Terii’s Cycling Babble


And the Verdict Is…..
August 26, 2010, 5:29 am
Filed under: Misc

Laid Back Loke

Loke has gotten lazy.

His heart is fine.  His joints are fine, his feet are fine.  He’s just decided to take it REALLY easy on our outings.

It was a bit expensive to get a ‘Nothing wrong with him.  He’s a very fit healthy dog’, but at least I can stop stressing about him keeling over with a heart attack on our runs now.

He did really well at the appointment.  He did NOT like the clippers, but put up with them.  He wasn’t thrilled with being made to lay on the table for almost half an hour while the vet pushed at him with her ultra-sound probe, but he didn’t make a fuss.  Just LOTS of sighing.  He was definitely glad to leave.

So, after all my worries about not running Loke too hard, I thought I’d share that it’s no longer a concern.  One less thing to dissuade me from cycling!!  I’m SO relieved and happy!!

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…own, Down, Down. Ow!
August 21, 2010, 8:27 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Written On The Morning of August 17th for August 16th Ride

Approach of the Sun

Yesterday dawned perfectly clear.  When I woke, the sun wasn’t up yet, but the sky was gray-blue at the uppermost part of the dome of the heavens, fading down to a soft pink and then a sort of purple around the fringe of the mountains.  Not a single cloud to break that perfect graduation of colors with its own hues and shades caught from the coming sun.  I was more surprised to see mist drifting from part of the surface of the lake.  I grabbed the camera and rushed out the door to catch the image before the sun rose higher and took the subtle dawn colors away.

Sun-Touched Mountain

The cold made me gasp in surprise.  It had been warm in the cabin.  Almost uncomfortably so, but outside it was quite chilly.  Since the light changes so quickly at that time of morning, I hurriedly took the photos before mincing barefoot over cold wood and sharp stones to the car.  I scraped a fingernail across the windshield to see if the dew there was dew or really frost.  A little curl of ice rasped up.  Then I remembered we had a thermometer on the outside cabin wall.  -1 c which is 30 F.  Autumn on its way to the mountains!

I wasn’t feeling entirely well as I waited for the day to warm up and my husband and his parents to wake.  Even watched the news to see how warm it was supposed to get.  The forecast there said 16 c which is more than good for cycling.  I waffled for a bit about if I should as a migraine kind of flickered at the back of my eyes.  There was also the question of WHERE to cycle.  Did I leave from the camp and head toward Gäddede or ride some more down from the direction of Stekenjokk?  Even below the tree line, I thought the scenery was nicer at those higher elevations.  It would have been nice if I’d cycled enough to already be on my way well toward Gäddede and even maybe into Norway a little bit, but ah well.

It just meant that I had to pick and choose my rides for quality… so resuming the way down from the mine it was.

We got moving at around 11 am.  By then it was showing 11 c (51 F) on the thermometer here and I’d eaten a light lunch.  Jens was going to go fishing and his parents had decided on a place to go walk for a few hours.  We were doing what had been planned for the vacation which was share the cabin, but do our own things during the day.

View From The Parking Shoulder

It was a tiny bit cooler when we got to the widened parking shoulder where I thought we had loaded the trike back into the car on my birthday ride.  I hadn’t reset my GPS and it confirmed that I was going to be starting where I had ended before.  The temperature was a tiny bit on the cool side even through my bright yellow windbreaker.  The wind that had been very strong during the gray ride from the mine to this particular shoulder and even more blustery the day before when we drove up to Stekenjokk with my in-laws, was almost dead calm.  That of course meant it was perfect for cycling since I’d be a bit warmer then.  Loke was excited.  The day was still gloriously clear as I settled every thing on the trike.  Jens had his mother’s cell phone and I had mine so if there was an emergency I could call.  I took a few pictures of the trike and the car before letting my husband go.  Will you just LOOK at the shade of blue in that sky?!?  It really was that blue!

The Other Half of Raavre

The parking shoulder there actually had a tiny little drive off of it, leading to a little cabin and one of the traditional Sami type of semi-permenant structures made into a permanent one.  What was a real surprise was the fact it had a name sign usually reserved for towns.  Raavre.  Maybe it was the cabin on the other side of the road and a couple hundred yards down that justified it?  Maybe it just goes to show how few places there are to name up there.  Other than mountain peaks any way.

Blue Skies, Mountains and Loke Ears

The Garmin Edge 705 has a function to track elevation.  I’m not certain of its accuracy as a few times it has shown me at something like 100 feet BELOW sea level as I sit on the top of a hill and look out across a scenic view of Uppland, but I think the gains and losses in elevation are fairly spot on.  I do know that it has been showing the elevation of the cabin at around 1545 and up at the little shop on the top of the hill around 1550.  Anyway, I ramble (though isn’t that the point of these? Hehe).  I’ve discovered, I have been very fascinated with the little line graph that shows the climbs and descents as I’ve been cycling through the mountains here.  As Loke and I headed out and continued onward, it showed a sharp downward glide.  That’s exactly what I was doing.  It was even more guilt inspiring than the first part of this section of the Sverigeleden.  Me relaxing, enjoying the sunshine, the softly cool air and the mountains around me, clearly visible over the stunted trees while Loke was having to keep those legs of his moving.

He was still enjoying it though.  Loping along at an okay pace, tongue lolling and giving me irritated looks every time I stopped to take a picture.

