The Ledyard Trek - 2002
In the spring and summer of 2002, Petes Bohler and Brewitt '03 trekked from Stockholm to St. Petersburg along the route of Dartmouth legend John Ledyard. Traveling by foot and by bike (and by train between Finland and St. Petersburg) they recreated an epic journey Ledyard himself made in 1787. This wiki is a record of their trip website. Updates below were written by both Petes - which one will be unsaid to retain their mystique.
Who was John Ledyard and what did he do?
In the winter of 1787, the explorer John Ledyard, an American who, according to some scholars, covered more of the world than any man of his time, embarked upon a trip which he believed would ultimately bring him nearly around the globe. He planned to travel across the unknown American continent, from Alaska across the mountains and the prairies and back home again. Having sailed with the famous Captain Cook, Ledyard was one of the few westerners aware of the west coast and Alaska. While in Europe, he formulated a plan to explore the West, and perhaps grow rich through the fur trade while he was at it.
Starting in Stockholm, the first leg of the journey was to take Ledyard to St. Petersburg, capital of the Russian Empire. His intention had been to cross the frozen Gulf of Bothnia between the two cities, but that year was mild, and Ledyard found himself unable to walk across. Undaunted, he turned north and walked the 1200 miles around the Gulf, journeying south through Finland and arriving in Russia seven weeks later. Ledyard never managed to make it to the Pacific Ocean. From St. Petersburg he headed east through Siberia, and was near Lake Baikal when he was arrested by the soldiers of a suspicious Catherine the Great. In the process, some of Ledyard’s journals, kept assiduously throughout his travels, were lost.
Who are we?
215 years later, we, the Petes, had decided to re-trace our forebear’s journey from Stockholm to St. Petersburg. We were both juniors at the College. We were both very active in the Outing Club — in our senior years Brewitt was the Chair of Cabin and Trail, Bohler of Winter Sports. Peter Brewitt was a history major with a great love for writing. Bohler was a Studio Arts major concentrating in photography. We produced here an article and a photographic presentation about our trip, which deals with the history of the land and will, with luck, uncover more about Ledyard’s time there.
Chapter I — “Springtime in Stockholm”
Stockholm, Sweden — March 23, 2002
This, our first e-mail update, finds the Petes happy and well-adjusted in Stockholm and ready to start hiking tomorrow. We’ve been here for three days, staying with Swedish friends of mine from the days when I lived in Bangkok. The Lundbergs have been truly wonderful hosts, feeding us, sheltering us, answering all our questions about their country, and generally treating us better than we would treat ourselves. They live in a nice little suburb of Stockholm called Sollentuna (or, as we like to think of it, Soul and Tuna) which is only twenty minutes by train from the center of the city. It’s been great, and we are sorry to leave them. We’ve spent these three days taking care of last-minute business (buying maps and fuel and so forth) and being tourists. Stockholm is a beautiful city, one of the best I have ever seen. The town is built on an archipelago, and there is water everywhere, which in combination with the elegant old buildings and churches is really very impressive. Pete has had some trouble with this, as he always has his camera at his eye and keeps bumping into things. The city is wonderful, although I will be interested to see it when we return briefly in July. Contrary to anything Jim Henson might say, the food is quite good and the people who cook it do not say “Oogly boogly boogly!” [I think Pete meant “Børk, børk, børk!” — ed.]
The story of our trip so far has been pretty standard. We arrived on time in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport and had little difficulty making our way to Soul and Tuna. The elements have been a little unfriendly, hovering around 35 degrees fahrenheit and stirring snow, rain, and wind together in a pleasant potpourri of Scandinavian weather. Today the sky was a lighter shade of gray with some individual white clouds mixed with the steel-colored sheet above our heads, so that was nice. This wintry mix has been good for the photographs Pete’s been taking of post-industrial Sweden, but has made capturing the real beauty of the city difficult. My writing really depends on how things are, so my artistic direction has been less affected.
Everyone in Sweden speaks English, but the signs and letters have taken some getting used to. We are still learning how to pronounce å, ä, and ö [not all web browsers may be able to display these characters; they are “a with a circle”, “a with two dots”, and “o with two dots” — ed.]
There is no snow here, for the winter has been mild, and as a result we will not be able to use our lovely new Fischer skis — there is still snow in the north but we will not be able to walk fast enough to catch up to it. This is very disappointing, but at least we won’t have the extra weight to deal with. It’ll be hiking boots all the way. I sure hope mine hold up all spring.
