I arrived in Trondheim on August 10, right before Norway introduced compulsory quarantine for travellers from Denmark, and after buying a gas canister in the city center I was on my way straight away. In 2019 I roughly followed The Pilgrim Trail from Stiklestad to Trondheim and now, in 2020, I continued on The Pilgrim Trail from Trondheim to Å in Meldal, walking through the big forests around Skaun, the highlight of this section.
The Pilgrim Trail is well organized with a good, interactive website. The trail itself is a mix between paved and gravel road as well as a few designated hiking trails. I followed Pilgrimsleden in the “opposite direction”, starting in Trondheim. Nevertheless I did not meet any pilgrims on the way. No doubt the corona situation is a major factor in this, as I started out in mid-August which should still be high season. Some of the traditional pilgrim accommodation were closed, but I passed several open ones as well, including an open livingroom-shelter (video at the bottom of this post), an open house with plenty of mats and a primitive, open log cabin, where I spent the night.
I left The Pilgrim Trail in Å, heading up into the mountains of Trollheimen, though not before I had several servings of waffles in the café “Å-Stuggu”, run by local youth.
Four days into the restart, the trip had not really been affected by corona. I knew I had to book in advance to use the DNT cabins, but I didn´t plan to use them much. Furthermore, most of the cabin bookings may be done online within seconds, as late as the time of arrival, availability permitting. Furthermore, as I ended up walking this entire Southern section in the mountains, I hardly met any people, crossed less than 50 in total until Lindesnes I´d guess. I left the trail to resupply only in Romsdalen (Åndalsnes) and Finse (Geilo), both times using local trains.
Two main events took place on this section: I saw a moose in the wild for the first time. Secondly, I broke my tent pole: The tent pole broke on a quiet, windless night setting the tent up in the peaceful forest outside Skaun. I brought the emergency cylinder with me, so no harm done, but as this happened on only the second night I did wonder if I needed to go off-trail and at least get another cylinder in case it happened again. In the end I did nothing, and the repair lasted all the way to Lindesnes. The next afternoon, a bit further on the trail I suddenly noticed a rustle in the leaves; 20 m away between the trees a moose made a rapid movement away from me. Had it not noticed me and started to move away I would never have noticed it.
I never thought about arriving at Lindesnes while walking in Northern Norway: To use a cliché, I focused only on the area I was actually in and perhaps the next one. Even when planning the trip, I did not really think further than Børgefjell: The end of Northern Norway, the main focus of my trip. However, once out of Børgefjell, I began to think ahead again: Did I really want to complete Norge på Langs? If so, when? And by which route?
I quickly realized that my preferred mountain route via Innerdalen and Breheimen would not be feasible this year, as it was already mid-September and thus would be too late for the high mountain passes. I´d have to go via Røros. The alternative would be to quit for the season in Trondheim and restart in 2020. If I did that, then how would I get to Trondheim? No doubt the most beautiful way through Trøndelag is via Blåfjella-Skåkerfjellanational park, but this would take me in the wrong direction for the fiords. Studying the various trails on ut.no, I at one point became aware of The Pilgrim Trail: From Stiklestad to Trondheim and onwards from Trondheim to Trollheimen. This could potentially be the solution I was looking for.
The decision to quit in Trondheim and continue in 2020 gradually matured, as I was making my way down to Skorovatn and Snåsa. It was not really a difficult decision, but I was nevertheless a bit disappointed of not completing Norge på Langs in one year. However, continuing down the south at this time would inevitably mean skipping most, if not all, of the national parks to do extended sections on the road. In addition, my preferred route through Innerdalen, Breheimen and Central Jotunheimen was out of the question now. and if I continued now, I´d have to travel the more commonly used route via Røros and Rondane, beautiful areas, that I however know from before, another reason for me to prefer the Innerdalen-Breheimen option. Thus in the end, my lacking motivation to walk extended sections on road made the difference.
Just south of Børgefjell I spent a couple of nights in the lovely Limingen Gjestegård in Røyrvik, just south of Namsvatnet. While I was more or less the only guest, they were doing reasonably well due to the need for accommodation for the workers involved in the big road construction works in the area. Apart from the grocery store, there was also a new bakery in this very small town. I often think about how these small businesses do, especially now with the added challenges of the coronavirus, but as per december 2020, both businesses were open.
