Monday, July 30, 2012

OUT - failed attempt at an overnighter

I have been promissing my oldest daughter to take her on a night out camping for a while now and now the weather was just fine, it was vacationtime, so I wanted to fulfill my promiss. We packed out stuff and went on our way. She was carrying her "scoutingpack" with sleepingbag and -mat, a full canteen, a Dutch armyponcho and some bits and bobs.... Ohh and not to be left out; a tin a sweets! I asked her several times if this wasn't going to be too heavy, but she made it very clear that she could carry it all.... Never argue with a woman...

Off we go.... Our youngest one is saying goodbye, waiting for her turn...
After a good 500 meters we had to stop. 1 Dutch poncho and 1 full canteen had to be transferred to the German backpack..... I was wearing. I have to admit, it was a lot warmer than we both anticipated. We took our time to drink something, too. After that we hiked on and a good half hour later we came into a patch of pineforest with large, older trees, lacking any undergrowth, except a thick carpet of moss. The air had warmed up quite a bit and the air was heavy with that sweet scent of pine that to me is so related to Scandinavian summers... We both just stood there; eyes closed, nose open, inhaling that soothing smell.... As we opened our eyes again, I saw a large shadow moving across the forestfloor and treetrunks. As we looked up we saw a large bird of prey, swooping just over the canopy. It was so low and close that we could clearly see every detail of this magnificent bird. As it turned the rays of the sun caught it's belly and it drifted away shining, as if it was made out of silver...
This image is not mine, but gives a good idea of what we saw.
We moved on and we were close to our destination; the lake I already mentioned a few times. It has a fireplace, where we wanted to cook some water for soup and have something to eat. We also wanted to spend the night here or close by. The path leading down had become treaturous, because the topsoil had been washed away, exposing chunky rocks, some the size of fists. These rolled away as we walked over them, so caution had to be taken not to stumble and fall.

When we reached the lake, we put down our backpacks and took some time off. My little girl had been keeping up pretty good, despite me carrying her pack from time to time. We were both very warm and the breeze down here was quite pleasant. As we stood there, we noticed a brightly coloured butterfly, flashing its colours as it caught the sun's rays. It circled nearer and nearer and finally landed on my back! I moved and it flew up, turned and landed on my leg.... I could even get it to walk over onto my hand and there it just sat.... probing my fingers with its long tongue and I could bring it really close to my face and look at it. Even my movements in order to take pictures did not disturb it!! I was in awe.... and felt very priviliged. Even after I let it go, it kept coming back, landing on my backpack and finnbag. I really felt that it was eeking me out, because it would not go near my daughter and she did not want to go near it. Could this be a sign?  I believe it was..... as I do believe in animal totems and related things.

After the butterfly-happening I turned towards my daughter, only to just see her take of her last shoe and sock and dunk her feet into the lake. Her face relaxed, a broad smile came over it and I could just feel her enjoying herself....

this image I'll cherish....
She called out to me and told me to come and join her. Who am I to not do as told in this matter?? We sat there, moving our feet through the cool water, watching over the lake, looking into the water and at the animals moving in and over it and just ...... just sat there for a while.... might have been 15 minutes, might have been an hour. I don't know.... All I know is that a pair of feet getting cold brought me back to earth.
The yellow line is the normal level of the lake. These are pollen, whcih have fallen into the water last spring. The excessive rain lately has caused the lake to rise about 10-12cm.

a couple of storloms, (gavia arctica) was there, too. My daughter was just as enchanted by these birds and their calls as I am.
Another thing we did notice however, was the presence of other flying creatures that had less pleasant intentions. The wind had settled down and immediately large numbers of mosquitos, biting flies and related pests made their presence felt... literally! We could stay at the lake to make dinner. We had become dinner! Or supper! Or afternoonsnack! There was just one thing to do; head back into the woods and try to find a suitable campingspot. We needed one that was; a) flat enough so we could both lie near each other, b) would have the possibility to make a fire next to us, c) needed trees for our poncho's/tarp (weatherforecast have been shown to somewhat...... incorrect) and d) was low on insectactivity. We looked all over the place, but on terrain looking like this, a flat spot large enough is quite hard to find! I am beginning to reconsider the hammockoptions, here!

what is she reaching for??

should have know.... blueberries

my little girl
Well, I guess you did see it coming; we did not find a spot that matched all 4 requirments. The flat area and the low insectactivity were the ones that spoiled the whole thing, especially the insects!! Their numbers kept increasing and even 2 different kinds of insectrepellants could not protect us from being bitten and stung! The abundant rain from the past weeks, followed by this spell of warm and sunny weather caused an explosion in insectlife, I guess. Well, at least there's plenty of food for the birds now...

