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Imagine my surprise and pleasure when on Tuesday Jenny, a mother from my son’s school spontaneously invited me to walk 3 days of the pilgrim’s trail with her on the weekend!
We did some rudimentary planning and I had a very busy week at work. Before we knew it was Friday morning and we were meeting at Marienborg railway station in Trondheim to catch the train to Hell.
It was raining enthusiastically and we didn’t have a pack cover for her pack nor a clear idea of where to find the track. We spied a sign for a sports shop in Hell Shopping centre and were very glad to find that it had opened already. We quickly found a pack cover and while having a chat with the shopkeeper a customer asked if we were pilgrims. He said that he’d walked the whole trail over the summer to gather information to improve the maps. He offered to drive us to the start of the trail. We discretely discussed the low likelihood that he was an axe murderer and gratefully accepted his kind offer.
He loaded us and our packs into his 4WD car and mildly alarmed me when he drove past the turnoff for the start of the trail but he seemed calm and chatted amicably. He asked if we wanted to see ancient rock carvings and took us to an amazing site with carvings of 2 life-size reindeer. the carvings are famous and date from the Stone Age and would once have stood at the water-level on a peninsula into the fjord and isostatic rebound has caused it to rise to 45m above sea level now. He explained his love of nature, geology and archaeology and was delighted to discover that I’m a geologist.
We thanked him and he drove us to the church in Hell to start our hike. The path is well marked with the attractive symbol for the pilgrim’s trail. We walked through agricultural land with rolling hills and cute red sheds and houses. After about 1 1/2 hours we walked up into forest and were delighted to find fresh strawberries and raspberries to eat by the side of the track. We were perplexed to find a wooden lookout post and it wasn’t until I discussed it with a Norwegian colleague and discovered that it’s used for hunting elg (moose).
As we walked we were charmed to discover fresh elg (moose) footprints on the path.
We sank onto soft moss in the forest and enjoyed a simple lunch. With each morsel that we ate I both was glad that it lightened the weight of our packs but feeling simultaneously anxious that we would soon run out of food.
As we strode along the path as fast as we could (but actually slowly due to the weight of our packs and the muddy and uneven nature of the track) I reflected on the Norwegian concept of forest bathing. The forest was beautiful and I could feel my mind relaxing as I bathed in the forest.
We spent periods of time walking in comfortable silence, exploring our own thoughts and from time-to-time chatted about a variety of topics. It was beautiful countryside, we enjoyed each other’s company and more than once I thanked Jenny in my mind for inviting me to join her on this walk that helped to soothe my over-worked mind.
We walked and walked and walked and still we had 7km left to go! It was with steely resolve that we realised that we needed to push ourselves harder if we were to reach the 15km mark and our camp for the night. Because I typically walk 30+km in about 5 hours on Fridays each week I foolishly assumed that 15km would be trivial and that we would have ample time to spare. I was very wrong! I also didn’t check whether my old hiking boots from 2003 were in good condition, nor did I wear thick socks but instead cotton business socks. Silly me! Otherwise my gear was perfect and I stayed warm and dry despite the cool temperatures and frequent rain showers.
As we walked along a narrow laneway through forest I was startled to discover a hunter sitting on a small bluff above me with a rifle in his lap. I made a little squeal and jumped but he calmed me down and we saw a line of hunters down the lane. Each in turn waved us through, one not even lowering the muzzle of his gun as we passed. The final hunter in the line was very friendly. He was sweaty and had leaves stuck to his neck and I suspect that he’d been running through the forest. He said that an elg had only just sprinted across the track. It was a female and they are not allowed to hunt females. He had a beautiful Swedish elg hunting dog with him. He clearly enjoyed chatting with us and was rather perplexed about what we were doing on the track. I don’t think that he had noticed the pilgrim markers along the trail.
We set-up a comfortable camp for the night and had a light dinner, wearing our warm gear to ward off the cold.
To be continued…