Total Miles: 1,492.8
Norr Gjotbäken, Sweden – September 9, 2016
I wake to the wind pressing into my tent, curving one wall down and snapping at the fabric. I pack quickly, supporting the wall with my weight at I shove things into my backpack. I unstake the tent and hold on tight as it whips back and forth, threatening to soar away like a kite in the wind.
The sun lights up the morning sky, glowing bright yellow on the vertical walls of clouds marching forward. The billowing, curving stacks of clouds seem so tall, rising from just above my head into the depths of the blue sky. I watch as they flood together, losing their shape, swirling into a giant mass to block the sun, becoming a grey ceiling to the world.
Rain comes, then hard rain, rain that’s cold on my skin as I march up a mountain and into the clouds. Six men walking the other way stare at me under hoods dripping with water as if they believe they will be the last to see me alive.
“Are you ok?” they ask me three times before we part.
I nod each time and smile up at the rain. I would have died a hundred times already if this was enough to kill me. This is Norway. There will be rain.
They disappear into the grey and I walk on as the rain lightens and fades away. A thick, dry mist hides the world beyond a few steps. I can only follow the worn path of footprints in the ground and hope they won’t disappear.
The clouds slowly lift, opening up the long, high slopes of low brush painted in fall colors. Reindeer move in the distance, small bands grazing, their antlers large and curving toward the sky. They raise their heads as I pass, them drop them down again in search of fresh forage.
I stomp through bogs across a shallow valley. The mud sucks at my feet until my socks are soaked heavy and my pants are wet from the knee down. Mud covers the inside of my legs where my feet graze against my calves with each step.
Bits of sunlight break through as the path rises to connect with another and widens. Light plays against the ground, moving with the clouds. Moments of warmth come as gaps pass over me and I stare up at the slivers of blue sky between the billowing white walls.
I reach the border and take my last steps in Norway. I spin back to stare, not in triumph, not in victory, but in gratitude. I look back and thank the mountains rising away, stretching in that long line north, the land that forged me, the place that tried to break me again and again and left me stronger for it.
The sun streams out from the sky overhead. Thr clouds begin to shatter. This really is goodbye. Wind, rain, rocks, fog, mud, bogs, and sunlight, they all came to say farewell on this last day in Norway.
I laugh up at the sky. Norway. Unpredictable Norway. Never quite comfortable Norway. Always changing Norway. Always leaving me slightly afraid of dying Norway. Beautiful Norway. Wild Norway. Beloved Norway. Norway the way I know it, the way it was, true to itself from beginning to end.
Goodbye, dear friend.