Saturday, 16 January 2010

Journey back

Wake up at four in the morning and started the cars at five. We got home just before nine in the evening. According to the GPS, we traveled 1104,4km in 14,35 hours, including our pit stops. Along the way we stopped for gasoline, a quick shopping stop at Haaparanta (right next to the border), once for lunch and once for a cup of coffee. Pretty rough driving, but I think we all were longing to get home.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Skiing in Sweden II

We took off again nice and early in the morning. As usual we started the day with a heavy breakfast before going out, couldn't go about all day in the woods with skis without one, could we?

We drove the car to the same parkingspot I had used the day before and headed out in the direction where I had seen the capercaillie. Again we skied along the edges of swamps and clearings in the woods. The crust on the snow carried nicely and we moved along nicely eventhough we did take our time observing the treetops along the way. As we crossed the dirtroad we had a short tea break. Then we followed the edges of the swamp to the place where we made the fire on our first day, lighted up again and cooked some sausages for lunch.

After our break we skied back to the dirtroad, crossed it, and proceded in the direction where we had left our car. We found some old skitracks that were heading in the same direction we were going, so we decided to follow them. We climbed a rather large hill, at the top of which was a large swamp area. Following the swamps edges we eventually came to the road we had started from.

The longest skiing trip of the week, but the weather was great with a good crust on the snow that carried our weight nicely and temperatures ranging from -17'C when we started to -14'C when we returned to the car. The sky was overcast with some fog tossed in too, but visibility was good enough for us. We did see a few trees that had been used for feeding along the way, but no birds.

On the way back to the cabin we stopped by the local shop to fill up the tank in car and to do a little shopping. I bought a little hunting knife for Nea and a "kuksa" (a traditional wooden cup) each for the twins. The smaller girls have been wanting a kuksa of their own ever since they saw that Nea had one when we went out to the forrest some time ago. Now that defect in their camping gear got fixed.

At the cabin we heard that the other team had gotten a sighting of a black grouse, but didn't get close enough to take a shot before the bird fled. Our head chef had been on his final approach towards the bird when it took off.

Our evening meal consisted of a meatloaf prepared by the chef, with potatoes and grave done by me. After dinner we cleaned the cabin before calling it a night. We'd be heading home early in the morning.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Stomach trouble

Yesterdays capercaillie celebration caused my stomach to be upset in the morning. The rest of the bunch loaded up into one car and headed off while I stayed at the cabin blocking the sewage system. At around eleven my stomach started to calm down and I decided to pack my gear and head out. The temperature had dropped to -27'C during the night, so I put on a bit more clothing underneath my snow outfit than for previous days. I headed to the same area where we had been on our first day of hunting. First I drove to the end of the dirtroad, turned and came back. Along the way I stopped to take this picture:

As I was putting my camera back in the car a capercaillie took off from a tree behind me and flew over the road and disappeared behind the small clearing right by the road.

I drove a couple of kilometers along the main road to a parking spot. I started to ski along the edges of clearings in the forrest, in the direction I saw the bird fly. Eventhough I used my binoculars often, I did not catch even a glimpse of the bird. Along the way I saw numerous moose and reindeer tracks in the snow. When I arrived at the dirtroad again, the sun was setting and I skied along the main road back to the car.

When I arrived at the cabin, the rest of the crew had already returned. As I was driving back, the cars thermometer showed the outside temperature to be -24'C, but in the bright sunshine it did not seem that cold when I was skiing. Most surprisingly the crust on the snow carried well, and skiing was very light and enjoyable.

In the evening our head chef prepared a well spiced tomato / mincemeat sauce to go with the pasta I cooked. A heavy meal topped off a nice day.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Up at 8 and started the day with a heavy breakfast again. This time we fried some bacon and potatoes on the pan. I think there was some onion tossed in also. After eating, we packed our gear and drove off towards the hunting areas. This time we took the main road in the opposite direction and after a short drive we turned off to a secondary road, which we followed up the side of a rather large hill. We parked along the roadside and hopped on our skis. We skied down a small slope from the road and got to a swamp.

The weather was foggy, visibility was down to minimums, so we decided to light a fire and wait and see if the fog would burn off as the sun came higher. When we finally managed to get the fire going, (I have never in my life seen such a antagonistic fallen spruce) we came to the conclusion that the fog was not going to clear and decided to head off to see what was hidden in the foggy landscape.

We followed the swamps edges and stopped to look at treetops for birds. On one of our stops I looked at one pine a bit longer. I looked and looked, even turned my binoculars to other trees, but I kept coming back to that one tree and one branch just below the top of it. After some time I even asked my partner to take a look at the pine in question. After looking at it long and hard we agreed that the black lump on the branch had to be a bird.

