After a relaxing morning’s canoeing bathed in sunshine and soothed by soft breezes, the organisers had something very different for us in store for the afternoon.
We landed on a small beach at the other end of the lake, dragged the canoes onto shore and hoisted our packs. The afternoon’s adventure was to be an orienteering exercise in small teams. The distance to cover didn’t look far at all, but we hadn’t counted on the unforgiving terrain we would be traversing, and it wasn’t until many hours later, tired, sweaty and stiff (but rather proud of ourselves), that we would finally emerge from the deep woods to make camp for the night.
The exercise started easily enough. Maps and compasses in hand, we took turns within the group taking a bearing and walking on the compass, trusting that little needle to guide us unerringly to our next checkpoint. But we soon found ourselves a long way from any paths, wading through bogs, battling through dense stands of pine and struggling up steep slopes peppered with boulders just waiting to snag a misplaced foot or twist an unwary ankle.
Photo: Tommy Sollén
Our confidence was bolstered by successful hits on our first two checkpoints, but dashed on our way to the third. We walked further and further, convinced that by now we must have overshot the mark and be faced with a long detour. After a good while spent scrambling through the undergrowth with dwindling hopes, we finally came out onto a beautiful high plateau. The trees thinned out to reveal a stunning 360 degree panorama of a carpet of forest stretching to the horizon, broken only by the glimmer of sunlight on the rivers and lakes below. The low sun lit the whole scene in amber, picking out the autumn colours of the forests beautifully, and the view certainly served to lift our spirits, especially when we glimpsed the orange checkpoint marker peeping out at us from behind a lonesome pine – it seems we hadn’t gone so far wrong after all. Trust the compass!
From here it was, in the best sense, downhill all the way. The loose rocks and closely-packed trees made going slow and potentially treacherous, but an hour or so later we popped out of the woods to find ourselves in more open country. We pitched our tents, broke out the stoves, and headed off to a small peninsula looking out onto the lake to make a start on dinner. On the menu tonight was dried camping rations, which we were looking forward to only in the sense that when you’re hungry and in the outdoors almost anything tastes OK.
But the quality of dinner was to take an unexpected turn for the better when, walking a short distance off into the forest to examine a tree felled by a local beaver, I looked down to see the ground covered in a yellow carpet of wild chanterelle mushrooms.
Photo: Tommy Sollén
Finding chanterelles in Sweden is an instant way to make a whole army of enthusiastic lifelong friends, and it wasn’t long before almost everyone in the group was tucking in to this delicious delicacy – the “gold of the forest”. Camping rations are OK, but they can’t compete with fresh chanterelles fried in butter…
(continues next week)
The Nature Travels Team
Nature Travels offers a variety of hiking holidays in Sweden, including Sweden’s most famous long-distance path, the King’s Trail in Lapland, and the mighty wilderness of Sarek National Park. Many of our active accommodation and log cabin holidays in Sweden also offer excellent opportunities for self-guided hiking.