Sunday, January 26, 2014

My first solo overnighter - overstepping the boundaries of the comfortzone...

So..... Time for a bit of real outdoorsy stuff, ' ey?
The sled looks a lot smaller, when you look at it like this...
I have been dragging my feet on this for a while, but yesterday it was time to do something I have never done before; staying out alone and in winterconditions at that! I never felt comfortable with the idea of doing so, but one has to push the boundaries every once in a while to see what lies beyond. Since I have no proper winteraccomodations, like tent, stove or sleepingbag, I decided to stay at the kolarkoja (charcoalkilnhut), because that has a fireplace, plenty of wood and a couple of bunkbeds.
So I "prepared" my gear, loaded everything in the sled and went on my way. I said "prepared", because I actually just grabbed the stuff together without properly planning and checking what I did. While loading up the sled I noticed the damages to it were more extensive then I initally thought and I was considering of cancelling the whole thing (Now why does that sounds familair??). It is not that I am scared of it, I just felt uneasy and uncomfortable about it....
A rundown of the things I took;
the sled and old skiingpoles,
a Swedish and Dutch army blanket + cellfoam sleepingmat
my selfmade foragingbag, filled with all the foodstuff,
the old backpack, filled with a spare set of clothes, woolsocks, a poncho and bungees, 2 books, my firebox, my moccassins, leather mittens, and a pair of German army gloves. Those mittens and gloves are for work, like splitting or chopping wood, handling hot items etc.
my old BSA messkit and a Swedish aluminium canteen, filled with water.
I had packed enough food for lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch again; Bacon, eggs, hardbread, some ham and cheese, a chunck of my ownmade nut- and raisinbread, 2 homemade hamburgers, potatoes, onions, a pepper and a box with nuts, raisins and dried appricots. I used to not like the latter, but it couldn't hurt to try again. This snackbox would provide me with energypacked snacks... No fruit, since that tends to freeze and defrosting it next to a fire is no good idea.

I took a long piece of paracord and closed up the cover on the sled after I had put in all the gear. The cover could not be closed properly, but I figured nothing would go missing, since it was all tucked away in packs and bags. Camera and cellphone tucked away in my chest pocket, canteen hung on my belt under the anorak, so the water would not freeze. So off I went, happily hiking away on a grey, overcast day with temps. of -8C. No wind, little snow, so nothing difficult. I was a bit apprehencive, but that was shrugged off..

I hiked up the road with a strange, nagging something in my head. Something was not right and it took me about 30-40 minutes to realise what that was..... I had forgotten some vital pieces of gear! My axe, my belt and my cellphone had no credits left on its prepaidcard.... Dumb ********.....!! I had enough left for sending one message, so I texted my wife to call me. I then explained my problem and she came up to bring me the rest... *hangsheadinshame* But it also resulted in the picture in the opening of this post! Well, in several actually, without me knowing... Here's another one...


My first goal was the look out I have shown before. I knew the terrain would not be the easiest, so it would be a good way to test both the sled and me.
a quick shot before going down, out of the wind...
On the dirtroad I tried going both in the tracks and in the middle of the road. In the tracks I could move good, but the sled ground its way over stones regularly, causing much drag and slowing me down. In the middle these problems did not occur, but the going was more difficult for me. I settled for option nr.1 for the time being. I was surprised at how easy the sled could be pulled and it did not take long before I could go and work with the poles relatively well, minimising the jerking of the sled on the harness with each step I made.  I had to work harder here than on the road up, causing me to use more force in my leg- and armmovements. In the first few 100 meters you could see small sawtooth like movements of the sled in the snow, but that soon became a set of fluent lines.
Than I turned of the dirtroad onto the path up to the vantagepoint and the terrain altered drastically. From now on it was crosscountry with only a flattened path in the snow as a guide. I had my hands full on the way up, which was quite a struggle over uneven and rocky terrain, with hidden bolders and icesheets, but I eventually reached the point. I had a quick look, since up there it is practically always windy and turned around for the decent.


