Geocaching day trip on Rottnen

Vacation is here, and on a regular year we would be traveling to Athens to visit my wife’s relatives. But with the Corona situation and travel bans this year, we’re “stuck” in Sweden. Växjö is known for its lack of sun, and constant rain. From October last year to February this year the sun only came out a handful of times. Despite this the weather has been great so far this spring and summer, so staying in Sweden isn’t a problem.

Last Wednesday my wife and I decided to bring C to do a Geocaching day trip on the lake Rottnen, some 20km east of Växjö.

We started at the beach called Sandstaden, that’s a relatively popular beach, despite being out in the middle of nowhere. When we arrived there where already several families on the beach.

I unloaded the canoe from the roof of my car, while C and Mia carried our gear down to the water. We paddled straight out from the beach to a set of islands 600 meters out. There we found our first geocache, and after that we paddled around the rest of the islands to check them out for possible campsites for future trips. The islands where too rocky for a tent though, but we took a short snack break on one of the islands, that was scarred from what seemed to be a recent fire.

After the break we kept paddling north for a few kilometers, before we decided to get to shore on an island to have lunch. Mia and C cooled off in the lake while I fried Krabbelurer on the Trangia. I ended up making more than we could eat, and after dinner Mia rolled out the sleeping mat and fell asleep for a short while. Me and C hung out in the hammock, and I hoped she would fall asleep too. In vain though, as aha was too pumped up to sleep, and just wanted to play.

After lunch we kept paddling north, and found our second geocache in the ruins of an old hut.

We paddled a short distance to the next cache, but couldn’t find it. But we had stopped in a shallow sandy cove, and despite being more than 30 meters out, the water was only up to our knees.

We spent a while cooling off there, and C played hide and seek behind the canoe.

The last cache for the day was a bit further to the north, on a stretch of stepping stones, laid out in the water in the old days, to make it possible for travelers to cross between to capes. The last bit was very shallow, and covered in reed, and eventually I had to stand up in the canoe and stake our way forward.

We found the cache, and paddled back towards Sandstaden. It was starting to get late, and C wanted to play at Sandstaden before we headed back home. When we came near Sandstaden we hit a rock, and I felt the canoe bulge as we passed over it. Fortunately the canoe is durable. When we came back to Sandstaden we put our gear in the car, and took a quick dip before heading home.

Rottnen was a great lake for paddling, but scarcer when in came to possible camp sites for tents. I want to go back though, and explore more.

Canoe camping in Salen

In May spring was in full force in Sweden. Warm temperatures and gazing sun made up perfect conditions for a canoe camping trip. While me and C use to go to Tolgasjön, north of Växjö, I decided to try a new lake this time. Lake Salen, 20 km west of Växjö. We drove to a small power station on Helige Å, to put in the canoe. There where a short portage for a couple of hundred meters from the parking lot to the put in spot. This is part of Värendsleden, the canoe route that passes both Tolgasjön and Växjö.

There’s supposed to be trout in this lake, so I brought fishing gear and bought a one day fishing permit.

The initial paddling through Helige Å was beautiful. I’ll like to paddle more in rivers, but find it too much of a project to find people to pick up us and the canoe down stream. And paddling solo upstream can be too strenuous.

After a very short paddle in Helige Å we came out in Salen. The small town Alvesta borders the lake, which means a lot of people on the lake. With weather like this, and travel bans outside of your medical region a lot of people went to the lake. A lot of motor boats and jet skis drove across the lake as we paddled.

Through a local outdoor forum on Facebook I’d learned of a campsite on one of the islands. We paddled there right away so we wouldn’t have to search for a campsite later in the day when we’d be more tired.

We found one site that was quite nice, but a guy with a kid where there with their boat, so we kept paddling. On the west side of the island we found an even better campsite. There where room for the tent right next to the rocks where we had the canoe, or a short walk up to a rock on higher grounds, with better views.

C got to decide where to put up our camp, and she chose the high grounds. We put up our camp and made a lunch of Krabbelurer (a sort of fluffy sugary pancake). After lunch we paddled around the lake, fishing a bit and looking at the neighboring islands to look for potential campsites for future trips.

I have a list on google maps where I store all the good campsites I come across, even though I’m not camping there that time. As of now I have 60+ campsites on my list. Most of them close to home and many of them are only accessible with the canoe.

