The trail down to Kvikkjokk was easy, with a wide path and lots of sun. The Fjallstation had a nice lobby where you could hang out and charge your electronics, along with the most pitiful “grocery store” I’ve seen on a trail. All they had were way overpriced crackers and low calorie soup powders. Who wants low calorie food when you’re hiking all day?!
Buying food in foreign countries is fun. My usual thought process is: That looks bizarre and kind of disgusting…let’s try it.
“I’m surprised you got these,” the Swedish clerk told me in a nearly perfect upper class London accent as she held some dark sourdough crackers and hard bread.
“Why, are they bad?”
“No, they’re great! They’re just, uh, very Swedish. Usually foreigners don’t…never mind, just try it!” At first they tasted really strange, but they’ve grown on me.
Kvikkjokk is the end of the line for the vast majority of the hikers who’ve made it this far. The next week to Ammarnas in the south is almost deserted, according to my guidebook.
Some disaffected young Swedish boy ran the “campground,” which was a plot of land with a bathroom. For 50 kronor ($6) you can camp there and take a hot shower, my first in nine days (and a great opportunity to wash my clothes).
The next leg of the Royal Trail begins across the lake, and the signs for the boat crossing were pretty vague. Contact boat driver to cross lake. Wandering around the jetty, I ran into said “boat driver.”
“Oh wow, you’re far from home!” He told me, which I’ve heard a lot lately. I haven’t met any other non-Europeans in Sweden, which I’m just now realizing. It’s nice being exotic. He told me to meet him at the jetty at 10:20 the next morning.
My socks and underwear hadn’t dried by then, which I was counting on the 3:30am sun to do. The clouds stopped that from happening, but at least it wasn’t raining.
Everyone on the boat was Swedish and older, except for me and a German guy named Mats. Mats asked me if I’d done any other long trails, and I mentioned I’d hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last summer. The hikers on the boat had all heard of the trail, and asked a lot of questions.
“It’s my dream to hike the Appalachian Trail one day,” a Swede on the boat told me.
“You’re only 25 and you’ve already hiked the PCT and lived in Spain for a year. That’s impressive,” Mats told me. I guess it is, but compared with my trail friends from last summer it seems pretty normal. And all I can think about is when I’m getting on the Continental Divide Trail, 3000 miles from Mexico to Canada through the Rockies.
The section to Jakkvik started out in some craptacular swampy forest, but soon I got back to the open rolling tundra and my reindeer friends.
An Italian hiker heading north seemed surprised to see me. “Whoa, another hiker!”
I camped by a river on a slanted piece of land, making a mental note to not get out the wrong side of my tent and fall into the water. Sometimes I wake up in the night, forget where I am, and panic in the darkness and confines of my (wonderfully toasty -12C) sleeping bag. That hasn’t happened in a long time, but it would still be a real damper on the trip. At least I haven’t had any moments like when I woke up at 2am in Yellowstone thinking I was covered in mice, which made me turn on the lights and slam my sleeping bag repeatedly against my dorm wall. My roommate was really cool about it, though.
The next day started out with wet feet, rain, and going off on a game trail instead of the path. It was super boggy, with the trail really just being a creek in places. It was too wet and cloudy to dry off my things, so I took as few breaks as possible. The scenery was great in the wide open expanse of the fells, but the rain got harder as I passed through some really uninspiring forest.
The vast pine forests of the PCT and the green tunnel of the AT are great, and make you feel really peaceful and far away from everything. This was just not the same with endless mud and a stream for a trail. The squishing of my cold feet with each step grated on my nerves, probably exacerbated by my dehydration. When it’s raining and cold, I find it hard to rationalize stopping to get water. Thus, I suffer the consequences and get really grouchy. When I’m hiking through really lush, wet areas I don’t drink as much because I figure water is everywhere and why stop when I can just go a little farther? In the desert I pay much more attention to water, and tend to be much better hydrated.
By the time I got to Vuonatjviken, a fishing getaway and site of the ferry to the next part of the trail, I was soaked and tired. There was nobody outside (for good reason with all the rain), so I just walked off to a field and set up my tent barely out of sight of the houses. If they tell me I can’t sleep here I’ll just play the stupid foreigner card and walk into the woods, screw their property rights. It rained all night.
The next morning, during a break in the rain, I got up and tried to find someone. It was deserted, except for a fisherman who just stared at me. I went back to my tent for a couple hours and, at 8:30, finally found the guy who arranges the boat crossing. I was the only hiker they’d be taking that day, but I could tag along with some Finnish fishermen not much older than me.
The guys had trouble understanding my English, but were friendly. The Swedish woman navigating the boat gave me candy, and I definitely took more than was probably polite. Whatever, I paid 300 kronor ($35) for the crossing and I’d never see her again.
It took an hour to drop off the Finnish guys at some road and then arrive at the Kungsleden. I was perfectly happy to be in the warm and dry interior of the boat, and got to dry my socks and shoes. They stayed dry for about 25 seconds after I got to the trail.
The sludge to Jakkvik was only 11 miles, but took me 6.5 hours including three quarter mile rowboat crossings. The rain and mud just made me want to get to town and be done with it, and the promise of cheese (I couldn’t stop thinking about Gouda) made me go on.
The Italian hiker earlier told me I could go to the church to get wifi…but the church in Jakkvik had no apparent electricity. I saw a house nearby and trespassed on the property to see if there was wifi there. A middle aged Swedish guy came out wondering what I was doing.
Quick, think of an excuse. “It’s just such a beautiful view from here!” He agreed, and talked to me for 15 minutes about how mosquitoes will leave you alone if you just give in to their desires. I managed to escape and arrive at the grocery store right before it closed, buying some Gouda cheese and eating it like a homeless man under the gas station awning while it poured.
One of my toes had been rubbed raw, so I limped my way out of town. I saw a sign for a campground, and looked back to the Jakkvik Fjallgarden. I wandered inside, and using the Swedish I had picked up from being here two weeks was able to figure out it just cost 70 kronor ($8.25) a night to camp.
I called the number listed using my Spanish phone number, and the same mosquito zen guy who I trespassed on showed up! Turns out he also runs the Christian youth camp/Kungsleden hostel.
It was seriously amazing, probably the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Four ovens, a huge kitchen, and spacious living rooms with sofas. I ended up taking a much needed rest day to dry all my clothes and let my toe heal.