Long, Steady Downhill

There were a lot of scenic views that inspired me to do so.  I must point out, there has been little other than streams, mountains and lakes to photograph up here though I’m sure that’s become obvious through the previous posts about this vacation.  No runestones and aside from the little chapel in the Sami village on my first cycle day, no churches to bother with.  Any churches around here were built in the 1900’s.. probably even the latter part and are little different from any hurriedly assembled church buildings in Southern Mississippi.  That’s because before the whole ski/pleasure fishing industry became popular in Sweden, there really wasn’t much up here.  A few little farm-steads clinging to a sparse existence maybe, logging certainly and obviously Sami people with their reindeer wandering through.  The Stekenjokk mine was worked between the 1960’s to the 1980’s.  So, now the area is just dotted with cabins to be used for people who come here for the fishing and hunting in the spring, summer and autumn, and skiing in the winter.

Oh!  According to the older man who helps run this little fish camp, last winter was a bad one for skiing.  They only had a meter of snow instead of their usual 2 meters.  He could still see the tops of the dog pens.  2 meter deep snow and not even at the highest elevations in the area or in the northernmost stretch of Sweden!  Just boggles my mind.

Road View Mile 2

Any way, we were making pretty good time down from Raavre.

Just to give a comparison at how incredibly slow I am with hills – when Loke and I rode up from the Sami village on my first day of cycling, we took a bit over 12 minutes to gain our first mile.  That was without stopping for any pictures or even more than a single 5 second pause for Loke to mark a road-side weed as I crept up a hill.

On this trip, we did our first mile in a tiny bit less than 6 minutes.  That was stopping for 2 or 3 pictures even.  Loke was obviously running at a decent clip.  I think we did that first mile at around 13 mph.  The furry one wanted to go faster, but I kept his speed down, not wanting to push him too hard.

As we went along, I also realized how obvious it was that the season is winding down for that quiet phase in between the fishing/hiking/camping summer and the skiing winter.  Our first couple days up here, there were quite a few cars on the roads with us.  Not a lot, but enough.  As I coasted along, straining nothing more than my hands on the brakes to keep below 14 mph, nothing passed us for almost 45 minutes.  Not coming or going.  I was passed by less than 6 cars for the entire ride.

Blue Skies & Border. Loke Needs Sunglasses?

I did start to warm up a bit, which might have been the day warming up AND my drop in elevation.  It seemed very quickly, I was passing the boom which closes the road when the snows get too deep.  It is also the crossing point for the border between two ‘states’ in Sweden.  Or maybe ‘county’ is a better comparison.  Anyway, it was the border between Jamtland and Lappland.

It suddenly occurs to me that some of my readers might not know about the Sami people.  They’re part of my fascination with Lappland actually.  The Sami are a separate cultural entity within the borders of Sweden who are traditionally nomadic reindeer herders.  Sadly, not many of them continue their traditional way of life as they’ve come to a more settled existence in their own modern towns.  I seem to remember my husband saying that even the settled ones are alloted a share of a reindeer herd by their government.  They have their own distinct language (with 9 surviving but increasingly scarce dialects out of an original 11), traditions and culture (and government).  They are definitely NOT Swedish.  I don’t think they are even considered Scandinavian.  They are scattered all through the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden and parts of Russia.  Pretty much any where that reindeer have their established migration routes since I think it’s as much that the people follow the reindeer along their migrations as the animals being ‘herded’.

They are a geneticly distinct people indicating they are were likely separated from the greater northern european population and lived in genetic isolation or a bottleneck for quite some time.  One study might actually link them to the Berber tribes of northern Africa though it hasn’t been confirmed.

Glimpse of a Stream

The children in the few remaining nomadic groups are raised speaking at least three languages depending on their family’s traditional migration path.  One documentary which followed a family for a round-up had a few young girls who spoke Sami, Swedish, Russian AND very good English.  Unfortunately, such nomadic groups are becoming rare.  Even those who are nomadic for even part of the year during the round ups.  Another rich, vibrant and old culture fractured by the modernization of the world.

I’ve known about them since I was a child and was quite fascinated with them though I only knew them back then as Lapplanders.  I think most of their towns in Sweden are in Lappland which is probably why I’d first heard of them as Lapplanders instead of Sami.  I have since discovered they even have distinctive reindeer breeds the same way there are for horses, cattle or dogs.  Hmmm… was Santa’s team Chukota or Evenk reindeer or a mix?

Okay!  Enough on the Sami lesson and back to the ride!  Hehe.

So, I crossed the border and stopped on the widened parking bay to get a picture.  I took it facing back toward the way I’d come so I’d have the image of the road boom at the border AND the warning for reindeer.  In some odd way, the distances between the landmarks felt much closer by trike than they had whipping along in the car.  It had certainly seemed much farther in the car from the boom to where Jens dropped me off than it had riding the trike back down.

Gausta Falls - August 12, 2010

It seemed very quickly after that, I was stopping at the parking shoulder for the Gausta waterfall.  I could clearly hear it from the road even with the roar of water being down a VERY steep slope and the screening line of trees for almost 200 yards.  I took a picture of the sign to mark I’d been there with the trike, but decided to forego the walk to the falls themselves.  Jens and I had seen it (and photographed) on our exploration day.  It was a brutal climb down and even worse up as far as my knees were concerned and I wasn’t going to risk ruining the rest of the ride to take the pictures again.  Granted, the falls would have looked far more stunning in the bright light of a perfectly clear day, but I’ll just share the ones I have.  Besides, that shoulder was as close to the falls as the trike could have gone.

It might have been shortly before the falls or a tiny bit after, but I finally had my first climb!  I actually needed to pedal!  The slope wasn’t every steep, only about a 4% grade.  I ascended a whole 34 feet!  By then I’d come down something like 350 feet over about 3 miles.  I went a bit slower up the slope than I’d been doing on the climb from Stekenjokk to the road’s high point, but I wasn’t in any particular hurry.  After that it was another long glide down.

