I had a new bird in my sights at Mosvatnet in Stavanger. My mother and Meghan saw it, I tried to get them to remember its song because I’m worthless at that. My plan was to use the song and Youtube to make the ID. Ah, memories are so fleeting, by the time we returned from the walk and were able to get situated no one could be sure anymore against the choices. A mystery in Rogaland.
No photos for this post. All the good pics are on the good camera. That is, I can’t get them downloaded for another couple of days. Maybe I’ll add some pictures later, maybe.
New birds: 0, Journey to date: 66
Nitten (Bupkis cribbage)
Measured in Memories
The parade of humanity was unbroken, but I had my doubts that all the paraders would be. As far as I could see up trail and down trail, the marchers plodded. Most were ebullient, a few determined, and many pained. Pilgrim routes criss-cross Europe, many wind to Rome and some to shrines. In Norway there are two pilgrams’ paths that lead to Nidaros Cathedral. This path led to a special site predating any Christian God. The path led to Preikestolen.
Eight kilometers, big deal. Sure, 8K in the city or level country path is a piece of cake. But in the wilds of Rogaland, 8K is a four hour journey up and down rocks and boulders. You could do it faster but at a cost: the scenery, the smells, and all the memories. And in the end, that is what you really want, the memories, not the kilometers.
I thought it would be easy, but I also knew that was a foolish assumption. Coupled with the family in tow, I had not only resolved to take a leisurly pace but I found the unusual space in my hurried mind to welcome it. Meghan was the one on the mission.
Preikestolen, “The Pulpit Rock” is thee iconic nature image of Norway. My first fortnight in Rogaland was October, the rock loomed larged in my mind. My free time was too tight to risk a trip to run up and back before nightfall. To hurry and “bag” a peak seemed to diminish the importance of the place. Plus, since I couldn’t, I used that excuse as my justification.
Our journey to the summit was multi-model. We walked about 2K to the harbor. The large car ferry took 30 minutes to traverse the outer fjord to Tau. A bus in Tau took us up and up switchbacks. 12K later, we reached the visitor center and start of the hike.
The scene could have been mistaken for the trails in Colorado or the Sierra’s of California. An azure sky was baking the evergreens, the smell of needles rose ever so gently in the still morning air. The dusty trail crunched and ground beneath our feet.
People carried backpacks, large and small. Some sported Camelbacks, others a belted canteen. Many older hikers had poles or a staff, a few younger hikers did too. Some men and women carried babies, a couple of men carried toddlers.
One man carried the flag of a foreign land, others had plastic shopping bags with unknown contents. Too many people wore headphones, some groups talked too loudly. All carried the goal of Preikestolen.
At the first bench it was time to shed layers. The boys stripped. At first they balked, we repeated to them our familiar line, “It’s Norway, nobody cares.” They were cooler and happier. Onward.
Since 2013 men from Nepal have been working the trial. By hand they have broken, cut, and stacked rocks to make a more consist walking surface. Their handiwork was impressive. The renovated sections looked like semi-uniform steps through the mountain but they blended in so well to the terrain and surroundings the work didn’t detract from the natural beauty. The sherpas complimented the mountain.
We crossed a mountain bench, a boardwalk traversed the wetland. I thought we were just about there. I came to a sign, no, only halfway. But what care I? For once I was taking a real stroll. The goal provoked no haste, the journey fed no anxiety. Is this how John Muir traveled?
I met people from the bus already descending. They were in a hurry, a pity. I supposed they scurried up the mountain, took a quick selfie on top and then skeedadled back. I aimed to linger, what a luxury. Is this how John Muir felt?
The tabletop summit matched the advertised grandeur. The view and experience was better than I expected, richer. Selfishly I would have loved to have made a solo climb to be the sole lord and master of the realm. But with my family and under blue skies, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better view.
A women carried her weight. She was fleshly, her husband and sons pulled at her slow pace down the mountain. I imagined her ankles screaming in protest under the natural hide of her Ugg boots. With complaining thighs, I am sure there was quite a corus of pain in her body.
