Once again, with the help of Airbnb and the company of good friends I’ve been able to go on a small trip and enjoy a little slice of the beautiful nature we have here in Sweden. I cannot stress enough how much I love the easy, care free and cheap way me and my friends travel. Last time we did it was winter and we had a wonderful time! This time there were actually 19 of us in total.
Every year The International English School in Sundsvall organise a volunteer hiking trip for it’s staff members, and this year I got to join it which I am very grateful for. We all met at the school on Friday evening after everyones classes where done, we packed ourselves into cars and headed towards Ljungdalen. The drive was smooth and easy with amazing conversations along the way which made the journey very enjoyable.
We’d rented two cabins and when we arrived in the evening we basically went straight to bed since we had an early morning ahead of us. In the morning I enjoyed a strong cup of coffee in the morning sun before packing food, getting dressed and heading out the door at 07:00.
We drove a short stretch to the parking lot where the trailhead starts and then off we went. At first the trail passes by private land and cabins, a beautiful lake and through a small forest before slowly the trees became smaller and more scarce, until suddenly you’re above the treelike and the landscape dramatically changes.
It’s flat and barren, more rocky and the air is cooler and feels more fresh. We passed a lot of smaller creeks along the way and the sound of trickling water in the otherwise quiet mountain world is very soothing to our senses. In the background our end goal was always visible, the mountain Helags – big and towering with Swedens southernmost glacier a white beacon to keep heading towards.
It’s a 12km hike to the STF Mountain Station and even though it’s long, the hike feels fairly easy. Because we are hiking at the cusp of fall the air is cool even though the sun is out, so the temperature for hiking is quite excellent, and the terrain isn’t too challenging – it’s pretty flat all the way. Most of the group got way ahead of us though, focused on getting there so that they had enough time to hike up to the glacier. Me and Kim on the other hand enjoyed the journey of walking more than having an end goal. While walking and talking about many different things we stop to eat blueberries, look at birds, take photos of the arctic cotton and point out all the reindeer. We enjoy the solitude and quiet of the trail, not meeting other hikers until we seem to get closer to the end of the hike.
Suddenly we pass around a curve and the station is right in front of us. We meet up with everyone and wish them good luck as they start heading up the mountain. We head inside to use the washroom, buy a patch and enjoy or lunch together with a local craft beer.
The mountain station at Helags has been there since 1897. Back then it was a two room cabin that was free to use for mountain hikers who needed a place to stay for the night. Helags is the highest peak in the southern part of Sweden and that combined with it’s glacier and the beautiful scenery makes this a very popular spot to hike and enjoy nature. A lot has happened with the station over the years and in 1983 it was renovated to be what it is today, and now it has 82 beds available for hikers as well as a sauna, kitchens, lovely restaurant and a little shop.
After resting and enjoying the warmth of the STF station I buy some coffee that I bring outside in my cup. We find shelter behind a rock where I enjoy my coffee while Kim journals and draws the mountain. We rest and I sneak around trying to follow reindeer with my camera. After some time we feel our energy return and we start walking up the mountain to meet up with everyone as they’re coming down. We all gather up, talk for a bit and then we start the 12km hike back.
Now, what a lot of people do, and what I would recommend, is to hike to the mountain station near Helags and spend the night there. Then you can spend the next day hiking up to the glacier, and even the peak of the mountain. I would not recommend doing it all in one day. Maybe you could pull that off if you’re spending the night afterwards but getting some rest and heading up the day after is probably better and will make it more enjoyable for you.
The way back the group is slower, our legs and feet feel heavy and we’re all getting tired. I take this opportunity to move around more talking to different people though, which is nice. Once we are near the end some stop to swim in the lake we passed in the morning, and when we reach the cabins we enjoy a super tasty, spicy veggie chili that Kim had made in advance for all of us. Then a few of us just sprawl out on the floor infront of the fireplace in our cabin, while some stay in the other one playing a few games before going to bed. We have covered at least 27km and over 40 000 steps so we’re tired but happy and our lungs filled with fresh mountain air which are all contributing to a great nights sleep.
I lay down feeling a little richer, having gathered many wonderful new experiences in nature.