The road was going parallel to a rather fast flowing river since probably around the road boom with its reindeer warning sign.  Or rather, it had started off as a beautiful, crystal clear and very shallow stream into a sizable river around the falls.  I could see faint glimpses between the trees which were still a bit stunted, but tall enough to screen the view of the mountains.  At one point, I felt a bit frustrated as I could hear a significant roar of either a waterfall or fair sized rapids.  I stopped to peer through the trees and searched along a bit for a path.  There wasn’t any and the trees and growth were quite thick.  Being uncertain of what the edge of the stream might be like, I wasn’t quite willing to go thrashing through there blind.

Upstream

I glanced further down and saw a sign for Bjurälven which is a nature reserve.  I remembered the turn off from the many times we’d passed it on our way up and down the road.  There was a bridge and just maybe it was close enough to give a good view of what was making the water roar.  So, I coasted down and made the turn.

The bridge was almost immediately after the turn and I stopped on one side of it.  I was a bit nervous taking Loke out with me as he’s always had an intense fascination with moving water and this was definitely that!  A beautiful collection of rapids with water turned white as it rampaged through narrow places in eroded stones.  The furry one tried peering over the edge a little closer than I liked, but I waited until I’d convinced him to stand back a bit before I began fiddling with the camera.  Upstream side of the bridge lay the impressive rapids.  The other side, the water sheeted over another slab of rock before the river spread out and went almost calm.  The surface’s faint ripples glittering in the sun as it meandered on between the rocky banks and trees.

Downstream

I lingered there for a few minutes, enjoying the view and giving Loke some water before hitching him back up and turning to the road.

Shortly after I left the bridge, things kind of leveled off.  The altitude loss/gain graph turned into a series of little jiggles and I started pedaling a bit more as it was like I’d found a sort of plateau.  The uphills were barely significant though being mostly 1% grades or occasionally 2%.  Once I think I found a 3%.  It still felt like most of my time was spent coasting.  Loke had also slowed down quite a bit and I started keeping a closer eye on him and trying to give him the smoothest places to run on.  That certainly wasn’t the shoulder of the road.  It was mostly a scattering of stones a bit too large to be called gravel with woody twigs where shrubby like ground cover had been cut short.

From Rapids to Alpine Lake & Marsh

About the time I thought it was time to give him more water, I came on another parking shoulder with a very short car path and a view of a lake where the river widened.  I pulled down and parked in the shade, swapped to my sneakers and we walked down to the water.  There was a tiny little rivulet running down from the mountain across the road and Loke was a bit more fascinated with it than he was the lake.  Probably because the lake water was calm and the trickle was at least moving a little.  He only played in it for a few minutes, drank less than I thought he would and spent the rest of his time sniffing and marking.  I took pictures of course and spent about 10 minutes there just enjoying the view before moving on.

It was less than half a mile after that when Loke gave his first indication of a limp.  It was only a faint one for a couple paces and then he threw his weight into the harness and tried to pull me faster down a slight slope.  I looked at the pads of his feet.  They looked a little worn, but I didn’t think too serious and even that I’d seen them look a bit thinner with him showing no ill effects.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t made any of his much hated socks before the trip, so I had nothing to stick on his feet.  Still, he didn’t object to me poking at them a bit so, we went on.

Loke's Water Bowl

As we were climbing another slope about a half mile further on, I noticed a few more limping steps as we crept up and I started looking for a place to stop.  Ironically, where there had been plenty of parking shoulders further up, I couldn’t find a single one where I needed one.  The furry one STILL wanted to lope down the other side, but I kept him down to a walk and on the smoothest parts of the road I could find.  The ground to either side of the road was steep rocky/twiggy angle to a ditch and then scrubby growth with proper trees further in.  No place where Loke could lay comfortably if I stopped and I would have been stuck on the edge of a shoulderless road and no place really for Jens to stop to pick me up except IN the middle of the road.  There wasn’t that much traffic, but STILL.

I was still looking for some place to stop when my husband called around 2 hours after he’d dropped me off.  He was done fishing and hungry.  Even wanted to go shopping before coming to get me, but I told him I’d rather he at least come get Loke.

Random Scenery Shot

Fuzzy’s limping was fairly inconsistent and he still wanted to move faster than a walk, but he wasn’t fooling me any more.  We were coming down a slope and I spotted a parking shoulder.  FINALLY!  I recognized exactly where I was too.  Just past the shoulder was a sharp curve and a warning for a narrow bridge.  I was near the trail head for the Coral Caves.  Less than 200 yards and over the river.  Just then, my husband came around the curve.

Jens actually asked me if he should take the dog and let me make the last little distance to the parking area for the trail head as an ‘official ending spot’ rather than some featureless parking shoulder.  It sounded good to me.  We got Loke in the car and I plopped back into the trike and powered down the short slope to whip around the curve.  I was going about 17 mph as I crossed the bridge before skidding to a halt in the parking area about 50 yards on the other side.

As my husband caught up, he said Loke had actually fussed when he realized the trike was moving without him.  Silly puppy.  Limping along and STILL wanting to go with his toy.  Is that an addiction or what?

More Random Scenery

Loke was still happy to sniff around and I didn’t see much of an indication he was limping as I stripped the trike down to load in the car.  Granted, it was mostly smooth dirt and soft green things he was walking on.  When we got back to the cabin at the same time as Jens’ parents and their hyperactive and yappy standard poodle, Loke was bouncing around on nobbly chunks of oversized gravel as he romped and wrestled with Laika.  Still no obvious signs of a limp.  Once I had him in the cabin and he laid down, I took a closer look.

