Monday, March 31, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Sjuhäradsleden


***Update 21/06/2015: Thanks to a reader named Heather, I recently found out that the E1 trails that connect the town of Hindås to the town of Mullsjö seem to have been updated as far as trail maintenance and also how it is conceptually organized.  Between these two towns it is now known as Sjuhärsleden, is broken down into 10 stages, and a new website (mostly in Swedish, but some English and German) with maps for each of the 10 stages and other information is available here.***

Sjuhäradsleden is a 36km trail that goes from the city of Borås in the west to the small town of Ulricehamn to the east by north-east, which overlooks the large lake Åsunden.  

Fun fact about this lake: on January 19th, 1520, the Battle of Bogesund took place between Sweden and Denmark, with approximately 10,000 men fighting on each side.  This battle was fought on top of the lake, on the ice.  Oh, and there were cannons.  It was a cannon that killed the leader of the Swedes, Sten Sture the Younger.

War.  On ice.  And what the hell, throw in some cannons.

Moving on.  Going southbound on the E1 trail--which really means going west at this point--the path continues on Knalleleden.  Going northbound (meaning north by north-east again), the trail continues partially on Redvägsleden, and mostly on gravel roads that ends up in the village of Mullsjö.

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 to the guide!


Alright.  I'm going to be frank.  This is a trail that I think can be best summed up in saying that while it was pleasant enough to hike once, I doubt I would ever hike it again.  There's nothing terrible about it--or anything spectacular about it either.  The majority of the time, this trail follows a series of roads.  You'll be hiking on long, straight parts of the trail on asphalt, gravel, and dirt roads.  On occasion you pass through some woods, some of which are quite nice, sure.  But nothing stunning or that awe inspiring.

So for hardcore thru-hikers, don't get me wrong, you will probably enjoy hiking this trail.  There are some nice spots.  Yet I'd say that it takes a seasoned veteran or a total rookie to appreciate this kind of hike.  If this does not make sense to you and/or you fall someplace in between a vet and a rookie backpacker--or if you don't want to walk down a bunch of roads--feel free to skip this section.  This is easy enough.  Just go to the the Borås bus station (right next to the train station) after re-supplying and such, and take the 200 bus to Ulricehamn.

The trail starts in eastern Borås and passes through suburban type residential areas before going past highway 40 towards the village of Dalsjöfors (though the trail never goes directly through this village).  I didn't feel like hiking through that much of the city of Borås or its suburbs, so after taking a bus to Borås central terminal, I quickly got on the 200 bus towards Ulricehamn.  You can get off at the Dalsjöforsmotet stop just outside of town, and then hike south on the road Boråsvägen for about 2km where the trail crosses over.  

Skipping the bit of trail that goes through Borås only shaves about 6km off the whole section, so you still have 30km to get to the end of this section.  It's about 37km if you walk into central Ulricehamn, where there is a bus terminal and places to re-supply, which is what I did.

Some practical observations before moving on to all the pictures.  There were no suitable trail shelters to spend the night that I encountered, only a few places to sit and perhaps eat lunch or wait out bad weather.  There is plenty of water, typical of most Swedish trails, and the quality/taste of the water in this area I found to be quite excellent--but be picky about which source of water you use!  There are lots of farms along this trail.

I found very little information on this trail online, and no complete map files.  The little info I did find online was nearly all in Swedish, and a lot of it was several years old on Swedish hiking forums and blogs.  You will have to buy a map(s) of the area if you want one, but then again (and as you will soon see in the pictures) the trail is relatively well marked and does not venture out that far into the wild.

Okay, now on to all the pictures:

Borås central train station, with the bus terminal right behind me in this shot.

Just keep walking straight/south.

Get used to passing by farms...

...and long pedestrian paths...

...and back roads.

It would be hard to get fresher/better water than this little spring.

A bit confusing here with lack of markings, but just find the road next to this farm (to the right of the frame).

I was happy when I saw this shelter from a distance.

Then I looked inside.

Not pictured: grumpy farmer.

I once again got happy when I saw this shelter...

...and found it open and cozy inside...

...then I read this.  For the record, I saw no such "windsafe" to the north, and the trail goes pretty much north from the cabin.

