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Europe, Norway, These days, Travel

These Days

These days, we are settling back into normalcy after five weeks of vacation. JK saved his parental leave for this summer so we could go on a grand adventure with Nora – visiting Norway (to show off lil’ Norbert to friends and family) and Italy (to attend a wedding).

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Nora experienced so many firsts! First flight (transatlantic, no less), first seven-course meal, first boat ride, first swim.

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In Italy, she visited the Dolomites, swam in the Adriatic Sea, and ate impressive amounts of pizza.

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In Norway, she stayed at my parents’ summer house, explored the outdoor playground of my childhood, and picked chanterelles almost every day.

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Back here in Seattle, she is already over her jetlag while her parents, old as the hills and apparently no longer adjusting easily, are still exhausted (I’ve been up since 2:30, ugh ugh ugh). I had grand plans for this week, but just…no. The couch is where I’m at, chugging coffee and finally catching up on Orange is the New Black. JK still has two weeks of leave left, so hopefully we’ll be back in the swing of things soon, ready to take on our normal summer here in Washington.

Backpacking, Hiking, Mount Rainier, Norway, Top Trips

This is my church

I’ve been whining a lot this summer. Lingering depression, lingering snowpack, lingering rain. Then, suddenly, the weather didn’t seem so important anymore.

Magic light

News started ticking in about an explosion in Oslo. Live tweets from desperate teenagers trapped on an island with a gunman. 77 innocent people killed in my beautiful, tiny country.

Dinner with a view

Then, two days later, a heartbreaking phone call from home. JK’s dad had passed away. Peacefully so, but still much, much too soon.

Wellie likes it too

We boarded the next plane to Norway to spend time with our family and say our goodbyes.

Fallen Ents

I’ve had this drained, empty, hollow feeling inside of me ever since that Friday, and I’m having a hard time coming to terms with everything that’s happened.

To the Knob we go

Fearing a relapse into can’t-get-out-of-bed depression, JK and I decided to get out this weekend to clear our heads.

Looking for chipmunks

I don’t believe in a god, but when I’m outside, surrounded by towering peaks, blooming meadows, romping marmots and crystal-clear lakes, I feel so close to whatever life force it is that keeps this world turning.

Like birds of a feather

I don’t know if this force is in nature or in the ether or inside of all of us, but I do know that whenever I connect with it, the world finally starts making sense again.

This is my fourth visit...

We hiked, we swam, we breathed, we talked, we were quiet together. We’re both saddened by the fact that JK’s dad never got to visit us in Washington. I could picture him sitting right there with us on Noble Knob, painting the beautiful scene in front of us.

Morning panorama

After sunset we lit candles under the full moon. Suddenly we saw a shooting star, impossibly clear, right above Mount Rainier. Maybe he was there with us after all.

Family photo

Vi savner deg, pusepappa!

Jan & Jan

Big thanks to our friend who volunteered to take Wellie on such short notice, and to all the others that reached out to us over the last couple of weeks. It helps to know that we have friends like you.

Europe, Hiking, Norway, Travel

Back in the old country

We’re back from a whirlwind three-week vacation in Norway! We return bearing lots of great memories, an already dwindling (for shame!) supply of Norwegian chocolate, and an obscene amount of photos. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of processing all of those photos, so here’s a tiny sample for the time being. I promise to have the rest up by 2017. Or 2018.

My heart is beating like a jungle drum

These are from our deliciously self-indulgent layover in Iceland. We spent the entire day soaking our jetlagged bodies in the Blue Lagoon.

Creature from the Blue Lagoon

Since it was a long vacation and our friends and families were busy working on weekdays, we flew up north to Lofoten for five days of hiking and camping.


This didn’t exactly turn out as planned, but more on that later (2019).

Snow moving in...

So yes, check back in 2020 for the full documentation of our trip. Or 2021 at the latest.

Norway, Scrapbooking

Thar she blows!

