Terii’s Cycling Babble


…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!

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