Encircled by the Arctic Ocean

Updated: Dec 6, 2018

Photos by Kendall Kaminski

We flew into Bodo, Norway and slept in the ferry terminal waiting room until the ferry arrived at 3:00 am to take us across the Arctic Ocean to the Lofoten Islands. Anti-nausea medication helped us sleep most of the way until the last stretch of the crossing, where we awoke to the view of mountains rising up out of the sea. Once upon land again, we took a bus to the town of Leknes, where we picked up our rental car, warmed up in a cozy cafe, and grocery shopped. We drove to Uttakleiv beach and set up camp near the shore. We explored and rock-hopped along the beach, made a fire and dinner despite the rain, and went to bed early, utterly exhausted.

Midway through the next day, we drove to the Kvalvika beach trailhead and waited for a break in the persistent rains. We loved this trail for all the rock-hopping, balancing on thin wooden planks above streams, and extremely deep muddiness. It felt like a game of chess: thinking at least three steps ahead and playing with gravity as we transferred our weight. We broke the crest of the mountain’s saddle and laid eyes on the ocean meeting the beach below. The contrast between the black, textured mountains, white sand, and clear, turquoise ocean water is astounding. While Scotland felt like the land of fairies, Lofoten is the land of giants. The extremes in weather create such beautiful spaces in nature. Here, glaciers formed the mountains and it is amazing to stand where such powerful forces of nature once moved. There is so much constant water here that some plants on the mountain looked like seaworthy, aquatic species.

After a restful night in an AirBnB, we ventured to the trailhead en route to Horseid beach. The hike was beautiful, the terrain challenging to navigate, and the weather became increasingly harsh. We started to doubt our abilities to endure these conditions, especially as we ascended the ridge where winds blew so hard that we could barely walk straight. We motivated each other to keep moving forward and successfully arrived at the beach, shaken, cold, wet, and tired. We set up camp and said cheers with Lagavulin Whiskey before falling asleep.

The sun shone bright and steady on the hike back. We backpacked over muddy mountain sides, then back along the ridge where we clambered along rocks and admired the astounding view: face-to-face with neighboring peaks, alpine lakes, and an inlet so calm it appeared to be a lake. When stormy weather arrived, rains turned the mountain’s stone pure black and surrounding lakes darkened. Eventually, we reached the forest around the lower bay and ignored the mud in our boots as we hightailed for the car. Fatigued and hungry, we treated ourselves to pizza at a local restaurant. Our kind server recommended a local beach to camp at for our last night on the islands. We even caught a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

A local told us: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” The Lofoten Islands are as magical as they are relentless - this trip both inspired and humbled us.