It was after 9 when I arose to find Lars bustling about. Outside it was almost clear with some billowing clouds around Vuoksákvahta – a cliff face 400 meters in height and the prime eye-catcher of Såmmarlappa – and there was a light southerly wind. I went out to the storage building to get some oatmeal from my provision parcels, which were indeed present and seemed to be in order contents-wise. After a calm breakfast a pair of wanderers came from the north, having spent the night in a tent close by, and after a brief talk they went on their way.
Myself, I poked around in the various sheds to get an overview of which potentially handy items were to be found where, while a high stratum of cloud temporarily dimmed the sun before passing on towards the north. Around lunchtime Lars had finished evacuating and cleaning the warden's room, and was now ready to depart for Tarrekaise. Before he left we went through the to-do list one more time, so that I felt confident about what actually needed doing, what had already been done, and what could wait.
After Lars had left I prepared to go on a short walk, mostly to check out the areas beside Darrhaädno directly south of the cottage, where I had been told that there were some good camping spots to which visitors might be – and had been – directed. Just as I exited the cottage a couple (one Norwegian and one Swede) came from the south, also having camped a short distance away, and we talked a bit before I set out – they would only be pausing outside. It was warm and pleasant and the ground was mostly dry so I walked in my sandals, following a not too well trodden path alongside the river, finding a few excellent campsites on and around a small headland. On the other side of this promontory was a gravel islet the edge of which was just a few steps out, and I walked out on it barefoot. The weather was very beautiful and the views offered were nice indeed, so I remained there for a while.
Back at the cottage the breaking two were still sitting on the bench overlooking Darrhaädno, Goahtnjunjes, Vuoksákvahta, Vuoksák and Gárddevárre. I started rummaging through the warden's room, specifically looking for the name tag all wardens are supposed to wear, but found none. Instead I started bringing in my provisions, and when the others had left I sat down for lunch inside. Suddenly finding myself all alone it settled upon me that this was it – the assignment had now officially started. I moved in my stuff and unpacked a bit, and I also tried out the radio – before the renovation it had been powered by alkaline batteries only and reception had been very poor, but now there is a fully fledged photovoltaic system in place and I could receive a number of channels rather clearly. I set about cleaning the common room and then I went out on a reconnaissance tour up the forest.
Not too far from the trail I found blueberries, and since I had brought a plastic bag along I started picking straight away. There were some mosquitos but the real hassle were the many black flies, so I made a quick run back to the cottage to apply ample propellant to my exposed skin before continuing with the gleaning. This process brought me closer to the path again, and further to the south, but after the first arm of the stream from Såmmárgårsså the vegetation no longer included blueberry shrubs, so I headed home.
I had detected no human presence up along the trail, but at the cottage I found another two foreigners sitting on the bench – and these wanted to stay, and so had the honor of being my first actual guests. What followed was a veritable invasion of people, for in quick succession a Swede, three Frenchmen, a German family of four, two Spaniards, and finally another two Germans arrived – some wanting a bed and some planning to tent, and most wanted to make use of the shop. In between the rushes I found time to manufacture a name tag of my own, so that I could signal my role properly, and when things appeared to have settled down I commenced dinner preparation.
Before I could sit down to eat, however, another camping pair of Swedish origin came, but at 19 I managed to ingest my meal, which was fortified by a large amount of mushrooms and some sausage brought by the German family. A new fellow had also arrived without my noticing it; he had come from Tarraluoppal but walked high up the eastern ridges instead of down in the valley, a choice he was most happy with even though it meant a difficult descent in the end.
It had now started to get cloudy but it was still pretty fair, and I went out into the calm and pleasant evening, talking things over with the German parents and the two Swedes, and soon many of the others also took to going out to Look. There were, however, a good deal of mosquitos and the like in the air, so eventually I returned inside, listening to the radio and having a light evening snack. Once I had ascertained that everyone had gone to bed properly and not left any unguarded candles or the like, I entered my own bunk at 22:30.
When I woke up most of the guests had already arisen, and outside a steady rain was falling from low, dense clouds. The two who had been the first to arrive the day before were also the first to leave, and after my breakfast the rain started to diminish and the clouds were being ripped apart. Following another visit to the shop the German family decided to stay for another night, hoping for better weather the next day. I started removing (packaged) food items left behind by previous wardens from the cupboards, fetched my remaining cartons and then set about organizing my own little pantry, all the while being interrupted by the remaining lone Swede who had suddenly gone quite loquacious. I used two of my eggs to make an omelette for lunch, after which the Swede departed and only the Germans remained.