We didn’t get any fish, which isn’t surprising. I’m not much of a fisher man, and the middle of the day is the worst time to be fishing. But I mostly brought the fishing gear for fun, as C likes to reel in the lure.

We went back to our camp only to discover that black ants had infested it. In the very small gap between the zippers they had been able to enter the inner tent, and the sleeping pad and sleeping mats where covered in ants.

I shook out all the gear, and decided to move the camp down to the canoe instead. Down there we put up the hammock and made reindeer stew with mashed potatoes for dinner.

After dinner it was time for some quality chillaxing in the hammock. It didn’t last too long though, as 4 guys in their 20:th came up with their motor boats and jet skis, and decided to get to shore 10 meter from us. When they finally had managed to get to shore they went up the hill to drink some beer. It was evening, and I feared that they would be loud and long lasting. Not the kind of relaxing evening with my 4 year old that I had looked forward to.

Fortunately they where calm, and after an hour or so they left. They played around with the jet ski outside the island for a while, and then left.

With weather this nice we slept with the tent door open. During the night it started to rain though, so I got up and closed the door.

When morning came the weather was fine again, and we had breakfast before packing down our camp. We didn’t do any more exploring that morning, but just paddled straight back to the car after breakfast.

It was nice to try a new lake, but the proximity to a town made it too crowded for my liking. Asasjön and Tolgasjön where we usually paddle is a rural area with less people. We probably won’t camp here again, but I’d like to come back to do some trout fishing.

Second canoe camping trip of 2020

I’m way behind in writing trip reports, but here comes a report from my trip in April with C.

We have found our perfect lake to paddle and camp by, so as usual we drove north of Växjö to our designated putin.

Weather was great, but we paddled straight to “our“ island, as that’s what C wanted. When we arrived I set up our camp, and quickly got the hammock up. The hammock has turned out to be an essential piece of gear while camping with C, and we both really enjoy just hanging out and munching on all of our good food.

For the first time ever I was going to fry pancakes for lunch. I’ve never done it on a camping stove before, and I had a home made mix with powdered eggs and powdered milk. It didn’t work out good at all. It mostly turned out to be either a burnt mess, or a raw mess. But at least I tried (I altered the recipe for the next trip, and that worked great. So practice gives results).

During the afternoon we paddled to the cape where I filmed my canoe movie last year. There’s a mini island just outside the cape, and we paddled to check it out. When we rounded it we found a Canada goose nesting on it, so we quickly left to let it be alone. The lake has a lot of Canada geese, and we had seen both nests, eggs and eggshells.

We paddled back to the island and got started with dinner. On our menu was falafel with couscous and Ajvar. I used a premade falafel mix, mixed with water and fried it in a generous amount of olive oil. The meal was really good, and easy to make.

After dinner we got back to hanging out in the hammock, before it was time to get to sleep. I had a plan to stay awake and watch the stars with C, but I was too tired. I have insomnia, but when I’m tucked in it’s still hard to get out of the warm cozy quilt to get outside.

Next morning we set up the hammock again, on another spot, to be able to warm up in the morning sun. I boiled water for coffee and hot coco, to rinse down the tortillas and varieties of cheeses and salamis.

After breakfast we spend a while just relaxing in the hammock, looking and the birds and enjoying the sounds of small waves crashing against the shore.

Eventually we had to get back home, and packed down our camp. The canoe got loaded up again, and we headed back towards the car. This time we had a lot less wind than last time, and had no problem getting back. We had the lake mostly to our selfs this time, but with all the Corona related travel restrictions abroad I suspect finding a campsites this summer will be harder.

First canoe camping trip of 2020

In late March it was finally time put the canoe in the water for the first time this season. I had really longed to get back into the lakes, and the weather reports looked promising.

The lake was like a mirror when we first set off

I took C with me to our usual spot at Tolgasjön, loaded up the canoe and set off. I had planned to paddle to the northern parts of the lake, and check out the narrow passage between Asasjön and Tolgasjön.

C tried to grab reeds as we passed through the passage

We found it, but when we had paddled for a while dark clouds formed ahead of us, and we turned back. We paddled to a small island in the northern parts of Tolgasjön. We have camped here before, and it’s a nice spot.

