laplands day 5: abisko-polar circle-umea

Skiing

There were two optional excursions on the last day my Laplands adventure, one being ice climbing and the other was cross country skiing.  The ice climbing excursion booked up quite quickly, but I was more interested in skiing anyways.

I have some great memories growing up as a child and learning to cross country ski with my grandma and momma bear.  At the time I most likely didn’t enjoy it at all, and those two ladies will probably tell you it was a nightmare taking me on those trips, but I really enjoyed skiing through Abisko National Park.  I could even see myself renting some equipment and getting back out there – if my mom was interested o’ course…

There were several others from my tour group that were also signed up, as well as a couple of workers from Abisko, and two ladies from Singapore.

At first it was really awkward getting the rhythm of things and coordinating my poles with my gliding skis, but eventually it felt more comfortable and easier than at the beginning.  We made “sort of” a loop, beginning on a trail, making our way over a hill and through some trees, and ending with coming down the hill and once again through the trees to open ground.

For the most part, it was exceedingly stop and go because our instructor had to keep circling back to make sure the Singaporees (is that a word?  I made it a word.) weren’t lost or stranded or eaten by bears.  Most of the people in our group were able to keep up, even those who had never cross country skied before, but standing there waiting made me feel cold and a little irritable.

The most interesting part of this excursion was going off trail as we headed into the “woods”.  The snow, as you can imagine, was very deep, and we all had to maneuver through several feet of it, around tree branches, and up reasonably steep inclines.  I consider myself to be in fairly decent shape and even I was sweating at some points.  We came across some old reindeer tracks and our instructor informed us that many reindeer come through this area to eat the moss that lies beneath the snow.

Skiing 2

My pizza wedge tracks that I was practicing on a baby hill lump of the mountain

Skiing 3

Beautiful, swirling clouds

Skiing 4

Forward march!

We also traveled for a short while on Kings Trail, the longest hiking trail (which is also used for skiing) in Sweden.  This trail is over 270 miles long and it also passes through one of Europe’s largest remaining wilderness areas.

Partway through, our group stopped for a small fika and enjoyed some hot lingon berry tea (very Swedish) and some sweet cookies, which were just the things to really hit the spot and keep our energies up.

Going through the woods was a bit difficult, and I even lost my hat once on a greedy branch.  These photos don’t show the density of the trees, but at times there could be an exceptional amount of them, tormenting us with their flaring branches.

At the very end, we were still on top of the hill and ultimately had to come back down to head back to the lodge and return our equipment.  I thought I was more athletic than what skiing down these hills proved.  After falling about six times I lost track of the number of times my butt met snow, introduced itself, and reintroduced itself over and over again.  Everyone though, and I mean everyone could not ski for more than a few feet without falling.  I would attribute this both to the fact that it is difficult to ski downhill on cross country skies (hence why someone invented a sport solely for going downhill), but I’m almost certain most people just didn’t want to come face to trunk with something painful and bark-like.

One guy in particular, my friend Ludo from France, somehow always managed to fall frontward, which was amusing to watch and would have made for some great photo opps.  I’m not entirely sure how he managed this, but his back and neck are probably regretting choosing to ski, right about… now.

Once back at the lodge, we hurried to return our equipment so we would have enough time to clean up and eat lunch before departing Abisko at 2:00 p.m.  The kitchen was a frenzy when I arrived, which was no surprise considering the lot was full of procrastinators.  Pretty much everyone opted for cooking pasta, but I opted for something a little more healthy and satisfying: scrambled eggs with sauteed green pepper and red onion, served with a slice of bread, and a pear on the side.

Our tour guide, Alex, had brought some good movies to watch on the ride home, they were: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Snow White and the Huntsman.  Watching these definitely made the ride go much quicker, especially since I wasn’t able to look out the window because of the darkness.

We stopped for dinner at a restaurant pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  Most people ate dinner here, but I still had some food leftover and ate this instead.  A short while after that we stopped at the line of the polar circle to once again be all touristy and take photos in front of the sign, proving we had survived Laplands!

Polar Circle 2

Hello flash bulb

Polar Circle 3

After this final stop, I tried to sleep the rest of the way home.  We arrived back in Umea just before 1:00 a.m., and fortunately the bus driver was kind enough to take us to our “neighborhoods” and he drove the majority of us back to Alidhem.  In fact, he even drove us closer than what the regular city buses do.  You’re hired!

Wow.  So much experienced in such a short amount of time!  I’m glad I signed up for this trip.  At first I was going to do the one offered in November, but at the time I didn’t know anyone who was going and missed my opportunity when it booked up.  When I found out they added another tour in December I decided just to push my insecurities aside and go for it.  As it turns out, there were a lot of people I knew who had signed up for this trip, and I even ended up making some new friends along the way.

For the past two days I have been recovering from being beyond tired, but this is my last week in Umea and I have a lot to get done before leaving on a 10 day “vacation” to Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, and Riga.

Time flies by.  Don’t allow yourself to miss any opportunity.

travel

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