We’ve also been doing some research on the Sweden John Ledyard knew. At this point we are pretty sure that when he claimed to have walked around the Gulf of Bothnia in seven weeks in winter our buddy John was stretching the truth, as he had done at other times. The trip would run about 2000 miles, which would mean walking forty mile days, every single day. Dubious, at best. But nevertheless, Ledyard was a remarkable man, and we are proud to be following in his footsteps. Our next update should come in a week or so, hopefully from somewhere near the town of Gävle. We will be following the Upplandsleden from now till then.
Yours In The Out O’ Doors, The Petes
Chapter II — “The Packs are Heavy but the Heart is Light”
Gävle, Sweden — April 10, 2002
Greetings, all! After two weeks and 200 miles of walking, we’ve reached the coastal town of Gävle and gotten our first glimpse of the Baltic sea. The last two weeks have been amazing, and we’ve been blessed with wonderful weather — it’s been sunny nearly every day, with nightime temperatures below freezing and daytime temperatures varying from just above freezing to 55 (about 12 degrees C). We’ve seen more small and interesting Swedish towns than I can count. We’ve learned to pick out yummy backpacking foods in supermarkets and actually developed addictions to certain brands of cheese spread and jam. All in all, we feel fit, healthy, happy, and our feet are nearly calloused over!
Week One: “Wow it’s pretty here…let’s take a rest”
The first week was filled with constant suprises and beauty, and we absorbed all of it. Each day we encountered new terrain and new sights — the first day we made our transition from urban Stockholm to the northern woods, the second day we passed castle after castle and camped in a huge field, watching jets from the Stockholm-Arlanda airport streak overhead. We made our first stop in the town of Sigtuna, which dates from the 10th century, is the oldest town in Sweden, and probably was on Ledyard’s way.
We’ve been following a regional trail called the Upplandsleden, which took us through beautiful fields, working pastures, primeval forests, desolate clearcuts, dirt roads, old towns, and every other aspect of the Swedish landscape. We’ve gone past ancient rune stones, bronze age cairns, windmills, and countless Volvos. We’ve seen hardly any hikers on the trail, except for one stretch near a beautiful log camp called Lunsentorpet. We decided to wash ourselves and our clothes, and as we stood there, naked and freezing, five or six hikers passed us!
The highlight occured toward the end of the first week as we were walking at dusk toward the tiny town of Lagga. We were looking for a place to camp when we popped out of the woods onto a vast field, stretching as far as the eye could see to the east and west. On the western horizon, the sun colored the sky pink above glowing lights of the city of Uppsala, 20 k away. To the east, a fat full moon sat low in the sky. Full of rapture and excitement, I immediately dropped my pack, declared to Pete, “I am going to ignore you now and make beautiful photographs!” and started taking pictures. Pete, vaguley insulted, began to set up the tent along a small stream winding through the fields. That night, we sat out, looking up at the north star, nearly directly overhead because of our high latitude (about 60 degrees north), and wondered at the beauty of the day.
Week 2: “Damn the torpedos, full steam ahead!”
The second week we really hit our stride, covering distances of up to 20 miles in a day, carrying loads of up to 85 pounds on our backs, and developing blisters the size of golf balls on our feet. We also started having what are commonly known as “adventures” — buying the lamp oil instead of kerosene for our stove, getting turned around on woods roads, and plunging into a seemingly shallow puddle up to my waist.
We’ve started eating notable amounts, as well — a pound and a half of pasta is a typical dinner, a kilogram of yogurt serves as a snack for me when we pass through towns. We’ve also learned to experiment with food, and as a result, we now enjoy such delicacies as reindeer spread.
The trails have been more varied in the second week. This part of Sweden is very flat and there aren’t any hills, but it can be as rocky as anywhere in New Hampshire and the mud is epic. Springtime has brought high water, and many areas are submerged, including some streches of boardwalked trail! This is all worth it, however, because we’ve passed through several flooded stands of birches, and the reflection in the still water is about as beautiful as a thing can be.
Our amusements are many — naturally we spend much of our free time writing, but we also sing, hold Cabin and Trail meetings, and compete in feats of card-playing savvy. Ocassionally, I find Pete muttering to himself and struggling to remember epic poems, while I try to recreate photographs by sketching in my journal. We’ve also brought Hamlet and the Bible along to maintain our intellects, but most nights we fall dead asleep before our intellects are maintind (sic).
