Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cesar's 2017 Go-To, UL Big Three


Intro

It's been a hot minute since I did a detailed breakdown of some of my favorite pieces of gear, so this time I figured I'd do all my big three configurations for each season of the year.  Regular readers will recognize quite a bit of gear, which itself is a testament to its quality and durability.  But there are some new additions to my collection of big three gear that I am very excited about, and can't wait to get more good use out of them.  

Before I get to the gear, however, some of you may be new here and some context is helpful to better understand why I chose the essential components of my kit.  So let's get that out of the way first, but you can also read my more detailed post on outdoor life in Sweden here.

General use
Solo (or with friends but sleeping solo), wilderness, UL backpacking on section hikes and weekend trips during all four season of the year.

Location
Scandinavia, mostly in the forests and fjälls (alpine mountains/hills) of the lower half of Sweden, and sometimes across the boarder in southeast Norway.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Current, General Trail Routines

Introduction

My take on trail routines was inspired by this great book I am reading at the moment by Liz "Snorkel" Thomas, Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru Hike.  I thought it would be fun for me and perhaps useful and fun for others to see a rough sketch of what my routines are while I'm out wilderness backpacking, and this is the result.  In Liz's book, she gives her and other experienced thru-hiker's trail routines, and I found it both useful and interesting to compare them to my own.  

Now I am no thru-hiker (yet), but a humble section hiker, and Liz and her choice of experts are some of the most experienced backpackers you'll find on the entire planet.  While I do have a fair amount of experience under my belt over the last few decades of backpacking and outdoor life, it's but a shadow compared to other hardcore hikers like Liz.  They would maybe laugh at my daily personal goals when it comes to how far and long I hike, as they would likely have no problem hiking literally double of what I usually hike.  But the book gives me hope for my future life as a thru-hiker once I sort out some life complications that prevent me from getting out there more and for longer periods of time.

Anyhow, it's a great read so far (I'm about halfway through it), in case anyone reading this is looking for a good, non-fiction backpacking book to read.  Though this book is specifically for people who fully intend on going on (or who already have gone on) one or more thru hikes, not the casual backpacker, I would add.  And no, I didn't get a copy for free, nor do I know Liz at all--just an honest recommendation!  

Now on to some of my routines.  I will breakdown my most common trips, which are section hikes here in Scandinavia for 2-6 days.  These trips are usually on marked trails, but there are also the occasional off trail/bushwhacking trips I like to do as well.  The main difference is that I usually don't hike as far on off trail trips, as they are often to familiar stomping grounds where I want to relax and maybe read a book, pick more wild edibles, go for a longer swims, etc.  So I won't get into my off trail routines, which can vary greatly depending on my mood, weather, the season, etc.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Södra Kungsleden Part 2, Mörkret to Flötningen





Introduction

If you haven't read part one of this section's guide, you can do so here.

Part two of the Södra Kungsleden trails see the path continue west through Fulufjället, briefly exiting the national park, entering another large national park called Drevfjällen, and then heading north.  As before, this hike offers stunning views and gorgeous fjäll/mountain landscape, but again with the same cost of it being a more challenging trek.  In fact, the group I traveled with and I agreed that this trip was even more difficult than last year's trip (see: link above).  In addition to tough terrain and elevation to get through, Drevfjällen park is all the more isolated, and overall the trail was much less maintained.

The trail markings were mostly fine, but a few key spots really could use some better signs/markers.  Plus in Drevfjällen there are several marshes/bogs that the trail goes through--much more than before in Fulufjället--and the majority of the time these wetland trails have either no planks/bridges for walking on, or there are old, rotten/broken ones.  So you will get wet and muddy, and not just your feet, but most likely up to your knees and beyond.  And then there are the trail shelters, which simply put, are generally not as nice as the more popular (and therefore more well maintained) Fulufjället shelters.  Though there are a few exceptions, as you will soon see.

