The landscape along the coast of the southern most part of Norway is a mosaic consisting of agricultural land, caravan sites, vast stretches of cabin areas, and, what we came looking for, smooth rock faces gliding into the sea, interspersed with the occasional remnant gnarled oak forest and tall growing beech forest. Last autumn we decided to try a different hike and abandoned the forests or mountains we usually prefer for hiking. Here is a short account of the trip:
Autumn Holiday 2010. The air is thick with expectations and withered leaves, the bags are packed and the door locked behind us. At this point we should have left for the mountains. We should have walked into the woods, enjoyed the colour explosion of yellow and red. We should have gone north. Upwards. Into the wild.
We did the opposite. After a relatively short train ride, we ended up in Larvik. A bus ride later we arrived in Stavern. Ahead of us awaited the Coastal Trail to Helgeroa. And if we had ever promised never to walk too far with the girls, we gave in to that principle on this trip. Did we have a choice? The Coastal Trail. The Cabin Trail. The Trail of Abandoned Caravans. The Asphalt Trail. You don’t pitch your tent on the land of a cottage owner you have never met, you will not roll out your sleeping mattress together with the ghosts between the empty caravans. You don’t go to sleep in an open field.
You walk. You walk through the afternoon along a deserted beach, past cabin areas, over lawns where summer guests months earlier had parked cars and tents, along a country road, past stubble fields, between the gnarled oak trees growing like impenetrable bush. You walk over golden, smooth rock in the evening sun, and when your legs ache with fatigue and dinner should have been boiling on the stove, and you think that now, around the next cape, then you will find a campground. Then you walk through another cabin area and into the night. And you think you’ve lost the trail, tumbling around in the dark, away from the lights that flow out of the houses, a field on your right hand side, tall beech forest on your left. And then, up ahead, you find yourself a campground, a meadow, and the sound of waves reach you. And when you wake up at night to the sound of a Tawny Owl, while the sea whispers in your ear, something feels right. Forgotten are all the damn cabins, forgotten are the dismal caravan sites, like open wounds in the landscape. This is the Coastal Trail. Right here. Right now.