Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cesar's Guide to Bohusleden: Stage 24

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This post covers Stage 24, Håvedalen-Vassbotten, of the official guide to the trail.

You can also check out my report on the section before this one (going southbound), Stage 25.

If you have not already read the introduction to this trail guide, 
you can check it out by clicking here.  It has a list of reports on other sections I have hiked plus other important/useful background information in general--so please read the introduction first before reading my reports.

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* This is a longer section of the trail at 18km, and has a lot to see and many interesting options to complete the hike and get to a very nice goal--the nice campgrounds and lake in the village of Vassbotten.  You can cross over into Norway at several good spots and then rejoin the trail, which can be either short or long crossings depending on how/where you choose to hike.  There is a longer marked side-trail into Norway that is actually considered a part of Bohusleden, but I craved a more challenging off-trail side trip into Norway, and was very happy with how things went.  More on this soon, first the beginning of the stage, where you will soon find a shelter:



It is an okay shelter area--there are better and there are worse.  There are some streams somewhat close by for water to the south, and it is on a quiet spot almost totally surrounded by trees.  If you are going south on the trail, I would suggest staying at the other shelter area that is excellent (I wrote about it in my previous post about Section 25, link above) and only a few hours hike.  Likewise, if you are going north on the trail, I say if you have the energy and the sunlight, might as well just hike a few more hours to the next shelter.  Soon after the shelter, you will hike across some very lovely fields out in the open for a bit:



After the fields there is a long stretch of dirt road which often crossed or next to several different streams of water, including a few small waterfalls:



Next is a nice alternative route into Norway if you like going off-trail and/or exploring more isolated woods.  I even went completely off any trail, and did some bushwhacking (going directly through the forest rather than follow any kind of trail) for fun and to get the most out of going into Norway.  What I did first was get to two lakes to use as landmarks to orientate my way off Bohusleden.  The first lake is Nord Vammsjön, and the trail passes right by it.  Very soon after you first see the lake, there is a fork on the road.  If you go south, you will pass between Nord and Sör Vammsjön.  If you go west, you will continue on the trail and go back into the woods, eventually looping to the east on the south side of Sör Vammsjön.  The path I took follows the north side of this lake, which briefly takes you into Norway.


On a hill right next to the border to Norway, facing south.
The stream that separates Sweden and Norway from on top of a cliff looking east.
After climbing down the cliff and walking through some water, I am finally in Norway, again facing south.
Quickly found a small, unmarked trail.
The trail goes to a small bridge that crosses the boarder.

 Now please keep in mind that I am an experienced hiker/backpacker and have done a fair share of climbing on trees, cliffs, boulders, etc.  I climbed down the cliff in the picture above and waded through the lake to get to Norway just to make things more adventurous.  

You can also--and I strongly suggest you do this if you can't handle a more challenging terrain crossing like this, I don't want anyone getting hurt out there, especially in such a remote area!--just continue hiking on the unmarked trail to the bridge to make your crossing.  This was one of my favorite moments of my 5 day hike of the northern part of Bohusleden.  Just make sure to be careful if you choose to take this path.  Make sure to use your map and compass often, and don't do anything dangerous in regards to your skill and experience level.

After you are in Norway, follow the unmarked trail until it comes to a marked trail (sometimes there are blue-gray markings, sometimes yellowish ones), which will take you around the north-east part of the big lake, and eventually take you back to Sweden and then to Bohusleden.  While you are in Norway, there are some more nice views of the lake, and you explore a little bit you will find two private cabins, which are marked on the map.  Here is one of those nice views, and lucky for me the weather was outstanding:



Back on the marked trail that takes you back into Sweden, you will come back to the border, only this time it is a bit more dramatic, with monumental markers and the forest cleared to further define the border.  To get a closer look at some of the big border markers, you will have to go off-trail, but not much, and it's not like you can get lost at this point of finding the border.





Okay, so now it's back to Sweden.  There is yet another fork in the road once you reach the eastern tip of the lake.  If you continue east, you will end up at a small farm, where you can follow a dirt road back to Bohusleden, which is what I opted to do.  You can also go south at the end of the lake and get on the trail sooner.  Now I know this might be confusing, so please make sure to pay close attention on the map, because there is yet another fork in the trail soon after the fork at the end of the lake.  You can chose to take an alternate part of Bohusleden which goes into Norway if you go north, or continue east towards the village of Vassbotten.  I was running out of sunlight and tired and hungry, so I took the more direct trail on the Swedish side, going east to the village so I could set up camp.

