Scandinavian wilderness hike 12- across Junkerdalen to Sulitjelma

On this stage I cross the fantastic Junkerdalen and have an unexpected change from walking, when paddling large Balvatnet.
After crossing Lønselva I get into a nice nature reserve with old, open pine forest. Although the trees in this untouched woodland must be very old, they don't get higher than about 10 meters, due to the harsh climate north of the arctic circle.

                                                   Open pine- and birch forest

I like this parklike landscape with its moss and lichen covered ground very much. Soon I am again in the open, quite barren granite country. 

                                      Smooth granite covers much of the landscape

There are a number of lakes, which look inviting for a swim, on one a young Norwegian couple has put up their tent, relaxing in this unusual fine weather.
The distinct, pyramid shaped Storfjelltoppen mountain appears, which I already know from the other side, on which it looks much gentler.

                                The backside of Storfjelltoppen

A long descent gets me into the valley of the Junkerdalselva. There is a large campground which seems to be almost deserted, despite now at the end of July must be peak season.
After crossing the river I enter Junkerdal Nationalpark, with 682 sqkm not very big, but quite special. As the area lies in the rainshadow of Svartisen glacier, the climate is unusual warm and dry for northern Norway. Because of that the vegetation is quite lush and unexpectedly dense. 
For some time I follow a good vehicle track, but when arriving at the Skaiti gorge it seems to faint away. Since long it is not possible any more to use it with a vehicle, and I am afraid that it leads to a cul de sac, at a place where the canyon side has collapsed into the river...
Indeed, there are a number of places where I have to scramble on loose rocks, but nothing bad. Anyway the gorge is so beautiful with its turbulent green- and white waters, the green of the vegetation and the steep sided rock walls that I can't resist to explore further, well aware that I might be forced to return.

                                         A beautiful gorge

Sometimes I spot something like a faint trail, with downed grass, but first I guess, this was caused by moose. Only for a short stretch I have to bushwack for a while.

                                   Bushwacking in dense Vegetation

After two hours in the gorge I reach the farm Skaiti, where a trail which gets more use, starts. The valley is very beautiful and offers a lot of diversity from dense birch scrub with man high perennials to dry lichen covered areas. Sometimes I get a view on the river with its many waterfalls. Among other hikers, I meet Hilde and Andrea who walk Norge på langs with their huskys. 50 days ago they started at Nordkapp! 

                         Hilde and Andrea are about to cross Norway

Again I have hiked about 30 kilometers today and it is already late evening, when I pitch my camp on deep moss. In the vicinity there are at least six waterfalls plunging into the gorge!

                                             Waterfalls near my camp

Next morning I soon reach a suspension bridge and continue on the other side of the river. The forest gets less dense, therefore I get more views.

                                                       Junkerdalen Nationalpark

But like always, even here in this beautiful valley, there are fences. I already guess, that reindeer herding has changed very much from the romantic imagination most people have about it, to a modern business...

                                                              Reindeer fence

After two hours I reach the beautifully located Argalad hut. There are two dark, wooden houses with moss covered roofs. A 72 year old Norwegian tells me, that he is "collecting" huts. He already knows all of the DNT- cabins in southern Norway and now tries to fill the gaps in the north...

                                             View across Skaiti valley to Argalad hut

Shortly after Argalad the forest ends and I am in open fjell. I have to wade three rivers which come crashing down as waterfalls and are quite powerful.
Then I have an unexpected encounter, Tor and his wife have crossed Balvatn with their canoe, to start hiking from the shore. They offer to take the boat and paddle it back to the dam, where they started. This is a real win- win situation, they don't need to fetch their canoe back after the hike, and I have a nice change from everyday walking! We have a beer together, another nice treat and chat a bit. They tell me, that they already have met a german from Marburg this morning. As I live in that town, I ask again, if they are sure, but it doesn't take long and Stephen appears on the scene. I didn't know him before, but he really is from Marburg! It is a small world...

                                         Interesting encounter

A little later Matthias, whom I already have met at Argalad, shows up. When I ask him if he wants to join the boat ride he is first a little reluctant, but later agrees.

                          Matthias on the way to Balvatnet

Well after noon we reach the rocky shore of the big lake and immediately find the 5 meter long canoe. As Matthias has no paddling experience I take the steering back seat and off we are!
It is tempting to cross the lake, but on this big water that would be dangerous in wind and high waves, so we stick to the east shore, enjoying waterfalls, impressively snowy mountains and a blue, lively sky. There are some waves, but we do good progress. After two hours we take a break on the shore, but soon continue, navigating to the harbour at the dam with my GPS. Sometimes we do a shortcut across a bay, but mostly we stick quite close to the secure land. It only takes us 3,5 hours to cover the 15 kilometers on Balvatnet and feel like proud seamen, when we finally reach the harbour. O.K, engineer Matthias has served in the Navy, so this is not too new for him....

                                     Canoeing on Balvatnet

A vehicle Track leads us two kilometers to the Coarvi cabin, where we spent the night. The "hut collector" told me, that the DNT- cabins in the north are far less expensive than those of the south!

                                                   Coarvi cabin

While Matthias wants to stay in the vicinity I start early next morning the long descent towards Sulitjelma. On the other side of the valley I already spot the steep, intimidating, snow covered mountains of the Sulitjelma range...
Sulitjelma Turistsenter is located 6 kilometers above town. Camping and cabins for rent are available. The nice, young owner Bjørn tells me, that up to 1991 Copper was mined here. As a large water power station has already been erected, there are plans to continue the mining, so Sulitjelma will change again soon...
I walk into the seemingly grey and ugly village, collect my parcel and buy supplies for the next 15 days. While enjoying two liters of icecream, I meet Danuta and Martin. They are from Poland, but live in England since long. The couple wants to walk Norge på langs and started their voyage from Nordkapp. 
When I have returned to the Turistsenter, the nice weather period has come to an end. While I relax in my cozy cabin, the rain hammers on the roof....

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