The Petes’ typical day:
AM 6:30 Alarm goes off
7:00 Wake up, surly exchanges between the Petes
7:30 Get up, make oatmeal, break camp
11:00 lunch #1
PM 2:00 lunch #2
5:00 I start noting the quality of the light.
6:30 I start emphasizing the quality of the light
7:00 I throw down pack, grab tripod, and start taking pictures. Pete sits down, grabs his notebook, and begins to write.
8:00 make camp
8:30 mmmmm…couscous and tuna…mmmm
9:00 get in sleeping bags
9:15 card game
9:30 scuffle over result of card game
9:35 surly exchanges between the Petes
9:40 writing in journals
We’re having a great time and we hope that all of you are well.
Chapter III — “Like Training For Sport”
Sundsvall, Sweden — April 22, 2002
Week Three: When is Spring in this Country?!? Greetings from Sundsvall! The following is a transcript of an actual conversation had in the Gävle Youth Hostel, where we were when we wrote the last chapter of the Pete Saga.
Swedish Fellow- You walk here from Stockholm?
The Petes- Yes, yes we did.
SF- Aha! When you arrive, I smell it. Everyone smell it! They ask, who is it? I say, “Is not me!” But I recognize it. Is like training for sport, but very strong!
The Petes, concerned and ashamed- Oh, dear.
SF, indicating television- You like this music?
The Petes, entranced by European MTV- No.
SF- Is shit music. Not like 70’s, ’80s, Led Zeppelin.
The Petes, without turning heads- Yes.
Pete Bohler- I like Led Zeppelin too.
SF- Do you… smoke marihoowana?
The Petes, in unision- No.
SF- Is shit music.
Our stay in Gävle was indeed a memorable one. We visited the Forestry Museum, interviewed the town’s archive librarian, and enjoyed unwinding and meeting Swedes in the hostel. I must note in our defense that when we got there we had not heard any music beyond our own voices for two weeks, and even MTV sounded pretty good. What we wouldn’t have given for some Pat Green or Radiohead…
After two days, though, we were off again. We followed the scenic though erratically marked Gastrikeleden trail northwest. The Swedish woodlands continued lovely, with stately evergreens and ethereal stands of birch rising from the mossy ground. As always, this was jarringly interspersed with naked patches of swampy clearcut. After a few days of good progress, we began to encounter heavy snow in the hills. We plunged on, but it soon became clear that the snow, while still for the most part unskiable, was going to slow our progress immensely. For a while we were postholing past our knees, and while character building this was also very frustrating. One night, encamped near a swamp that looked like it housed Grendel, flanked by two long white snowfields, the conflicts that have always been a part of this trip came to a head.
We have been walking on trails. The problem with trails is that they are not intended to get people from place to place very quickly. Sometimes (get out your atlases, everyone!), as between Stockholm and Gävle, they work out just fine, but other times, as between Gävle and Hudiksvall, they take a long, long time. We were prepared to walk a long way, but the winding trails combined with trying conditions (there has also been no maintenance on the Gastrikeleden since the winter) meant that we would not reach our destinations in good time. This being the case, we turned towards the coast and headed north by another route. At the same time, wishing to complete the journey under our own power and being unwilling to walk on highways, we resolved to look for bicycles.
Bikes were an option that we had been mulling over for a while. Given our daily mileage and the meandering nature of our route, it quickly became apparent to us that we would have a nearly impossible time walking the whole thing. Our pace of three miles an hour is good, but not quite speedy enough to make it all the way around the Gulf. The fact that there are no trails between Örnsköldsvik and Finland was also a concern. Our first thought was to hike to Örnsköldsvik and then take a train or bus to our other Ledyard sites, until Finland, where we know of a long-distance trail that matches our exact needs.
The bus/train option struck us as unwieldy and distasteful. We wanted very much to make our own ways across Scandinavia, as John Ledyard said he did, and biking seemed much the best way of accomplishing this. Pete was a bit more on fire to get bikes than I was. He reasoned that any bicycle would be faster than walking while I insisted on good quality and reasonable prices. This discrepancy led to exchanges like this one, in the basement of a Swedish secondhand store:
Pete, indicating a small powder-blue bike- This would be perfect! Maybe they’ll have two!
Me- Pete, this bicycle is intended for a twelve year-old girl.
Pete- Well, yes, but that’s All We Need!
