“The Wilderness holds more answers to questions than we have yet learned to ask.” Nancy Wynne Newhall
I never used to be much of a ‘wilderness’ girl. Growing up I had a tent for a bit, but I would set it up in our playroom and sleep in it indoors. My first ‘real’ camping experience wasn’t until high school when Dan insisted we try it. (He’s an Eagle Scout with lots of experience in nature.)
That first time camping together was fun. There were smores, after all. But I also remember it being freezing and having to trek out into the woods for a bathroom break in the middle of the night. Eh.
Since then we’ve gone camping and backpacking too many times to count, and each time the activity has started to grow on me more and more. But none of these trips prepared me for what it would be like to venture into Sweden’s Arctic Lapland.
This was truly an adventure into what can only be described as the wild. And it was absolutely spectacular.
An Arctic Adventure in Swedish Lapland—
Our venture into the wilderness began when Mikael, the owner of Aurora Retreat, stopped on the side of the road in The Middle of Nowhere, Lapland.
“From here, you ski,” Mikael grinned at us. “The lodge is only accessible via foot or snowmobile.”
Our group consisted of Dan and I, three lovely new friends from the UK, and Leif, our wilderness guide. Eager to take on the unknown, we strapped on our traditional wooden skis and got ready to cover the short distance to our cabin.
The day before we had had our first encounter with the traditional wooden skis. Awkwardly long and coated with resin on the bottom, they felt surprisingly different from the downhill style we had used before. Of course, the novelty of the skis was also half the fun. We started out on flat terrains, traversing through the forest and getting a feel for the way we should slide the skis back and forth while working the poles for support. Cross-country skiing is certainly a great workout—even when you are as novice or slow going as we are, you still feel that burn in your thighs and arms.
As we began our trek to the cabin, we naturally fell in line, one behind the other. We didn’t talk much in the beginning—there was too much beauty to occupy our attention. Miles of pristine snow surrounded us on all sides. Our ski marks formed the only indentation in the blank white canvas, save for the clear animal tracks that prove life does thrive in the arctic forest. The complete and total silence was striking; the only sound the slight swooshing of our skis over the crunchy snow. And each deep breath we took proved more invigorating than the last, its refreshing coolness fighting off any last bit of slumber in our bodies.
If I had to create the perfect nature guide out of the musings of my own imagination (and probably more likely from what cinema has taught me), I’m quite confident that the result would be Leif himself. Everything about him says wilderness, from his winter bibbers to his beard to his quiet and calm demeanor. When he pauses to teach us about the animal tracks or plant life we stumble upon, it is with careful consideration. His voice is deep and serious, but with a spark of humor to it. You can tell when he is about to say something funny or sarcastic from the sparkle in his eye. Leif also has a penchant for cake, able to pull it out from nowhere at the most perfect of times. From the get-go we knew we could trust him with our lives. And when you’re in the backwoods of the Arctic Circle, that’s a very good thing.
After a few hours, a few hills, and only a fall here or there, we arrived at the wilderness cabin. It was so much more than we had hoped for. Perched upon the banks of a frozen river, the camp has commanding views of the surrounding forest and winter landscape. There might not be any electricity or running water, but there is a cozy common room, private sleeping nooks, and a traditional sauna- a necessity for any Lappish home.
In the afternoon we split up to leisurely pursue the activities of our choosing. Jonny, Colin and Anwen opted for another ski, while Dan and I happily dozed in front of the fire. Normally during any down time you would find us glued to our computers, catching up on whatever blogging tasks we are behind on at any given moment. But of course that’s not an option on our wilderness adventure. And we certainly weren’t complaining about having to disconnect.
Before the sun went down we tried our hand at chopping firewood for our personal furnaces. The task quickly became a competition of ‘who can most accurately split the wood in half’. The end result was a surplus of wood, not all of it well proportioned, and a lot of laughter. We also made the quick walk to the river to collect a few buckets of water for our sauna later that evening. While they might sound like burdens, we quickly took to these small chores, enjoying the simplicity in the tasks. And when we returned to warm cabins later that evening, with awareness of the source of the heat and what it took to create it, we appreciated the warmth like never before.
For no electricity we ate surprisingly well in the wilderness; Mikael and his wife, Maya, are fabulous chefs. The food is primarily local produce and vegetarian based, a difficult task when you live in one of the harshest environments on the planet, and most of it is pre-prepared for our convenience. We began our first night with a bit of champagne, to ‘Cheers’ the first successful day of our wilderness outing. In the middle of our chatting, a surprise visitor showed up. It was Mikael, of course. He passed around handcrafted wooden cups, enquiring as to if we would like coffee or tea. We were required to choose one- he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. And it’s a good thing he didn’t. Before we could realize what Mikael was up to, a familiar ‘pop’ rang out in the air. It wasn’t a hot beverage after all, but more celebratory champagne. Mikael remembered it was Dan’s 25th birthday, and he had brought a sweet surprise to top off an already amazing day.
The rest of the bubbly finished, we decided it was time to look for the Northern Lights. We walked down to the river and took our places on a natural ‘snow couch’. We sat on reindeer skins, holding warm cups of hot chocolate in our hands, awaiting what we hoped would be another magical display. Thousands of stars glistened above us, but after 30 minutes of waiting, still no sign of the lights. Nearly frozen to the core we stood up to leave, knowing we had two more nights in the wild to try to see them. But then, as if on cue, the first haze began. The Aurora made its appearance, slowly filling the blackness around us.
