Monday, 22 July 2013

Drottningleden – The Queen trail

So what if my quads were shot because of yesterday's fiasko? My throat felt fine this morning and so did I. Looking through the window at a sunbathed Hemavan, yesterday's reluctance to ever run in the mountains again seemed like a dream. Days like these are rare in the mountains and you have to -sorry for being corny- seize them.

Still, the painful memory of twisting my already injured ankle was fresh. I chose Drottningleden, the Queen trail, that stretches between Hemavan and Laisaliden, and which is relatively simple to hike on (ergo, a good running trail). The first 3 km are uphill, so I walked up the toughest parts – which was most of them. I had decided to let this run take however long it takes, not stressing about having to walk at places. I had all day, hardly a cloud was in the sky and I was feeling great.

This hawk (or one like it) is there every year, always circling the exact same spot by Drottningleden

I reached a point where the uphill parts were shorter and far between, and took a moment to breathe and admire the view. A reindeer male could be seen a couple of hills away, looking majestic, with a huge crown on its head. I realised that yesterday's deer was probably just a reindeer after all, but I'd be forgiven for thinking that it was something wilder: I had never seen such big, brown reindeer before. I usually see the smaller, white/grey ones, grazing around the plains. The reindeer were now close enough to photograph, and were kind enough to stand still while I snapped a couple of pictures.

The illusion of solitude and fragility I usually associate with being alone on the mountains was soon shattered. More and more people started showing up on the trail, all of them heading towards Hemavan. A group of primary school-aged children wandered around with only one or two adults to accompany them. It was starting to feel like Saturday at the shopping mall, and I didn't like it. Then I came across three MTB cyclists who had stopped to rest.

- Are you out getting some exercise? one of them asked me.
- Yes, it's a beautiful day for it, I replied.
- Mountain weather is not usually like this, he said. It's only been such weather 3 or 4 times whenever I've come here.
- Are you guys heading towards Laisaliden? I asked. Because, in that case, I'll keep my ears open for you. Ring your bells to let me know you're coming.
- Well, then, you should run faster! one of the other guys quipped with a grin on his face.

I told them I'd do my best and started running again. I got to Laisaliden about 20 minutes later, and, while I was having a look around at the trail head, the cyclists showed up.

- I made it here first, I told them cheekily.
- Are you going back the same way? they asked.
- It beats the alternative, I answered and pointed at the narrow, asfalted road that led back to Hemavan.
- Then all we can do is applaud you, one of them said.

They wished me a good day and left me to climb the first tough segment of the Queen trail back. I stopped by a stream to fill up with energy and water, and then continued, passing group after group of hikers. My quads were complaining. Loudly. What was an easy, gently downward sloping trail on the way to Laisaliden was a long, uphill struggle on the way back to Hemavan. I walked more and more, not even wanting to push my legs any harder, jogging carefully among the stones where I could. I had to take a longer break before the trail turned down towards Hemavan again, which did wonders for my energy. The view from here was amazing. Everywhere I looked were snow-clad tops, and today, none of them were covered in clouds. Several hundred altitude metres down, I could see Hemavan airport and the village. I could even see where our flat was. All the familiar landmarks looked so small, you'd think they were tens of kilometres away. Yet I knew that I didn't have long left to run.

I heard shouts. A woman I had passed on my way to Laisaliden was now standing on top of a cliff with two dogs on a leash, whistling and calling a third dog at the top of her lungs. As I ran past, she asked me if I had seen a loose dog. I simply answered ”no”, biting my tongue. What I had wanted to say was that maybe she shouldn't have had the dog loose in a nature reserve, where it is forbidden. Maybe the dog ran after one of the reindeer I had seen earlier on. Still, I hoped she would find her dog. Losing a pet is a terrible, terrible feeling. And it's definitely not the dog's fault if its owner doesn't know how to handle it.

The whole excursion took me 3 hours. Of the approximately 17 kilometres between the flat and Laisaliden, I ran just over 14. Not bad. This is trail running at its best.

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