Trekking in Padjelanta
Whether you are an experienced hiker, or a beginner, the Padjelanta track is still a perfect choice. In this, the largest national park in Sweden, you want to come back to over and over again.
The midnight sun in the World Heritage listed Laponia is shining bright through to the middle of July. This is when life itself reaches its peak, the alpine flora is starting to seed, the pre-summer mosquitoes have ensured their next generation is secured, birds eggs have hatched and the cloudberries are starting to ripen. The following months are simply perfect for alpine trekking. Just remember not to bring any dogs along, as Padjelanta is a grazing area for reindeers. Should the dog have happened to made its way into the backpack, it will just have to stay at the dog kennel in Jokkmokk, till it’s time to head home.
Many trekking alternatives
The 150 kilometer long Padjelanta track between Kvikkjokk and Ritsem is partly meandering through the national park with the same name. Its Lule Sami name is Badjelánnda meaning ’the high country’, which is perfectly true.
You can chose to start your hiking in Kvikkjokk, or in Ritsem. Should you decide to make your start from Kvikkjokk’s mountain station, you will then need to catch the boat taxi through the meandering delta. Once across, and you’ve waved goodbye to the boat, and its captain, you have a fair walk through fir and alpine birch forest before you are above the alpine tree line. Your first leg will probably be to the flowering meadows by the new settlement of Njunjes, below the characteristic and often photographed Skierfe rock.
Helicopter tours run daily from Kvikkjokk to Stáloluokta. Many chose to fly there and then do a shorter hike to Änonjálmme. There are two roads to choose from in the northern part of the track. It’s ok to start – or finish – the hike in Vájsáluokta or Änonjálmme. The tracks come together by Sállohávrre. You can catch a boat several times per day between Ritsem, Änonjálmme and Vájsáluokta during the high season.
It is easy hiking in the northern part of the track. The paths are good, there are even foot-bridges on the paths in some areas. You can count on a pleasurable hike over five to eight days. In many other alpine areas the terrain can be stony, something you don’t have much of on this track.
Buy gáhkko from the host of the cabin and catch fish for dinner
Thirteen cabins, seven of them in Laponia, at approximately 13–15 kilometers distance apart makes good daily hikes. Cabins outside of the Laponia area are owned, and run, by STF (Swedish Turist association) whilst the huts within Laponia are run by the Sami villagers in Jåhkkågasska, Sirges and Tuorpon, who keep their reindeers on that land during their summer pasture. The cabins are of good standard and it’s an extra bonus that you are here and can buy smoked alpine fish and gáhkko, the traditional soft, thin bread made over a fire, from the hosts of the cabins, as well as some ordinary provisions they have for sale. To make purchases along the track is no doubt a bonus, a heavy backpack does not make anyone smile.
There’s no fishing allowed within the national parks, with one exception. You are allowed to fish in a kilometer radius on both sides of the Padjelanta track. With the state’s fishing license Jokkmokks-card, which is for right to fish in the water above the cultivation limit, you may catch two salmon per day.
Lime rich moors with unique flora
Padjelantas round mountains, flowering moors and large lakes create a landscape relaxing for the eye as well as the soul. It is very easy to fall into a peaceful plod and your own thoughts. Many regard the stretch between Stáloluokta and Arasluokta as the most beautiful of them all.
Padjelanta’s flora has an impressive diversity of alpine plants that has excited botanists through the centuries. Carl von Linné, in his early years, hiked through both Staloluokta and Arasluokta on his route to and from Norway. He was astounded of the richness in species and the numerous plants he had never come across before. The enormous inventory work he undertook was almost too overwhelming. His field studies became the infamous volume Flora Lapponica.
The notes from his travels were published after his death. It contained many observations of the Sami culture and he described in wonder their living conditions and superb physique.
There are large arteries with lime rich rocks that have benefited the vascular plants in Padjelanta. The flora on the moors are unique. Here you’ll find more than 400 tracheophyte/vascular plants not found anywhere else in the alpine region. In all of Europe the protected Raggmure (“Raggfingerörten”) (Potentilla robbinsiana) only grow in Padjelanta. The intensively blue “Fjällgentianan” Gentiana nivalis L.,”Kung Karls spira”, Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum L., “Fjällsippa” Dryas octopetala L., “Lappljung” Phyllodoce caerulea (L.) Bab., “Lapsk getväppling” Anthyllis vulneraria L., and, “Fjällgröna” Diapensia lapponica L., are a few more examples of uniqueness. The contrast between the tiny plants and the huge views is exquisite. Don’t rush. It’s not the amount of kilometers that count on a hike, it is what you see, experience and discover along the way that’s important.
Apart from a flora guide it’s not a bad idea to bring a bird book as well. It is a thrill to be able to work out if it’s a Eurasian dotterel, Charadrius morinellus, or a European golden plover, Pluvialis apricaria, you see flying past and it certainly enhances the experience. If you carry binoculars, the reconnaissance become even more interesting. Today there are several excellent apps with bird sounds to help identify the birds you are encountering. But, this is where many will raise a warning sign. The risk of disturbing the birds during their short mating season is great, should they suddenly have digital competition. You may perhaps chose to just listen to the bird sound whilst relaxing on the porch at night and decide which bird you will try to listen to and find tomorrow.
Forget the mobile and look around
When it comes to the mobile phone the absolute best advice is to have it turned off during your hike. The coverage is not great, so take the chance to have a healthy break from the everyday internet life. Your camera on the other hand is almost a must.
If you are observant you may see trails of reindeer grazing areas, or milking areas as they are also referred to. They are green grassy areas up on the alpin moors. These grasslands are remnants from a time when the reindeer was tamer than it is today and the reindeer husbandry were performed on a much smaller scale. The grasslands were used to milk the vajorna (reindeer cows) and as grazing areas. This type of reindeer husbandry is history since fifty years or more, yet remnants of that time are still found.
Fresh water and persistent followers
There are alpine brooks everywhere with clean, clear and cool water that tastes superb. Please help yourself. Just fill your water bottles. It is a huge plus that all greater jokkar (larger brooks) in Padjelanta have foot bridges, so you don’t have to wade through difficult water.
If you come here at the start of the season you will soon discover you are a long awaited prey. Mosquitoes and gnats will devour you. Be extra diligent in keeping mosquito repellant handy, perhaps even bring a mosquito hat. If you’re lucky it will be a bit windy and the mosquitoes will be less annoying. The worst of the mosquito season is usually over by the end of July and into August. The new mosquito generation have been ensured to succeed for next year, perhaps you’ve been lucky enough not to have contributed to its survival.
Plan your trip
Plan ahead, study maps, buy or borrow books on Padjelanta, read hiking blogs or chat with other hikers. The more prepared you are the more you get out of the hike. Don’t set your ambitions too high, instead realize that it is the hike in itself that is the goal, not to reach the destination. It’s better to experience a small part of the Padjelanta track than to rush through the lot. Plan an extra day, or keep your finishing date flexible.
Allow yourself to really sit down and just look at the most beautiful lake in Padjelanta, Virihaure, or something else that really fascinates you, on the way, even if it takes half a day, or more. That – if anything – is time well invested.
Text: Iréne Lundström