The weather had now improved much, with a large patch of blue sky and sunlight, so I went out on a little fishing tour at 14. I walked along the path to the "camping headland" – which was much wetter now – aiming to do the first casts on the headland itself. No more had I started moving than an intense shower came into being, and from there on it was back and forth between drizzle, sun, and short but powerful bursts of hard rain. I changed my location several times, and my spinner got stuck in the bottom of the river and/or "seaweed" many more times, but I was always able to get it unstuck after some work.
After an hour or two I finally caught something: a brown trout about a decimeter in length, which is hardly impressive. More importantly, however, was the fact that the fishing rules in the area prohibit the taking of brown trouts the length of which is below 35 cm, so I released it as gently as possible; it seemed fine as it swam off after recovering for a few seconds. Nothing more of note occurred afterwards (except for more heavy showers), so eventually I returned to the cottage, stopping at the boat to ladle out a good deal of accumulated water lest it get too heavy and break free – something which has been known to happen before.
There was a Danish man outside the cottage, but he only wanted to buy some items before continuing, and the Germans reported no visits during the time I was gone either. I fired up the stove in the common room and started making both a pizza and a blueberry cake, and put them into the oven compartment in sequence. It was a bit tricky getting the temperature right, and the center of both food items was a bit dough-like, but the results were well within acceptable limits. I also bestowed a few pieces of both pizza and cake upon the family, and they were apparently well received. Outside there was more sun-rain, and now it was clearing from the west.
The windless evening was fair and beautiful with a great tranquility, and it was wonderful being outside. As I watched a fog sprung from a fairy tale was forming over Vuoksákjåhkå, slowly spreading over the heathland on the other side of Darrhaädno, eventually reaching the river itself; it was a rather otherworldly sight, and the accompanying chill made for a perfect atmosphere. I had my evening snack and listened to the radio, and later on the fog started dissipating. When I went to bed around 22:30 the sky was entirely clear, and I shut all the windows which up until then had been open against the dropping temperatures.
The morning was chilly, calm and overcast; clouds were hanging around Vuoksákvahta and some short showers came and passed. I emptied the trash and recycling bins and manufactured some signs I thought were lacking, and then I packed my small rucksack for a longer fishing tour. A bit of blue was now appearing above, so the Germans had decided to continue, and they did a very good job of cleaning after themselves. Before the clock had struck 10 both they and I had left the building.
There was no one present at or in the cottage when I returned, and from what I could tell no one had been there during the day either, but after just a few minutes a German man arrived. While I prepared to have a "bath" a group of five Swedes also came in; they had flown to Tarraluoppal and would walk through Tarradalen back to Kvikkjokk, which is a somewhat unusual choice. Having welcomed them properly I went (in)to the river for a cleansing while the weather cleared. I had a snack and then returned outside to enjoy the nice afternoon, speaking to some members of the group, and the German saw fit to go for a stroll; it was really quite lovely.
I fried the fish for dinner, only managing to eat about two thirds of it due to its size (it hardly fit in the largest frying pan), but it was a very welcome addition to the otherwise slightly monotone diet imposed by the physical circumstances, and having caught it myself was of course an added spice. After dinner everyone took to doing practically nothing, but at 20 I suddenly caught sight of two figures moving through the bushes on the other side of the river; it does happen that people come to Såmmarlappa that way, making use of the ferry, but it typically only occurs a handful of times per season.
I went out to meet them with a glass of lemonade for them each, learning that they were German youngsters who had come from Staddajåkkå via Råvejávrre, trying a bit of fishing along the way. They weren't planning on staying, though, but wanted to go on a bit along the southbound trail, so I described the terrain and suitable campsites. The clouds had now reappeared all around, drawing closer together and decapitating Måskásjgájsse. Everyone else was already going to bed, but I remained up for a while listening to the radio, reading and snacking, finally turning in at 22:15.
The morning saw no real change in the weather, but a small blue hole could be perceived to the west. I ate some of the leftover fish on my morning sandwich, but there were still sizeable quantities left; quite a good catch I must say. The Swedish group departed at 08:30, by which time much more of the sky had appeared to the northwest, and then it was the German's turn to leave – he was headed for Ritsem via the western branch of the Padjelanta Trail (over Kutjaure and Vaisaluokta), which is also a bit unusual as most people choose the more popular way over Akka and Kisuris. I spent the forenoon fiddling about with minor tasks in and around the cottage and support structures, also starting the lengthy end-of-season inventory. At noontime the weather had cleared fairly much, bringing some sunlight, so I was anxious to go out – but first I had lunch, digging another chunk out of the neverending fish.
