Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Swiss man's dream

Last friday, the 13th, saw me heading out into the woods again. It had been a long time, but now there was a special occassion; I was about to show a visitor from Switzerland "some Swedish woods". I figure it should be worthwhile, so I looked for some suitable woods, not your average pineplantation. I ended up finding Fermansbo urskog, a natural reserve about 1,5 hrs drive from here. It is an old forest, protected from logging and with minimal interfering. It is also the on the southern edge of the area where that great forestfire raged 4 years ago, which should also make for some interesting scenery. Little did I know we got more then we bargained for....
Arriving at the right spot caused some confusion, as apparently the accessroad had been changed, but eventually we both found our way in; Pascal coming in from the south and me from the north. Pascal and I initially "met" through the Swedish bushcraftgroup on facebook and now that he visited Sweden we figure it might be a good opportunity to meet face to face..... And so we did at 08:30. It was forecast to be a hot day, so an early start was no excessive luxury.

After the initial introduction we set out to follow a marked track through the reserve, which would take us through both old and firedamaged forest resp. to doubleback toward the parking; all in all about 3km. Figured that would be sufficient in this heat and terrain.
The first part as said went through the old forest. And it was a sight for sore eyes. This is the way forest should be, very unlike the tidy pine-, spruce- or birchplantations one usually finds. Old trees, fallen over ones and a wide variety of undergrowth. The fallen over trees would gradually come to dominate the scene, but for now we enjoy the vibes of old trees. Such a forest has a very different feel to it. We enjoyed ourselves and after having crossed a now almost dry marshland we decided to take a break. Temperatures were rising fast and keeping hydrated was a keyissue!

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit
It was at this point that we came to exchange gifts, after the promised Swiss chocolate bars had already changed hands, and ended up in my cooler box, in the car. I had brought some rather modest ones; a patch and a pair of moose antlers. After Pascal told me he had seen moose, I stuck a pewter moose pin onto his veshmeshok (Russian rucksack) as well.
Picture; Pascal Streit
He had brought me a pair of swiss army pouches, which I hoped would fit my Swedish army cookset. It was then he showed me another item he used and liked, a Russian-style ponch; a plash palatka. His demonstration apparantly made my mouth water and my eyes glisten and he talked me into owning one..... His! A follow up post on those items will come soon. But the best gift was a small item. A small pouch, handmade by him from an old Swiss army wool blanket. I immediately fell in love with it. You probably know how I love wool and the quality and softness of this wool really is Swiss. I love the colour and design too, especially after it turned out that my old army compass fits perfectly!!
We ended up having an early lunch as well and talked about all sorts of things for quite some time too. Really was too bad that there was a complete fireban, since a freshly brewed coffee would have capped the otherwise perfect moment.
But we were to see for ourselves that any form of fire really would be a very bad idea indeed.
On our way we already had come across a substiantal section of the old forest, where the trees clearly had died, but were still standing. many of the trees had been marked with tape and
even more were losing their dark, mainly around the base or first meter up. It was quite a sight seeing all these light patches of wood, but we had not yet made the connection. We figured some disease or infestation at first. But then we came to the part that clearly had been affected by the fire. It was very clear that the fire had caused the damage low to, but mostly under ground. We saw many trees with clear burnmarks, but even more unsettling we found many trees with their roots burnt off. Even the plantmaterial around the roots had gone, exposing the burnt rootstumps, loosely clinging onto the rock underground. It was an ominous sight. Aweinspiring, humbling, sobering and apocalyptic.
The marked path was reestablished after the fire, but many strong winds had since toppled over the dead trees, deprived of their roots. Knowing what I know now I would strongly advise against entering this area under such conditions, since many more trees are clearly just waiting to be blown over.

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit
We kept on following the orange marked path and gradually we made our way out of this scene of carnage, all of a sudden finding ourselves surrounded by green once again. Here the track became different. it looked much older, less well kept and often hard to follow, forcing us to backtrack. However the track became more and more narrow and overgrown and we had to cross a bridge that clearly was in serious disrepair. I had a real sense that we were heading wrong, but the track was still marked orange and we were still roughly heading in the right direction.... generally.
Eventually the track come to a gravelroad and simply ended there. We turned southward, knowing (more hoping) that we would head toward a road that would lead to the gravelroad that would lead us to our parked cars. The sun was still out in force and the temperature out on that gravel road easily exceeded the forecast 26C. We had little option but to keep going, following the road. Going back through where we had come from was a lot less appealling.
We eventually made it back to our cars indeed, after having spent roughly 1,5 hours out in the sun on a course gravel road. However we did take breaks, drank enough and kept an easy pace. Still my feet were quite sore, when we reached our destination. I had been wearing my old, thin soled army boots and these perform good enough on soft forest underground. They are far less comfortable on underground such as mentioned.
Back at the cars, we sat down on a log and talked about this and that for more then an hour. Just sitting there and being there was as good as anything, but all good things come to an end eventually and we had to make our way back home. Mine was 1,5 hour drive northward.

On my way in I had come across a vaste area where next to nothing was standing anymore and I got a feeling of desolation, just driving through it. On my way home I stopped to look and take pictures.
All around me the trees had gone and bare rock had become exposed. Everything had burnt away. There were next to no stumps or tress on the ground left. All gone. Imagine a fire hot and strong enough to completely burn up fully grown trees, pine, spruce and birch. Gone.
A fire consuming the layer of peat and forestsoil, leaving only rock.....
Such force, such devastation.... Despite the heat I felt a shudder.
Yet the vegetation is returning after 4 years. Many trees are sprouting again. Mostly birch, but the occassional pine too and lots of (I think) rallarros/mjölkört (Epilobium angustifolium.
These vast expanses will have erased the scras of fire sooner then the place we visited today.where the trees will lie and decay for many a decade to come. here there hardly is such debris.

This most certainly was a day well spent. Meeting a new friend always makes it worthwhile, but also  otherwise it will be a memorable one.

Thank you Pascal! Thank you for the gifts, but more so for this time well spent.
And I sure do hope we will meet more often! You're always welcome at my place at any rate.

1 comment:

  1. I've forgotten how much I enjoy your stories of the Swedish woods. You have adventures! I spend all my time rehabbing this house. Every once in a long while we drive to the Pacific Ocean. The best place we have visited recently is Point Buchon. Maybe it's mentioned on the internet. I want to send you a book. The latest one by Stephen Jenkinson. I will as soon as I finish it.