Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A snowshoeing trip.

Our host Olli
picture; Boel Engkvist
Last saturday saw another meetup f our local bushcraft group. This time the goal was a snowshoeing hikeup the Gyllbergen, a rise in a natural reserve near Borlänge. The weather was hard to forecast, with all the changes, but in the end all went well.
Had some minor snowfall on the way in, deep, fluffy and powdery snow, especially around the top and a touch of sunlight every now and then. Temperature was around -7C with some windchill at the top. Some of us, including me, had never or very scarcely walked on snowshoes and I thought to bring my old (antique) ones for the occasion, accompanied by poles at least as old.
For the occasion I dressed up in my army woolpants, t-shirt, wool sweater and winteranorak. However, in my rush to get away from home I forgot my Finnish winterhat and my mittens, so all I had was a thin knitted hat and fingergloves. A pair of those without the tops with thin knitted ones below that. I had brought my LK35, complete with a thermosflask of hot coffee, an army shovel with snowblade, cookingset, food and 1,5l of water. Of course my winterbelt and my the first aid kit. I had thought of tbringing a fleece blanket, but figured in case of an emergency 2 emergency blankets would suffice.
Olli, who arranged this trip, told us about the history of the reserve and I must say it really was a completely different landscape from when I was here first last year. I had never seen anything like it. Magically transformed by the snow, fairytale-like sculpted trees and snowdrifts. I felt overwhelmed and touched to my core. 
On the way to the top I started experiencing problems with my left snowshoe, because its front strap kept slipping of my foot all the time. The walking on those snowshoes itself felt quite easy actually, but the fact that the rest used narrow, modern ones made the going on my wide duckfeet a bit cumbersome, because I kept stepping on the edge of their trail. As we started to near the first stop, being the cabin, I took off my mine. I was holding up the group too much. I clasped the snowshoes to my chest with the sternumstrap of the lk35 and kept going without them in the trail. The going was pretty tough! Despite the whole group breaking trail before me, I sank down at least 20-30cm with most steps. The flow of those old things was quite good in hindsight!
During the hike the disc of one of the staves came off too and I immediately noticed the difference, becuase the stave just disappeared into the waistdeep snow. I could not find it anymore. Of course.... Panting and sweating I arrived as last at the shelter/cabin. During the rest there Marcus lent me 2 straps, so I could fasten the snowshoes properly and after that the problems were pretty much over. At least until we found a place to "camp".

picture; Marcus Östlin

picture; Marcus Östlin

picture; Boel Engkvist

picture; Boel Engkvist
Our merry group of snowshoe-ers.
picture; Boel Engkvist
picture; Boel Engkvist

picture; Boel Engkvist

At the campsite, some started trampling the snow and 2 of us, including me, broke out the snowshovels and dug a pit, large enough for us to sit around a fire. Here my second gearfailure occured. The steel thermosflask I had brought made clear why it ended up in a secondhand shop for me to buy. It had leaked like a sieve and the coffee was nowhere near warm anymore. Lukewarm at best. Maybe the rubber seal was not attached properly and maybe an axtra insulating layer might have kept the coffee warmer.
Everyone had brough one of two blocks of wood up with them, so plenty if firewood was present. Now that fire did cause some irritation and hilarity..... The wood was not really dry, so it smoked a lot. On top of that it was pinewood, so pretty resinous. And of course I sat on the exact wrong spot! Together with Marcus we got out meat smoked pretty decently. Excessively was more likely. Tears ran down our face and we twisted and turned in every which way, but in the end had to move away just to breath. In desperation I brought out my emergency snowgoggles, a pair of those celluloid foldable ones. They look ridiculous (if the comments and laughter were anything to go by), but they worked at keeping the smoke out of my eyes..... sort of. They actually are intended to prevent snowblindness in case of getting stuck.
The mood was generally merry and the food and campcoffee only enhanced that. There was a deal of clowning around and the ladies provided an even better atmosphere by singing a number of folksongs.

I really like Karin's round bottomed, castiron frying pan.
picture; Jonathan Sälg

picture; Marcus Östlin

smoking a ciga.... sausage?!
I got dubbed Ron Guevara...
picture; Boel Engkvist
The goggles in question
picture; boel Engkvist

There be snowgoblins in them hills!
Travellers beware!!
picture; Olli Niemelä
Then the sun started setting and it was time to pack up
And here it was that the troubling snowshoe failed completely. In an attempt to tighten the straps more, one tore off completely. The straps had become to old and brittle. I was now facing a 1,5km hike downhill in loose snow. But Olli came to the resque! He lent me hios modern snowshoes, so I could carry on. He was used to it anyway, he said, plodding through the deep snow. He's a bit taller then I am as well.
By the time we all were ready to go, my fingers had become real cold. Cold enough that I started worrying and I was eager to start going and get my circulation going. From experience I knew that that would pretty much solve my problem. Standing still would only increase it. Holding metal staves did not make things better, despite the grips, made from natural materials.
The way back was quite something too. At places steep downhill and a number of us got into difficulties, but managed to overcome those using non-standard solutions, so to speak.
It was only a few 100 meters to the skitrack, but it felt much longer. Same as the way in. I know it is wayyy shorter then it felt. Going under these conditions takes a lot, lot longer. The rest of the hike went over skitracks, which did hold a few surprises. Boel stepped into a deep hole and tipped forward. The kind of incident that might just snap your knee to pieces! Luckily she came away smiling. The snow simply gave way, despite the snowshoe.
In the end the parkingarea was reached with everyone in one piece and as far as I know I was the only one having experienced some trouble.

