EXCURSIONS: Autumn has arrived with its characteristic blasts of color over most of Norway. The hills, forests and mountains are ablaze and waiting to welcome hikers, bikers and all the lucky folks who headed off on holiday last week.
Thermometers have dipped below the freezing point for the first time in the Oslo area, with the main airport at Gardermoen and the historic community of Hakadal among those reporting minus-1C. The chill is bound to bring forth even more fall colors, as the greenery of summer gives way to the red and gold of autumn.
It was all just in time for the annual høstferie (autumn vacation) that closed many schools around the country last week. The traditional autumn holiday began decades ago, when local farmers needed help harvesting potatoes and the schools responded by sending students from the classroom out to the fields. What started out as a few days away from school eventually expanded into a week, which stuck around long after the need for potato-pickers subsided.
Now families take off for everywhere from Thailand to Italy during the høstferie week, but many head for the hills or the mountains for hiking before the snow sets in, perhaps some hunting or just quiet evenings at a hytte (cabin) with a good book in front of a crackling fire. Mountain hotels have been advertising for weeks, hoping for some extra business as they lure city folks to the high country.
While the weather was stunningly sunny and clear over most of southern Norway this week, the forecast for the week wasn’t as good. Rain was expected through Friday in southern Norway, meaning snow was likely at higher elevations. Prospects for sunshine in northern Norway were much better.
In the Oslo area, the local ski and trekking associations were nonetheless urging folks to head into the local forests known as marka, where snow was unlikely and trails abound. Good starting points include Stryken, Mylla and Tverrsjøen in northern Nordmarka, Damtjern and Kleivstua in Krokskogen, and Losby and Bysetermåsan in Østmarka. Closer to town, public transport can take hikers deeps into the valleys of Sørkedalen or Maridalen west and north of downtown, for example, or to Skullerud or Ellingsrud in the east. And there’s always the T-bane (metro) to Sognsvann. From these trailheads (look for signs and trail markers in blue), marka is just steps from the bus or metro stop.
It’s also still possible to jump on a fjord ferry out to the islands, or even just take the ferry over to the Nesodden peninsula. But that’s another story.
(Trail maps for specific areas of Norway’s great outdoors are available in local bookstores or from the Norwegian mountain trekking association DNT. For hiking goals in the Oslo area, try the ski association’s Kjentmannsmerket program.)