I started to ski towards the patch of forrest nearby, slightly away from the bird. I thought I could approach the bird using the cover from the spruces at the forrestpatchs' edge. My partner remained in place to observe and try to capture the whole thing on video. As I was skiing, I kept taking quick glances at the bird, just waiting to see it flee. After what seemed like an eternity, I got to the cover of the trees and turned to approach the bird. I was aiming for the tip of the treeline protruding towards the tree the bird was sitting at. Just before I reached my destination, I stopped to remove my backpack, rifle and skis. The last meters I approached in a low crouch until I was behind the small spruce I had noticed on my approach. I lay in the snow and ever so slowly moved sideways until I had the bird in sight. I removed the muzzlecover from my rifle and chambered a round. I shifted myself to get a good steady position. For a moment I thought I had blown it and the bird had fled when I lost it from my sight as I tried to find a good position in the snow. Finally everything was good and I took the shot.

After I fired, I saw the bird fall straight down, indicating a perfect hit. A loud "yeah" from the direction where my partner was observing the situation confirmed my observation. After doing a "little hiawatha" -style "captured game dance", I gathered my gear, put on my skis and headed across the clearing towards the bird. I found the capercaillie right underneath the tree.

After gutting the bird, taking a few pictures and a few other compulsory rituals we headed off again. Every now and then the thin crust on the snow even carried us, but for the most part we kept sinking knee deep in the snow, despite our skis. At a small lake between two swamps we discovered that water had risen on top of the ice below the snow. We turned toward dry land immediately, but our skis got wet enough to turn into lumps of ice in a matter of seconds. Wet snow and water freeze solid rather fast at -17'C. Using our knives we scraped the ice off and got our skis back to working condition again and we were able to continue our journey. I took a few quick snapshots when we stopped for a break to have some tea and sandwiches.

We continued skiing from swamp to the next until the sun started to set. Eventualy we came back to the same road along which we had parked our car and skiid along the road back to our startingpoint. In the evening we again had a heavy dinner and did some celebrating also.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Skiing in Sweden I

Wake up around 8 in the morning. Our head chef made us an hefty omelet, real "big boys" breakfast. It was so good that I just had to scrape the last little bits off the frying pan after everyone else had gotten their share. The morning turned out to be a beautiful one, with the rising sun painting the sky above the ridgeline and the river behind our cabin in different shades of purple:

While I was admiring the sunrise, I took a quick snapshot of our cabin, mainly as a memento of what our housing looked like:

We paired off and headed out. My partner and I took a short drive and then we were at our area, looking to find a place to park our car along a small dirtroad with high snowbanks on both sides. We even gave the snowbanks a try with a showel, but realized soon enough that showeling would take far too long. We found a good spot to park the car along the main road and skiied along the roadside to the dirtroad. Following the dirtroad we got the edge of the swamp that we had been aiming for.

We skiied along the swamps edges, stopping to look at the treetops thru our binoculars, but there were no birds to be seen. Along the way we stopped to light a fire, cook some sausages and have a cup of tea. As we were circling back towards the road and our car, the wind picked up. We decided to follow a snowmobile trail back to the road.

We drove back to the cabin where the rest of the crew had just arrived from their days skiing. In the evening our head chef made some garlic potatoes and sauce to go with the steaks I as the "assistant chef" cooked. I think I kept the steaks on the pan a moment too long, the order was for them to be medium but they were more in the line of medium+. Sometimes things just don't go right,especially when you think you know how things should be done. The head chefs sauce saved the day and with some good red the meal ended up being excellent.

Weather for the day? -2'C in the morning, heating up to 0 during the day with clear skies.

Oh, yes, almost forgot. We did see one bird during the day. There was a female grouse feeding at the top of a tree next to the main road as we parked our car.

Monday, 11 January 2010

The road to Slussfors

We started off on January 11th at 5 am, five friends in two cars. Our first stop was after a few hours drive when decided it was time for breakfast. The pitstop was held at a place called Hirvaskangas. The foods from the buffet went down well and we were back on the road again. Our next stop was several hours later in a town called Kemi. We stopped at the local supermarket to load up on foodstuffs, eat and fill the gas tanks of our cars. For some reason we attracted peoples attention with our four shoppingcarts full of stuff. After a brief drive north we came to Tornio and took a steep turn to the west, crossed the border and continued our drive towards the setting sun:

The drive continued, without any real breaks, hour after hour. Finally we reached our destination, the small village of Slussfors. The drive, including our stops, took us over 15 hours in which we covered a distance of just over 1100 km. Weather was on our side the whole way with -16'C and clear skies when we started, -10 and sunshine at Kemi and +2 with cloudy / drizzle at our destination.

Our local contact, Eric, came to meet us at the local shop when we arrived and led us to our cabin. At the cabin Eric showed us the places and went thru the hunting areas from the maps. The thoroughness of Erics' review of the hunting areas was a positive surprise, he gave us a full picture of the areas and their features. That is, to those of us who understood swedish, I personally had to wait for the translation on many items that were covered. In the days to come this area proved to be the heart of our cabin, we spent hours at the kitchen table, talking, plannind the following days treks, eating, drinking and laughing:

Our head chef cooked us a evening meal of hash. After eating we discussed the hunting areas and decided who goes in which direction in the morning. Got to bed around midnight.