjord out of Reine, manned by friendly crews and helpful pre-teen boys. And of course, the ferry to and from mainland Bodø. We drove and hiked, saw trolls and dodged seagulls, avoided sheep droppings from the free ranging livestock, saw hares we thought might be dogs (?) until they bounded away like bunnies, all the time hardly believe the beauty that we saw all around us. That magical thing happened when we travel someplace new where we arrived feeling disoriented, but some time went by and that feeling lifted (as it always does). We settled in and found our rhythm. And then the trip was over and we were on our way home – tired, but happy.
supernova rainbow

...bits of random
:: deciding to come home a day early from our most recent adventure {backpacking in the Sierras} and so glad we did
:: the way food tastes more amazing on the trail
:: neighbors who look out for and after each other
:: remembering that being there is worth it, always

Other little bits of my life...


  1. Love it all Megan!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love it all Megan!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wonderful show!! I think you should go into movie making! What a fantastic trip!

    1. Thanks Emu! I've got a long way to go on my movie making skills but I sure do like doing it.

  4. absolutely stunning! i am so thankful you guys went, so you could come home and show and tell about this amazing place to us Megan! and, go figure, I had tears in my eyes during the movie, and we all LOVED the ending! xo

    1. Thanks!! Aw Em, of course you did. :) Re-watching it, I almost did too. Love to share these amazing places - it's a big, beautiful world we live in.

  5. It was so fun watching the movie, reading the story, and looking at the beautiful pictures!
    I loved the last part of the movie where you jumped in! Ha ha!

    1. Thanks Ruby! That's my favorite part too. :)

  6. Wow! That was spectacular!!
    Thank you for sharing it!!
    Have you thought about asking the Kia company if they'd like to use it in a commercial? For a price, of course...

    1. Thanks Kathy! Haha! I don't think we've got enough Kia footage, but that'd be fun. :)