Off the schneid! Leave it to Lister to give me another surprise. I came to the Lister area to teach. But I also got to see a couple of new birds. The Lister area is one of the top birding areas in Norway – lucky me. However it’s off season, Lister has it magic during migration season. Perhaps I’ll find a reason to return.
New birds: 2*
*Sothøne, seen 20 October in Stavanger, finally got around to reviewing the picture
We Go Up, We Go Down, Very Nice!
“Jesus!” my mind screamed and I felt like I lept five feet into the air. What was that? That sound, it tore the peace of the misty forest apart. “There, ghosts!” my eyes gathered in all the intell. No, wooly sheep. “Oh,” and my focus returned to the soggy trail and my guide, stay with my guide because I am somewhere in Norway but exactly where?
I was running in the Lister area, Farsund was my base for the week; consult the map and then return to this blog. Good.
Norway has two envious paradigms. One, a person is able to walk-hike-run just about anywhere the heart desires, Allemannsrett (“Everyman’s Right” in english). Two, personal health is a national imperative, that is, eat well, exercise, and don’t become a burden.
Following my Tuesday lesson at Lister VgS – Eilert Sundt, there was the important time to socialize with the other teachers in the Personal Room (teachers’ lounge…in Norway they really know how to do the teachers’ lounge. Note, must be part of the social connections at school, it is just expected. Plus Norwegian teachers don’t have their own classrooms so the lounge really is an important home base).
I was introduced to Vidar (psydonemn) while having a cup of coffee, from their custom dinner service #pride. My host for the day told him that I liked to run on my travel. She told me that Vidar was a local running guide. At first glance you may not think that he was a gonzo athlete but you’d be wrong, very wrong. He reminded me of a favorite teacher from days of high school past.
“Can you be ready by 12:20?” he asked. “Yes,” was my immediate response, I didn’t want to even bother to consider having a conflict. Now I just had to get to my hotel ASAP and change.
I was late but he was forgiving. I’ve alway appreciated the kindness of strangers. With a hairy black dog in the back of the van we had a quick drive to the coast. I planned on running the length of the beach and back – my tactic to avoid getting lost – he was going to run with the dog to the top of a local promontory.
I have right to traverse the beach, throw shells back into the sea, watch for birds, and to dream. This community has some of the better beaches in Norway. They will create a trail, most with handicap accessibility, some 40 kilometers long up the coast. Room for anyone to wander, a destination for the wellness of body and soul, a place not for sale.
Any thoughts I had about running in a steady manner ground to a halt as soon as I got the beach: the gentle lap of waves, the force of the wind, and the vision out into the abyss stopped me. Pictures, an attempt to do a Periscope (live-streaming app) and a quick video for my family turned the run into an intermittent stroll.
It was late December but the Gulf Stream gives this coast a gift of warmth, it was about 5 degrees centigrade. Overcast skies were a leaden dome but they couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. After enough pics I needed to get running or I’d would run out of daylight. The sunset was at 3:42.
And just when I got a good pace, my run was stopped again; birds on the water. Several dark and large duck-like birds, and a couple of petite and light grey feathered swimmers. The low light, my eyeballs, and little iPhone thwarted any definitive observations. Okay, keep running.
Another good pace, an even rhythm on the firm sand, righteous running. The shoreline here has lovely stones and rocky outcroppings like most of Norway, but also sandy dunes with swaying grasses. The roots fight with the waves for the sand, they have for 10,000 years.
Here comes Vidar and the dog. He said the path was hard to follow because of all of the rain so he came back to guide me, stout fellow! Farewell shoreline safety, good. Vidar and the dog alternated being the leader, I followed.
We passed through a gate to control the sheep. A long dark bird was on water like before, but this one was close. Vidar said something was amiss, it didn’t try to flee. I got a good picture and then spotted a corpse of a recently deceased of the species. Maybe they were companions?
Now we’re through the dunes and marshes. Just off the beach the wind disappeared and all sorts of new sounds invaded. During the occupation, the Germans fortified this part of the Norwegian coast with an intensity. We ran past numerous ruins of bunkers, pillboxes, and fortifications. I was reminded of my visit to Normandy. Sheep grazed a distant hill, they are used as natural vegetation management. The dog pulled, Vidar pulled back, victory to the biped.
Across a road we scrambled up Skjolnesveten. This was adventure running: novel, a little risky, imperfect weather, camaraderie, and a goal. A bird exploded away to our left. I asked if it was a grouse, Vidar said it was a Rugde, he made a motion with his fingers about his nose to explain that it had a long thin bill. At 15:18 we reached the summit. The view was thoroughly modern: reclaimed natural areas, the timeless sea, and a massive Aloca smelting plant. And down we went.
The route down was the hard part, caution being the better part of valor. Returning via a different route we spooked a Roe deer, and got our feet good and wet. At the car they drove off, I opted to run back to the hotel. It was a chance to extend the run and to see more of the industrial harbor where two ships were docked.
A couple of weeks ago a Norwegian friend related a story about some hill climbers. They were friends of his who were on holiday. The country in question had certain hills that were off limits or required a local guide, a concept not well accepted by the travels. The pair had bagged the peak and were on their way down when they were confronted by an officer demanding their papers and interrogating them about their poached climb. The duo played dumb and just kept repeating in a pigeon english, “We go up, we go down, very nice!” with toothy grins for added effect. The officer finally gave up and they all went on their way.
What rights do you have to enjoy God’s earth by your own power? In Iowa you are limited. On a few rivers you have the right to float but the shoreline is private. Wisconsinites are free to course any body of water, even if it’s only seasonal. Ola and Kari Nordmann enjoy almost total access to rivers, the exceptions are exceptional. Because of Allemannsrett they can walk the fields and forests, camp most anywhere they please, and not stress about fencerows or property lines. I am jealous.
Thursday was my second date with Vidar. He had shown me on Wednesday an internet map of the destination. “This is a special place,” he pointed to a part of the route. I have heard that a lot in Norway. Seems in every locale there is a hill, rivulet, or forested grove that is special. But the labels have been always pronounced with sincerity, bordering on reverence.
The fog and mist that greeted the sunrise Thursday decided to make a day of it. We ran anyways. Like Tuesday, it was a melange of modernity. We parked next to a new auto tunnel that ran 3 kilometers under the mountain, we ran next to the century old canal that linked the sea to Framvaren and then up the ancient Fossekleiven to the saturated meadows and forests of Raufjellt.
“Over there a German airplane crashed,” pointed Vidar. He said some people died. “Germans,” he added as almost an afterthought for clarity. It was a detail that only added to the contemplativeness of the place.
We were near the point of beginning our descent. We went down through a surprisingly all deciduous forest by way of a switchback trail. I got a lesson from Vidar about how the oak and good wood here was taken by the Danes, and then English to built their fleets. The Dutch built Amsterdam on oak pilings.
The surf, forests, and mountains are for play and pleasure but also history lessons. These sweeps of nature, in all their steep glory, are here to impart health and happiness. They are open to you and me to explore, enjoy, and embrace. And if you are really lucky, you can get an education and a new friend.
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh
author’s note: landscape photos filtered “mono”, running photos filtered “chrome”