Baltic to Atlantic, Aug-Sep 2022

I always knew this would be a different kind of backpacking trip. All our previous trips to Sweden, like the Kungsleden and Sarek, had been solely in the mountains, and the St Olavsleden Pilgrim’s Trail isn’t. This is why I decided right in the beginning that I wasn’t going to stay on the Pilgrim’s Trail the whole way, but would leave it at Undersaker and seek out the Jamtland Mountains.

However, it still wasn’t quite like I expected. The English guide book to the trail has either lost something in translation, or the Trail Organisation have very cleverly written it so as to not quite let you know just how much road walking is involved. I thought there was about 40-50%, and was prepared to go with that for the experience, but 95% was pushing it a bit. The sections they described as forest trails and tracks weren’t the kind of green, grassy lanes and paths I was expecting, but gravel roads…and I’m sorry, gravel roads which are built to take road traffic from one isolated settlement to another, are just as tiring as tarmac.

Still, an experience it was, and I’m really glad I did it. Every day had something good, whether it was a stranger inviting me into their home for breakfast, someone filling my water bottle up for me (I got wise after the first day and the lack of water around, and set off every morning after that with at least 2 litres), the abundance of dry, sunny weather, wonderful views or simply the solitude and pleasure of walking on my own.

I did find myself musing occasionally though on the difference between solitude and loneliness. I decided that for me, walking and wild camping on my own is generally solitude and a total pleasure, but loneliness did kick in occasionally when spending night after night in accommodation and being the only human there.

It became apparent very quickly that wild camping in this terrain (either agricultural or dense forest) was not going to be an option, so hostels and cabins would need to be used. This brought it’s own logistical problem of trying to book places 3 or 4 days in advance, in an area of Sweden which is very thinly populated with not much accommodation on offer in the first place! Thank goodness for smart phones and the internet! Often there would be Hobson’s choice in any given ‘settlement’, and the standard procedure was generally to text me a code which would unlock the door and allow me in, and I hardly ever met the owners, and I NEVER shared any accommodation with any other customers at all.

Stocking up with food was also a logistical nightmare at times. Supermarkets (generally ICA and Coop but occasionally just a small petrol station shop) were often 3 or 4 days’ walking apart, and even then not always on the Trail but maybe a 2 mile round trip off the route.

I must emphasise though that it was fun, and of course problems like that are there to be solved on these kind of trips, and it’s good to know that you can solve them.

Reaching Ostersund felt like a real milestone and it was there that I enjoyed the hospitality of some friends and their gorgeous Boxer dogs, and had a couple of rest days. Around this time, however, I did hit a wall of homesickness. This took me by surprise and for a few days I wasn’t really thinking straight, but did know that I had had enough of road walking and so decided to skip a few days and go straight to the mountains from there. I also eventually decided that I needed to stop pushing myself so hard and chill a bit, and to this end stopped walking towards the Atlantic coast and starting walking in circles instead – ie: using the Valadalen Fjallstation as a base in Jamtland, and doing day walks exploring that side of the Fells. Gradually, my mind sorted itself and I had a really enjoyable week there. Every day I still walked on my own, but every evening and breakfast time met up with like minded people to chat to and swap experiences with. It was fun, with plenty of good humour and laughter.

The final bit across Norway then (which is only about 50 miles wide at that point) was done on the train, and what a treat! It really was a journey worth taking – snaking down around mountains, descending narrow valleys, the train at times almost at walking pace due to both the gradient and the bends.

Finally, I mustn’t forget all that money you’ve raised for the Samaritans, in Lauren’s memory. £1,563 is the total now – you’ve done me proud. Thank-you very much.

I’ve put together some pics and videos into one of my little shows – don’t expect anything professional! I didn’t add any music this time as I couldn’t find a way to turn the music volume down when a video came on, but I have added a few captions for a change…

11 thoughts on “Baltic to Atlantic, Aug-Sep 2022

  1. Yes, well done – sounds a bit of a trial as well as an achievement but I suppose all challenge walks are at times… Weird about the remote letting of accommodation – sounds a bit Air BnB-ish? At least you’d get lots of sleep if you had the place to yourself…

    I thought the Highlands and Islands were the only places you get invited in for tea and scones or whatever when out walking – nice to see other countries do it too!

    Must have been nice to see the sun for a change (although you may have had this ‘summer’ everyone’s talking about – we certainly haven’t here, it’s been awful!). I think many forest trails nowadays will be gravelled and hard walking – we came back under the Helvellyns through the forest and it used to be a lovely mossy track – now it’s on a hard and horrible forest road for about 4 miles – we both hated it!


    1. Yes some days felt like a bit of a trial, but with hindsight of course I’m still glad I had the opportunity and experience.
      The weather was funny really, basically went straight from dry, sunny and uncomfortably hot, to dry, sunny and freezing 😁, seemed to miss autumn out!


  2. Gravel tracks are far from comfortable to walk on at the best of times, even worse for tired feet and legs. Grass verges are often able twisters at best, so not much of an alternative.
    To be able to book accommodation via internet was lucky, in the fact that out in the middle of nowhere a mobile signal would either be poor or non-existent.
    The Pilgrims Passport will be a nice momento.
    Mr McHenry’s bike seems in need of some TLC….
    And that train that seemed to go on forever!
    The spooky night where you kept moving your tent in the dark! You could have left your headtorch switched on, hanging up inside. That would have given folk something to think about as it moved in the dark!
    Finally, well done for completing the route and raising £1,563 for the Samaritans in Laura’s memory.
    You’ve more than earned a pat on the back


    1. Yes, isn’t it funny how grass verges are often far worse to walk on, than the road they are next to?
      We’re so used to smart phones now, I had a panic one day when I suddenly realised I should have had a cheap spare with me, with everything duplicated on it. It was my phone, internet, airline tickets, mapping, camera, kindle, music…..and then later on it had train and bus bookings on it too. So useful, but a nightmare if something had happened to it!


  3. Really enjoyed that. An epic trip and no shame at all in changing the plan to suit the weather, conditions and your mind-set. Plans are there to provide a guide and structure, not to be followed regardless. Impressive achievement and all that money raised as well. I really would love to try some Scandinavian walking. Quite amazing how summer gave way to autumn so quickly


    1. Thanks Andy, it was definitely a fantastic experience. It’s many years since I’ve been abroad on my own, and it’s nice to know that I can still sort myself out on the whole. At times, I could almost still think I was 18, and inter-railing around France 😁
      Even though I was just on the edge of them, it was amazing to visit the Jämtland Mountains – which is an area I’ve not been to before. Truly whetted my appetite for a return trip there…

      Liked by 1 person

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