And so it went as we strode east to the coast and then made our way north, for the most part following backroads that matched up with the route John Ledyard, according to our research in Stockholm, would have taken. We learned a lot during this time and saw many wonderful things.
April, we had been told, was “The Fight Between Summer and Winter”, and it truly was, as the same week brought our first budding trees as well as snow flurries. The migratory birds are heading back to their summer homes, and we often go to sleep to the honking of the wild geese. The weather, beautiful the first two weeks, has become more typically Scandinavian lately — dank and grey in the day time, frigid cold at night. On these days it is very hard to leave the cozy confines of our tent, Kelty. When we do we like to reflect on what the Swedes in the farmhouses we pass are doing: probably sleeping in, then eating pancakes for breakfast, and then reading in their bathrobes and playing Scrabble in front of a crackling fire. We understand from our email that it has reached the eighties in New Hampshire, or Down South, as we like to call it.
Things we’ve learned:
We have nearly perfected our backcountry cooking repertoire. Pete makes a wonderful goulash.
We’ve learned that things in Sweden open at wildly erratic times. Passing through the town of Åmot, we found that the food store was closed Saturday and Sunday, but the candy store was open all week.
We’ve found that the most likely people to talk to us are refugees, drunkards, and missionaries.
We’ve learned that the Swedes unwittingly give their places funny names (at least if you speak English), having been through the towns of Ale, Bro, Mo, Via, Å, and Rimbo. The next province we enter will be Angermanland.
We’ve learned that together we can re-create a lot, but not all, of Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.
It has been a productive week.
Week Four: Along the Blue Baltic
We kept up an unsuccessful search for bikes throughout, and at length we walked into the small seaside city of Söderhamn. There, as in the past, we checked out the local bike store. To our delight, we found that they were offering two solid used road bikes, in good condition, for less than an hundred dollars each. Seizing this opportunity, we purchased the bicycles, along with appropriate helmets, panniers, bungee cords, and so forth (for three hundred dollars total!), and set our course for Sweden’s long distance east coast cycling route, the Cykelspåraten. The route will take us all the way to Finland. I feel that I must note here that the name of the shop where we purchased our bikes is Maskin Center. An excellent place, not least because they gave us a ten percent discount. We urge you to go there next time you’re in Söderhamn. With joy we pedalled out of the city astride our new steeds.
The bikes have opened up a splendid new world to us. We now easily go ten miles an hour and have the flexibility to cruise into any little town that looks interesting. We are now able to follow Ledyard’s track much more closely. The search has been frustrating at times, as most towns have no remaining record of a traveling American who passed through 215 years ago. We have, however, been largely traveling his exact road to the north of Sweden. Parts of this road, built in 1785, still remain, and we pass the old milestones frequently. We’ve seen nearly all the towns that he probably did. This journey has resulted in some experiences of great power. Most notably, in the little town of Enänger the murals on the inside of the medieval church are wonderfully well preserved, and stepping into the small cold building was like stepping back in time. As I sat in the pews I could almost hear the Latin mass echoing off the painted walls.
Biking is a challenge. The stresses and strains on our bodies are different, and sitting on a bike seat all day long is, well, a new experience. Going uphill is harder on wheels than on foot, and packing our gear in the morning is more complicated than it was. And yet, there are those who love it. It is beautiful to whoosh by the fields and woods and rocky coastline, seeing town after town go by and camping where we want to every night. There was one particularly sublime experience a few days ago when we ate lunch on the boulders of a sunny beach along the Baltic Sea. Feeling ourselves to be a little sweaty after ten days without a shower, we decided to swim out to an island about twenty yards out to sea. We should perhaps have considered the fact that it was April at 62 degrees north, but we did it anyway. The startling cold was beyond the power of my words to describe. It was incredible. We did get cleaner, though, and I have rarely felt more alive than on that island.
Shortly after that experience we arrived here in the city of Sundsvall, a week ahead of our original schedule. We are briefly enjoying the Hostel life. This one is up in the hills north of the city, and you can see down into the valley and out to sea from it. Tomorrow we head towards Umeå, where we will probably write our next update. We’re having a great time, Pete’s beard is tufting out, my own is filling in, and we are happy and healthy.
