The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 2: I’m Not Sure the Squirrel is Safe
Snow on the ground, days getting longer…living! People are smiling. No, really they are. And if it’s not for their personal pleasure in the snow then it’s the chance to remember the magic and wonder of being six years old with a new sled on a slick hill. Wee!
Svartand (Melanitta nigra)
I’m Not Sure the Squirrel is Safe
The arctic day paired nicely with the commanding view, kind of like a cold beer and a T-bone steak: Epic combos. As I picked my way along the snowy stone walls in the tracks of another intrepid soul I paused frequently to just stop and look, to stare, and to feel the cold. I would get to run back to the hotel for a hot shower, the Norwegians who guarded this gateway on the Oslo Fjord hundreds of years ago had no such luxury.
In the distance is Sweden; now they come for work, not pillaging. In this fresh snow, tracks are so easy to see. My tracks have added to another, but otherwise it’s lonely up here. A blanket of white on all these stones, a blanket that won’t keep them warm.
The Kongesten Fort (the King’s fort) is still and frozen. Aside from slipping, I have nothing to fear here, not the least of which are the Swedes. A squirrel darts along the ground from one tree to the next. It doesn’t fear the Swedes either.
The ramparts are attacked by children as I leave. The nearby school is having a field day and they are quickly coursing down the imposing entrance as a raceway. I am more worried about their safety then they are. Their teacher looks unconcerned, I’ll trust her judgement.
Safety and security are interesting ideas but I am not sure they actually exist. Maybe they are like dragons: we can talk about dragons, write books about dragons…but they aren’t real. To make the most of friluftsliv one must be careful, although I don’t think you can every really be safe. But as my college roommate warned me more than once, “There’s a fine line between tough and stupid, and you don’t know where it is!”
Just walking down a Norwegian sidewalk is an exercise of risk. The amount of snow and ice on the paths here would be unacceptable to any proper Midwesterner. Cities and property owners would risk lawsuits from the disabled – and rightly so – for failure to keep an accessible path. No ADA in Norway I guess.
On my walk into Fredrisktad city center from the train station I was treated to a evening wonderment of large cold flakes falling on the city. The beauty helped make up for the fact that I was literally dragging my luggage through the snow, “sidewalks” in concept only. When to my surprise, ahead of me laid a barren street. No snow, no ice, nothing except clean stone from sidewalk to sidewalk.
The rest of the walk to the hotel was a snap. I asked the receptionist what was the deal with the impeccably clean, almost rebelliously un-Norwegian, street? She said it was heated. Well there you go. If you want people to stroll main street during the dead of winter, then heat the way. Brilliant.
Why don’t we do this in America? Fyi, in America we are going to spend over One TRILLION dollars on upgrading our nuclear arsenal – really without debate. How about 1% of that for heated streets?
The goal for this run was the fortress, my 6th, and maybe to see a new bird along the river. This close to the sea there is always that exciting interplay of fresh and saltwater that attracts so much wildlife.
My run started on the clean streets of Nygaardsgata, but just past city hall I had to strap on my spikes as expected. Truth be told, hard packed snow or ice with spikes is pretty easy running, it’s the soft snow that’ll spin your wheels. A moment for application and I’m off again.
I needed to find my way to the river crossing to the old town. The receptionist at the hotel said running the bridge was unsafe. Betraying my maturity, I took her advice. I found the river, a lovely place for a stroll, or in my case a run. I could imagine the waterfront crowded with tall ships during the summer celebration. One tall ship was anchored and battened down for the winter, that will have to do for now.
Waterbirds coursed the river. Typical mallards, gulls, a solitary Goldeneye, and a flock of basking Skarv. And then I spotted the big guy. Splashing with enthusiasm in the middle of the river this large black duck-looking bird had my attention. I was doing my best to see into the sun to make an ID. A lovely elderly couple walked past and paused, wondering what I was looking at.
In my homemade Norwegian I asked if that was a duck and if so what kind? At least that’s what I thought I asked. The gentleman said it was an “Ender.” “Ender,” I repeated and then repeated the mantra as I ran off. I could look up what that meant when I was done. Past the fine houses and bust of Amundsen I found the ferry.
To promote tourism and minimize traffic, there are free ferries in Fredrikstad. Brilliant, again. The little ferry was just leaving the east landing and heading to me, the crossing took a minute. Down came the gangplank and about five people disembarked. I was the first aboard, feeling pretty proud. Ok, ready to go. We waited. More people strolled aboard, they waited inside. I stood out – no need to get warm if I’m a true hardy runner!
The engine purred to keep the boat pushed up against the dock. I stood in the sun but the low angle meant it was bright but I felt no heat. Finally, and according to schedule, we left for the fortified city. Down went the gangplank and I was the first off, now running to generate some much needed heat.
The air was cold enough that I had to keep my armstrapped phone inside my jacket, lest it die. This made stopping to take pictures extra slow, so I just took fewer photos. The perimeter of the fortified town was a geometric workshop in resistance to black powder weapons. The architecture was frozen in time as much as the landscape was froze in snow.
I knew the fortified city would be an easy target for me, I really wanted the Kings Fort. Running to the golf course and camping area I could see the fort looming on a small but obviously significant promontory, the only problem was no clear path. Thank you Allemannsrett and gaiters, I made my own trail through the snow.
My freedom was rewarded with a frocked hunk of rock and oh-so-old structures. Confidence in my legs, heart, and wool, I made it safely here. I will make it safely back, if I am careful. The squirrel is watching me. Given the abundance of roaming cats, I’m not sure the squirrel is safe.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.