Update 21/06/2015:  According to another fellow hiker Heather (see: comments below) there is a trail shelter to the north, but you have to get off the E1, on another trail, to find it.  Heather was also unable to find the spring.

At this road above, I noticed on my map that the road continued towards the big lake Tolken.  I wanted a change of pace and some nicer scenery, plus I had to fill my water up anyhow, so I used all this as an excuse to go off trail and explore the area and check out lake Tolken.  I thought that there might be an unmarked shelter by the lake, given the nice location... but no luck.  Water tasted great though, and I got to watch the sun set a bit over the lake, so it was not a total loss.  From the trail to the end of the road is about 2-3km.

It was a bit tricky to get down to the lake without going through anyone's property (there are some houses at the end of the road), but I don't mind bushwhacking that much.

27km from here to Borås, just past lake Tolken.

Mist over the waters and clear skies.  I knew it would be a chilly night, but at least no need to set up my tarp.  Perhaps my favorite picture of this section hike.

The sun was going down, so I needed a place to sleep.  I had actually planned on sleeping on top of the hills to the east of lake Tolken when I was studying my map at home as my Plan B--Plan A was to find an unmarked shelter to stay in.  I noticed there is elevation that evens out on a big, flat hill, no bogs or swamps around, water sources close by, not that close to any houses, and far enough from the lake to avoid the nightly cold sink.  

It's not a bad place to camp out.  Just continue on the trail next to Tolken, up the hill and past a big clearing.  There is a troll woods here with nice, soft, mossy ground to sleep on.  This is better suited for solo shelters, however.  If you have a bigger tent or are in a pair/group, continue down the road to a small clearing (see picture below) to use as a campsite if it's time to make camp.

A word of caution if you stop in the troll woods.  I was tired after hiking all day, and after I found a nice, flat spot to crash, I only looked up to check for any widow-makers (dead or leaning trees that might fall on me) as I always do when I sleep in a forest.  I didn't pay too much attention around me, and after I set up camp I noticed a huge (i.e. over one meter high) ant hill about 8-10m away from my spot.  Soon after I noticed several ants all over my shoes as I sat and ate a late dinner.

For some odd reason, the ants didn't follow me onto my ground cover/cowboy camp spot.  I wonder if it had anything to do with my space blanket ground cover?  I'm not sure, but they seemed to leave me alone so long as I stayed on my spot and not touch the mossy ground.  When I did get up to get things out of my pack and hang up my food bag, they were all over my shoes again.  No bites, luckily.  So look out for big ant hills.  Needless to say, I sure did appreciate my bivy sack all the more that night.

Pitch black just before going to sleep.

Same spot the morning after, all packed up.

The spot I picked was right off the road here to the east/left of the frame.

Here is the small clearing I mentioned earlier for bigger shelters or pairs/groups.  It's a grassy intersection with an old lumber road.

Another ramshackle hut for hunters to drink.  Not good for spending the night, and honestly I'd rather eat lunch near the stream that is close by as long as the weather is alright.

Here's the stream.  Good to take advantage of if you camp up on the hill near by.

Hooray!  More asphalt!

It has its moments.

Once you get to this road above, you're getting close to Ulricehamn.  It would be faster to get off the trail and just follow this road into town, but I don't recommend it.  One of the nicest parts of hiking this section is on the next bit of trail past the farm and into some troll woods.

You have to unhook the electric fence to get through here.

At this gravel roundabout are some old stone graves.

The official north-east trailhead.  It's about another 7km into the center of town from here and is marked with the same E1/orange trail markers.

Looks familiar.

Here the trail connects with another non-E1 trail (Åsundenleden) that loops around the large lake Åsunden and then into the south end of Ulricehamn.

At this crosswalk just inside town is where the E1 continues northbound towards the village Mullsjö.

The bus terminal in town.  You can't miss it.

Ulricehamn has a few pizza shops, a Chinese restaurant, a Thai restaurant, several cafés, a supermarket right next to the bus terminal, and an alcohol store (Systembolaget, state run alcohol chain).  For stove fuel, check the supermarket and also the campground at the northern tip of the lake.  It's a quaint, beautiful little town, and was one of the highlights of this section.