Posts filed under The great wide open

It all Started Here

IMG_2885-July 23, 2019-2.jpg

Finally a Summer at the Summerhouse

There is a place up north where I spent all my summers as a kid. It’s right by the water, surrounded by the deep pine and spruce forest. Just like many other Swedish summerhouses this one is red with white borders. My grandpa started building it 1950, and it was finally done in 1955 after a couple of setbacks. Not a single day is the same up there, sometimes you can’t see the other side of the bay because of all the mist, and other times the whole water body is clear as a mirror as you watch the sky turn pink when the sun sets. Sometimes, in the middle of the night you can watch the lightning penetrate the water from the large panorama windows in the living room. Sometimes you can smell the summer rain in the morning or that strong and sometimes overwhelming smell of labrador tea if you are out on the mire.

This is where I learned the names of the different plants that are common in the boreal forest. That same knowledge that brought me to Alaska and then later on gave me free trip to Nome. Pine, spruce, labrador tea, fireweed, larch, birch and the list can continue in all eternity. This is where I learned when to pick the blueberries and how to make blueberry porridge. This is where I learned where the gold of the north grows, and the pain you sometimes have to go through to get those precious berries. But more importantly, this is where I learned how to swim, fish, and care about the nature.

IMG_2813-July 22, 2019.jpg

It’s a Fishy Business

At the summerhouse our main food source was the fish. We ate (well i guess we still do) fish for breakfast lunch and dinner. In the evenings we would get the boat out and go fishing farther into the bay. Sometimes we took the boat out to the “black sea” as we used to call it, because it was so deep and the water was all black out there, and tried our luck with the fishing nets out there. That place scared me, but it was always a thrilling adventure to go all the way out there. Most often though we took the boat out and laid our fishing nets straight out from the shoreline. This became something that I helped my dad with a lot. Laying out the fishing net in the evening, and picking it back up early next morning, before the seagulls started to get into them.

This summer W, his mom and aunt came with me to Sweden and the summerhouse. We had such a nice time and I loved that I was finally able to show them where my roots are. In the evening we all went out in the boat and put out three fishing nets and wished for the best.

As a fisherman, or fisherwoman the are no late mornings, and we got up early the next day to claim our bounty before the seagulls did.

Once the nets are back up on dry land the tedious work begins. First, the struggle to untangle and remove the fish from the net, and second to clean the net.

My dad of course knows how to untangle the nets like the back of his hand. He is a man of many trades and being a fisherman is one. He easily balances around the stones by the beach before he pushes out the boat from the shore wearing his clogs, just as easy as he removes the fish from the net. He knows exactly how much or how little of the juniper you need to get that perfect smell and flavor of a smoked fish.

Life is calmer at the summer house, and maybe this is also where I learned to appreciate life. From now on a visit to the summerhouse will be on my bucketlist for every single year ahead. If you ever wonder how it is to feel rich, this is it. A freezer full of fish and berries, and everything else you can acquire from the land.

When I was young my mom taught me how to clean and fillet the fish, she was a master of this and one summer I became one too. That was a long time ago, and I can’t really remember how to do it. But every now and then when we buy whole fish I magically know exactly where to cut the fish to remove the bones. My dad was doing this job now, he claims he’s not good at it, that mom was the master. The more I think about it, the more I understand where my ability to prepare things from scratch comes from. It all started here.

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.5

IMG_8661-May 25, 2016.jpg

It’s like Alaska on Steroids

DAY 5, 05/25/16: Saskatoon Island Provincial Park to Pocahontas Campground

Before I moved to Alaska a Swedish friend who lives there told me that Alaska is like Northern Sweden on Steroids. Well here we were, our fifth day of driving, and I could never have imagined that the views would get even better than what they had been. At one point I looked out the window and told W, I am saturated, saturated of mountains. I said, I can’t take it any longer as I put down the camera on my lap and just stared at all these magnificent views. If Alaska is like northern Sweden on steroids, Western Canada is like Alaska on Steroids. These two coming days we were going to drive fairly long stretches, but we also wanted to explore the national parks a little bit.

We were on the road before 8 am and I think we started to get tired by now. Day five, on our roadtrip. Last time we showered was at Liard Hotsprings, but that didn’t bother us as much as sitting still in a car. Luckily we were on our way to two incredible national parks in Canada, Jasper and Banff. Our drive was going to be short today (well, everything is relative right?), because we were finally gonna stretch our legs and conquer a mountain! After about 4 hrs of driving through a wide open landscape that slowly took us closer and closer to the mountains we were now entering Jasper National Park. As you enter Jasper the road immediately takes you into the mountains, and the views are just out of this world. I don’t know of any other place like Jasper and Banff. When you cross the Athabascan river, driving south on the Yellowhead Highway the views are just out of this world. I know I keep using the same adjectives, spectacular, incredible, out of this world, but if you have ever been here I am sure you would have a hard time not to overuse all of these describing words too.

