Monday, 20 October 2014

Lennartsfors and Töcksfors

Lennartsfors lock
The weather forecast was spot on. After a last heavy downpour at 11 am the rain stopped at noon and I was more than eager to go after being stuck here for 24 hours. My goal was to get to and through Lennartsfors to the first campsite after the lock - but between me and that goal stood aforementioned lock. And portages around locks have turned out to be unpredictable here in Dalsland...

But this time I finally managed to do the right thing. Before I had usually paddled straight to the lock and looked for a good spot to get out and a tow path for portage. This approach usually doesn't work. Portages are forbidden in summer time and therefore there are no take out or put in places near the locks. The locks are also very narrow and have often been blasted into rock so that there is no decent tow path. So the best way to get around a lock is to look at the map for possible take out and put in places in the vicinity.In Lennartsfors I headed to a spot where the road was close to the lake shore and for sure there was a little beach for taking out. It would have been perfect if it hadn't started to rain in exactly that minute. I still had to drag up my boat a steep road embankment but to my own surprise my boat cart managed fairly well. So far, so good.

Rainbow near Lennartsfors
Now act no 2: put in again. I portaged on a normal road and headed to a beach where my map promised a swimming place. There wasn't only a swimming place next to it was even a picture perfect boat slip. As soon as I had put in again I was rained on again - but shortly afterwards rewarded with a fantastic rain bow.I had to choose my next campsite strategically well as the weather forecast predicted strong winds for the next day. I therefore wanted to be on the right side of the huge lake and in a bay. The island of Getön promised four campsites on the map - but which ones had a shelter? Of course I paddled around the island in the wrong direction and encountered only campsites first before arriving at the third location with a shelter. I smelled a campfire in the distance and even saw a person far away - I guess there must have been people at the fourth campsite on the island. I was to tired to explore and when I passed the site next morning no one was to be seen.

Beaching on Getön

It was going to be a very windy day and therefore the plan was to explore a long and narrow side arm of the lake Foxen. On my way in I checked out all the campsites on the way - all had shelters. But when it was lunchtime and it appropriately had started to rain the last campsite turned out  to be abandoned. No shelter - not even a toilet! Shivering and miserable I spent a very short lunch time under a pine tree. I was now paddling back to where I had started and the last 8 km were exhausting. I was now directly paddling into a strong head wind and made very slow progress. Plus I had to make a lot of detours to avoid long open water crossings. I had expected to be back Getön at 4 pm but just made it at 6 pm with very sore arms. Still, I liked Dalsland for these side arms and fjords. It would have been too dangerous for me to paddle on the big lakes, but here it was so narrow that the wind could not kick up high waves.

The weather remained a mixed bag and therefore I decided to finally have a rest day in civilisation. Töcksfors was a good - and the only choice. By now campgrounds and most youth hostels were closed - only the hostel in Töcksfors remained open year round. I had booked myself a single room. Töcksfors was busy year round due to its location close to the Norwegian border. Norwegians come over in masses to go shopping in cheaper Sweden and the whole place resembles a big shopping mall. According to my seven year old guidebook the youth hostel was close to the guest harbour on the Southern side of town. Therefore I was delighted to see a nice spot to hide my kayak close by. Although I don't think that kayak theft is a big problem in Sweden in October I was glad that I could hide the boat fairly well and didn't have to leave it in plain sight. I would do the portage around the two Töcksfors locks when I was leaving town. Heavily loaded with all my gear I set off to find the hostel.

Boat landing at the hostel
Only then did I realize in a town map that the hostel was at the  totally other side of town - almost two kilometres from my boat hiding place. The walk dragged on forever and I arrived at the hostel sweaty and exhausted. My heart sank even more when I saw that the reception was locked - you had to call a phone number to check in. This posed a big problem. First of all my Swedish cell  phone plan allowed no calls, only data. I had to change to my German SIM card. But more importantly, my batteries were almost gone. Would I have enough power to make the call? Luckily everything worked out and I soon retrieved my room keys with a code given to me in the phone.

From then on things improved rapidly. The hostel was immaculately clean with a great kitchen. My room was fantastic and absolutely quiet despite the fact that the hostel was next to the busy highway to Norway. Here soundproofing works. So when the weather forecast predicted rain for the next day it was a no brainer just to stay another night - especially since I had a lot of work to do.

First of all I could not ignore that the season was finally coming to an end. It was getting colder every day and combine this with rain it is a recipe for disaster if you paddle without a dry suit like me. It was time to think about returning home. I calculated that I would paddle another week and booked everything accordingly. I almost spent an entire day researching cheap return tickets and places to stay in Gothenburg but eventually I mastered all logistical challenges.

Next decision was if to paddle up to Östervallskog or not. This route was a dead end and I would have to come back the same way - and do a two km portage in Töcksfors twice. But the route sounded nice in my guidebook and I decided to give it a try. So next morning I dry off to get my kayak and drag it 2 km through Töcksfors. Luckily the boat was still were I had left it and not many people saw me portaging - there was incredibly thick fog. Not a big problem in Dalsland now - there are hardly any more boats out that can run you over. Plus I had a GPS to help me navigate. It still felt very eerie to paddle into a wall of fog. The fog only lifted in late afternoon. No problem - this way the return route would be kind of a surprise despite having paddled it already.

On the way to Östervallskog
I kind of overdid it that day - and made one big mistake. Portages are usually a sweaty affair and therefore I had not put on a lot of layers when I launched. But it was colder than the days before and soon I was cold - but still reluctant to beach and drag out my dry bags to put on more clothes. On top of all that I had had a very late start but still wanted to make it all the way North to Östervallskog and the last campsite. When I finally arrived there I was shivering and exhausted but there was no shelter, just a plain campsite. With rain every day I decided to head back 3 km to the next shelter where I arrived just before sunset and sightly hypothermic. This was the first night when I put on all my clothes to sleep and still it took forever until my feet were warm again.

But I learnt from that mistake and put on more layers next day on my way back to Töcksfors where I now knew my way around. It would be a long but easy portage back into the Foxen. But first I headed to the Coop supermarket to buy supplies for the rest of this trip and recharge my batteries for the last time. Even the sun came out for a couple of hours - again for the last time on this trip. When I camped that night I wasn't cold.

4 comments:

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