I left at 13:15, walking along the northbound trail in a noticeable wind. On a hill less than a kilometer from the cottage lies an old tourist hut built in the traditional style, which constituted "Såmmarlappa" in days of yore, ere the present-day cottage was built, and I paid a visit to it. It is not too easy to find nowadays as the surrounding forest has grown considerably since the 1960s, and if one is coming from the north one will most likely miss is altogether; even people coming from the south almost need to know in advance where to turn their gaze off the path in order to spot it (for reference, it is situated a short distance west of the trail about halfway up the slope that leads up from – or down to – the brink of Darrhaädno).
The hut itself has certainly seen better days, and is no longer fit for accommodation, even though it should work as an emergency shelter. As a contrast the privy building off to one side is, however, in almost pristine condition. While I am always interested in cultural remains and the ways of ages past, this particular visit held another dimension for me. While in Jokkmokk my uncle had dug out some old commented photo albums belonging to my grandfather and "the usual suspects", who went on many a tour in and around Sarek. Just before I left I read through the records of one from a spring in the late 1950s, in which they skied across Sijddojávrre, through Basstavágge to Skárjá, continuing through Álggavágge, then down into Tarradalen, finally reaching Kvikkjokk, and they had spent a night in the very hut I was standing next to – half a century earlier!
Leaving the hut behind I returned to the trail, which in these parts is largely made up of duckboards across mires. On one of these mires about a kilometer further north lies Holmbom's spring, which is a clear and deep well the waters of which flow down to Darrhaädno through the forest; the local lore has it that sometimes arctic chars find their way up from the river and reside in the pond for a while. I saw no piscine presence, though, and even as I looked it started to rain. I reacted by placing myself under the branches of a nearby birch – and there I remained for quite some time, for the shower seemed unwilling to move on, but eventually it dwindled so that I felt "safe" walking again.
Where the path passed through a region of osier thickets I noticed an open space off to my left, and went to investigate. It turned out to be a sizeable meadow, curiously located right in the middle of the trees and mires, which made me suspect that perhaps it had been utilized by humans at some point. These suspicions were strengthened when I found something which looked very much like an old árran – a ring of stones making up the fireplace in a traditional Sámi hut – off to one side; some of the stones had been dislocated, but the indentations in the ground revealed the original perfect circle. Something else which spoke in favor of the "cultural heritage hypothesis" was the peripheral location of the ring, which is precisely where one would expect to find a Sámi dwelling – the grass field itself would be reserved for the grazing reindeer.
Having played archeologist to my heart's content I continued along the trail, which was now ascending a flattened slope, at the end of which I broke off into a less dense part of the forest to see if I could get some kind of view of the northern valley. This I did, but it was only marginal; I could see that it was raining further ahead, though, so I decided to turn around – I would have to be back at the time I had posted on the cottage door anyway, and that time was now approaching. I walked briskly, staying on the trail the whole time, having the good taste to miss a short but heavy shower that passed down Vuoksákjåhkå, and I returned neither late nor early, but precisely when I meant to.
There were three people inside, two of which had used the cottage for food preparation and intended to go on soon, but after a visit to the shop they decided to stay too. I entered into a lengthy conversation about everything fjeld with one of them, before he and his companion retired to their room to rest. We had some sunlight for a while when the sun passed into a hole in the cloud cover, but this hole was plugged before long and it started getting chilly instead.
I had another fjeld-themed discussion with the remaining guest, and due to his respectable age (70 years) it centered around how things used to be, why they aren't so any longer, and the value of these differences. After dinner the sun returned once more, and the resulting evening light under the thick clouds was a beautiful one. It continued to clear as dusk was setting in, and the chill and the wind also remained. All the others had gone to bed early, so after listening to the weather report I crawled into bed as well, reading a bit before turning off the solar-powered light.
In the morning it was windless and only a few degrees on the positive side even though there was a blanket across the sky, but it was clear that this blanket was not very thick and might break apart soon. The guests had all arisen and left in due time, the elderly fellow even before I myself had had breakfast. Once I was alone I took to emptying the trash and other minor tasks'n'chores, and as the weather looked somewhat promising I set out on a day tour on the other side of the river at 10:15.
A German family of three was sitting on the bench (well, apart from the kid), and I offered some of my freshly picked cloudberries to them while we talked a bit. It was now rather fair and I cursed my luck as the best conditions seems to be in the west. I then went over to another two people who were sitting on a small bumpy patch of grass by the river a short distance away; they were also Germans who were planning on going one or two stages further up the valley and then head back. When I was "finished" with them two Swedes came from the south, one of whom sported extensive tattoos over all his visible skin, and after a brief chat (and the eating of some cloudberries) they went on, being followed by all the Germans.