 When I reached the dirtroad again I had to cross it in order to get to the cabin. No one had been here, so I had to break the trail. Snow was about 10-15cm deep, so the going was a little tougher, but the sled moved with a little more ease. Here too of course the terrain was uneaven, but level.... more or less..

The final part of the trip lead me alongside a old clearing covered by young pines and such. Here the snow was quite a bit deeper. I guess it drifted here because of the wind. Here it sometimes was up halfway to the knees. The pines looked like they were whippedcream coated!

At around 14:00 I reached the cabin. I had skipped lunch at the vantagepoint, both because of the exposed position, but also because I was not feeling hungry... strangely enough! Yet upon arrival I was hungry, so I opted for a belated "lunch", being a cup of tea and the nut- and raisinbread.
The cabin had not been used since autumn and was stonecold, so priority one is a fire, so I could warm both the water and the cabin! The cabinwoodshed is stacked with leftovers from the charcoalmakingproces (great scrabbleword!), so I started splitting some of it. I lit a fire and kept feeding that during whatever I was doing next. After that I quickly unpacked the sled, heated some water and had said belated lunch.
Then I went to start doing some real splitting and hauled much more wood into the cabin too, untill I thought I had enough.... and then got some more.

the shelter that is being built next to the cabin. We'll be finishing this one in spring.
The woodstack for this year's kiln
 By now daylight started to fade and I saw the woodpile already dwindling! It took a lot of wood just to get the cabin to an acceptable temperature. So I carried in more wood. I ended up making dinner fully dressed!
While I was making dinner I could see the cold air, in the form of condensed watervapor, moving into the fireplace and being sucked up the stovepipe. I had also started melting snow for water, filling up the canteen as I went along. I placed that one next to the fire too, since the water would otherwise be too cold to drink. Found that out the hard way! Even under the anorak it became stonecold! But this way I would always have drinkable water at the ready. I skooped snow with the cup, fed that into the kettle and poured that into the canteen and when that one was full, I filled up the kettle itself.


