winter hike to norwegian cabin
Top 5. Maaaaybe even Top 3.
(Not that I keep an actual list) I just need you to understand that this experience was one of the best in my entire life. Get ready exclamation point key... you're about to put in some serious work!
I can't remember the last time we stayed in a real hotel. It's been so long in fact, that hotel booking websites sorta stress me out. We always book our stays through Airbnb - and we haven't regretted it once. Most of the time, we walk away with even better stories to tell. (quick plug: click here to use our discount and get $40 off your first trip! Just click and register and they'll keep it saved for you - even if you don't have a trip in mind right right now.)
Then go book this amazing cabin in the middle of the Norwegian mountains RIGHT NOW!
Buy plane tickets later! (I kid, I kid.) But like, seriously.
I know I sound really hyped up about this place right now, but the few weeks leading up to this experience, I was actually quite worried. In a moment of adventurous gusto I had booked this no road access, no internet, no electricity, no running water, mountain locked cabin IN NOVEMBER! As my mind played through all the possible ways I would die, I had to continuously remind myself I was the one who chose to do this.
Our host, Oystren, (who we never met, but messaged back and forth) had given us enough information to feel pretty prepared. Yet, no amount of screen shots of terrain maps or lengthy messages about how to work the gas stove could compensate for the fact we would need to snowshoe hike about 3 miles into the no mans land mountains and somehow locate a cabin, build fires, cook food, and above all stay alive.
Luckily, my husband is an Eagle Scout - a truth that gave me some amount of comfort as we drove the six hours from Oslo toward the fjords of Flam and Gudvangen. I'd mentioned to Tyler (about 1,000 times) that my ONLY concern was that we wouldn't make it to the hike, let alone the cabin, before the sunset at 3:30pm (yeah, welcome to 60 degrees latitude). While renting our snowshoes from a ski resort two hours away from the trail head at 2:30 pm, the truth was starting to set in: there was no way we would NOT be hiking in the dark.
We turned off the main road, drove through a tunnel (Norway has a lot of those y'know?), and past a number of small farms, finally parking at the barn of the last farm. In the dim twilight of the last light of setting sun, we strapped our snowshoes and bags (filled with the next days' food, changes of clothes, and of course, too many electronics for a mountain "escape") and set off to locate a trail head.
Thank goodness for Oystren's foresight in skiing out to the cabin the day before we got there. If it hadn't been for his ski tracks, my irrational fears might have turned rational. In the darkness, we followed the narrow cross country lines across the unfamiliar frozen darkness. It was quite unnervung - knowing I was surrounded by mountains, trees, a river, animals... and yet seeing none of it. We walked by the light from a small clip-on flashlight we'd purchased at a gas station on the drive (like I said, my husbands a Boy Scout - so you better believe we came prepared *cue eye roll*) Along the route, there were trail markers every so often to supplement the tracks. Occasionally we would turn off all the lights and just walk in the blackness with only the two-foot-deep-crunch of snow to remind us we were connected to earth.
We arrived at the cabin, sweaty and hot despite the 15 degree weather, and with Tyler's expert fire building skills and my expert candle lighting skills we had the small three room cabin glowing in no time. We changed into warmer clothes, hung our wet items above the stove, and started cooking dinner.
We ate spinach pasta by candle light, played a board game, drank tea and beer and tea again. My mind was boggled at doing these normal things... in the middle of snowy mountains of Norway. Y'know that feeling you get when traveling - that you're body is so far from your home sort of adrift on the surface of the planet? This was like 10 times that. And then, when we stepped out of the cabin to look at the stars... 100 times more.
Adrift in the universe.
While it's hard to put words to it... that feeling is why this trip made my top 5 on the life list... rather than being the scary and dangerous trek I'd worried over, that vacant mountain valley was a source of greater peace and purer joy than I've felt in a while.
As I snapped photos throughout the experience, I questioned whether my documenting subtracted from my experiencing at all. I think for me, documenting is actually an added layer of experiencing. I notice the beauty, the sunlight, the way I feel, and I want to stop and pay homage somehow. In a way it's become my way of gratitude. So, in sharing this, I hope you understand, this is my way of giving thanks... to all of it.