We were near the end. The end is not the summit, that is only halfway. To think of how many montane greenhorns forgot that truth of every mountain journey; the journey down is more dangerous than the journey up. She would make it to the end, but no further.
As we neared the end, others continued up. It’s May, the sun loiters in the sky so late that afternoon can stretch into the hours when you should be in bed. A man about thirty pounded up the trail. The mobile phone in his pocket belched out music. I didn’t share his taste, I don’t think the mountain did either.
We both paused at the first bench, where the boys shed clothes about four hours earlier. I paused to watch people hook up to the zipline. He paused to gasp for breath. I took in the alpine air, he inhaled a fresh cigarette. Groaning to his companions in a Slavic language, he sucked hard on the cancer stick. His shorn head was beat red, sweat oozed from every pore. He had only started. I wondered if he’d make it, my mother knowingly intimated the same question from afar.
Down the mountain steps. Up came a women carrying a small dog. My thighs were complaining. The noise caused me to miss a turn on the trail. I led my family on an ad hoc forest path. Two young Asian men followed. No bother, a happy mistake, we found the road and the end of trail.
I carried a backpack. I carried binoculars, an emply bottle, and a wool sweater. I carried that pack for eight kilometers. The journey took four hours. But I don’t remember the distance or time as much as I remember the people. It was a journey measured in memories.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 8: Old Friends in New Light
I took a last chance walk with Owen to find some new birds. Owen insisted on pitching every stick he found on the trail into the woods, heaving snowballs at imaginary targets, and singing an American song with Norwegian words he was inventing on the spot. I was trying to walk quietly and look for birds.
Still, I will take a noisy walk in the woods any day with my son sans birds than a walk alone in an avian paradise. A father only gets so many walks with a boy, every one is precious. I’d like to think Mother Nature rewarded my patience with a brace of new feathers, but I think I just got lucky to have my cake and eat it too.
New birds: two
Fuglekonge (Regulus regulus)
Flaggspett (Dendrocopos major)
Old Friends in New Light
It was easy to spot the black hair tie on the dark dirt trail at this time in the afternoon. The angle of the sun exaggerated the relief of objects on the ground. Other human debris littered the trail, I plucked the band. I had to walk about another 100 meters on the trail until I can upon the ubiquitous green trashcan, I walked with it on my extended left index finger as if I was a human ring toss target. The bin had a couple of beverage cans, wrappers and assorted filth, in went the hair tie too. I make a point to pick up some trash on every nature walk I take. I have never seen someone do that in Norway, I’ve been looking.
My return to Stavanger was a chance to revisit several cherished spots, including two lakes: Stokkavatnet and Mosvatnet. I have reported previously of how Stavanger weather is remarkably moderated. It may have been the middle of February but greenery abounded and ice was in short supply.
My run around Stokkavatnet was more pleasant than my first in October. One, I knew where I was going, there is comfort in familiarity. Two I didn’t get rained on.
I saw many of the same birds in the same spots, the Golden Eyes were particularly nice to see in greater abundance than my last sighting. In “Happy Duck Corner” I spied a small grebe. My stopping to stare caused it to change direction and swim into the reeds. Clearly accustomed to bodies in motion, it was uncomfortable with bodies at rest especially when accompanied with a stare.
The following day I walked around Mosvatnet with my binoculars with the express purpose of picking out birds, especially hoping to see the sister of that grebe. There were no new birds, but the familiar Tufted ducks in breeding plumage were a treat.
The low light made the drakes absolutely radiant. Oh, that I could ever look so fine in a suit. The hens as well exuded a more comely appearance than one should expect. The golden rays of the sun rebounded from their eyes when they drew near. Their stares caused me to pause.
Time spent in nature is renewing. One reason is that the experience is always new. The trail may be the same; the same trees and birds, you wear the same coat. But it’s also always new. The time of day, the wind, the sounds, and your mood. Each facet makes for a novel experience. I don’t know what makes the difference for you. For me, I pay attention to the angle of the sun, it helps me see old friends in new light.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 49: Four Seasons in Stavanger
It’s been a dynamic of week of weather and terrain, including Oslo, Stavanger, and the ski trails east of Lillehammer.
New birds: 0
I did get to see a Bucephala clangula up close at Mosvatnet in Stavanger, not a new bird but nice. Alas, too dark to take a photo with the iPhone.
Four Seasons in Stavanger
That old and conspicuous truck is what awoke my mind to look around and be alert. No, I wasn’t in any danger of getting hit. I was sporting my new hi-viz gaiters on my running shoes in addition to my full refleks kit. But I wasn’t paying attention; I had been to Stavanger before.
Running in new places has been one of my private joys in Norway. A beckoning pedestrian path, an undiscovered forest, twisting and narrow city streets, and new bridges are stimulants for my appetite to run. I have gone on several runs of two hours that felt like joyrides – all the newness makes the kilometers melt away.
In contrast, I now find my section of Oslo staid and uninspiring for a run. In Røa, running has become work. I hope it snows soon so I can ski for a change.
On Monday, I touched down in Stavanger from my 9:00 flight from Oslo. At Gardermoen the grounds were covered in frost and ice. Some snow survived in shaded patches. Ice was not in the cards for Stavanger, it rarely is.
The moderating effect of the Gulf Stream still surprises me. The daylight and my mind say the weather should be bitterly cold. My skin falsifies those claims. It won’t get warm in Stavanger, but it also won’t get cold.
Walking past the ancient cathedral I was caught in a shower of sleet. Frozen BBs cascaded, like a hose had just been turned on full blast. Crunch-crunch went my feet. Bracketed by rain, the ice pellets wouldn’t last long. It was like vernal sleet in Iowa: quick, dispiriting, but temporary. Sleet, a sign of spring.
Within the hour I was off for a run. My legs were sore from an excessive session of squats on Saturday but I hoped some movement would help (it didn’t). From the hotel I started my run along a familar route at the harbor but got stopped by an unexpected sight: billowing clouds.
The far mountains of my prairie home are the summer Stratocumulus clouds that blow up in the afternoon heat. They form temporary formations as impressive as any in the Sangre De Cristo. And when the low light of evening reflects off their battlements and peaks, it is easy to pause and just stare. They invite wonderment.
The clouds in Norway have been different because I haven’t noticed thunderhead growing towards the heavens. Today was different. Warm weather clouds were working their advective magic over the harbor. The light is low at this latitude and the sight took me home for moment. Cumulous clouds, a sign of summer.
After that old pickup truck snapped me back from my runner’s hypnosis, I was reminded of how amazing Stavanger was. Tomorrow was the beginning of atmospheric winter and I was at 58 degrees North. Yet the temperature was moderate and I had no fear of frostbite. From my path I could see across the harbor, across the Stavanger City Bridge and see the distant mountains. The bands of snow falling on their peaks alternately revealed and concealed their white collections. Snow, a sign of winter.
I headed northwest along the harbor only to get stopped by construction. My double-back into the neighbors got me a little turned around. I found myself running up to a school of some sort. It was a school, but nothing like I’ve seen in America. The Stavanger offshore tekniske skole was a training center for work on and around the oil platforms of the North Sea.
At the school’s campus I got stopped again, they were on a dead end. The next stop would be over the cliff and into the harbor. Switching course I got stopped again, this time by a warming vision, a rose. A red rose in bloom, up against one of the campus buildings. The rose called and I answered. The fragrance was weak as were the blooms but they were lovely.
Actually, here was a row of rose bushes. Surprising charms of red on dark green foliage. They softened the footings of the institutional building. Roses, no longer budding due to the weak sunlight. Foliage all around, turning dark, littering the ground with brown corpses of the halcyon days of summer. Fading flowers and falling leaves, a sign of autumn.
Usually when I want to experience several seasons I need to watch a movie or exploit the appliances of modernity in my home. In Stavanger, I just had to go outside.
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh