EXCURSIONS: Norway’s forests and streams are long from the Mississippi, but nonetheless can offer the casual hiker a chance to be like Huckleberry Finn for a day. One popular trail on the outskirts of Oslo runs right over a body of water, but a raft is standing by to cross it.
The unusual hiking experience can be found in the eastern forest known as Østmarka, bordering on Sørmarka (the southern forest), at a place not far from the large parking lot called Bysetermåsan, itself the site of many trailheads.
Just to the west is a long, narrow lake called Svartoren, formed when a creek with a similar name was dammed up in the early 1800s. The local timber industry was behind creation of the dam, to more easily float logs down to a nearby mill.
The dam turned the creek into a nearly three-kilometer-long lake that’s only about 20 meters wide. The original dam, according to the Kjentmannsmerket handbook for 2008-2010, published by ski association Skiforeningen, was replaced by a sturdier dam made of stones and cement in 1958.
The lake remained so narrow that it was tempting to connect marked hiking trails on either side of it. So in 1993, a group of local enthusiasts came up with the brilliant idea of rigging together what the Norwegians call a “trekkflåte” — a raft fastened on each side of the lake’s shoreline — over the lake’s narrowest spot.
A trail leads right to the raft, which can then be pulled by its ropes over the inlet. If the raft happens to be on the other side of the lake when a hiker approaches, he or she only needs to pull it over by its ropes, hop aboard, pull it over to the other side and hop off. Great fun, and the views up and down the lake from the raft are fine.
An active group of retirees who clear trails in Østmarka, called ØX, jokingly proposed offering tax-free sales on board the raft, since it crosses the border between Ski and Enebakk townships. Even without the sales, the “trekkflåten ved Svartoren” earned a spot in the last Kjentmannsmerket handbook and makes for an adventurous interlude on an otherwise easy hike from Bysetermåsan.
Similar rafts can be found elsewhere in Norway, constructed by enterprising Norwegians as a means of crossing lakes or even getting from one small island to the next. The raft over Svartoren also earned a “landmark” symbol on trail maps for Østmarka.
(For more information on “Kjentmannsmerket” and other hiking destinations, see New forest treasure hunt underway.)