Fortune smiled on me as I managed to get my new American visa just in time (as in on the way to the airport) to fly out of Norway before the enormous ash cloud of doooom brought Europe to a stand-still. Since I just so happened to be flying Icelandair, I did get to take this photo of Eyjafjallajökull brewing on something as we were flying over her on my way to Norway:

Flying over Iceland

It is rather sobering (especially for someone living in an area studded with volcanoes like, say, Washington) to consider all the earthquakes and volcanic activity we’ve seen around the world lately. The gods are angry.

Maw & Paw Feels like home

In less eruptive news, I spent a very nice and relaxing Easter back in Norway. I think I really needed some rest (mentally); I spent most of my time reading, going for walks – my parents live in a beautiful place – and just enjoying the company of my family. Oh, and EATING WAY TOO MUCH, but that’s what you’re supposed to do when you visit your parents, right? Right??

Føynland spring

Since volcanoes are all the rage right now, here’s a scrapbook page I made a while ago of our “climb” (ok, snow slog) of Mt. St. Helens last year. It’s been sitting on my desk for months, but apparently I am never going to get around to finding any embellishments for it…so here it is in all its naked glory. (I used a sketch by Becky Higgins.)

Thar she blows!

Europe, Hiking, Norway, Top Trips, Travel


We’re back from a great vacation in the old country – we got to spend time with all our family and a lot of our friends, laze about the summer house eating Norwegian chocolate, and I got to see Leonard Cohen, my big hero, in concert. Absolutely amazing. Best concert ever!

Waiting for the ferry by Gjendesheim

Another highlight for us geeks was to finally hike Besseggen; the (in)famous ridge Peer Gynt claimed to have ridden on a reindeer. The hike across the Besseggen ridge is the most popular trail in Norway, so be prepared to share it with hordes (40,000 every year!) of not just Norwegians, but tourists from continental Europe in various states of preparedness – a couple years ago my friend had to help a tourist who was scrambling up the ridge in flip flops…

Next stop: Gjendebu

Anyway, the reason why I haven’t hiked this before (even though my family used to have a cabin in the area) is because I am ridiculously afraid of heights. I’ve been pushing my limits this last year though, so I thought I would do fine. Ahem.


We drove up and stayed in an overpriced hotel ($200 for a pretty shabby room) at Beitostølen so JK and I could get up early and catch the first ferry at 7:45 the next morning – we owe my dad many thanks for getting up and driving us… :) A much better plan would have been to stay for next to nothing at Gjendesheim, where you take the ferry ($20). All you need is a sleeping bag. You could also camp in the area.

Snack spot

Once you get off the ferry, the trail immediately starts climbing up. It was only 40 degrees (Fahrenheit..) when we started, but the combination of the sun and the hill had me stripping off in less than 15 minutes, a new record! Fortunately this part of the trail also serves to thin out the crowd as the stragglers fall back; a blessing since everyone from the ferry starts hiking at the same time.


As you get higher, the views into Jotunheimen really open up. Definitely one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been – the glacier-fed Lake Gjende and those beautiful peaks…our photos really don’t do it justice! Seeing a flock of reindeer was an unexpected bonus.


Finally we reached the part I was dreading – the Besseggen ridge. Supposedly (I think these figures sound too high), when you near the top of the ridge there is a 700 meter drop down to Lake Gjende on one side and 300 meters to Bessvatn on the other. As we started scrambling up the ridge, I had an embarrassing moment of panic and got really dizzy. It got better once I sat down to breathe, and then all I could think of was getting to the top..



Looking back, I can see that it really isn’t that dangerous; it was all in my vertically-challenged head. It is comforting to know that even with all the people that hike this every year, no one has ever fallen off and died. I felt a little silly panicking up there while little children just ran past me…

...aaand another one

I don’t have any good stats on this hike since Norwegian trail guides measure trails in hours, not distance. This hike is supposed to take 6 hours without rest stops – we used 8 with all our food/photo/looking-at-reindeer breaks.

I found out on the intertubes that the hike is around 10 miles long, and if I had to guess, I would say the elevation gain is around 3,500 feet.

One last obstacle

For those of you who are NOT scared of heights, I would recommend doing this hike the other way around; starting at Gjendesheim, walking down Besseggen, and then taking the ferry back – this way you get the best views without having to turn around all the time.