something did find a place to sleep, here....

but what? Deer? Moose?
 We had beaten a hasty retreat from the forest. Staying there was highly unpleasant and I shiver by the thought of staying out there the whole night without mosquitonetting..... which we do not have!
Also we overestimated the strength of my daughter, because most of the way home I had to carry here backpack. She was tired, warm, deeply disappointed and seriously pissed off at the biting buggers! I did not want here to remember this trip being miserable AND having to haul her pack.... This made it a little easier on her.. But it weighed down heavy on my... all 20kg's of it....

By the time we got home I looked like this....

Some images of the "wildlife" we encountered;

Monday, July 23, 2012

Are the seasons going nuts or am I???

The reason I ask myself this question is because I see many signs that are not part of summer, but of autumn!
The weather has been appaling, all over Europe. Here in Dalarna we have had huge amounts of rain, sometimes coming down in torrents. We had a lot of wind, too. Sunshine has been limited and the temperatures often did not exceed the 18 C-mark. We even had single digit nighttime temperatures. I heard locals say that they had cool summers befor, but this combination is somewhat new to them, too. There are very few insects to be found, however. A few bees, not much mosquitos or wasps and even flies are limited.
I also noticed that some berries, like blueberry, are ripe already and others will be within days (if there's sunshine). There's plenty of mushrooms of all sorts all around and these last few days I also noticed that birds are gathering in large numbers to form flocks. I saw flights of cranes, swallows, finches and crows. Large ones, with numbers ranging from about 15 with the cranes to dozens for the other species. (And where's your camera when you need it???)
With the swallows (last night) I noticed their calls had changed. Instead of their shreeking calls they used shorter and softer calls. Today I haven't seen a single one, while there's been a trio of them whizzing around our houses dayly, befor joining their mates higher up...


A final clue is the colouration of birchleaves. There are quite a few that have turned yellow or are about to.
All this makes me wonder..... has autumn come in juli this year??
Or is it "just" that everything has been waaayyyyy to wet??

Addition july 24;
In the previous weeks I noticed something that I just could not name....untill one of my visitors pointed it out to me last week. It is silent! The birds are missing.
I did notice the absence of the woodpecker- and owlsounds, but it was much more than just those. Birdpresence is very low at the moment.
Another thing I noticed and forgot to mention is the absence of rowanberries. Maybe it is just to early for them to start changing colour, but I checked the trees around here and none are bearing fruit! All we need now is a severe winter and the birdpopulation will be decimated, I'm afraid.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

OUT - A walk with a twist

It has been a few weeks, but I got out again, yesterday. Work, massive amounts of rain and guests from abroad kept me from having my regular dose of greentime. My system was seriously overloaded, so I went out without any plan, just to relax. 
When I hit the known trails I was stunned! The huge amounts of rain we had in the past couple of weeks transformed the tracks. Practically no soil remained as it had been washed away. There was mostly bare rock with clear water running over them. The lush growth of plants and, above all, ferns gave these old loggertracks the look and feel of natural mountainstreams. Not that I mind... at all.

I came across many puddles and small ponds, where the water had accumulated on the tracks. In those I found a variety of waterloving wildlife, mainly frogs, damselflies, dragonflies and offcourse mosquitos.

It took me a while, but after about an hour or so, I found myself moving in a different way and on a different level again. The first thing I noticed was that I was moving as silently as possible, leaving as little tracks as possible, too. The next thing I noticed was that my sences changed. I heard and saw more clearly. As I came out of the woods to cross a clearing I saw quite a few birds and I stopped to look at them. As I stood there looking at them, they came nearer, leaping from one tree to the next, just to check me out. They weren't alarmed by my movements, when I took my binos to look back at them. After a while they lost interest and went back to the business of feeding. I could clearly see them going over the branches, looking for insects. I was able to identify at least one of the birds and it is at moments like this that I really wish I had a decent camera. Or at least one with more capabilities than my Cybershot-thingy.
I crossed the clearing and headed into the woods again. I found a squashed/trampled blue beetle and some broken, small mushrooms, so clearly something moved through the area recently.

A freshly squashed beetle

tiny mushrooms ( Lycoperdon perlatum). I found several broken clusters nearby.
Higher up on the hills the water had less eroding power, so there was much more mud. This mud was completely saturated with water and ankle deep, so quit unpleasant to walk through. There were many tracks; the usual deer and moosetracks. I did noticed that there were several sized moostracks going in both directions of the path, while the deertracks crossed the paths, but never followed it. A little further up I saw that 2 differently sized tracks merged. Mother and calf?