We set up our camp, hung up the hammock, and had lunch. The rest of the day we mostly just hung out in the hammock and enjoyed the serenity of nature.

The Trangia stove set really isn’t UL, but there something nostalgic about it that just makes me want to use it.

For dinner we had macaronis and meat sauce. I’ve started to use my Trangia 27 HA stove set again. For hiking I prefer my Storminstove set, but I really like the Trangia. It might come down to nostalgia, from using it as a kid, but it is great for more advanced outdoor cooking. I made quite easy meals on this trip, but I have started to experiment with more recipes.

We went to bed, and once again I praised my Exped Duo mat LW. I sleep a lot better now that I don’t have to wrestle with C for space on my narrow HL mat.

We woke up to a sunny, but windy morning, and had a breakfast of tortillas, different cheeses and mini salamis.

We packed up camp and left the island. Unfortunately we had a strong head wind, and the canoe rocked quite a bit. C got really scared, so I decided to get to shore closer to the island, and the walk back to the car instead.

I walked along the shore, and at first there was a trail. But the terrain got more and more rough, and eventually I had to carry C. Finally I tripped on a stick, and while trying to fall in a way that kept C safe I twisted my knee. I could walk back to the car, and we drove back to the canoe to pick it up. When I picked it up I hurt my back. I felt like a broken old man on my way back home.

It was a nice first trip first trip, despite the back pain, and having to walk with a limp for a couple of weeks. And we got back to the island only a couple of weeks later.

Day trip with the canoe

Spring (summer?) came quickly here in southern Sweden. While the temperatures still drop below freezing on occasional nights, the day time temperature rise to above 20° C. I’ve been waiting for a chance to take the canoe out for a paddle, and last  weekend I put it in the water for the first time of 2019.

All of the family, except my oldest daughter, joined me, and we drove to Tolgasjön. Near the peninsula where I’ve been camping with C the last few times, there’s a perfect parking spot, wide enough for a few cars. We parked there, walked out to the far end of the peninsula to make some coffee before we put the canoe in the water.

The farmers had been fertilizing their fields, so every time there was a breeze, the air was filled with the sour smell of what I think was pigs manure. Other than that, it was perfect.

The weather was warm and sunny, and most of the times we only had a slight breeze. Perfect paddling weather.

We paddled to an island in the lake, where C and I had camped in November last year. It was almost dinner time, but when we walked up to the nice sunny area where we planned to lay out the cellfoam mats and make dinner, a Canada goose started yelling. It stood up, trying to look big, and shrieked endlessly. Another goose flew in too. We saw that it had a nest with eggs in it, so we decided to move away, and make dinner further away from in. It calmed down, but kept looking at us.

The rest of the afternoon we did as little as possible. The kids played by themselves most of the times, and enjoyed the simple pleasures of throwing sticks and stones in the water. Maria, my wife, rolled out the sleeping mat on a cliff an dozed off in the sun, while I hung up the hammock between two trees next to the kids and relaxed in the sun.

We had a really relaxing time. Apart from the occasional airplane passing above us, we didn’t here much man-made sounds. The wind blew through the trees, but when it died down it was absolutely quite. When you live in the city, where there’s constant sounds of traffic, dogs, sirens, music and people, getting out in nature and get this sort of tranquility is really remedy for the soul.

Eventually it was time to pack up though. I would have loved to stay overnight, but this was only a day trip.

We made coffee one last time, before we put on our life vests and packed the canoe again. We slowly paddled back towards the car, on the calm beautiful lake.

It was a nice day trip, and I’m really glad I bought a canoe. It makes it so much easier to find secluded beautiful spots near home. Småland is littered with lakes, filled with small islands like this, perfect for short getaways.

We’ll see when I’ll get out on a canoe camping trip again. But I’d really like to get out on a trip again soon.

Canoe camping in July

Me and the family have been on a road trip through Europe the last two weeks, and got back home on Tuesday morning. It was a nice trips, where we stayed in Venice for two nights and then spent a lot of time in Croatia.

I loved the sun and the crystal clear water of the Adriatic Sea, but soon I started to miss the forests and the dark lakes of Sweden.

So when we got back home I went on a short overnight canoe trip.