We hope that all is well with all of you,
Chapter IV — “Sturm und Drang”
Umeå, Sweden — May 2, 2002
We’ve spent the last day or so in Umeå, a college town on the Baltic in Northern Sweden. We arrived here the day before yesterday, excited to spend May Day in a town and see what was afoot. Unfortunately, May Day is one of those troublesome holidays where everything in town is closed. It turned out that May Day is a Worker’s Holiday in Sweden, and there would be demonstrations! We arrived in front of the Town Hall just in time to see a crowd march into the square, waving red flags, and begin a day of speeches, music, and protests. Naturally, being irrationally sympathetic to leftist movements, and with something as photogenic as an honest-to-goodness socialist rally at my fingertips, I was having a field day taking pictures. I felt a little self concious when the crowd started chanting… STOPPA USA IMPERIALISMA STOPPA PLAN COLUMBIA …but I reflected that first of all, in such situations I am Swiss, and secondly, I agree that Plan Columbia is one of the U.S. government’s more dubious activities.
From what we could decipher from the Swedish speeches and slogans, however, the arguments were intelligent and well formed, the causes were reasonable, and the atmosphere was friendly. The large crowd contained people of all ages, and children were playing freely in front of the stage. It was really interesting to see such informed political activism here — Umeå is a cool place, and we’ll be sad to leave it.
We started off the week with a good dollop of research in Sundsvall and Härnosand. Sundsvall contains the archives for the entire province in the Kultur Magasinet — a gargantuan library-museum-archive conglomerate in the center of town. We headed down from the hostel to see what we could find. Things looked very promising — according the librarian, the archives contained church guestbooks for all the towns in the area back into the 1700s. Unfortunately, the archivist wasn’t in that day but would be the next. There was a brief flurry of activity as Pete and I, excited by the prospect of finding John Ledyard’s signature on some ancient document, quickly made hostel reservations for another night and reserved microfiche machines for the next day.
We arrived early the next morning, ready to delve into hundreds of pages of documents, when the same librarian greeted us.
“The archivist is at home with her children today.”
“Oh.” (Hopes fall)
“But I talked with her.”
“Oh?” (Hopes rise)
“Everything that might possibly be of interest to you was burnt when the Russians sacked Sundsvall in 1808.”
“Oh.” (Hopes plummet to earth)
Thus thwarted, we packed up and left for Härnosand. The trip was notably beautiful — it found us sweeping out of the hills ahead of storm clouds into a sun-kissed valley and camping on a rock outcropping high above a frozen lake.
Soon we arrived in Härnosand, the self-styled “Athens of Norrland” and home to a nationally famous library and the archives for all of northern Sweden. We set up camp in a powerline cut on the edge of town, donned our dapper research attire, and went to work.
The archivists in Härnosand were extremely helpful and quickly produced every relevant collection they could find. We spent hushed hours sifting through piles of 250 year old papers, guestbooks, and wax-sealed letters. Unfortunately, 1787 seems to have been a bad year for information, and there was no trace of John Ledyard.
We did get a much clearer picture of Ledyard’s journey, however. Ledyard must have traveled on the Norrstigen — the old road to the north of Sweden that has existed in some form since the 1200s. By Ledyard’s day, the King had instituted a complex system of guesthouses and horse exchanges. It is likely that Ledyard stayed in some of these guesthouses en route to Finland. We continue to travel on fragements of the old road as we journey north, and it is awe-inspiring to know the history behind it, and a bit sad to see it now largely abandoned in favor of the E4 Motorway.
The next day we set off for the High Coast, an incredibly beautiful region of Sweden where mountains are rising out of the sea at the pace of one centimeter per year. The High Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’re still not sure exactly how important this makes it (Sweden has 12 of 721 worldwide). Nevertheless, it is stunning.
The gateway to the High Coast is the High Coast Bridge, a nearly 2 km long suspension bridge. It seemed to take forever for us to even reach the halfway point, and when we did, we paused to look around at the inspiring view. Hundreds of feet below us, islands popped out of the blue Baltic. Behind us, mountains rose straight out of the ocean, and fishing villages perched on steep hillsides. On the horizon, the sun was setting and casting a golden glow on the landscape. From our camp that night, we could see the illuminated bridge rising improbably high into the night sky.
The days had been getting gradually cloudier, and we awoke the next morning to rain that would continue on and off for the next few days. When you awaken in Kelty on a rainy morning, it is the coziest place in the world and makes it actually impossible to get up. The soft light filters through the gossamer fabric, the high dome arches beautifully above you, the down in your sleeping bag caresses your sore muscles, the drum of rain caresses your ears…generally the rain stopped by mid-morning, but it sure made rising difficult.
