It’s time for another hike, another adventure. Meanwhile, waiting for plans to get sorted and flight tickets to get booked, why not look back at our last-minute hike back in 2016?
Nordmarka, a densely wooded forest, is within easy reach of Oslo’s northern edge; made even more accessible by the savvy Scandi’s town planning with the metro dropping you at numerous trailheads. While it’s without the fjords and fjells of the west coast walks that so often epitomise ones notions of the Norwegian landscape, Nordmarka is a vast playground of wilderness (some 430 sq. kms), that most cities only dream of having such close proximity to.
The plan to hike and camp at Bjørnsjøen (Bear Ocean), was conceived like most memorable walks, entirely at the last minute, with gear begged, borrowed and even constructed. Setting off from Voksenkollen station into an unseasonable 23 degree autumn day, the sun beat heavily on our backs and the urge to take a dip into one of Nordmarkas many lakes was only curtailed by the oncoming sunset. Our route was a relatively gentle 13kms, on forest road, single track and the odd bit of ski trail. The trails are coded as either blue (summer) or red (winter) and it’s advisable to take the blue option where possible, thus avoiding an awkward tramp through a swamp that come winter would be frozen and therefore skiable, this was learned the hard way…
The scent of Birch, Pine and Spruce trees, quickly yellowing in the deepening Autumn, lingered sweetly as we made our way along tracks, that come December will be crawling with skiers. There was also an abundance of fresh blueberries that while a little sour, certainly beat the punnet prices found 15kms away. Around halfway to Bjørnsjøen, the conversation turned to Norwegian fauna; specifically bears and the increasing wolf populations. Although potential sightings were quickly dismissed due to our proximity to the city, it wasn’t long before tracks and fresh shit were spotted, keeping the thought of an encounter alive for a while.
Nordmarka offers an enviable smorgasbord of possible routes. They are all signposted and many can be tackled in an afternoon, except for the more serious treks like the 12-day Oslo to Bergen hike. The ability to camp freely on public land is a real treat, especially in a country renowned for its hefty prices.
Reaching Bjørnsjøen we found a spot, ditched the packs (and our dacks) and jumped into the cool dark water, which quickly stung as it found its way into our leg cuts and scratches. The sun lingered long enough above the tree line to pitch the tent, brew a coffee and sit back watching fish jumping into the night air, in search of insects or some such, invisible to us. Our home cooked, pack defrosted, chickpea curry offered the perfect end to a spectacular day.
The next day, fog provided a stark contrast to the previous nights summery feel and added a further dimension to the hike. Norwegians are said to be born with skis on their feet, but the summer months reveal a country that offers incredible hiking potential, much of it within easy reach.
by Keith Parsons and Gunvor Eline Eng Jakobsen