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Jun
28

Get Off Your Giant Ass!!!!!

Let’s Get Off Our Asses People, Let’s Get out of our heads too, it’s time to recharge and there’s no better place to do this than Norway. You heard me right, Norway. And it goes like this: Read the story, see yourself in the pictures, envision how you will feel, how your ass will look (like Pippa’s perhaps) and then book yourself an incredibly cheap flight to Oslo.

summer hikes

summer hikes

Most of us think of one thing when it comes to vacations: Sitting on our asses.  Next: Eating. Next: Drinking with a healthy dose of premature aging.

Whatever happened to adventure? To sports? To challenging yourself with all that nature has to offer?

I got one word for you: Norway.

Norway in the summer is  pristine clean, cool, and stunningly active. Here they know they know what they’ve got and they’re out to maximize their use of it.  In May when the ice finally melts away, Norwegians jump on summer with a passion that will blow your mind.

Because of the nation’s open air, or allemansretten, act, passed in 1957, public access is guaranteed to all wilderness areas even on private land allowing everyone the right to hike, walk, climb, run, kayak the dramatic landscape of steep mountains, fjords and clear waters. But you can forget Disneyland crowds here, the Alps have those, here the reindeer rule.

summer fjord

summer fjord

The most distinctive hiking in all of Norway is found in the south-central part of the country, about 100-miles west of Oslo where moors and highlands, and boulder-strewn fields drop into glacier-fed rivers, and snow-flanked peaks and shimmering pools stretch high into the bright blue sky. Here you will begin your spa day.

national park

national park

Watching them over a cup of coffee in the cool mornings, are you feeling any better yet?

reindeer

reindeer

Mornings in Hardangervidda often start sunny but by midmorning,  metallic-gray clouds roll in from the west, casting a monochrome glow over the landscape. Here there is no threat of overheating,  in these summer months of special northern light, nature is kind. The national park makes up one-third of the Hardanger plateau, a 3,860- square-mile wilderness (four-fifths the size of Connecticut) atop one of Europe’s largest high mountain plateaus that is home to thousands of wild reindeer.

hut to hut camping

hut to hut camping

Thank God, Norwegians don’t always believe in roughing it, because popping a tent and eating freeze-dried food while freezing is no picnic. It is very well-organized here, There are about 400 mountain cabins sprinkled throughout national parks and wilderness areas. The cabins, known as turisthytter, vary from rustic mountain refuges with grass-covered roofs to grand timber-sided lodges sleeping up to 200. The huts provide a hot dinner and breakfast and a room to hikers at great rates ($45 a night).

This incredibly smart Norwegian hut system makes it so hikers and climbers are no longer bogged down by all the weight of actual tent camping. No more pots and pans, food and tents on your back, here you can exit your hut after a warm breakfast and walk through the woods with nothing but a light pack.

super cool huts

super cool huts

Huts are most often spaced a four-to-seven-hour walk apart.  Guests pay by credit card by signing a bill before embarking to the next hut. Food is purchased from the hut’s communal pantry by the honor code.

Depending the kind of experience you want, meals can vary from self-serve foods to multi-course dinners of asparagus soup, mountain trout and cake. Breakfasts range from muesli to cured meats and the local goat cheese, a Norwegian specialty with a distinctive brown shade and silky caramel taste.

The difference between this and the Alps is that this is a pure experience. Instead of drunken evenings before a roaring fire stoked by employees, here trekkers are quiet, appreciate and at night, tired. Showers and electricity are rare, and there are not jets, but the treats that come along will stick in your mind forever.

Huts

huts

An example from one hiker: “On the third day of a trek, after eight hours on the trail, we reached our destination at the Hadlaskard hut – a slate-gray house on the banks of a mountain stream – and dropped our packs to the scent of freshly baked bread prepared by the hut’s caretaker.”

One of the most popular treks is the four-day trek on the Hardangervidda aimed to take in the 62-mile Hardangerfjord and the 5,500-foot Harteigen. The trek goes through the roadless village of Finse, a collection of timber lodges on a shimmering lake 4,000 feet above sea level north of the park.

Finse

finse

finse

Finse is a popular jumping-off point for hikers, bikers and cross-country skiers, who come to ski well into June on the nearby Hardangerjokulen glacier. Even in summer, temperatures can dip to near freezing at night, though comfortably warm up to the 70′s during the day.

From June through August, this outpost buzzes with hikers and cyclists. If you want to spend, stay at the Finse 1222 hotel, a 44-room establishment with a sauna, disco and a Turkish steam bath. For the group of hikers who just want a hut, Finsehytta is the place to stay.

seltuft kafe

seltuft kafe

The system of hikes and lodges at the end of the road continues, walk out the front door of your hut at Finsehytta’s doorstep, trek for eight hours then reach your destination: The Rembedalseter hut. This 18-bed single-story cabin sat in a notch at the base of a glacier where Volkswagen-size ice blocks spilled down the mountainside in a cascade of massive ice steps. The next morning, on the hike away from Rembedalseter, you’ll feel like Indiana Jones when you cross a narrow suspension bridge high above a torrent of ice-blue water pouring from the melting glaciers.

The majesty of Norway’s fjords is best seen on foot, not from the decks of cruise ships. Nearly all of this natural bounty is left largely untracked and you will be hard-pressed to find Americans, which is a good thing sometimes.

summer kayaking fjords

summer kayaking fjords

On the second day, during the course of a six-hour walk through fields sprinkled with lichen-covered rocks and alpine grasses, our only social interaction came when a Norwegian hiker with oak-size thighs surged by us on an uphill stretch of trail. We exchanged pleasantries that would be emblematic of our time on the Hardangervidda.


Getting There:

1. Book a cheap flight to: Oslo International Airport

2. Express trains connect the airport with Oslo Central Station; the journey takes 22 minutes and costs $25 (at 6.5 kroner to the dollar).

3. Travel to Finse on Norwegian Rail, www.nsb.no, takes 4 hours 15 minutes and costs $75.

Where to Stay:

The Norwegian Mountaineering Association (DNT) huts supply room and board at a modest cost (from $45 a night with two meals; from $21 for just a mattress).

The Hiking

Trails in the Hardangervidda are well marked and accessible to hikers who are fit. The terrain is mainly rolling with modest grades. Maps can be bought from the DNT, and DNT guides lead outfitted trips; five days with a guide start about $420.

Fishing:

Norway’s freshwater streams are renowned for their salmon and trout while the seas off the coast have traditionally provided enough cod and mackerel to satisfy most of the nation’s population.  Tips on fishing in and around the Norwegian fjords are provided by the Bergen Sportsfiskere (Bergen Angling Association) and the tourist information offices in Oslo and Bergen. Rural hotels throughout the nation can also give pointers on good spots. For a truly unusual fishing experience, Borton Overseas can arrange treks and accommodations in old-fashioned fishermen’s cottages in the isolated Lofoten Islands. The rustic-looking, fully renovated cottages are adjacent to the sea. Rentals are for 3 days and include bed linens, maid service, boat rentals, and fishing equipment.

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