His pads looked a bit thin, but I didn’t think too bad.  Then I spotted raw spots on the back of two of the toe pads and Loke actually gave a soft, pained whine when I brushed a finger over them to see if they were oozing.  My MIL brought me a jar of salve, homemade with bees wax she thought might soothe him and when I spread it on, I could see the real problem.  It  made the skin kind of ‘clear’… like the way oil spilled on paper does.  Bruises sprang into sharp relief.  Dark red-purple spots, less than half an inch across on several of his toe-pads that had been impossible to see before.  I had seriously underestimated Loke’s willingness to run past pain.  I have no idea how long he had gone with those.  Our full ride was a bit over 11 miles.

I felt horrible and I was baffled.  Over the past three rides I’ve done this vacation, I’ve only totaled 25 miles or so.  Loke has run more than that in the first week of the cycle season after an entire cycle-free winter to soften his feet with nothing like this ever happening!  Even the 40+ mile run from Sala to Forsby (my first offical leg of the Sverigeleden) barely bruised him at all and something like 10 miles of that was over unpaved roads with stones the size of small eggs!  Yet this short 11 mile run had done this.

I took him out to do his morning pee and he can barely walk over the gravel around the sides and front of the cabin.  Once he reaches the grass, he’s fine, but it’s heartbreaking to watch him get there.  I put more salve on his feet when I woke up.  The bruises don’t look quite so pronounced and the pads actually feel tougher already.  Other than that, he seems fine.  He was already restless a few hours after the ride, so other than his feet it didn’t impact him much.  I still feel a bit stunned and baffled as well as contrite.  If I’d thought even for a moment he was just HALF as bad as he really is, I would have stopped and had Jens come get him.  I’m sure he’ll heal and if I cycle today, I’m equally certain he’ll get excited when he sees me in my cycle clothes and be heartbroken when my husband drives off with him in the car.

Poor Loke.  It could feel quite strange to go for a ride without my cycle buddy… though great fun down these hills!!!

P.S. – That was my last ride of the vacation.  11.19 miles and over 700 feet of decent, most of it done in the first 6 miles of the ride.  Vacation total was roughly 25 miles, but WHAT miles!



Up, Up, Down, Down, Down, D…..
August 20, 2010, 6:13 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Written August 14, 2010

A bit behind on writing this log.  But I’m going to excuse myself that lack on the grounds of it having been a roller coaster of a day.  First of all, it was my birthday and those have been kinda iffy for me for YEARS.  A lot of crappy ones have kinda weighted it toward something I generally don’t look forward to much, though Jens does his best to make up for that.  Keeps them quiet, which I appreciate, but makes sure I get something special and we go out for dinner at a place of my choosing.

"Too Early For This," He Says

This year of course, we were up here which I was excited about.  Especially since my knees had done so well on the first ride I tried.  The day had dawned wet and gray and a tiny bit on the cool side.  That was a bit of a disappointment cycle wise.  My husband woke around 8 am and wished me happy birthday.  When I told him about the weather in a grumpy tone, he came up with the absolutely perfect birthday gift.  He knew I had been smitten with the landscape above the tree-line toward an old abandoned mine called Stekenjokk.  I had decided that it would be the perfect place to start a ride since for the first half at least, the majority of it was downhill.  Kinda cheating, but hey!  Better that then 4 hours to get six miles because 80% of it was 7 degree or greater slopes taken at less than 2 mph. Hehe.

Stekenjokk Day After Ride - View & Info

Anyway, his suggestion was we go up and he would bring his audio books and a paperback to keep him amused.  Drop me off at Stekenjokk where he would read for half an hour, then he would come find me, park and repeat.   Just leap-frog me along for a while so that if I got too chill with the temp and the rain, I wasn’t going to be waiting for like a set three hours or something for him to come back since we have only one working phone up here.  I think that was one of the absolute sweetest things he could have ever suggested.

 After he spent some time convincing me he wouldn’t be COMPLETELY bored out of his mind, I agreed.  Then we had a bit of a bad patch in the day.  While we were scrambling around to get ready since we were on a bit of a time limit with his parents due to arrive that afternoon, I discovered I couldn’t find my Garmin Edge 705.  We completely tore the cabin and car apart looking for it.  I was certain I’d had it when we went to Gäddede and the Norwegian border, but it was no where to be found.

I could tell Jens was very upset.  It was an expensive thing and I am a scatterbrained clutz which is rarely a good combination.  That little ‘toy’ of mine I adore along with its maps cost more than most of the rest of this entire trip.  While it does express itself in subtle ways, my red-haired husband’s temper fortunately doesn’t tend to explode.  He just gets eerily quiet.  I think he knows I tend to kick myself around more than enough over things like this to make up for his not doing so.

So, we jumped in the car and headed for Gäddede and the Norwegian border.  Everywhere I had gotten out of the car we checked the area we parked and I also asked in the grocery and the gas-station and thoroughly searched the parking lot at the border.  Nothing.

By then, I was really in a funk.  I knew my husband was going to be upset for a while over the loss.  Even so, Jens was determined we were going to do the trip.  We stopped at the cabin for me to grab my old Garmin which at least would plot my route on-line even if I wouldn’t have the car-like map function of my new one.

Moody as I was, the scenery was still gorgeous and captured my attention.  Who would have thought a gray and spitting rain day would have been so riveting?  But the way the clouds hung low and chased over and around the peaks was beautiful and the play of light over the valleys and ridges was incredible.  We hit the high point of my planned route and were enveloped in the dense fog of clouds which was a bit of a cause for concern.  Me on a low structure of fragile metal tubing with only a bright orange flag and a tiny blinking rear light moving along at 2 – 15 mph (depending on Loke and/or slope) with a visibility of less than 30 yards and wet road.  Bad images come to mind.

