One of the amazing things in Norway is the many places to go hiking. In the Winter, Norwegians “Ga Pa Ski” (cross country ski) a lot. In the Summers these same areas become accessible on foot for hiking. I spent probably a month in the mountains and rarely saw another person. I enjoyed the solitude immensely. With the midnight sun, you never run out of daylight for hiking. Another camping friendly law in Norway is that you can camp almost anywhere for two nights even if on someone’s property as long as you are 150m from their house. I did that a few times but always sought permission anyway. One time I was in a field of hay and I woke up startled by a huge cow brushing against my tiny bivuoac tent. At that time the streams were clean enough to drink out of. Amazing!
One eventful hike I took was over the largest plateau in Europe called, Hardanger Vidda. The trail I wanted to cross was around 120 kms if my memory serves me well. I hitch hiked to a ski town called, Geilo and from there was to get up on to the plateau and walk across the plateau to Bergen. I did not know what I was in for. I had my very small tent, sleeping bag, a small stove, some food and some rubber boots that really weren’t appropriate for the task. The first afternoon I climbed up on to the wind swept plateau and was met with bitter cold. The land was extremely flat with no protection from the wind. I was seeking a protective bump in the land and finally found one. Setting the tent up was a battle with the wind. During this time period I wrote in my journals daily, even if by candle lanterns in my tent. It was very cold and the next morning I set off early to warm my body up. I had possibly enough food for five days if I rationed carefully so I had to average 15 miles per day to make it. A good challenge.
In this area they had occasional wood huts with nothing in them. I entered one and there was a framed letter on the wall and nothing else. It was Chief Sealth’s letter to the white man when they offered to purchase land from the Native Americans. Chief Sealth is from the Seattle area where I was born. It was cool to read it in Norwegian. I was so impressed with the environmental aspect of the letter that I typically had my students read it in my biology classes.
One of the challenges I ran into on this hike was crossing streams. Mind you I saw nobody so I knew if something happened I could easily die. The ground was covered with snow and ice in many places, but streams were running just below the surface. I did not want to fall in. There were goats that would cross these areas, so I would either look for their prints or follow them. That seemed to work. I later ran into a stream I could not cross. The water was swift and too deep. I could not jump across it. I walked and walked looking for a way to cross it but found nothing. I was pretty desperate. I then found a short cliff of maybe 12 feet. At its base was a ledge next to the creek and it looked like I could jump from there. I lowered myself and dropped to the ledge with my very heavy backpack. I then realized it was too far across and simultaneously realized I could not get back up the cliff. I pondered of jumping in the fast moving water, but I could get injured badly and would probably die of hypothermia. I could get halfway up the cliff but had no more handholds. There was one small foothold I could possibly reach but would then have to jump up and grab the edge of the cliff to pull myself up. It was a very risky proposition. After thinking about it I realized I had little choice. I tightened the straps on my pack and got ready mentally. I knew if I failed I would fall hard into the fast moving, frigid waters. My stomach ached with tension. I stepped to the ledge and jumped all at once, reaching the ledge. It was very difficult to pull myself up with the backpack on. When I finally got my waist to the edge I thought I had made it. When I got to the ground I remember laying there exhausted with fear, pain and relief. I lucked out!
I hiked all day for five days straight. I was exhausted and had been tested in many ways. When I descended the other side of the plateau and started to warm up I felt glad to be alive. I set up camp in the sun by a river and washed my clothes by hand. The next day I hitch hiked into Bergen, a coastal city where they speak much differently. Great adventure!