or make that a candlelightdinner for one...
 All the while I kept feeding the fireplace, hoping the cabin would finally start to warm up. In order to settle for the night, it was practically dark now, I went and got some more firewood.... and I realised I forgot something else; a torchlight of some sort. Well, I figure people didn't use those back in the days, so I'd be fine.
After I ate I went out for a while to listen, to undergo and to get used to the total darkness out there. It was an overcast, moonless and starless night and even the snow did not make it much lighter. I must admit that I did not feel comfortable at all, alone out here in the pitchblack with all those sounds around me.... This was something completely new and I forced myself to experience it. Strange how being alone can make things completely different!
If someone else would have been around this experience, these feelings would not have been this clear... this overwhelmingly clear I might add. Now I was thrown back onto myself and confronted with one of my greatest discomforts; loneliness, being alone, especially in a place or situation without the distracting comforts from home. Hearing  loud, undescribable animallike sounds and seeing lights between the trees in the distance did not make it better. I tried analysing the sound and I think it was a dog, barking in the village with the barks being strongly altered by echoing between the hills and forests and carried here by the wind. The lights.... I have no explanation for... At times I felt the urge to just pack it up and go home, but I told myself to stop being ridiculous and stay put. And yet it all felt so unnatural to me, so strange..... and I felt so out of place... missing the company of others..... and modern day distractions like a computer, internet and even cellphones. Now it was just me and my worst enemy.... my own mind! Instead of just shaking it off, I confronted myself with that, forcing myself to acknowledge this and deal with it.
After having stood there for a few times and the last time longer that the previous I went inside again. My feet were getting cold, so I fired up the fireplace again and changed into new socks. The previous experiences kept circling in my mind and I could not concentrate on the book anymore. Than I received a textmessage, stating my prepaidcard had been upgraded, so I sent my wife a message to let her now I was fine and to check if she was home again . Her father had to get her mom at the airport and she had to dog-sit. This being able to reach out made things a little easier and after texting back and forth a little I went to get wood, fire up the fireplace some more (you can see where this is going, right?) and prepared to settle in for the night.
I picked up the book again and read a little by the light of the fireplace and a candle. My bed was not as comfortable as at home of course, but this one was very much spartan to me; a flat wooden bed, a thin cellfoam mat and 2 blankets. For a pillow I used my woolpants, my moccassins and my woolsweater... and the cabin was still cold!
There was a ventilationopening in the bottom of the door and the door itself had 2cm gaps at the top and the cold air just kept pooring in. I succeeded to plug the hole in the bottom by taking a wooden board and keeping it propped up against the opening by a piece of wood. The opening at the top I wanted to keep open for ventilation, since much of the wood I used was aspen and that smoked more than it burned. At times the smoke would come from under the fireplace topstone and turn the air in the cabin blue. I threw a few more blocks on the fire and rolled myself in the blankets, wearing a pair of socks, a pair of longjohns and a longsleeved t-shirt. I never did that before! But I knew I would have to get up in the middle of the night for wood...
the fireplace at 02:25
I went to sleep at about 23:00, but woke up again shortly after 02:00 freezing my butt off! The fire had next to died out, leaving a handfull of embers. So I got up, only to discover that I had forgotten to prepare some wood for this occassion; no small pieces of wood ready to put on and blow the fire back to life... So there I was; in my longjohns, longsleeved t-shirt, wool socks and armyboots, preparing and cutting wood, shivering like a reed... On top of it all I really had to pee and to get more wood.  So I dressed up and went out. Damn, it will take a long time to fall asleep again! The woodpile refilled, the bladder emptied and the fire brought back to life, I crept into the woolcocoon again, but lay awake for a long while, looking at the flames, which by now actually managed to radiate their warmth up to bed, so at least my head felt a little warmer. I also was wearing a wool jumper now and 2 pair of woosocks! Other than that I was just trying to get comfortable somehow. But by this time something had started to change (I realised that later on in the day). I no longer felt alienated, no longer felt out of place. I went out in the middle of the night into the pitchblack to pee, get wood and thought nothing of it. It also paid off that, upon arrival, I had emptied the fireplace and had thrown the ashes onto the snow, marking a path from the cabin to the woodshed to the outhouse. This way I could see the path in the dark, going around potential trippingpoints like pits and bolders. I ended up landing on my face one time anyway, with my arms fool of wood. Just a simple slip-up, but I realise that, if I had injured myself, I would have instantly be in serious trouble. I guess the temperatures were about -10, but the wind had picked up, so it felt colder.
I guess I fell asleep again around 04:00 and woke up again a little before 07:00. Same scenario, I was freezing, the fire had died out, but with the additional pleasure of my shoulders and hips, who were killing me! And of course I had to pee again. Damn tea!! This time however the fire was already blazing again by the time I went out, but the use of aspenwood by now had left my eyes, nose and throat burning. I also think the draft of the stovepipe might be faulty, since, even with a blazing fire underneath, the smoke would still come into the cabin. Glad I left that ventilationgap open!
cooking breakfast
I waited a while untill the worst chill had been driven from the cabin, before getting getting dressed and going out again. Sometimes you need to do more than pee, but the outhouse did not look appealing at all, when I checked last night. So I went "woodsmanstyle", squatting down in the open, doing my thing and cleaning up with snowballs. Coming spring all evidence shall be gone... Feeling relieved and above all refreshed (!!) I put some water next to the fire to make more tea, cursing myself for forgetting the coffeepot, another essential item! I was really hungry, so I took all the bacon threw that in the pan, added 3 eggs and made a breakfast that would sure be satisfying.... apart from the coffee that is.
I finished breakfast and started packing up. By the time all was done and the cabin was left cleaner than I had found it, I decided to just go home. I had achieved what I came to do, but I also felt a little broken. Just did not feel like hanging around in the woods any longer today.

the way home....
A little surprise at the end. I did not see many wildlifetracks, only a handfull of fox, a few hare and quite a few rodents of all sorts. But here you see a fox hunting; coming in from the right, making that typical high pouncing jump in the middle and trotting off to the left.