I passed Tunnsjøen with the private island Gudfjelløya, the highest lake island in Europe rising 457 m above the lake. According to sami legends the old sami had the choice of jumping from the vertical cliffs or walking out on the ice, when their time was up. Next up was the old, and almost abandoned, mining town of Skorovatn, with the northernmost self-service DNT cabin as well as the allegedly smallest COOP grocery store in Norway. Skorovatn marked the entry to the last mountain pass before Trondheim, ending by meeting a party of Norwegian grouse hunters at Berg Gård. Again I was met with extraordinary hospitality: Apart from being offered a room in the house, complete with gin&tonic, dinner, breakfast, they offered to drive my luggage to Snåsa. The last offer I obviously politely refused. Apart from grouse, we are also in the middel of moose hunting season, and I would hear several shots fired every day in the woods behind Snåsa.
I joined The Pilgrim Trail close to Heia Gjestegård, and, more o less, followed it through Snåsa and Stiklestad (famous for the 1030 Battle of Stiklestad) to Trondheim: An easy trail, a mix of paved and gravel roads, in that respect similar to Camino de Santiago, and though I mostly camped, I did stay in a couple of curious places such as a church community house (perhaps only accidentally unlocked) and a microbrewery.
The pathless national park Børgefjell is reknowned as The last wilderness in Norway and has become a somewhat fashionable hiking and fishing destination, no doubt helped by Lars Monsen´s 1995 book “90 dage på loffen i Børgefjell“, revised in 2007, and his repeated declarations of Børgefjell as one of his favourite areas in Norway. While certainly a spectacular place, it is, however, far from the kind of wilderness you encounter further up north. When I researched the potential routes for Norge på Langs, it became clear that crossing Børgefjell was the only trailless mountain area I would have to cross. Having only walked on marked trails until this trip I was slightly anxious about it at the outset. It was after all The last wilderness in Norway. However, Børgefjell is very accessible with easy terrain and easy navigation as the majority of the area is located above the treeline and you follow one valley after another. The toughest part was actually the walk around the eastern side of Namsvatnet, while exiting the area.
The first touch of winter arrived on September 7th when I woke up to a tent covered in snow on the first night camping at Øvre Båttjønna lake. However, two days and about 20 km later I pitched my tent in near-tropical conditions down by Virmaelva close to Namsvatnet. Even in these foggy and snowy conditions it would have been difficult to actually get lost here: I basically followed the valleys and the rivers. Apart from the fishing (I didn´t catch anything though), Børgefjell is infamous for difficult river crossings. One advantage to walking this late, is that the rivers are low. Nevertheless, the crossing of Virmaelva on my way down to Namsvatnet was one of the biggest of the entire trip.
Upon reaching Namsvatnet, there is a commercial boat crossing the lake, taken by 99 % of all hikers. According to many it is ”allowed” to take this boat while walking Norge på Langs. Which first of all does not make sense as there are no rules in Norge på Langs. But secondly, why? It is perfectly feasible, though somewhat tough, to walk around the eastern shore of the lake: There are no route finding issues, the lake is always the reference point. It took me 1,5 days. Between June 1st-August 15th a part of the eastern shore is off-limits due to bird protection. However, even during this period it is perfectly possible to walk this section.
On the evening of the first day scrambling around some rocks close to the shore, I found what I think is a hidden cabin, when I walked slighly away from the shore. A complete coincidence, as there are no trails here: There even was an iron oven inside. Later the same evening I then met a party of grouse hunters in a shelter by the lake shore and was invited for dinner: A great pasta dish. Norwegian hunters are always well-stocked with food and alcohol in the mountains, no minimum food regimens here.
Umbukta Fjellstue is well-known in the Norge på Langs community offering free accommodation in the traditional storage building Stabburet for Norge på Langs hikers. Umbukta is traditionally seen as the half-way point of Norge på Langs, though the true half-way point may be slightly further south, depending on the route taken. The staff did question me a bit about my trip though, as they apparently encounter an increasing number of travelers doing multi-section hikes and hikes including bicycle stretches who also ask for free accommodation in Stabburet in addition to frequently asking the staff for other services such as shopping, parcel collection etc. The owner has walked Norge på Langs himself twice: Both summer and winter, but unfortunately he wasn´t around when I was there. In the middle of this 12-14 day stretch on minimum food, the two burgers I had in their restaurant were very welcome. Umbukta is located 3-4 km from the Swedish border where apparently there is a food-truck stationed every weekend, prices for many items being considerably lower in Sweden than in Norway, so many drive up from Mo I Rana to shop here.