There is a 120 km canoe route, called Värendsleden that passes through Växjö and I decided to explore the northern parts of it. It starts in Asa, in the northern end of Asasjön, but I drove to Åby at the northern end of Helgasjön, and paddled north from there.

I came to the canal lock that separates the lakes Helgasjön and Skavenäsasjön, parked the car and put the canoe in the water. A German family pulled up from the lake just as I was about to enter.

I paddled north, and in the beginning I had houses on both sides, as I paddled through Åby. But it’s a small village, and soon there was forest on both sides.

I followed the shoreline and once in a while stopped to look for suitable camp grounds. Not because I planned to stop right away, but as a reference for future trips. I started a list on Google maps earlier this year, where I save all the possible campsites that I find.

My goal was the island Ferön in Tolgasjön. Despite knowing about the the canoe route, I didn’t know this place actually was so popular for canoing. During my short trip I saw a lot of canoes on the lake, and many in groups of three or four canoes.

I found one of the designated campsites, and checked it out. There was a lean-to shelter and a fireplace next to a large field. At first I thought the field wasn’t part of the campsite, but then I spotted a fireplace with benches in the middle, and in the far end of the field there was a water tap, trash bins and outhouses. It was enough room for tents to house a small festival. I prefer more secluded places though, and continued.

I didn’t make it all the way up to Ferön, but decided to stop at a cape south of the island. The cape had very old oak trees and pine trees scattered across it, with bushes and small trees on the shores that gave privacy and a lot of flat grounds for the tent. With such a perfect place I just had to stop.

I set up the tent, inflated my sleeping mat and puffed up my quilt. This time I decided to go with my Wind Hard Tiny quilt, as it was very warm outside. It worked perfectly as a summer quilt. I also found two trees that was suitable for setting up the hammock.

When everything was set up, I made lunch and then I just chilled in camp. Sunbathing on the sleeping mat, or chillaxing in the hammock. A boat with a seemingly nude couple headed towards the cape, but when they spotted my camp they turned back again.

(The current fire ban didn’t include camping stoves at the time, but I did soak the ground in water before I used it. Since then the authorities have issued an extended fire ban, which includes camping stoves too.)

I thought about going for a paddle later in the afternoon and evening, but it was so nice to just relax in camp.

The weather got worse in the late afternoon though, and soon the sky was more or less covered in clouds. I made dinner, and then laid in the hammock reading War and Peace on my phone. Apparently I had already read all the books on my eBook reader. Some of the twice.

In the evening the skies cleared up, and the weather was beautiful again, albeit a bit chilly. A boat with a couple of guys anchored just off the cape and spent a couple of hours fishing. They didn’t disturb the peace at all. What did disturb the peace though was the guys running circles on their Jetski a few hundred meters south of my camp. Sounds travel far across the lake, and they just kept at it for a long time. But I don’t have any exclusive right to access the wilderness, so I guess I shouldn’t be annoyed. And eventually they quit and the lake was calm and silent again.

I thought about watching a movie or series on Netflix before I went to bed, but I was too tired and went straight to bed instead. I didn’t sleep too well though, as I have trouble sleeping where ever I am.

The next morning I woke up to clear skies. This was my first solo trip since my winter hike in Stora Mosse in March. I love to bring C along, but I also really value the solitude and the time to just put the brain on pause. I didn’t want to leave the lake, as it was so nice to just chill there.

I made breakfast, and left the camp to explore the lake north of the cape. I found another somewhat suitable campsite, and then paddled to Ferön. There where a bunch of canoes and a lot of tents there, as one or more of the groups that had passed me had set up camp there last night. The island seemed to be great for camping, and I’ll come back here to camp there sometime in the future.

I paddled back to my camp and then took a swim, and packed up. I hesitated to leave, so I took another swim and made lunch before I paddled back. I tried to use my hammock as a sail, but there wasn’t enough wind so it ended up in the lake instead.

I got back to the parking lot, put the canoe on the roof of the car and drove back home.

As for the canoe I’m considering saving up for a different canoe. I’m not too pleased with this one for solo use (and paddling with C is almost like solo use). It’s great for family trips, but it was a lot heavier than advertised by the seller so I didn’t save as much weight as expected when I bought it. Despite being lighter than the old 45kg canoe, and easier to handle with the carrying yoke, I still deem it too heavy for solo use.

