Total Miles: 1,766.6
Grängesberg, Sweden – September 22, 2016
A tall, concrete bridge carries the highway over my gravel path. Graffiti covered walls stretch up along the narrow tunnel underneath. It is all too grand for an old, forgotten road. I stare as I walk through it like the ghost of some forgotten idea resides in the concrete.
The long, flat grade of gravel road stretching away. The steep banks falling off either side to keep it high. The slow and gentle curves.
“This is an old train bed,” I think. “What luck.”
I pass an old station house with the word “Salån” carved over the entryway. Stone and concrete platforms stand on either side. Tufts of grass and small trees spring up through their cracked surface as they wait for trains that will never come again.
I hear the highway through the forest and feel grateful for the train bed’s long, straight, and empty path. Green and yellow trees stand like sentinels as I walk along the raised bank. I follow it for miles until it spills me out into a paved road. Two lanes squeeze tight and leave only a hint of shoulder. I tiptoe along the thin edge as trucks roar past for a mile before I find the railroad bed again.
An easy dirt path, straight for miles until it disappears into the streets of a small town. I wander road to road, down a walking path, past a small grocery store where I buy a few days of food and sit for a moment outside the white-walled church with its black steeple, a golden clock to keep time, and a golden cross above all.
The clock rings, the bell counting hours, and reminds me to keep moving.
More roads tangle through the small towns along a lake. I cross a highway again, press to the narrow shoulder, then off to a little side road and another and another, then the highway again, then a logging road.
Two giant, bear-like dogs wait in a pullout with their owner. One barks once and they both stare with watchful eyes. I walk past until a handful of blueberries stops me, then another, then I drag myself away before I stay until my hands turn purple.
A tiny dog runs and barks around my feet for a hundred yards as the owners stare and yell helplessly. I reach the highway again and tiptoe along the narrow shoulder for a few miles until I flee into a maze of dirt roads. Night starts to creep into the world. I pass a logging truck, lights blazing, engine growling, the crane on its back piling limbless tree trunks in its bed like a hand grabs at pretzel sticks.
The gravel roads spills out into the grid of a neighborhood and I reach pavement again. Streetlights flicker to life and glow down from their poles as I walk underneath. Three turns and I stare at a giant industrial building that looms like a monster over everything around it. I walk past its square bulk, past the long conveyor rising from the ground to the top story, and beyond down a quiet road.
My headlamp flickers to life. I look for some small, quiet patch of flat earth and find none. The road side is too exposed. The woods thick with brush and soggy ground.
I see a small trail breaking away through the woods. The grass is barely bent and I know it is hardly used. I follow it a few hundred yards to get a sense of it.
It’s a raised bed of rock, flat and level. Quiet. I set up my tent and drift off to sleep, content to spend the night on an old, forgotten railroad bed, stretching through the woods.