A quick note to those walking around Gresvatnet: I had heard that the easiest route was to skip the marked path and walk along the shore of the lake. However, when I was there, there was no shore to walk on. I tried several times until I had to give up. I only understood why when I met some volunteers at Gressvasshytta who told me that water levels are high at the moment: I passed the dam so I should have realized this is a regulated water.
The environment around the Okstindan glacier massif, The roof of Northern Norway, is dusky and mysterious, a bit like the environment around Jostedalsbreen in the south: Many ups and downs carved by the ice as well as a very distinctive fauna. Ideally I would have liked to take a 3-day detour around the entire massif including the famous Rabot cabin, but I was too low on food to make any detours.
Once past Okstindan, you arrive at Røssvatnet, the second-largest lake in Norway, and the ambience changes again into that of farming territory while still being high up in the mountain. While previously, further north, I had only passed sporadic settlements, here in the area along Røssvatnet, several historic farms are located around the shore. I stayed at three of them, each one with a distinctive history.
Coming from the north, the first farm you pass is Stekvasselv, on top of Røssvatnet. A historic connection point for travellers between Sweden and Norway, with an almost century-long history, parts of it tragic, of receiving travellers. In the 50s the owners lost two young sons, one right after another: One fell down a cliff near Okstindan, searching for an injured reindeer, another drowned while fishing in Gressvatnet lake.
From Sivertgården walking south, the most beautiful route is no doubt through the mountains via Daningen and Tiplingelva into Børgefjell. However, I needed to resupply and the only option, with no pre-planned parcels and no intention to bother the locals, was to pass through Hattfjelldal. There are a couple of east-western roads though, most notably the one beside Krutvasshytta going into Sweden, but there is so little traffic in this area and no public transport, so I thought it too risky not to head down to Hattfjelldal. Tverrelvnes is a staffed accommodation, also on the mountain route, serving the famous Norge på Langs buns, but I don´t find it correct to bother other people regarding help with food supplies. Thus: 50 km along the eastern shore of Røssvatnet to Hattfjelldal. On paved road, but still beautiful.
After resupplying in Hattfjelldal I walked up to Furuheim Gård: A great place, high up in Susendalen at the foot of Børgefjell national park. Interestingly, one of the houses here had been moved, piece by piece from the original location closer to the coast and up here, the childhood house of one of the owners, as I remember it. The entire process took around 10 years and is apparently not unheard of in this area, I was told. I stayed here a couple of days to wait out bad weather before entering Børgefjell.
Almost all the locals I met in this area had noted an increasing tendency among Norge på Langs hikers to ask them for various services, mainly buying food or collecting parcels, and the handful of hikers I met on this part of the trail all did this. The idea is obviously to stay in the mountains without “wasting” days resupplying. I read about a similar development on the Pacific Crest Trail. The popularity of Norge på Langs is increasing and more will pass through here in the upcoming years. Still, less than 50 are estimated to complete Norge på Langs every year, compared to the 5500 thru-hiking permits issued in 2019 on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Future dream trip #6: Around Okstindan including climbing Oksskolten (1916 m) and visiting Rabothytta.
Originally initiated by the Lofoten fishermen, the Norwegian government decided to build a telegraph line from Trøndelag to Lofoten in 1866. Building a telegraph line was a major construction job, necessitating a construction road suitable for horses as well as cabins to house the workers. It was torn down 100 years later, when the traffic was diverted to Lønsdalen with construction of a new road, but many traces remain.
Now a designated Historic Hiking Route, this is the trail I followed through Bjøllådalen in Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park. The Telegraph Trail passes historic telegraph huts such as Krukkistua on remnants of the old horse trail and the old telegraph poles pop op frequently, now with the red T-markers .
When the telegraph line was functioning, horses frequently traveled up and down the valley, which, to my surprise is still possible: At Krukkistua I met three people on a horse-riding holiday more or less following following theTelegraph Route, which needless to say, is quite easy to walk on.
To get here from Lønsdalen/E6 you pass a stone desert and to get out again you pass The Polar Circle. Obviously this passage through Saltfjellet is quite a detour, it is much faster to quite simply walk along the E6 through Lønsdalen, which can be done in a day. I spent three days in Saltfjellet.
Apart from the horse company, the only person I met was a woman collecting cloudberries. And indeed, the slopes of Bjøllådalen are stuffed with them, wherever you look.