Coming Out of the Clouds

Even though he was still more than a bit peeved at the loss of the Garmin, my husband smoothly suggested he would simply creep along behind me with his caution lights which were about 100 times brighter than my cheapie little blinkie.  Again, I thought that was about the sweetest thing someone could do.  We pulled into one of the parking lots around Stekenjokk with it’s information sign and began getting ready.  The clouds there were higher so the area wasn’t enveloped in a pea soup of fog and we only got hit with random drops of rain every minute or so.  Some frozen, some not.  The wind hit us like a wall.  I would say it was doing over 20 mph with higher gusts and felt much colder than the 14 c the car said it was.  I immediately dug out my cycle jacket and wondered if I’d been foolish to leave behind my woolies.  We got the trike out and while Jens walked up to the info sign, I got everything else ready.

Then the day took a positive turn.  My husband was wandering back as I was pulling out the bag with my cycle shoes.  I reached in to grab them and something kinda gave a plastic rattle from INSIDE one of the shoes.  He was close enough to see what I dug out of the shoe.  It was my Garmin.  I started laughing, a bit of hysterical relief and Jens just kinda sighed and hung his head.  The really annoying thing about it is we had BOTH dug through that bag several times, shifting the shoes around to make sure the GPS wasn’t under them and never heard/felt it rattle.  With a bit of a rueful smile, Jens asked that we never speak of that morning.

View Up A Peak

By this point, I was feeling a bit stressed for time.  We had been getting moving around 8 am before the GPS issue, but it had taken up a lot of time.  My parent-in-laws (is that even the proper way to say it?) were due sometime that afternoon and we had to repair the mess we’d made of the cabin looking for my GPS.  Still, I was determine to get some of the ride in.  Loke was almost hysterically excited.  He really seemed to be loving this new landscape we were introducing him to.  I think the cool air with its brisk wind and wide open vistas (where the clouds weren’t hiding it anyway) caught at him in a primal way.  Very quickly we were off.

To Touch the Clouds & Know the Skies

Unfortunately, our initial high speed didn’t last long.  About a two miles before the Stekenjokk marker was another marker which stands at the highest point of that particular road.  876 meters above sea level or 2,874 feet for us non-metric users.  I had a bit of climbing to do.

As I pointed out when I mentioned this coming trip and my concerns about my lack of stamina and potential problems with my knees, at least if I’m creeping along, I’ll have something pretty to look at.  This was very true here.  I wasn’t seeing the clouds with the resentful perspective of how they were blocking the views and the sunlight.  I was astounded by the strange, almost surreal quality they gave this high, windy and tree-less world.  I was caught up with those collections of mist and shadow even as I crept along up an almost constant slope toward the high point marker.  There was a deeper sort of presence to the peaks as I watched the lower edge of a cloud skim along a mountain slope before gracefully sweeping upward as if to leap over a shallow valley.  That arch framed distant peaks beyond with the cloud line arching downward again where the little valley rose on the opposite side.

First Bit of Sun For The day

As I slowly chewed up the 100 or so yards of vertical climb across the two miles, I was still enjoying myself and trying not to let myself stress about how incredibly tedious it must be for my husband as he hung back a bit since it seemed the lower clouds which had given us so much concern had gone up a few hundred feet and left the road mostly clear.  Once I’d gotten moving, I didn’t feel the chill.  Part of it might have been the fact I’d brought my sheep skin to cover my mesh seat.  I’m sure without that, I would have been a bit on the cool side.

Loke’s nose and ears were both quite busy as we went along.  The few downish or level sections of road in that climb where I could get a bit more speed up, Loke was quick to pull into a lope.  Nothing to set the road on fire, but he was definitely willing to run.  I again was quite impressed with myself as we continued to climb.  My GPS was saying the slopes weren’t much more than 5%.  I have my doubts about that accuracy though I will agree that I’ve struggled over much steeper ones in Uppsala.  Even so, on slopes of over 3%, my pace at home was generally around the 3 mph range as I coddle my knees.  Yet here and on these slopes of 4 to 6%, I was managing an extremely respectable (for me) 4 mph.  Getting enough oxygen from the thinner air felt like my bigger problem rather than my knees.  Not the slightest little twinge or pain.

Closer View of Sun-Touched Tundra

Even so, 4 mph up the hills left me plenty of time to crane my head around to enjoy the scenery.  The banks and rows of the clouds which had filled the sky like inverted peaks of mountains with graduated layers of grays were beginning to break up.  Though the angles of the breaks didn’t allow me to see the blue beyond them, they did allow sun to lance through and touch the low tundra like growth.  The muted greens and yellows of the plants leapt into vivid relief, like a bright island in a cold sea of shadow with a low line of still dark peaks beyond.  The first time we had come up to Stekenjokk on our exploration day, it had been cloudy.  With that one kiss of sunlight in the distance showing us the true colors, I caught a real glimpse of another face that tree-less landscape could have shown us on another day.

So, I crept along those first 2 miles at around 4 mph, some times dropping to 3.5 or so and enjoyed myself immensely.

Loke on the Heights

I still have to admit though, I was SO glad when I finally crested a hill and saw the marker.  Car and trike both came to a stop as Jens got out of the car to stand out of frame while I tried to get Loke and the trike in a picture with the height marker.  The slow 2 mile climb which had brought us up almost 100 yards higher than where we’d started from was not really enough to take the edge of Loke’s willingness to run.  So, my husband was ready to catch the furry one if he took it into his head to start racing down the long slope in front of us.

And the World Falls Away

On the road before us, the world fell away a bit.  Higher up, the clouds were close and dark, a deep gray that left everything cast in gloomy shadow before they seemed to soften and rise as I looked further ahead.  It was beautiful to look and see the closest peaks so dark like coming of a storm and a ridge beyond almost sunny.  Above-the-tree-line mountains are not something I’ve experienced often and I think it is those environments which are less familiar to us we can find so breath-taking.

A Glint of Water & Touch of Sun

I have to say, I felt almost guilty as we left the high point in the road.  Loke got to do a bit of running like he wanted though I was just coasting along in my comfy sheep-skin covered mesh seat.  He wasn’t fast, only around 15 mph which is a brisk lope, but not an all out charge.  I was content to leave it at that until I’m sure there’s no problem with his heart and I kept a close eye on his breathing, his pace, etc.  Me?  All I had to do was hang on to the brakes so I didn’t go screaming down the road at warp speed which would have meant a LOT of trouble to Loke even at his best speeds two years ago.

The fastest I’ve ever gone on my trike was something like 32 mph (or 51 kph) and without the furry one who’s best all time speed is just a tiny bit over 22 mph.  While the slope might not have been as steep as the one that catapulted me at 30+ mph, I had a lot more distance to break it and I’m sure I could have.  Not sure I really have the courage to attempt it though.  The roads around here are not exactly race course quality and one good bump could send everything flying with something like my trike at those speeds.  One thing I am not is an adrenaline junkie.  I’ll leave that sort of thing to those willing to risk broken bones and concussions.

Hint of Lingering Snows

But I let Loke set the pace.  If he wanted to lope along at 13-15 mph.  Fine.  If he wanted to trot at 8 mph even on a steeper downhill.  Okay,  no worries.  I just kept my hands on the brakes and watched the scenery, paid attention to the Volvo behind me since Jens would warn me when a car was coming up behind, and tried to let go of the nagging little stress about how bored my husband must be or the disaster of the cabin with in-laws coming.  In spite of that, I continued on through that world of clouds, rock, tundra growth and water.  There are little streams everywhere and most are very shallow even if they’re eight yards across.  Here and there are bigger ones, but often they are quite small.  Most around a yard across and quite a few less than that as they gurgle through the shallow cuts they’ve cut and lined with loose stones when they run higher during the spring melt.  On a few of the mountains were touches of snow.  Just small patches, desperately clinging to hollows of the higher peaks where maybe even the lichens, dwarfed shrubs and scatterings of flowers have to give way to bare stone.

The Trees Begin

I felt a twinge of disappointment when I stopped and dug out the camera to take a picture of the tree line.  The first indication are twisted little things, less than two meters high with dark green leaves and pale trunks (aspen maybe?) scattered with equally stunted conifer types.  Loke was still running good, there had been little rain to that point.  What brief sprinkles there had been didn’t feel terribly cold oddly enough.  It had felt FAR colder when I did that ride between Husby-Långhundra and the Mörby castle ruins.

Once I actually became surrounded by those little trees struggling at the fringe of their survival range, I began to turn my thoughts toward ending the ride.  There were still beautiful views around me, but of the familiar sort and much of it was going to be walls of trees.  That can be pretty, but a wall of trees here looks much like the walls of trees around Uppsala especially in photos, so it was not enough to convince me to go on with the niggling little stresses plucking at my thoughts.

It was a mile more before I found a parking area to pull off into where we could load the trike without too much of an audience.  It might not be the peak season, but there are still a lot of people around here and the little parking strips they pave along the roads are often have people at them.  The entire ride was just a little over 8 miles, but together with the ride the day before, it seemed to be enough to leave Loke calm enough to flop down in the car and sleep once we were moving.  I even think he was a tiny bit calmer than usual when my in-laws arrived with their hyperactive (and very yappy) standard poodle.  So, while it might have started out as hell, at least I had a good ride and the day ended well!!

Blitzen?? Vixen??

P.S – I didn’t see any reindeer that day.  Here’s a picture from the following day when Jens and I drove up there with his parents.  You can’t go taking pictures of Lappland without at least ONE picture of roaming reindeer!!!



Surprises!
August 19, 2010, 9:56 am
Filed under: Day Rides

The tenses may seem a bit confusing, since I wrote these vacation blogs on my laptop computer at the cabin when we had no access to internet, but I wanted to catch the memories and images while they were still fresh in my mind. 

Written August 13, 2010 

Well, the time for the vacation came.  I’ll admit that with all that had been going on to make this such a rough year of cycling for Loke and I, I faced it with a bit of trepidation.  I mean, MOUNTAINS!  Given the problems I’ve had with my knees this year and the fact I hadn’t really had a chance to build up my strength and stamina for the trip like I’d planned, I was truly wondering if I was going to end up sitting in the cabin or stuck by the lake shore fighting horseflies while attempting to write on my books. 

First Sign of a Mountain!!

The trip up was nice.  We didn’t really rush though we didn’t really meander along either.  Got to see some nice scenery.  At first it didn’t really seem like there was much in the way of mountains.  Even less than 50 miles out it was starting to look a bit disappointing.  Then the last 30 miles or so, things improved.  The lake our cabin at the fish camp sits along is ringed by low mountains.  Those tree furred, gently rolling and rounded types like you find in the Appalachians.  I actually considered that encouraging.  I wasn’t facing slopes like the Rockies or those gorgeously scenic, but jagged peaks of Norway. 

Pretty Morning

The fishing camp sits on shores of Stora Blåsjön (Big Blue Lake) and as I said, ringed by mountains.  The cabin is snug and clean and the owners incredibly nice and helpful.  They are dog lovers and even hold training classes for hunting dogs and offer kennel pens for people to keep their dogs in if they need/want to do something that Fido can’t join them for.  We had a lovely sunset the first night here and the first morning was gorgeous with low clouds drifting just above the lake and becoming fog when they met the mountains.  It was beautiful when they sort of crept into the valleys between the peaks.  I just LOVE it when you look across a mist filled valley surrounded by the mountains. 

Ankarede Chapel

The first day, Jens and I didn’t really do much in the way of the activities that brought us here.  Though I was a bit relieved by the nature of the terrain, I was still a bit wary.  Amazing how the possibility of pain does that to a person.  So, we spent the day mostly scouting around.  We drove to one area about 5 miles from the camp which according to my map book mentioned some kind of a chapel.  It was fairly hilly (no surprise) and quite scenic and the chapel turned out to sit at an old Sami village.  I decided that would be my first trip.  A sort of test run from the village back to the cabin. 

We also explored a bit more and it gave me a few other ideas for other days if my test ride didn’t kill me.  I don’t want to give the surprises away. 

So, this morning, my husband and I got moving.  I woke up around 5 am, but took pity on him and let him sleep in.  We didn’t get moving out the door until almost 9 am, but that was fine.  This is a vacation after all.  I ended up annoying Jens when we got to the village though.  Turned out I’d forgotten the adaptor to one of my trike tubes and the tires desperately needed air.  There was no helping it.  We had to drive back to the cabin. 

Ankarede Village Traditional Sami Huts

Other than that little snafu, the village was actually quite a perfect place to start.  It sat right on the shores of a few streams that Jens could do his fly fishing without having to drive back out from where he dropped me off.  Also, since I was cycling toward the cabin, he didn’t have to stress too much about needing to cut things short.  Oh, except for one little catch.  Our cell phones have no coverage up here.  So, I had to be prepared to sit for a couple hours if something happened that meant I couldn’t go on until my husband waded out of the water and drove to come find me. 

It turned out it wasn’t needed though.  It was a nice short ride.  About the same distance as the River Loop at home (5.something miles).  The difference was, it was all up or down.  Given how bad the horseflies were in the village, I half expected to be driven mad before I even made a mile.  Turned out I needn’t have worried.  Once I got moving, I think saw fewer than 8 of the flying bloodsuckers… except near this one little lake. 

Little Lake - August 12th

It is a beautiful lake and I was looking forward to getting there and taking a few pictures of it.  I have one taken from our scouting day which was just too perfect an image to resist.  The water glassy calm with a mountain in the background reflected in the surface.  You know.  The traditional ‘Mountain and Lake’ shot.  I slowed down between the two hills with the intention of taking another picture of the lake and mountain just to get Loke and the trike in the shot even if it wasn’t as perfect a day for ‘mountain reflected in lake’ moment.  I’d barely come to a halt when suddenly over two dozen horseflies swarmed up from the grass of the shore line.  It was a miniature version of an incoming bombing raid and I was the target.  I took off as fast I could manage even though it meant trying to power my way up another hill.  As I went, I saw a dragonfly.  With as many horseflies as he had there to eat, I’m surprised he wasn’t too fat to fly. 

Loke & Trike On A Down-Slope

By the time I got to the lake and had the horsefly blitz, I have to say I was rather surprised and impressed with myself.  I had done a mile in a bit less than 10 min.  It was mostly uphill as the village is a good bit lower down than camp.  My knees?  No problem!  I was shocked!  My breathing was a bit more labored when I was creeping up those hills, especially when trying to escape the horseflies at the lake, but that was to be expected with the higher altitude.  We’re more than 1500 feet higher than Uppsala.  At least here we are.  I was still happy to finally find a decent stretch of downhill. 

View Across the Lake

I don’t know if I was starting to adjust my pace or my body was trying to acclimate or maybe the hills just eased up on me a bit, but after the first mile and a half, it got easier.  Loke wasn’t running too badly, the sun was trying to come out which was nice since the day before had been completely gray.  We crept up the hills (painlessly knee wise) and zipped down the short dips on the other side.  After a bit, I cleared the wooded section and came out where the road is lined by small houses and farm steads.  There was one field I stopped to take a look over the railing along the road.  down a 70 degree slope was a tiny pasture, less than an acre where a pair of cows grazed.  The reason their field was so small?  Because on the far side of that was might have been a sheer drop to the lake below.  Those cows better not break through the fence. 

Lake, Mountains and Drying Hay

I continued on past a few old buildings and fields with hay drying in the traditional old fashion here in Sweden.  Instead of stacks, they set up what look like wooden fence sections and drape the hay over the railings.  It’s rather intriguing to see and gives you a glimpse into how places like this might have looked back in the old days.  There was even something more that finished the scene off a little further down. 

In a field with a few sheep, was an older man.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he was over eighty.  Still had a full head of hair, gone shock white and full beard in a softer pale gray.  He was dressed in clothes that looked like denim jeans and a blue long-sleeved shirt.  He was kinda on the lean side and had the look of a man who had seen a lot of work in his life, but it had left him decently fit even in the winter of his years.  As I came past and his sheep jumped up and huddled close at the strange sight of my trike and probably the wolf-like appearance of my dog, he stopped swinging his scythe and after a moment of staring, waved. 

Yes, you read that right.  Stopped swinging his scythe.  He wasn’t moving quickly and his swings were a bit short and choppy, but there he was cutting hay in the way that was done centuries before machines did it for man.  With a wickedly curved blade around two feet long attached to an equally curved long handle almost 6 feet long with an extra grip at right angles around half way.  Grim Reaper style scythe. 

Grrrr... Powerlines.

I wish I’d dared take a picture of him.  It would have been an interesting image and I could easily see working it up as a black and white with a sepia tint like an old fashioned photo.  With my uncertain Swedish and the fact that the older people are in Sweden, the less likely they are to know English, I was just too shy to ask.  I didn’t feel right with the idea of just digging out the camera and clicking the lens at him without making certain he was okay with it and I didn’t really want something posed either. 

He smiled a bit as he watched me and Loke go by, leaning on that long curved handle.  I don’t know why, but that moment really touched me.  Maybe it was the idea that it might be an honest glimpse of another era instead of a mock-up or recreation.  In the yard of the small house across the road from the field were those fence like sections with their drying hay.  Hay he had likely cut to help feed his sheep through the winter and would continue to do as long as he was able. 

A little bit further on, I had a beautiful view of the big lake over two hundred feet lower in elevation.  The sun was playing peek-a-boo with the clouds and the surface was not quite glassy, but still smooth enough that the sky and mountains on the far side were reflected in the water.  The image was softly blurred though, like the memory of a dream upon waking.  A small boat with a couple of pleasure fishermen had made a turn before going still again.  The wake it had made was spreading outward in broad ripples over the surface and the way the sunlight and reflections played over those curving, long waves gave it an almost surreal quality as if an impressionist painter had stroked his brush through the center of the lake.  Sadly, the picture I tried to take didn’t come out very well.  I think the UV filter on the lens washed out some of the details of light and by the time I got it off, the ripples had vanished behind a clump of trees. 

Still, that scene takes a close second to the old man and his scythe though not quite as enduring as I’m sure I’ll see other breathtaking moments of natural beauty in my stay here and certainly in my life.  I may never see another man who still works his land and tends his livestock as if he were in the early 1800’s and not the early 2000’s. 

Cliff Faced Mountain In Distance

The rest of the ride was uneventful.  Just chewing my way up the hills and coasting down the other sides.  Cars passed me with the people often giving me startled looks before waving.  The residents of the area who were out in their yards and enjoying the sunshine were quick with smiles and calling out ‘Hej!’  The views of the lake I caught between clumps of trees were still beautiful though not quite as breathtaking as that one moment with the reflections and ripples. 

The steepest slope of the ride was right before I made the turn onto the road our cabin sits along.  Fortunately, it was a very short hill.  After that, it was an easy downhill coast to the fishing camp.  5.07 miles.  We did it in about 1 hour and 20 min.  That REALLY impressed me.  Given the amount of time I’d spent fiddling with my camera, the number of up-slopes, and keeping my speed low on the downhills so I didn’t overwork Loke (we still have our appointment to get his heart checked), our average speed wasn’t really down that much.  I’d figured the trip would have taken me at least 2 hours, yet I was pulling in at the camp in less than an hour and a half and my knees didn’t bother me at all.  On the other hand, the muscles in my legs were talking to me a bit. 

The driveway down to our cabin is very steep and gravel, so I was a bit too timid to risk the trike to it only to end up zipping and skidding down into the lake or something.  But the woman who runs the camp came out of her house and spent quite a while ‘ooh’ing over Loke.  Given she trains dogs for hunting which means they need stamina to go all day, she was also very intrigued with the trike especially with the idea of running a dog with it.  The stability of it was what really caught her attention.  The fact a dog couldn’t yank it over.  She let me keep it up on the top of hill near the little shop until Jens got back from fishing.  Very pleased with my trip, I wandered down to the cabin with Loke. 

I have to say, the results of the trip have left me quite impressed.  I’ve had a bit of that muscle burn/ache, but my knees haven’t so much as given a twinge.  As for Loke?  He was anxiously at the door less than 20 minutes after we got home and still has had plenty of spunk to try and badger us out of the cabin every chance he gets.  Right now, he’s laying in front of the door and sulking because Jens left him when he went out for a bit of evening fishing. 

Sverigeleden & Places Along It

Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll take another trip down along the Sverigeleden since the fishing camp sits RIGHT on it.  I feel rather obligated to at least cycle part of the 25 miles toward Gäddede since Jens and I stopped there this afternoon to get my booklet stamped.  We were exploring a section of the Sverigeleden toward that way and into Norway though I doubt I’ll make it that far.  The town of Gäddede is quite small so Jens pointed out that if the tourist office was open, maybe I should get the stamp now in case the opening hours are silly short over the weekend and maybe even closed Sunday.  It is after all past the peak of the summer season in the area now. 

So, I went in.  Just as they were in Sala when I tried to get my booklet and stamp there the first time, this girl had NO clue about the booklet, the Sverigeleden, or where the stamp was.  She spent a few minutes digging through drawers and looking at every stamp she could find, but just couldn’t find it.  Finally she found a stamp that had the name of a business as well as the address so it had the name ‘Gäddede’ in it.  She used that and then scribbled her signiture over it.  I’m not sure it would be accepted, but since I seriously doubt I can get all of the 24 stamps before the booklet expires in 5 years, I’ll just collect them for my own sake.  So for me, it will work.  Especially since the alternative was to leave with a blank square. 

I guess it really shows how few people bother with the Sverigeleden booklet though.



Ahhhhhh
August 19, 2010, 5:53 am
Filed under: Misc

Husky In The Wind

Yes, a sound of relief.  After a week away from home, it feels SOOOO good to return.  I’m sure we all know that feeling.  No matter how nice the scenery, accommodations and activities, there’s nothing like curling back up in your very own bed again.

The accommodations were pretty nice.  One of the nicest holiday cabins I’ve ever spent time in actually.  The beds didn’t completely kill me, the views across the lake were gorgeous particularly in the early mornings.  It wasn’t incredibly small and there was even a DVD player!  Dog friendly atmosphere which was good since we had Loke and my husband’s parents had their Standard Poodle, Laika (I think I’m spelling that right).

I got to ride.  Jens got to fish.

I’ll start work on the proper ride blogs right away.  Mostly it will be organizing photos since I already wrote the blogs on my little laptop while the rides were still fresh.  So, I’ll get to posting!

Terii