The blurred letters say “Nordkalottleden”

“What the hell am I doing here?… I want to go home…”

It eventually happens in most trips. There comes a moment when your morale weakens and you start wondering if it’s worth it. Usually, you soon decide it is, after all.

Never before I had those thoughts as often as on this trip. Yet it still was worth it. Maybe it’s easy to say so now that I’m sitting at home with a warm cup of coffee and I’m not hiding in my tent from the inhospitable outside but maybe that’s just what reminds me of the beauty of trail life where that same cup of coffee was a priceless gift out of some brown powder from the bottom of my pack.

I went out north in search of wilderness and wilderness I got. I started hiking from some little village in the middle of the arctic highlands on the 13th of August with roughly four weeks ahead of me. The weather was unsettled. It never got better.

The weather and my own demons made the Nordkalottleden my hardest thru-hike so far. At only a fifth of the length of my previous trip, it’d look like a piece of cake, yet never during the Pacific Crest Trail was I so focused on trail’s end and that cup of coffee back at home.

The Nordkalottleden wouldn’t allow me to relax and just enjoy myself. After every little and short lived sunny spell there’d be yet another grey wall moving in and I knew I was in for a hard time again. Overcast and drizzle became the good weather. I’d only need one digit on the centigrade scale.

Then, what the hell was I doing there…? I was having the time of my life even though it was kind of difficult to realize at that moment. Enjoying the endless freedom of hiking and travelling through the most pristine landscape, the freedom of camping wherever I wanted, the beauty of not needing to carry water with me or the weird taste of those yellow berries. And, yes, I’d do it again, starting tomorrow. Well, maybe better next season’s tomorrow.

It’s incredibly beautiful up there in Lapland, a beauty unspoilt by the constant presence of the asphalt world. I mean, there’s no such presence. Yet it’s still amazing to me how “many” people live over there so you can still find roads, railways and real villages but they’re scarce enough to keep the wilderness feeling, far enough apart from each other so it takes days to see something that’s not green hills, dark rock or blue lakes.

Ah, the lakes… Lapland is a water paradise even though my feet would probably prefer to call it a water nightmare. Never mind the marshes. Drink anywhere.

Not many people out there but still enough to help raise my spirits when I needed it (and I needed it too often). It was great to meet you all.

So it’s only a few days since I’m back from yet another life-affirming experience. I can relax now as much as I can’t wait to start all over again but now it’ll be time to tell some story here about this Nordkalottleden, Nordkalottrutta or Kalottireitti, choose the one that sounds the oddest.