Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cesar's Guide to Bjursås Vildmarksleden


Bjursås is a small town in central-ish Sweden in the country of Dalarna that has a lovely little looping wilderness hiking trail called Vildmarksleden. Not to be confused with other trails, as there are a few others with the same name, such as one in Västra Götalands county, which I have also hiked and you can read more about here. This Vildmarksleden trail is about 35km long and begins and ends in Bjursås, but one could begin and end it at other points too.

Here is the trail's official page (in Swedish), and here is a PDF map of the trail that is quite good and serviceable on its own. You can get to Bjursås by bus from the small city of Falun, which has train connections to various other cities. I discovered this trail because it is somewhat close to the Swedish E1 trail system, which goes by the town of Leksand (30km from Bjursås). So I would recommend it to section hikers and thru hikers alike, because not only is it a great trail, but it is logistically convenient to include as part of a longer section hike in the area or a more ambitious thru hike of the E1.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Long Overdue Update, Winter 2017

Been a while.  Over half a year since my last post.  So what the hell is going on?  Well, it's pretty simple in some respects, more complex in others.  Let's start with the simple: life has just been really busy the past year.  Having small kids, working full time, social life, etc. have all been more demanding, so my free time has suffered because of it, unfortunately.  Then on top of this, a few trips I had planned recently fell through due to illness.  So yeah, some bad luck too.

However there are other factors that have contributed to my outdoor life sinking into a rut.  I vented about them at length on the forum for Ultralight backpacking over at Reddit, which you can read here.  Long story short, after several years of devotedly section hiking trails in my area, I ran out of new places to explore, and this made me lose the motivation to get out as regularly as I did in the past.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Sälen to Mörkret


The E1 Trail connects Vasaloppsleden and Södra Kungsleden via the village of Sälen, and goes through a few nature reserves, most notably (and the largest) being the Fulufjället National Park.  This is the second to last stages of the Swedish E1 trails in the north, and its length can vary considerably depending on how one chooses to hike it.  There are several side/alternative trails and potential loops that can be hiked, though on a map following the most direct route the length is roughly 80km.  However the route my friends and I hiked ended up being around 110km according to an average of several smartphone pedometers we had with us.  Here is a link to a basic map and general information of this area (in English).

This stage presents some logistical challenges due to how isolated the area is, and will require plenty of planning ahead of time.  For the record the map we used was the Lantmäteriet Fjällkartan W2, Fulufjället-Sälen, November 2013 edition.  You will absolutely need a good and current/updated map of the area and of course a compass, and I would personally advise doing this and the next and last stage in the same trip if you have the time.  Unfortunately my friends and I did not have the time and exited the trail at one of the northern ends of Fulufjället near the hamlet of Mörkret after about 5 days of travel.  Another issue is food supplies, again due to isolation and general lack of civilization on or around the trail.  So make sure to have ample food supplies before setting off into this big patch of mountainous, wild nature.

Getting to Sälen is easier, with daily buses going into town.  Mörkret however is another story, with its closest bus stop around 24km away in the village of Särna.  There is a hostel/campground in Mörkret that offers a shuttle service for a small fee to and from Särna (we paid 150 SEK per car with 4 hikers stuffed inside).  You will need to ask for this shuttle service, as it is not advertised, and here is a link to the hostel's website (in English).

Going southbound the E1 trail continues on Vasaloppsleden, and you can read my report on that trail here.  Going northbound the E1 continues on Södra Kungsleden until it ends at the Norwegian border at Grövelsjön.  I intend on hiking this final stage next year (summer 2017) and will write up a report shortly thereafter.  Please note that there is a roughly 20km transitional distance between Vasaloppsleden and the beginning/southern entry point of Södra Kungsleden, however you can take a bus from Sälen to the trailhead at Sälen Högfjällshotell.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress. 

Now on with the report!


Having hiked all but the final stage of the entire Swedish E1 trails, let me start by saying that this is what I would consider to be the crown jewel of the entire trail system.  Granted we got lucky with good weather (mostly sunny, with very little rain--this is rare in the fjälls!), and I had amazing company, but that being said this was easily what I would consider the highlight of not just the E1 trails, but one of the single best hiking trails I've ever done, period.  I took over 350 pictures and was absolutely enamored with this trail, though I will add that this trail is not for everyone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Big Sleeping Mat Breakdown

I am going to do something a bit different with this discussion, in that rather than my vlog being a compliment to my blog, it's the other way around.  I had so much I wanted to say about sleeping mats/pads that I found it difficult articulating it by typing it all out, so instead I just decided to just blab on and on and get it all out there.  So if you haven't already, check out my big, long, unedited, rambling video featuring all of my sleeping mats for UL wilderness backpacking:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cesar's First Packrafting Kit: Overview and First Impressions

Very Important Disclaimer:

This post deals with an outdoor activity that is inherently more dangerous, which is doing anything for an extended period in water while outdoors.  In the USA drowning is the number one leading cause of death in national parks.  You can read more about that and other dangers here.  Always swim, paddle, and do anything else involving bodies of water with caution and with the proper amount of preparation.  Know your skill level and the conditions you plan on encountering for a given body of water.

I have been regularly swimming for roughly three decades in a wide variety of conditions, and continue to swim throughout the year.  I love to swim.  I have also been an outdoors enthusiast/backpacker for over two decades, and am well aware of, and have even received professional training in regards to, things like hypothermia and first aid in general.

Before attempting to do things like packrafting, you ought to be aware of the dangers and have the skills and preparation necessary to deal with and/or avoid these dangers.  

This hobby can literally be a matter of life and death if not done safely and/or without sufficient training/research/experience.  You've been warned, and I will repeat part of the disclaimer I have for this blog in the "About" section (see: above): I am not responsible for any damages (personal harm, financial loss, or otherwise) that might be suffered as a result of any information found on this blog.

Okay, now on to my take on packrafting:

In the above picture, there I am in my raft under the bridge.  We took only a few pictures due to the difficulties involved with photography while there is water splashing around all around.

Three friends and I began what would be my first trip with my recently completed packraft kit in Borås, a small city in south-west Sweden.  It was a bit of a strange place, perhaps, to start a outdoorsy-type adventure--in the middle of a city center, with lots of people outside, walking along the river and also enjoying the nice, sunny, spring weather.  We got plenty of people asking us where we were going, if we were having fun, and a few people even took out their phones and took pictures of us.  The answer to those questions, of course, is that we were going to paddle down the river Viskan as far as we could in a day, and yes we had a blast!

I had spent years dreaming of adding a packraft to my backpacking arsenal, but many packrafts (e.g. Alpacka) are quite expensive, as are many of the accessories, like paddles.  So my plans were put on the back burner for a while, until a few years ago I noticed that there was a new packraft on the market that was not only much cheaper than most rafts, but also lighter without sacrificing too much durability.  So I kept my eyes peeled on used gear forums for months until I finally found my very own Klymit LWD.

But my quest to put together my complete packrafting kit was far from over.  I did quite a bit of research on all the odds and ends that go along with paddling.  I'd need paddles, a flotation device, more drybags, etc.  Until finally just a week ago, I put the finishing touches on my kit, organized a trip with some friends, packed up, and finally we were happily floating down a river.  This trip would be a long day trip of paddling, but I packed my backpack as though I were going on a long section hike that I have planned for this summer, which I also plan on including some paddling along with hiking.  Here is what it ended up looking like the day before I set out: