We’ve all seen the photos of these those perfect little red houses with remarkable peaks jolting up behind them. Even if you don’t know what I am talking about, as soon as you see a photo you will. Photos are just one persons perspective of a place, at a specific time, and often times when you visit that place what you see is nothing close to what the photo had portrayed. If we’re honest, a lot of the times we feel a little let down. We’ve built up this expectation for a place and have seen it with filters and edits that make it into something its not. Well – if this describes you, GO TO THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS. Every single picture you have ever seen looks the exact same in person.
I boarded the plane in Oslo, and felt like a little kid. I was so full of excitement knowing that the next time we touched ground I would be in place I had dreamt about visiting for years. On the flight I sat next to a local, Thomas, on the plane. He took my phone and dropped pins in all of the places he recommended I hike and check out. He was so kind, and it was one of my first interactions realizing that norweigans are pretty dang great people. I landed at the Harstad/Narvik airport mid morning and collected my giant backpack. I had about a four hour drive to the place that I wanted to first hike so I hit the road.
I decided to take my time on the drive – and turned on every little road I saw. I ended up in a small town and on the side of the road was a rock climbing wall. THIS PLACE WAS HEAVEN (maybe). I walked up to the wall – and a young guy came out of a little cabin and asked if I needed a climbing partner. We jumped on the wall and climbed for a little while – though there weren’t many routes so we spent most of the time making up games and challenges. I knew I needed to get started back on my trip so I thanked him and headed back on the road.
As I continued south, the peaks got bigger, the tunnels got longer (literally miles and miles of tunnels), and I got happier. Thomas had told me to stop in this little climbing town, Henningsvaer, if I had time on my trip. This is a little climbing mecca on the Lofoten Islands. I drove off into the town and found a little cafe – when I walked in I was surprised to see Thomas and his friend sitting at a table. Small island huh? I ordered a coffee and people watched as everyone shuffled through this little village.
I decided I would hike Festvagtind which gives you a view of all of the islands of Henningsvaer. It’s a short, steep hike that should take a couple of hours. As I hiked up the fog began to roll in and I ended up getting to the peak in a complete white out. I only stayed for a couple of minutes and hiked back down until I was below the fog to find a place to sit and take in the view. I had been so excited to see that iconic soccer field island from this hike, and though I never saw the view from the top – this would still end up being one of my favorite hikes.
I headed back on the road and began to see more and more racks of dead hanging fish. The Lofoten Islands are made up of a number of little fishing villages, so its very common to see all the fish being hung up to dry out. It smells pretty dang bad. I came across the perfect little town of Hamnoy and wandered around, admiring the fact that a place like this exists.
I eventually made it to the town of Reine, and searched for the trail head to Reinebringen. It was about 9PM by this time, but sunset wasn’t until 1AM and sunrise would be at 3AM. This trail isn’t much of a trail. It’s sort of scramble up some rocks with very slick, muddy sections. I headed up with my pack full of camping gear. The weather wasn’t great – but I figured I would make it up just fine. By the time I reached the peak the weather was getting much worse. I took in the view – which was unreal – and decided I should set up camp before it started to rain. The peak was completely exposed and there was nowhere else to set up camp. I started to pull out my gear and the wind was blowing harder and harder. I pulled out my tent and whooooooosh. My tent bag went flying off the mountain. My backpack fell over and I jumped on top of my stuff to keep anything else from blowing away. At this moment I had to make a hard decision. I had dreamt of camping on this peak, waking up with coffee and taking in the view. But I knew there was a storm coming and the trek down in the morning would be dangerous. At midnight, I called it. I decided to head back down the mountain. I had to figure out how in the heck to wrap up my tent without the tent bag. I was frustrated, disappointed, and a little nervous. My legs were shaking with adrenaline (and probably exhaustion). I sang songs to keep myself happy and tried to stay focused so I wouldn’t slip. Once I reached the bottom, I found a place to set up camp and laid down in my tent. I was wide awake due to the time change, the adrenaline, and the fact that it was still completely light out.
That night I didn’t get much sleep, maybe an hour or two. This was day one on the Lofoten Islands.