We spend virtually all of today exploring the wonderful Skuleskogen National Park, just over 3,000 hectares of protected forested coastal land within the High Coast.
Our first stop is via the North entrance. It’s up a really steep dirt road that I think is beyond the motorhome (…I was wrong) so we walk the last few kilometres in. Luckily it’s a glorious day and this offers little hardship, especially when the way is paved by wild raspberries in fruit and a variety of pretty butterflies fluttering about.
The Northern entrance is a lesser visited one – I’m hoping this means an undisturbed environment with creatures aplenty. As it turns out, we’re not in the least bit disappointed. There are a variety of creatures that live in the park and we’re lucky to encounter evidence of quite a few of them.
One thing I’ll say about Sweden is that it’s organised. We can take a variety of walks, everything from a 100 metre wheelchair accessible viewing point, to a 130 kilometre trek. We opt for one of the mid range hikes to the shoreline, in light of the walk in and back out again. It’s a great walk, some via boardwalk, much of it a carved dirt path and just the right amount of scrambling over boulders to make you feel like you’ve made an effort.
Our first creature encounter is beavers. There’s evidence of them everywhere – trees have been lopped with precise efficiency, leaving pointed tip, like a sharpened pencil. Endless chopped branches too. The phrase, busy as a beaver, is starting to make sense. Best of all are two beaver dams, very serious engineering, beaver style. They’re very impressive offering not only accommodation for 2 – 3 families but a larder where they “plant” fresh cut branches as a live pantry staple to last the winter months.
We also see many frogs, the largest of which is perhaps 3 -4 cm, the smallest, a tiny black one, barely over a centimetre. If frogs are a measure of how well an ecosystem is functioning, this one is paradise. They’re everywhere.
The park offers many vegetation changes, old pine and birch forest, lichens, moss of all types, reeded wetlands, rare alpine flowers and long bearded spruce. We learn later that some of the pines are over 500 years old, stunted by the harsh conditions over this time.
There’s evidence of woodpeckers everywhere, drilling their holes to access grubs and tree sap. They’re destructive little things. Nibbled mushrooms attest to much activity by busy little teeth…but more on that later.
We eventually make our way to the water, first a trickle, then a stream, the dammed river, lake then shore. It’s a peaceful untouched spot surrounded by the uplifted cliffs, over 10,000 years of archeological change.
The sand offers us a surprise which has me squealing in delight. Pawprints, large and small left in perfect imprint along the shore. I consult my guide, and later, a reference book I travel with. Given the shape of them and the options of animals that live in this forest, it can only be a lynx and her kitten. Chris has to drag me away as I marvel over them. Imagine seeing one of these elusive, shy creatures. Wild spotty kitty bliss.
We turn back, along the froggy strewn path back. It’s a long walk back to the motorhome, but the it pays off. A red squirrel darts across the path and shoots up a distant tree. Luckily we have the binoculars. He plays a charming game of hide and seek, hiding his little face behind a branch, using the time honoured logic of “if I can’t see you, then you definitely can’t see me”. He’s gorgeous with a long red tail. I perform a bit of camera balancing magic and take his photo through the binoculars. It’s a tricky feat. Not quite in focus, but still a treasured memory of him.
Back to the car, we drive a few kilometres to the Southern entrance and take a few of the walks on offer. The southern end of Skuleskogen offers quite a different landscape. This is the high end, home to many alpine plants. It’s also heavily bouldered. Pink granite boulders are covered with evidence of glacial scarring and lichens of all shades. It’s nature’s version of the classic raspberry and green provincial colour scheme. Gorgeous.
The first walk is a steep on along a plank boardwalk then across boulders. The reward is a long view through to the sea. We can see islands dotted through the view, once fully submerged, the rising land mass has turned them into peaks.
The second walk seals our fate on not getting far today, but we’re both happily ensconced in the forest. Ahead of me on the path, Chris spots our second squirrel. This one is tiny, tiny, no more than a handful, even with his tail. He’s a colour variation too, still red but with a good deal of black in his tail. He’s a little bundle of squirrelly perfection as he darts to and fro, too young and silly to be terribly fussed by us. He’s so little that I have shoot him in extreme close-up to see him well through the camera. I eventually calm down enough to remember to video him. By this stage he’s hiding behind a stump, nibbling on a mushroom. I knew it! Those little fang marks are evidence of squirrelly nibbles. I’ve been trying to convince Chris for weeks. Two wild squirrels in one day. That’s a good day in my language.
The forest offers a final treat, ligonberries fresh off the bush, rich in vitamin C with a sharp tang.
We hike back and decide to spend the night at the edge of the forest. Most of the day has passed and there’s not much point hitting the road at this stage.
Despite being a confirmed stiletto wearing, lipsticked kind of girl, I deeply love these wild landscapes. My inner geek (Chris calls her/me Hermione) longs to get lost in them, camera in one hand, detailed scientific explanation to everything we encounter in the other. I’d wait patiently too, happy to spend the hours through nightfall when I could see all the creatures whose handiwork and paw prints we can only admire.
Until Chris turns into a night creature like me, I can only dream and live in hope.