Driving through Maligne Canyon

The views of deep forest, lakes and mountains could be seen in all four directions. It was hard to know where to look at times, and I wanted to stop at every pullout, which we of course did not do. We would probably still be there if I could have gotten it my way. But, we were finally going to hike, so I was super excited about that. We drove towards Maligne Lake because that is where the trail head to Bald Hills is located. We passed the Medicine Lake and drove along fire scarred forests and majestic mountains. Bald Hills summit is a 13.2 km out and back hike, that offers spectacular views. Again the weather was sunny now, but there were clouds on the horizon. I really do not know how we always manage to pick a hike where we see absolutely no other people.

Bald Hills Summit Trail

This trail first takes you through the deep forest, crossing streams and slowly going up in elevation. When you are so far up in elevation that mountains and lakes start appear through the gaps between the large trees that surrounds you. Eventually you break out from the forest and step out into the alpine vegetation, because now you are more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

Up above the treeline

Eventually we broke through the treeline and ended up in a field of snow. It was indeed late May, which in the mountains still mean snow. And the mountains, those mountains wherever you turned your eyes. The last part of the trail is fairly steep, and we were walking through some very deep snow. From the top of the Bald Hills summit you have 360 degree panorama views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. From the top you can also see Maligne lake, the lake we could spot through the trees earlier. Of course with the rain constantly haunting us we managed to see a wonderful full rainbow over the mountains.

Of course we had to take a few selfies in the mountains too! On the way down we played around in the snow a bit until we reach the trees and the forest again. We had such a good luck with the weather, but as always the dark clouds were coming towards us, and we got in a hurry to get off the mountains before the rain came.

When we were done with the hike we went and got a camping spot. We didn’t want to drive too far after the hike so we had picked out a campground fairly close to the hiking trail, Pocahontas Campground. We had been worried about finding a spot, since it seemed like there were so many tourists around, well on the road, and not on the hike of course. But when we finally got to the campground, it was completely empty, of course. I immediately realized that we had reach civilization when I saw the soda vending machine by the bathrooms at the campground.

Day 5 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage:

  • Canada: Shell Canada Grande Praire AB. 18.5 miles from Saskatoon Island Provincial Park. Mileage 25 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Petro Canada Jasper AB. 250.8. Mileage 24.49 miles/gallon

  • Total driving on day 5, about 269.3+ 29.9 miles from gas station to Pocahontas Campground (299.2).

  • The grand total of the whole trip: 1702.3 miles

  • Campground: Pocahontas Campground, AB

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.4

IMG_8383-May 24, 2016.jpg

Clouds on the Horizon

DAY 4, 05/24/16: Liard Hotsprings to Saskatoon Island Provincial Park

The rain had once again caught up with us. It had rained a large part of the evening before, and this morning some light rain was mixed with the clouds that continued to hover over us. It had become pretty clear that we were moving in a direction towards more and more people. We had spent our first night in an empty campground in the Yukon Territory. Now, at Liard Hotsprings we were not so alone any longer. The roads here are wide, but there is a lack of traffic and as I mentioned earlier, summer is the season for roadwork.

Surrounded by Mountains

Since the campground was so crowded, we decided to drive for a bit until we had breakfast. We drove south on the Alcan. Passed mountain after mountain, but not really any other cars. There are so much wilderness here, and parks. National Parks and Provincial Parks. Everywhere you looked there were mountains partially covered in clouds. Deep forests and wilderness as far as the eye could see, and then this wide and empty road leading straight through it. If you have ever looked for serenity, this is it.

Muncho Lake Provincial Park

After about an hour we pulled into MacDonald campground right by Muncho Lake. We went to one of the short-term parking spots and and made some breakfast. As we were standing there the clouds parted a bit and we could see some small specks of blue sky behind a rainbow. We had yet another cup of coffee as we prepared for the long day ahead of us.

I rarely drive, but on a roadtrip like this there is no getting out of it. It is especially hard if you are seeing amazing views out the window. And there were plenty of times I instructed W to take some pictures. With mixed results. This also resulted in less photos of course. But the landscape still amazed us. The Rocky Mountains spread out into the west, but the coming hours we were going to move away from these mountains for a little bit. We would get plenty of views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the days ahead. Just like in the US, the Canadian Rocky Mountains are spectacular..

The area south of the Northern Rocky Mountain Provincial Park has more wide open spaces and less mountains. We were still driving on wide roads though, and seeing the regular black bear crossing the road or by the side of the road from time to time.

Saskatoon Island Provincial Park

After 558 miles of driving we arrived at the smallest provincial park we could find, Saskatoon Island Provincial Park. The rain had stopped long time ago and we went for a walk to get some of the free firewood that most of these parks in Canada provide for free. It was late, we could hear other campers talking about the drive they had done so far. They had come from the south, driving north towards Alaska. They still had all of the wilderness and the Yukon ahead of them, and we, we had all of Banff and Jasper ahead of us. We sat by the fire a bit before we too finally went to bed.

Day 4 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage:

  • Canada: Petro Canada Bluebell inn. Fort Nelson, BC, 200.7 miles from Liard Hotsprings. Gas mileage: 24.64 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Blueberry Esso. Mile 101 Alaska highway, Wonowon, BC, 184.1miles. Gas mileage: 26.58 miles/gallon

  • Total driving on day 4, about 384.8 + 173 miles from Wonowon gas station to Saskatoon Island Provincial Park (557.8).

  • The grand total of the whole trip: 1403.1 miles

  • Campground: Saskatoon Island Provincial Park, AB