I performed a quick immersion in the river after which the clouds were amassing anew, and since it was getting a bit chilly inside I turned on the gas heater in my room. I then started baking bread, and while the dough was rising a pair of Germans arrived, one of whom spoke Swedish. Having welcomed them – they were staying – I went back to the bread, which was of the kind that you fry in a pan; I quickly got the knack of it and the result was satisfactory.
Just as I was about to do the final piece I was alerted by one of the Germans to the presence of a wanderer on the other side of Darrhaädno. It was a woman who was making her way through the shrubs and bushes, unfortunately ending up in the extremely dense and tangled thickets directly opposite the cottage; the "correct" way of reaching the ferry involves a not-so-obvious circumventive course. Once she realized her predicament, however, she employed a straightforward solution – she splashed through the shallow water of the river just below the brink. I helped her pull the boat across, and then returned inside to complete the baking project.
As it turned out the new arrival had walked from Vaimok and was an STF travel guide (in the fjelds), so naturally we had a lot to talk about. For starters I enlightened her as to what was interesting in the area, and after dinner she set out on a walk towards the Såmmarlappa hut and Holmbom's spring. When she had returned we sat down for an exhaustive discussion about anything and everything involving fjelds and STF, and the interrelations thereof, while it started to rain outside. The rest of the evening was calm and quiet, with the rain rattling away on the roof and windows. I turned on the heater once more and lay down to read at 22:15, turning off the aforementioned device before I turned in myself.
This day started out with lots of light and blueness, so a day tour was clearly necessary. The guide left early but the Germans took their time, and I took the opportunity to continue with the inventory – and I also found the missing name tag hidden underneath a large pile of pencils in a drawer. The clouds were now dispersing even though they remained around the peaks, but as the other two were still being slow about their business I saw fit to have a snack. At 10:30 they finally left, which meant that I could go out on my tour around 11, this time aiming for Rivggonjunnje.
I stepped into the cottage with half an hour to spare, saying hello to the man that was sitting inside. I turned on the gas heater and put the wet boots in proper drying position, and then I started preparing dinner. This of course had the effect that a pair of hikers showed up, having walked through Sarek, but after showing them in I could have my meal in peace. By then it was almost entirely clear and I went back outside to sit in the fresh sunlight, enjoying the great natural beauty in full until the sun sank below Goahtnjunjes.
I then entered into a long conversation about STF and its roles – perceived, issued, or wished-for – and bordering topics with the Sarek travellers, followed by the solving of crosswords, a snack, and the writing of a letter to the Tarrekaise wardens in response to a verbal query they had sent with the single guest. The complete lack of clouds facilitated the rapid cooling off of the outside world, and later on there was smoke on the water; it looked amazing. I waited for all the others to go to bed before I did so too, this time leaving the heater on a low setting both for drying purposes and because of the increasing cold.
As expected there was frost covering most of the plants when I woke up, but it would not survive for long as the temperature was already rising above freezing. Some fog remained but otherwise the sky was enitirely clear and a most beautiful day was sure to follow. Everyone else was still in bed, so I used the time to take care of some recycling stuff and to clean the privy. I had already made preparations for an ascent of Såmmártjåhkkå through Såmmárgårsså, but my guests made no haste; when the time was 10:30 and the remaining two had cleaned up and were finishing their packs I bade them farewell and left, clad only lightly in the nice weather.
Once back at the cottage I found no evidence of visits during the day – the small bowl of blueberries I had left on the table with a "please have some" note was untouched, and the guestbook had no new entries. I went to have a wash in the river straight away, and just as I was drying myself a group of five Finns came. I quickly put on some clothes and then went over to talk to them; they had tented at the Njunjes cottage the night before and were planning on going to the bridge over Slihtajåhkå (which constitutes the southern border of Padjelanta) before stopping, later continuing through Njoatsosvágge back to Kvikkjokk. When they had left I sat on the riverside bench with some fruit and crosswords; the afternoon was as fair as fair can be and hugely pleasant. After some time some high clouds moved in front of the sun, causing temperatures to drop once again, so I went inside and had dinner.
In the evening the sun was occluded by a high bank of cloud which was extending throughout the northwest and approaching my position, and the wind was increasing. While I solved some more crosswords this bank passed by, leaving behind a beautiful evening, and the wind subsided as well. At 22:15 I crawled into bed and read for a while, preparing for my first night without guests.