I’m still considering the Esker Wood Ki Chi Saga or a Bergans Ally. The Ally has the benefit of being easy to store, and easy to fix if something breaks on a trips. It’s also a lot cheaper than the Saga, since they use to go for around 1000€ in the end of the season. The Saga still ticks all of my boxes though, but it’s too expensive for me. But I still have a picture of it taped on the inside of my bathroom locker (with a list of my goals for visualization ).

In conclusion I had a great trip. The weather we’re having now is perfect for canoe camping trips.

Family daytrip with the canoe

This year the spring has been better than in a long time. I don’t think I even remember such  warm sunny spring as this.

Almost the entire May the weather has been sunny, with temperatures around 25-30°C. It has only rained on a couple of occasions last month, despite us living in one of the rainiest cities in the country.

Me and my wife decided to go on a canoe trip on the nearby lake Helgasjön. We wanted to be close to water, but do something more than just to lay on the beach. We even got our thirteen year old to join us, which we where happy about.

We drove to Helgö/Jägaregap, where I’ve parked before on the canoe trips I made in September and October last year. When we arrived another family just left the beach in their canoe.

I got the canoe off the roof of the car, we packed it with our food and then left Helgö. My wife sat in the front, I sat in the back and our daughters sat in the middle.

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It was quite windy,  and the waves rocked the canoe a bit. The lake was also filled with motorboats, sailboats and jetskis that created even larger waves as they passed us.

Our destination was Ramsö, where I had camped in October. I knew that there was a small beach in a cove, and we hoped that it wouldn’t be occupied.

As we closed in, we saw a boat slow down, and then leave after a couple of minutes. When we where close enough to see the beach we saw that three girls where already at the beach. We decided to paddle around the island and search for another beach, but we circled the entire island with no luck. Eventually we decided to invade the beach anyways.

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We landed the canoe on one side of the beach and put out our picnic blanket and our food. We started to chat with the girls, and they told us that they had been dropped off earlier, and the guys in the boat where fishing somewhere north of the island.

We had a lunch of baguettes, cream cheeses and cherry tomatoes. Kind of our standard picnic food when we’re too lazy to make real food to bring.

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After a while the boat came back with three guys, and they tied the boat to a tree nearby.

The water was pretty cold, so we didn’t swim, but we did bathe our feet and legs a bit. C was the only one brave enough to dip.

We stayed there for a little more than an hour, and then decided to paddle back, as we had some chores to do. On the way back the soothing waves rocked C to sleep, and she slept in her big sisters arms.

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It was a short but nice trip. The weather is great for canoeing, and I’m glad that both my wife and my oldest daughter joined me.

First canoe camping trip

A few weeks ago I finally took the plunge and bought a canoe. As I’ve written before I have a crush on the Esker Wood Ki Chi Saga. I think that it’s a work of art, and I really want to buy one in the future. I’ve also thought about buying a Bergans Ally, a foldable canoe, since I hardly have room to store a canoe at home, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

But to be able to get out right away I bought a cheep used fiberglass canoe. It’s heavy, and doesn’t look nearly as good as the Esker Wood, but I was able to buy it right away and it will get me out paddling until I can buy a better canoe.

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First time with my canoe, with the island Lilla Jägareås in the middle of the photo

Last weekend I took it on a trip for the first time. I drove out to Helgö in Helgasjön, where I’ve camped a lot of times before. I put the canoe in the lake on the eastern shore of Helgö, near the parking lot at the edge of Jägaregap nature reserve.

Getting the canoe up on the roof of my car by me self was an adventure on it’s own. But I was able to get it both up and down without damaging the canoe or my car.

At Helgö I put the canoe in the water and packed it with my gear. I had heavier gear than when I’m hiking, with firewood and a lot more food. I might as well, since I wasn’t going to carry it.

I didn’t know how good I’d be at paddling by my self, but I had watched a lot of YouTube clips before I went out, and used the J-stroke to be able to paddle straight.

It was really nice to get out paddling, even thought the weather wasn’t great. Skies where covered in clouds, and eventually it started to rain slightly.

I paddled along the eastern shore of Helgö / Jägaregap, and passed the cape where Corinne and I had camped with the Outdoor life Växjö Facebook group.