When the lights finished their show, we returned to the lodge to seek warmth. It was now nearly midnight, but we had one more event on the schedule before calling it a night: that steamy sauna we had prepared earlier.
It was hard to believe that this was only day 1 of our four day excursion. With a blanket of solitude we did eventually drift off to sleep that night, anticipating the adventure that awaited on our doorstep the following morning.
We didn’t think it could get any better than that first day. But it did.
This is Part 1 of a story about our wilderness adventure with Aurora Retreat. Read Part 2 here!
Have you ever been on a wilderness outing? Have you ever tried cross-country skiing? Share your thoughts about the first post in the series below!
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll LOVE:
The Streets of Stockholm: A Photo Essay
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The Northern Lights: Everything You Need to Know About Seeing the Aurora
This trip wouldn’t have been possible without Aurora Retreat kindly hosting us. As always, all thoughts and opinions remain our own.
Wow, wow, wow – can’t wait to read what happened next! This looks like such a beautiful spot. I’ve never been one for skiing (downhill or cross-country), but I ca certainly appreciate this landscape. Gorgeous!
Sam recently posted…Why We Are Planning to Move to Berlin
Thanks Sam!! It was truly amazing. This was my first time cross-country skiing, and I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it since I’m not a huge downhill skier, but I loved it! It’s definitely possible to hang out in the wilderness without skiing in, arriving via snowmobile, if you are ever traveling to Lapland!
What a fabulous adventure! I would love to do something like this. I have never cross country skied before. The cabin looks wonderful. I love staying in places where you have to work to get there to be remote! You definitely meet cool people than if staying to the normal tourist cities.
Angela Travels recently posted…Granite Curling Club – Seattle
Thanks Angela! You would love this if you enjoy traveling to remote places! I couldn’t recommend the experience more :)
The pictures look absolutely stunning. I haven’t experienced skiing in my life so far, but it does look inviting. In fact, I am yet to witness a fully snow-clad landscape. Would love to experience something like you did. Thanks for inspiring!
Renuka recently posted…10 Tips To Prepare For An International Trip
I think this was my first time as well to really experience being surrounded by snow. I’ve been to snowy places, but never quite like this before. It’s definitely a bucket-list activity! Hope you get the chance to try!
It felt like I was there with you guys! So well written! I could see the landscapes, I could hear the snow against the ski, I could see the million stars and feel the heat from the fire!
Such a great post and experience! Can’t wait for part 2!
a Blonde around the World recently posted…7 USEFUL TIPS TO PACK A LIGHTER AND BETTER SUITCASE
Thank you so much!! So glad that you felt like you were there with us :) :) It was hard to put any words to such an amazing experience!
how incredible!! I’m not sure I’m adventurous enough to do something like this but I’m so impressed by this beautiful scenery and incredible adventure! And so jealous of you seeing the lights! Look forward to seeing the next post!
Shikha (whywasteannualleave) recently posted…Orangutan spotting in Borneo Part 2: Shangri La Rasa Ria
Thanks Shikha! It was stunning. And with Leif around, you don’t even have to be all that adventurous :) He makes sure everything is safe and sound. The lights were incredible. We’ll have a whole blog post coming out about those in the near future!
I’m speechless and very jealous that you guys managed to see the Northern Lights, it has been one of my dreams for years now. I just have to make it happen ;)
Franca recently posted…Five Tips & Pics for Rome
I hope you get to see them Franca! It was amazing! We’ll have a whole post about it coming out soon with more details :) If you guys are in Europe, then you aren’t too far from Scandinavia!
Wow, sooo beautiful pics! I’m so proud to be a Swede right now :) I just found your webpage since we are leaving for Taiwan next week and needed some tips – your site is awesome! Thanks for sharing! :)
Thank you!! Sweden is wonderful. And so is Taiwan!! :) Hope you enjoy your trip- let us know if you need any more tips while you are there!
Yes, I wonder what part of Taipei is best to book hotel in? Wich area is best starting point for turist things, shopping and eating out?
And how many days should we plan in Taipei? :)
Taipei is really easy to get around actually, so anywhere in the city that is near a metro station should be pretty good. Somewhere along Zhongxiao / Daan would be good though!
Sounds like pretty tough going to me! Do you have to be pretty fit to be able to do it then? Definitely love a bit of a forced digital detox as well…
Charlie recently posted…4 Films to Watch Before Travelling Vietnam
It actually wasn’t too demanding. I would say as long as you’re in relatively good shape, then you would be fine :) And yes. Digital detoxes are the BEST!
Few pictures from the same place at the same moment :
Amazing photos! It was so great to meet you – hope you enjoyed Aurora Retreat as much as we did! :)
Wow! This looks like quite the wilderness cross-country ski adventure!
Sand In My Suitcase recently posted…Heavenly Halekulani in Honolulu
It was definitely something :)
How fun! Cross country skiing is definitely hard work. We go here in Italy as there are a lot of trails. So glad you go to see the Northern Lights too!
Jennifer recently posted…5 Best iPhone Photo Editing Apps
Italy sounds like a great place to go skiing, too!!
I was giggling when I was reading about your first camping experiences, setting up your tent indoors. As a fellow city slicker, I did the same thing too! (Though growing up in Canada, I did wind up spending plenty of time in the wilderness as well…)
I have to say, I do not envy you the cross-country skiing one bit, but I am swooning over that picture of the northern lights at the end! Worth it!
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Vientiane: A Capital City Like No Other
Haha glad I’m not the only one that lacked a bit of wilderness skills as a kid! Yes the Northern Lights were so worth it! We loved the skiing too, but awesome either way :)