Picture; Magnus Brodén

picture by Olli Niemelä

The whole experience left me with an elated feeling! Not only the scenery and the fresh air, but also the feeling of belonging and of friendship made me feel..... human. It is those later feelings that I had missed those last years, but I really do feel we have a small group of people here that have found each other. Järngänget, as olli described it. The iron group or hard core.
Besides that the afore mentioned magical atmosphere and fairytale-like landscape really made this day special. A memory for life, even if it only lasted a few hours. My heartfelt gratitude toward all those involved and present for making this so!
What I also felt, was my body. Especially the lower half! For days!! Sore muscles, especially the inner thighs and I actually still do; my hipsjoints and right hamstring. A small price to pay, but I am actually less pleased by the gear failures. Those can cause some real problems. I need to go over it all and I have plans to redo the old, broken snowshoe(pair). The staves..... well, they will probably end up as staves when walking the dogs on icy roads.
But on the other hand I was really pleased to once more notice that my clothing-system held up. Despite having sweated a good deal I did not freeze, while others were forced to take off or even replace clothes due to sweating. They were wearing modern day jackets, that apparently had less capacity for ventilation. I was also pleased that the footwraps I tried held up in every way! They were comfortable and kept my feet warm, even during inactivity. And the shovel proved it's weight worth in gold. Not only was the area cleared pretty quick, but by making the blade angle with the handle, thrusting it into the snow and draping my sheepskin over it I had an in promptu seat, removing the necessity of sitting on the snow. Next time I'll bring a small foampad though, since my buttcheeks were a little sore afterwards. But the height is perfect for sitting comfortably!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Well..... that is done...

Winter solstice, christmas and New Year have passed. The season of festivities is coming to an end. Darkness is receeding, light is advancing with the lengthening of days.
We had decided to find new traditions, new ways for our family to spend these festive days. No more presents, no more christmas tree. Just qualitytime together with good food.
Wintersolstice I thought to honour by extinguishing all light in the house after darkness, build a swedish/Finnish torch, light it and then light one candle, bring that inside, have coffee and cookies and then spread the light through the house by lighting candles in all the other rooms. Or something along those lines....
But before the end of the year I saw 2 goals finally fullfilled; the acquisition of wooden sleds for the dogs and a foldable lantern for me.

But first things first......
The wintersolstice celebrations were cut short. I ended up working late, coming home tired with a bad cold developing.... After diner I just slumped in my chair and that pretty much was that, the rest of the household pretty much going about their usual business.
Christmas was supposed to be gift-, tree- and electronicfree..... Well, my wife broke the first idea by buying gifts still, albeit a small chest with boardgames, which is in tune with the idea I/we had. Plus some very small items for the kids. She did not want to leave them emptyhanded. My youngest daughter at first complained about it not being really christmassy without a tree, our oldest daughter agreeing. So the kids ended up with small, artificial christmastrees on their rooms.We did of course have some decorations, but lacked the time and inspiration or motivation to create some with actual sprucegreens. The absense of the scent of spruce proved to be a dealbreaker! Without it it just did not feel right. Amazing how a small detail like that works!
We still had good food and enjoyed being together, but somehow something lacked. I guess simply throwing overboard old things and introducing new things just doesn't work. It needs to grow.... and we need to pay more attention to details in order to make it work for all.
And the electronic bit..... I am afraid that only worked out, because of a seriously hampered connection, often being completely absent as the mobile network in our area failed. Having a powercut, most likely due to the combination of stormy weather and wet snow, snapping a tree somewhere during the evening of the 26th, in these parts of Europe still concidered to be one of the christmas days, helped "enforce" several intentions. It did however add to the general atmosphere... We had chicken in the over when everything went dark. Not a light in sight. And I remembered that years ago I got a gasfed grillplate as a christmasgift at IKEA. Had not used that at all. Untill now....
The evening was spent by candlelight, doing boardgames and reading and talking a little...

This powerout has me thinking down the prepping-line again. Something to focus on.

On the 30th I went on a little roadtrip. I was to collect 2 large wooden sleds near Uppsala and a belanted christmas present, sent to me by a very generous swiss gentleman, going by the name of Pascal. He and I have never met in person, but it is the same guy that sent me that Swiss army canteen a while ago. And this time there was something waiting for me that I had my eyes on for years; a Swiss army folding lantern. That one would be waiting for me near the city Västerås. A good way to see how my "new" car behaves..... As I past the area of Sala, the world turned green. No more snow!
The sleds have been a logistical project that started januari 2017. Someone sold a good number of these and together with a guy from Uppsala a few of these were purchased for a very good price. Problem was just that these sleds were way in the south with no one really wanting to drive all the way. Via via they ended up with said guy and now I could go and collect mine in Heby, roughly halfway to Västerås. Then I proceeded toward the second destination, which was a bit hard to find but find it I did..... And then I had christmas in the car.... I opened the package Pascal had sent me, found the folding lantern....... and a package of matching candles!! And 3 slabs of Swiss chocolate!!
I was really moved and had to blink hard several times. This was way more then I had bargained for...

And all the while the weather continues to be irratic and hopeless. Short spells of frost and thaw, snow and rain continue to follow one another..... but improvement seems to be on its way in the form of real winterweather; freezing temperatures. And I do hope it will stay like that for a while!!

Another thing that really is going well, is my new job. A good month into it and I am really enjoying myself. I love standing behind the counter and chat with customers! Never knew I knew so many people around these parts! And as a bonus I get paid every month, so we can really start building this place into the place we want it to be. After we have taken care of all the things that lag behind.... Most of our clothes are pretty worn out or too small. The kids have grown like cabbage these past few months! Decent shoes and winterclothes are a must.
Sometimes my head spins, when we are talking about and planning what we need to do. So many projects have been lying in wait..... But when you break them down into minor projects it doesn't seem as daunting anymore. Still a lot of work though.....
For now I will settle for a seedcatalogue.....