Jägaregap nature reserve continues past the cape, on a long narrow island called Lilla Jägareås. I passed the island on the eastern side and reached the northern shore of Helgasjön on the cove Skräddareluckan. This was where I had camped in January, and I had planned to set up camp here now too.

I couldn’t find it at first, since I had walked on foot from the opposite direction last time, but eventually I got to the right place.

In January, when it was -10°C to -19°C, without leafs on the trees, the place was beautiful. In September, on a wet rainy afternoon, not so much. Everything was wet, and the dense vegetation would make it a condensation nightmare. Not the best if you’re using a single wall tent.

I got back in the canoe and paddled on. I kept paddling east along the northern shore of the lake, and eventually I came upon a small beach, with a fire ring and lots of flat grass covered ground to pitch my tent on.

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My camp on Ferön

But just before I got to shore I looked towards the island Ferön, east of the beach. It looked like there was a campsite there, with a nice open area to pitch a tent on. I’d rather sleep on an island than on a public beach, even though no one would be there, so I took aim for Ferön.

On Ferön I found a fire ring and a few logs to sit on. There was a nice place to set up my tent too. I had bought a Tentipi Olivin recently, and this was the first time I used it.

I set up the tent and started a fire. I had brought fire wood from home, so starting a fire was easy, despite everything being wet around me. But once the fire was going I collected some more firewood from the fallen trees in the forest.

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Dinner with a view

I started to make dinner, and I had brought Bifteki that I fried in a pan. I fried a Somun bread too, and filled it with Ajvar, cream fraise and Bifteki. I’m glad no one was with me, because I didn’t look pretty when I devoured it, but it was really delicious.

I kept collecting firewood and sat by the fire for the rest of the evening. Eventually I went into my tent and laid under my quilt watching a downloaded episode of Narcos on Netflix.

When I laid there, relaxed and at peace, I felt a little tickle on my arm. I saw something (big!), brushed it off, and saw it laying on my CCF-mat. At first I couldn’t figure out what it was, but then I saw that it was a European Garden Spider. To me it looked huge and I killed it with a mad frenzy. As I’ve written before I have a bug phobia. I thought I had gotten past it but apparently not. I kept looking at it and I started to feel tickles all over my body. I used my head lamp to search through the entire tent to make sure nothing else was crawling around near my sleeping mat.

I’m not proud of it, but for a while there I thought about packing up and paddle back home. Or to stay up by the fire for the rest of the night. But then I pulled my self together. If I was to cave in now, I might never get rid of my phobia. And I thought of all the bushcrafters who sleep under a tarp in these woods, and of Ashely Hill, who even sleeps in the desert without a bivy or a bug net, and thought to my self that I really had nothing to worry about. And it worked. I slept soundly throughout the night.

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Breakfast for champions

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Making breakfast

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My Tentipi Olivin

The next morning I stayed in bed for a long time before I finally got up. When I got up I chopped up a piece of birch that I had brought from home and started the fire again. I made bacon and eggs, and ate the last Somun bread with it.

Once I had eaten I let the fire die down while I packed up my gear. I put out the rest of the fire with water from the lake, packed the canoe and headed back home again.

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Going back home

It was a great trip. I really liked canoe camping. You can pack heavier items without reducing comfort, and it’s really nice to be out on a lake and to be able to camp on an island that you’re alone on.

When it comes to gear I used the Aegismax Wind Hard Tiny quilt that I wrote about in my Ultralight and ultracheap post. I bought for my family, but I wanted to try it by my self, and it was warm an cozy enough for a September trip. I think they’re well worth the money. I also used the Tentipi Olivin for the first time. I really liked it. It’s heavier than my Ultamid, but it has a really nice venting system, I like the snow mats and I like the possibility to use a fire inside (with caution off course). I guess it doesn’t make sense to keep both the Ultamid and the Olivin, so I might end up selling one of them. My wife just rolls her eyes when she hears me talking about a new tent 😄.

When it comes to the canoe, I have mixed feelings. I like the fact that it is a canoe, and that it’s my canoe. But I think it’s too heavy since I’ll be using it by my self most of the times. And to be honest, I don’t really have enough room at home to store it well. But we’ll see what the future brings. I’ll buy either a Bergans Ally or an Esker Wood canoe.