The family is gone for the weekend. What does mum do? Turn up the volume on Adele in the entire house and start planning and packing for another solo hike.
I do pack light but some creature comforts are important. I want good, proper food, rather than cheese sandwiches or trail bars. So I packed both a luxury lunch (flatbread wraps with prawns and avocado) and two thermos flasks with hot drink. It weighs a bit, but dull sandwiches or cold drink would just take all the fun out of it.
I picked up Sörmlandsleden where I left off two weeks ago. So finding the beginning of stage 3 was easy. But then after a hundred metres or so, before I actually started walking for real, the trail markings just seemed to disappear. I spent a good quarter of an hour circling around before I managed to pick up the trail again. (Instead of turning right into the woods, the trail first detoured across a parking lot and behind some ugly gravel hills.) From then on it was smooth going.
The first part of the trail was quite similar to the previous stages. But after a couple of hours, as the trail crossed from the nature reserve into the Tyresta national park, the landscape got more and more beautiful. Much of it was still rocky pine and blueberry forest, or mossy spruce forest, and the odd little lake here and there, but somehow it was just… better. Like it had been more artfully arranged, with more pleasing proportions and less distractions. Just beautiful.
The weather was not so beautiful, unfortunately. It was only about 5°C outside, and around midday it started to rain. First just a light misting, and then a drizzle, and from then on it rained until 5 o’clock, sometimes more and sometimes less, with just a few brief breaks. At first I thought I’d cut my hike short if the weather didn’t improve. But I had waterproof shoes and clothes, and a hat and warm gloves, and there wasn’t much wind, and it was not actually pouring… so I just kept going. I was both warm and dry, even if the weather was not.
I was like the fabled frog in hot water, except the water in my case was cold. It would never have occurred to me to go out hiking in the rain, but since I was already out hiking and the rain only came gradually, I never saw a reason to jump out.
The only two downsides of hiking in the rain were (a) the way the hood of my waterproof jacket rustles and blocks ambient sound, and (b) it was harder to take photos. I have no rain cover for my camera, so I had to put it in my backpack to protect it, and stop to dig it out when I wanted to take photos. Which was a right hassle, so I took far fewer photos than I’d have done otherwise.
The shelter at Årsjön protected me from the elements during my lunch break, and I had brought an insulated jacket to keep me warm. I postponed my other meal break until it was nearly dark, and luckily it stopped raining just as I was thinking that I’d have to eat in the rain (because section 4 has no shelter). It was just me and a few small birds in a twilit mossy forest.
Section 4 of Sörmlandsleden was ordinary forest. The contrast to the beauty of section 3 was stark. On the plus side, while the best parts of section 3 were quite busy, this section was completely empty of people. I met a group of boys with their leader at the very beginning, and not a soul after that.
There is a qualitative difference between hiking with few people around, and hiking with no people around.
By the end of this section it was dark outside. I had brought a headtorch so the darkness was not a problem, but I didn’t really see much of my surroundings. I was also getting tired at this point. The two sections are listed as 12 km and 9 km respectively. But somehow my hike totalled not 21 but 24,5 km, and therefore took over an hour longer than I had planned. It’s a good thing the final part of the trail went through unexciting nature, basically just little forested patches of land between residential areas and some light industry – I don’t think I missed out on anything unforgettable there.
Sörmlandsleden 1+2. Another rainy hike. A previous hike in Tyresta.