Tuesday, August 9, 2016

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


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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!

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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:


Thursday, April 7, 2016

April Off Trail Trip Report

I had just about given up.  I had been through my basket of maps several times, and my restlessness had not subsided.  The basket had originally been for picking wild mushrooms, but I've found that a satchel lined with a small paper bag works better for me, so I re-purposed the basket to hold all my wilderness backpacking maps.  I've collected quite a few over the years.



But of course I would not waste my set aside 24 hours for an overnight trip in what happened to be gorgeous spring weather.  I always have a few back up plans of spots both on and off trail that are my go-to places to haunt.  Some of these patches of woods I've slept in several dozen times or so.  Hence the restlessness.  I craved something new, and also something challenging.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cesar's Guide to Hyssnaleden

Hyssnaleden is a 40km looping trail about an hour outside of Göteborg by car or bus.  The trail is named after the small village that it begins/ends in, Hyssna.  I had the chance to hike the trail--going east and returning from the west, or turning right at the crossroads--over a weekend in March of 2016 and loved it.  I learned about the trail from a hot tip from a reader, which was very cool.  Thanks again Adam!

This is a great entry-level trail for inexperienced or beginners, yet it has a lot of things that even a veteran hiker can appreciate.  This is also an excellent option for any locals living in or around the Göteborg area, as it is easily accessible by bus, with the trail only around 500m away from the main Hyssna bus stop (Hyssna handel).  This would also be a great trail for any thru-hikers, that have say hiked Bohusleden or the E1 trails and are still itching for more.  Or maybe you are spending some extra time in the Göteborg area for whatever reason, and want to take a quick and easy overnight trip or even day hike of part of the way, then this is the trail for you.  There is even a supermarket on the way to the trail where you can stock up on food and/or fill up your water bottles.

Here is the official website (in Swedish), and here is a PDF map of the trail.

This trip report will be pretty straight forward, so I will do something a bit different than I normally do when I write my trail guides.  I will give all my commentary first followed by all of my favorite and/or useful pictures of the trail.  This trail was another bipolar type of trail, with highs and lows rather than consistently being good or bad for long stretches of trail.  But the highs outweighed the lows in number and quality that in the end made me forget all about my few complaints of the trail as I sat contented on the bus ride home.