Kungsleden, Day 1
We haven't been hiking/camping in forever and I was getting antsy not being out in the wilderness for so long. I mean we were spoiled in Seattle. It is beautiful with mountains and water and everything right there. Yes we have tons of parks in Berlin, but it is not the same as being in the mountains. In Seattle it is easy to do day hikes in the mountains or weekend camping trips to get out in the wild. Here...well there are no mountains close by. Yes we could go to the south of the country, but that is not a day trip kind of thing. So I did some research for a good week long hike and found the Kungsleden in Sweden. It was on like National Geographic list of top 10 hikes or something like that and it instantly won me over as it was above the arctic circle! I have never been that far north and it just seemed exciting to me. Not sure why exactly, but it was very exciting. So I looked into it and there are 4 week long sections of the trail (according to everything I could find). The most popular is the northernmost section so that is what we decided to do, and we had 8 days to complete it (which ended up being way too much time, but I will get to that). The days leading up to the hike I was soooo excited!! Thankfully the hike was amazing so it was not a disappointment.
So first things first we had to get up to the trail. A lot of places online recommend taking the overnight train from Sweden...which takes at least 16hours! That is just crazy to me. Like if we could get on at 6pm and wake up there sure why not. But this is get on at 6pm get off at 11am! So I looked at flights and it was way cheaper to fly to Kiruna then take a one hour train to the start of the trail then to fly to Stockholm and take the overnight train (really it was almost nothing extra to add the flight to Kiruna from Stockholm so it didn't make sense to take the train from there. Plus it was way faster!). So fly it was. The flights on Sat afternoon to Kiruna were full so we had to fly into Stockholm Friday night and leave in the morning. Since we had an overnight in Stockholm we got a room at an airport hotel, which was actually quite nice. They had a pool and sauna which I went to check out. We arrived at 9:30pm and had to be up at 5:30am to get to our flight so I gave myself a half hour of swimming fun. I really need to find an indoor pool to go swim at here in Berlin as I love it! Anyways we tried to get to sleep at 10 and woke up at 5:30am and headed to the airport. The above photo is Raymond next to one of the "Thieves look like you and me" signs. I found it humorous that early in the morning.
Our flight to Kiruna was nice, but it was all rainy there and just not the nicest. Kiruna is a small town, though apparently it is the largest city above the arctic circle. The airport is tiny - 3 planes come in a day, people deplane, people flying out get on and that is it. It was interesting as we were waiting for our backpacks and almost every single piece of luggage that came out was a backpack. Apparently everyone else goes up there to go hiking as well (also it is the access point to get to Kebnekaise - the tallest mountain in Sweden. It is a quite popular hiking destination). Everyone kept looking at our homemade packs like really? That is what you are using? Well we used the packs I made for our PCT hike. I mean they held up great for that (better than most other packs we saw). I touched them up to make sure there were no spots that needed reinforced and added a new wider hip belt to mine which was really nice. So comfortable. Anyways above is me at the Kiruna train station - so grey!
We arrived in Abisko around noon and it was not raining at the time, but super cloudy.
View from the touriststation where we picked up fuel for our stove. So grey. There were a ton of people here (you can stay overnight here) and everyones' backpacks were so huge and heavy looking! I always wonder what do people bring with them? Especially since there are cabins every 15-20km along the trail and most people go cabin to cabin. The cabins have bedding and stoves and dishes and everything you would need besides clothes and food. So what is taking up so much space in their packs??
After packing all of our stuff in garbage bags in our pack (to keep things dry - we don't use pack covers...probably because I never made some of our bags and garbage bags work great inside the pack) we were off! It was about 12:30 and we had to hike at least 15km to get out of the national park so we could camp. Camping is permitted anywhere you want after that so that was the goal for the day.
There were a lot of sections with boards to walk on so you didn't have to walk through swampy watery muddy messes. Though we did get a lot of rain while hiking so most of the trail turned into a muddy mess anyways. Still they were nice when you did have them.
Shortly after we started hiking we came upon this rock outcrop with a river running through it. Of course I loved it! It was gorgeous and my photos do not do it justice (they don't do any of the scenery justice really. Everything was incredible how gorgeous it was).
We spent the entire day walking along the river through the park.
Almost every day we walked by a meditation spot. They all had a sign and a rock with a quote on them (though I couldn't read the quote at the time - this one is "the longest journey is the journey inward"). They were almost always in really nice spots where you could enjoy the scenery, and we took our lunch break here. As we were packing up lunch it started raining, just sprinkles at first, but then after a while it was raining pretty good and continued until shortly before we set up camp.
The colors were unreal. Everything was so bright and it was amazing to walk through. Everyday it was just like look at how green everything is! It is all bright yellow green and things are changing color so lots of bright red and yellows and oranges and it was just gorgeous. I think the overcast skies really helped to highlight how bright and colorful everything was. When we got back to Kiruna I was looking at a tourist guide and it said everything is more colorful above the arctic circle and yes it was! Really really beautiful.
Over the larger rivers there were big bridges to walk across.
The outhouses all had hearts on them (they were at every cabin).
We didn't take very many breaks during the day, since it was raining pretty good for most of the hike and if you stop you just get even more wet. By the time we got to the park boundary though it had stopped raining and we found a nice place to camp and eat dinner. We probably saw 20 people hiking the same section as we were and almost all of them turned off to go to the cabin for the night. Once we had eaten dinner the sun started to come out of the clouds which was nice. Oh and we did see some people with these poncho pack covers - like a poncho that is made to cover your pack as well. I think I might have to make one of those as they seemed so handy! Overall it was a great first day even though we were tired from being up so early and it rained most of the day. It still wasn't pouring pouring at any time so it wasn't too bad. We also were below the tree line all day, which we weren't expecting. We went to bed shortly after dinner around 8:30 since we were so tired. Sunset wasn't until 9:30 and sunrise was at 4:30 in the morning. I woke up at one point and looked out of my sleeping bag to see if it was clear and you could see the stars - well it was so bright out. I thought oh the sun must have just set...then I looked at the time and it was midnight! So it didn't really get dark which was odd. Like it got darker, but you still didn't need a headlamp or anything to see what was around in the middle of the night. It was interesting.