The hiking gets easier from here, and then the trail joins a paved road which goes directly to the village.  Once at the village, if you choose to make camp or take a break, you will have to hike south (there are a few signs that points you in the right direction, don't worry) to the *campgrounds that are right next to yet another big lake.  You can choose to pay for a spot on the campgrounds to set up a tent, which costs 140 SEK, or you can just walk through the campground to a shelter which is free and overlooks the lake.

*note: see update below for more info on the campground.


Got there just in time as the sun set.  A view from the hill near the lake that the shelter is on.

This shelter has an excellent fire area just outside the shelter.

The shelter itself the next morning.

Cool diving board near the shelter.  About 3m high, lots of fun, and don't worry the water is deep.

Small beach on the way to the shelter area and diving board.

There is a small shop at the campground that sells snacks, ice cream, drinks, beer, toiletries, etc.  There are also bathrooms and showers, but a sign on the door says you must have shoes to use either the bathroom or showers.  I refilled my water bottles in the bathroom at first from a sink there, but the water didn't taste that good (a bitter, metallic taste), though it's not the worst tap water I have ever had and is passable.  After using all my water again, I refilled my water before moving on from this campsite using the lake and my water filter, and it tasted much better.

The swimming here is awesome!  Not only because of the diving board, but there is also a dock in floating in the lake you can swim to, and it is big, calm, and clean.  You can also rent boats, but I just stuck to swimming.  I was also able to socialize a bit with some car campers, which was nice.  There were lots of people camping there, especially families, with big RVs/campers.  I heard Norwegian, Russian, German, and other Slavic languages that I could not make out around the campsite.  

But be careful.  Two hustlers came up to me and said they were from Turkey, and spoke broken English at me.  I told them I spoke Spanish only, and they then spoke Italian at me.  Long story short, they said they would give me a 18k gold ring for only a few hundred Swedish crowns, because they really needed cash due to their bank cards not working.  Yeah right.  Of course I said no, and they moved along.  Even in small villages in Sweden there's traveling hustlers.

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*Update 21/04/2014: 

I recently (this past weekend) went back to Bullarebygdens campground with my family on a mini-vacation.  Here is there official website, which I should have linked to when I first wrote this report, but honestly I wasn't aware that it had a website until much later on after I wrote my initial post.  Sorry about that!  I had wanted to take my family to this campsite after I had been there because I liked it and the location so much, and finally got around to it.

We decided to rent a cabin, and it was a great experience.  For a backpacker that wants to spring some extra cash to spoil themselves with their own cabin--or even better, if you are with someone else or with a group, you can split the cost--it's a nice option.  Prices vary by season, so check their website.  We rented cabin #4, which was one of the more modest cabins, but would still be deluxe for a backpacker.  

The basic cabins come with electricity and a sink with running water, and the one we were in had a bunk bed and a pull-out double bed/sofa.  The water from the tap in our cabin tasted fine.  Our cabin also came with a small kitchen with basic kitchenware, dishes, etc.  The cabins don't come with sheets or towels, and there is no bathroom in the basic cabins, but there is a communal bathroom/shower building for guests to use.  There are also microwaves you can use in one of the rooms of the communal WC building, and you can rent out canoes and a sauna if you really want to go super-deluxe.  

For children there is a big, inflatable trampoline and a small playground.  For adults, there is a recently opened, old school rock n' roll themed bar/restaurant on the campground that is owned and operated by the same owner of the campgrounds.  The owner's name is Stig-Arne, and both times that I have been there, he was very friendly and accommodating.  My family and I really enjoyed ourselves quite a lot there, as did I when I was there solo when first passed through this stage of Bohusleden.

I should note that I was not asked to update this report and I was just a normal guest both times that I was at this campsite.  But it deserves a good review, more information, and a link none-the-less.

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It took me about 7 hours to hike this section, but keep in mind I did take a short cut by going off-trail.  This section is all about having a lot to choose from: lots of forks in the trail/road, where to camp, where to explore, etc.  I would say it is definitely worth it going into Norway at one point or another, as well as taking advantage after a tough but beautiful hike to recharge at the comfortable campsite in Vassbotten.  Recharging is especially important because the next section, Section 23, is one of the most difficult hikes on the trail, if not the most difficult--not to mention at times outright unpleasant and/or harsh.

You can read about the good (waterfall!) and bad (swamp hiking) parts of Stage 23 here.


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