Okay, so that's the bad news, but with all that being said (and so long as you are at least a somewhat experienced backpacker), I would still recommend this hike, and my group and I had a great trip.  A harder trip, but a good trip, and one that is more off the beaten path than before.  In the five days we hiked (only one of which was in Fulufjället) we only saw a handful of people in western Fulufjället (mostly day hikers) and only two backpackers in all of Drevfjällen.  And at the end of the trip, we were even able to see a small herd of reindeer.

My wife said of this trip: "It's beautiful, but you have to know what you're getting yourself into."  So now you know, and considering the lack of information on this stage of the E1 trails in Sweden, I hope this will help.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cesar's Guide to The Dalsland Connection Route



Introduction

For those of you that intend on actually hiking in this area, if you have not read my guide to The Ed Loop, I suggest you do that first, as these two sections of hiking are directly related and connected to each other.  Plus, there is also more background information and context that I won't repeat here, so do check that out please.  Together, The Ed Loop and The Dalsland Connection Route (DCR from now on) provide an alternative to hikers to connect two longer, well established trails: Bohusleden to the west, and Pilgrimsleden (Dalsland) to the east.  Or these new routes can also work as section hikes unto themselves.  One potential shorter thru-hike that I really like the idea of is to start in Åmål in the east and hiking all the way to Strömstand in the west, or the other way around.

You can read my full trail guide to Bohusleden here

And you can also read a more recent partial trail guide to Pilgrimsleden here

The DCR is around 50-60km (depending on how you choose to hike it), and runs from the town Ed in west, to the Dalsland Canal area to the east, centered around the villages of Håverud, Åsensbruk, and Upperud.  These three canal villages are all right next to each other and offer a variety of interesting things for hikers and travelers alike.  One option already mentioned is Pilgrimsleden, which runs right through this canal area. Another is that in the summer time, special boats and trains run up and down the Dalsland canal and beyond.  Then of course there are more mundane but practical amenities for hikers/travelers, such as access to regular public transportation, restaurants, cafes, B&Bs, supermarkets, etc.

From these canal villages, one can catch a bus or train to the larger town of Mellerud, where there are further connections.  Or backpackers can simply continue hiking onto Pilgrimsleden, which is accessible at several points in this area.  The trail passes right through Upperud, and there are a few roads and trails one can follow from Håverud that intersect with the trail only 2-3kms away.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cesar's Guide to Pilgrimsleden Dalsland




Introduction

There are several different trails in Scandinavia called "Pilgrimsleden" (The Pilgrim's Trail), so this one is not to be confused with other trails fo the same name!  I've hiked on at least two other trails in Sweden called the same, but this guide is for the one that runs through the Dalsland area.  The trail goes roughly from the city of Vänersborg in the south to the border of Varmland county to the north.  Also worth noting is that past the border to the north, the trail continues and eventually goes into the Glaskogen nature reserve further north, where there are even more hiking trails throughout the park.

Pilgrimsleden Dalsland is about 110km in total, but for the purposes of wilderness backpacking I strongly suggest a modified route.  My modified route incorporates a long side-trail that begins in the town of Åmål called Storspåret, and skips a long section from the village of Upperud to Vänersborg on the southern part of the trail.  The reason behind skipping this section is simple: it's mostly asphalt walking.  And hiking on paved roads for a long time, if you ask me and many others interested in wilderness backpacking, sucks.  

But there are also good logistical considerations to my modified route.  Rather than starting or ending this trail in the middle of nowhere at the northern endpoint of the trail, one can begin or end in Åmål, which has a train station, buses, supermarkets, restaurants, etc.  And in Upperud the trail literally passes by a bus stop (see: below) where you can catch a bus to the town of Mellerud, where there is a train station.



So my way of hiking this trail goes from Upperud in the south to Åmål in the northeast, and covers roughly 75km of trail--55km of Pilgrimsleden Dalsland and 20km of the Storspåret side trail.  It's a wonderful section hike that my friends and I really enjoyed.