I found several of these along the tracks.

the ruler measure 16cm from top till bottom.

Another frog. I did here dozens of them hop into the ponds as I walked passed them.
Now here comes the twist to this tale.... The terrain was quite rough as you might have guessed by now and it became muddier as I neared the top of the hill. In some cases I had to leave the track to bypass a piece that was really bad. Than I came across a piece where there was at least 30cm of water on top of a very muddy looking surface. As icing on the cake a large tree had fallen across the trails, too. So I had to go around and over.... The around-part wasn't too tricky, the over-part was a little tougher, but the getting down-part was where things went wrong. I climbed onto the tree, which was about 60cm from the ground and as I stepped down onto what I thought was solid ground, the ground gave way! And on touching the ground deeper than I had anticipated, so did my right ankle... I thought I was stepping onto the mosscovered ground, but it turned out that under the moss there was nothing there. There was a hole some 30cm deep. Not much, but it was enough... I had to take a few deep breaths and was very glad I wore my high armyboots. These absorbed a great deal of the impact. After a short while I thought everything was fine and I started to move again. My ankle was a bit sensitive, but nothing too bad....

what can I say..... There's just room to breath.... really breath...
I walked the last few hundred meters to the top of the hill and decided to take a breather. I was getting hungry and thirsty, my back and shoulders were soaking wet and my ankle.... well.... it pounded a little.
I took my time, fixing lunch and doing some gear "reviews". For this trip I took my Dutch daypack, because my Swedish canvaspack is just to large for daytrips. I knew there was a reason why I didn't bring the Dutch pack much, anymore, and now I knew why again. As I said my back and shoulders were soaking wet. These were the areas the backpack made contact with my body. The synthetics did not allow for the sweat to get away. Also the fit is too tight, even for my skinny little carcass and with the chestbelt closed it feels like being suffocated slowly..... Too bad, really as it is a very versatile pack. If it were a little roomier and made of canvas it would be my alltimepack!

me wearing the kit

many blueberries

the Swedish army cookingset in its natural habitat...

boiling eggs..... and some freshly picked berries

A look into the pack. I'll give a more indepth review of this pack in a future post...

A fantastic book! I brought it with me, because I noticed many mushrooms were coming up allready.

something grew out out of the berry and I lost appetite...

making coffee

ahhh... lunch!

the view from my "lunchtable"...
After I made lunch, fumbled around with my gear I just sat there. I had picked up the mushroombook, but somehow I did not get to reading it. I just sat there, back to a tree, wind in the face, listening to birds and insects. I do not know how long I just sat there, but after a while I came to my senses again. It felt like I woke up, but I am absolutely certain I did not sleep. I guess the wind took my thoughts with it, clearing and emptying my mind. I felt deeply peacefull and a deep feeling of gratefullness filled me. I also felt that the wind had picked up and had a chill in it, almost as if autumn was approaching already. Maybe this chill brought me back?
So I wanted to get up and collect my stuff... and I got a bit of a unpleasant surprise! My ankle felt stiff and painfull. Great... It'll be fun to go back down again..... I called my wife to tell here what happened, where I was and that I was heading home. Up here my cellphone worked brilliantly, but further down the hill it's far less good.
I kind off limped back down the hill again, a lot less silent and elegant. My boots and pants were wet and dirty and on the way down got even wetter and dirtier. Big deal..... I splashed around like a bear in a mountainstream, hunting for salmon and was glad to leave the muddyparts behind me. The bare rocks further down gave me a firmer footing and, because they were only recently exposed, were not covered in algae and slippery.
The way down and home took much longer than up, because I walked slower and more carefull, stopping regularly. Good opportunities to look around.....

more mushrooms on the way home

this is what was left of the loggerstrail

He/she was there, too.... I am always exited to find him/her up there and than to see it floating through the sky, hearing it's "keeoww"-calls. It always strikes a nerve with me.

I took this picture of thistle and bumblebee, while standing up straight and it was above my head!

forest as forest is meant to be... at least to me.

me being home.... Up there the wind and soaked boot/sock/pants did some cooling too.
Well, I made it as you can see. The damage seems to be limited. The outside of my right ankle is a bit sore and stiff, but I can walk on it. Guess I was lucky. That should teach me to bring a stick the next time, so I can probe for little surprises....