Now I have enoyed some real coffee, a good hot shower to ease the discomfort in joints and muscles and after having the pleasure of cleaning up and putting away all the gear, it is a good time for some afterthoughts.
In hindsight I can say that my old, shaggy and scrappy gear held out pretty well, except for the blankets. I guess when maintained and fixed it will perform just great. I wish I could say the same about the geezer using it all. He also feels old, shaggy and scrappy, but I doubt maintaining or even a go at fixing that would do much good.. ;)
My body is protesting severely now with every major joint from the hips up to the neck aching because of the very uncomfortable bedding and my legs feeling heavy and tired from the tramping around. My nose and eyes are still sore from all the smoke I inhaled and I feel quite tired.....
But much more importantly also mentally revived and satisfied! I did pull it off. I did face and overcome challenges and problems and learned quite a few vital lessons. I also understand what was holding me back better and now that the first step has been taken it should prove easier to make another.... Just do not expect me running back to that cabin anytime soon!
I realise that facing challenges alone is much more demanding than with someone else present. I also realise that I am able to overcome challenges much more easy if they are shared. I would have had a lot less trouble doing what I did if someone else had been there, too. Allthough the situation in it self would not be in fact any different. What would make the difference? I don't know. Maybe the presence of another person gives strength or courage, maybe it distracts one from these issues. Maybe they make it easier to rationalise these issues or maybe it is just the absence of the social aspect that adds to the load and thus increase it.

As far as my gear goes, I have begun to gain trust in many of the things I use, knowing they will perform when needed. The blankets did not perform as I had hoped. This configuration has shown that nostalgic romantic feelings for old-timey gear is not always matched by their performance. The blankets used are not suitable for these conditions, yet I will remain to use them and I have ideas how to do that, too.
The skiingpoles did not do overwhelmingly good either. They felt clumsy. I guess becuase of the large discs. These are meant for deep snow, I think. And they have begun to breakdown too. They really need an overhaul.

And tonight I will be celebrating this on the couch with a beer, some chips and an episode from on of the series of one of my all time icons; sr. David Attenborough!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

studying animals...

For my Bettybuild I needed information in how to depict the animals I wanted to use. I was mostly looking for what colours they would have, but also how they looked, how they were shaped etc.
So in doing a little research into that I ended up researching the animals themselves and learning a great deal about them!
I learned how different their furcoats were and looked when comparing summer to winter, how they moved, ate and lived. I learned a bit about how they behaved and above all how individual and unique they are! It is also a great excuse for bombarding you with animalpictures!

I will not go into all the details, but I just wanted to share a handfull of pictures I came across when browsing the web.... I hope you'll enjoy the pictures as much as I did!

First the moose...
Don't know why, but an image like this does not leave me untouched..
or this one....älgjakt
Have you noticed the brightness and texture of the antlers?

the wolf...
a great variety in colours
The image as often protrayed in the media and by many a hunter or farmer..
There is un unbelievable and incomprehencible hatred against this animal around here...
I wonder why....
This side is seldom shown
To me sheer beauty.
The embodyment, next to the moose and bear, of northern wilderness.
the bear...
Looks like trouble might be coming your way..

the fox...

A classical image
in summer
and in winter 
a very good study of the head in profile you will smile, too...

Ormvråk(buteo buteo)
Colourfull, even for a bird of prey.

the owl....
Dalarnas regional icon; the berguv (bubo bubo)

very interesting plumage!

You do not want to mess around with this fellow!
the beaver

Shall I go for a redhead?
Or hall I go for a brunette?

ooww... tough luck!

and there'll be a handfull of other small animals around, but I'll get to that when the time comes...