Kungsleden Trek Part 2 (Singi to Kwikkjokk) and Stockholm, August 9-16 2016

The Singi hut marks the point where those hiking only the popular northern section of the Kungsleden leave the main trail. The number of hikers thins significantly and the whole enterprise feels a bit more remote. Whether because of fewer hikers, or even vaster open spaces (photos 1-2), on the second half of our trek we saw many more reindeer (photo 3) -- typically several good-sized groups each day. Also the trail conditions seemed slightly easier in parts, perhaps due to less erosion from hikers, although rockiness, mud, and boardwalks still ruled the day. By this point many hikers were nursing foot problems of one type or another, some needing to cut short their trek; for whatever reason, the three of us were blissfully immune.

We took a second mountain side trip, to the smaller but distinctly shaped Skierfe (photo 4), sacred to the local Sami people. Weather was better than when we scaled Kebnekaise, with beautiful views from the top (photo 5). In general on the trek we had typical mountain weather: an unpredictable and rapidly-changing mix of sun, gray skies, and rain. Over our nearly two weeks the temperatures began to drop in anticipation of arctic fall, with the welcome effect of reducing the number of mosquitoes. (Early days had notable swarms, with a few hikers even sporting mosquito head-nets.) Even in mid-August we had nearly 24 hours of daylight, handy for hiking and hut life.

The trail was generally very well marked, with signposts at intersections and frequent red dots on rocks or trees. Only once did we make a real mistake: We passed a sign pointing to a small side trail saying, simply, "Bro". None of us were feeling particularly brotherly, so we plodded straight on. It was quite a long way before we came to a wide, rapidly-flowing river, and it dawned on us that "bro" is Swedish for bridge. We ended up fording the river with an Australian friend who had made the same mistake.

While the first half of our route was unbroken, the second half required one short bus ride (eagerly awaited in photo 6), and several motorboats. The motorboat rides incurred hefty charges, although rowing for free was always an option, as demonstrated by the pair of Latvian hikers in photo 7.

One of the real pleasures in multi-day trekking is getting to know other hikers on the same route, although timing usually diverges after a few days. Remember from the Kungsleden Part 1 travelogue how we planned some double hiking legs, and how the Swedish Tourist Association guarantees an overnight roof over every member's head? We can only imagine how the Dutch family of four tucked away in a cozy room with two bunk beds felt when, at 8:00 PM on a rainy evening, they were informed that a wet and muddy American family of three would be joining them. Their two 17-year-old boys and Emily were scrunched on the floor while the adults got the four bunks. It sounds unpleasant, but luckily that particular hut had a small shop -- we bought beer for everyone, conversation flowed, and by the end of the next night (when we all had our own beds) the two families were fast friends. We also became good friends with a German fellow who's made a life of thru-hiking and was a fount of information. Hikers we met hailed from Sweden (of course), Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, France, England, Scotland, Latvia, Australia, and Canada.

Our eleven hiking days came to an end at the Kvikkjokk Mountain Station, where we enjoyed a celebratory big dinner, a private room -- still no private bathroom though -- and a typically extensive Swedish breakfast. (Emily declared Stockholm's hotel breakfast to be the best she's had anywhere, and she's been around!) From Kvikkjokk, a carefully orchestrated full day of transportation, including bus, train, and plane, brought us back to Stockholm. With one day to explore the city (photo 8), we just walked around its many islands and neighborhoods, timing our pass by the Royal Palace to see the elaborate changing of the guard (photo 9), complete with brass band on horseback (photo 10). At our plane change in Munich Alex and Jennifer bid goodbye to Emily, headed back to Boston for college year two, while Alex and Jennifer returned home to prepare for further summer adventures.

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