We knew that things wouldn’t always be ice cream and blueberry soup. Here is how the next day went:
A Frustrating Day in the Lives of the Petes
AM 7:30 Petes awaken to rain, begin to muster courage to face day
9:30 Pete C says, “If we get up, we’ll regret it for the rest of the day.”
10:00 Petes bully each other out of tent.
10:15 Petes force down leftover couscous for breakfast
10:20 Pete C begins searching for zip-off pant legs, missing since night before.
10:30 Petes discuss what sort of animal might have stolen pant legs
10:35 Complete unpacking and searching of all gear
10:36 Pete C begins to rave
10:40 Petes repack, set off without pant legs
10:41 Pant legs found on ground.
11:30 Petes stop at food store in town, discover no toilet in store
11:33 Petes steel themselves and set off
PM 12:45 Pete K gets a flat tire directly before epic downhill run
12:55 Mortal battle with bike tire
1:15 Duct tape fails to pan out as hoped
1:16 Bikes 1, Petes 0. Pete K begins to rave
1:20 Sullen lunch
1:30 Petes begin to walk bikes 7k to nearest town
4:30 Arrival in Nordigrå
4:45 Gas station located, owner tries to be funny by speaking Swedish to Petes
4:46 Petes unamused
4:50 Gas station owner switches to fluent english, informs Petes that there are sharp rocks on High Coast roads
4:51 Petes shocked-Shocked!-at this information.
5:00 Gas station owner sells us all needed repair materials.
5:10 Mortal battle with bike tire
5:25 Help from mechanic
5:30 Petes 1, Bike tires 1
5:35 Petes set off through High Coast
6:00 Petes lost
6:15 Back on track, Petes encounter enormous dirt hill
6:23 Pete K dismounts and begins to walk bike
6:27 Pete C topples into ditch alongside road, not yet up hill
6:35 Petes summit hill
6:36 Petes relax after terrifying downhill run, encounters with loose gravel, cars, brush fires, chickens, etc.
6:45 Emotionally drained Petes numbly contemplate beauty of High Coast
7:00 Bike path turns onto E4 Motorway.
7:15 Pete C gets a flat tire
7:18 Flat confirmed, Pete C begins to rave
7:25 Campsite selected in clearcut beside highway
7:35 Pete C navigates logjam to procure opaque cowfield runoff for cooking
8:00 Boiling water spills, defeated Petes resort to the water in their bottles for cooking
8:15 “Kyckel” soup fails to pan out as hoped
8:20 Mashed potato powder leaks all over food bag, begins to rehydrate in moist air
8:30 Mortal battle with bike tire
8:33 Bike draws first blood
8:35 Pete C begins to rave, Pete K stops him
8:47 Petes struggle with tire, declare superiority of man over machine
8:50 Machine laughs
8:53 Petes laugh last. Petes 2, Bikes 1
9:05 Pete C retreats to nurse wounds
9:20 At long last, return to Kelty
Nevertheless, we pulled through and are now experts on changing bike tires, having endured, all told, 4 changes in 36 hours. Things, as they always do, picked up. The High Coast continued to be awe-inspiring. The overcast weather added to the drama, and around every turn we saw hills rising into the mist, beams of light breaking through clouds, and small towns tucked between the hills and the fjords. We also saw our first Swedish moose up in the hills.
Sadly, it was soon time to leave the High Coast. As a consolation, the weather improved and the land flattened out, making progress much easier and quicker. We soon were covering three times the distance we used to walk in a day, with much more time to write, photograph, play frisbee, and generally oogle (no pun intended) the Swedish landscape. We’re excited for the push north to the Arctic Circle!
We hope you are all well-
PS-One of the things that we do to keep ourselves from going insane here is to reconstruct songs and poetry. While going through Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire yesterday, we started to talk about what socially/politically important people/places/events/trends would be included if the song looked at our lifetimes — 1980 to the present. We found this to be very thought-provoking, and so we’re asking any of you who want to (which may well be none of you) to send us your lists for the last 21 years. We’ll limit the list to twenty things. The emphasis is on American subjects, and draws from the artistic and sporting worlds as well as world events and politics. Anyone? We’ll send any interested people our list if they’d like.
— The intellectually hungry Petes
Chapter V — “Rudolph’s Pretty Scruffy This Time of Year”
Haparanda/Tornio, Finland — May 13, 2002
Hello from Finland!
We had never seen a reindeer crossing sign before, but then we had never been in Swedish Lapland before either. The last few days had taken us away from the Baltic coast and north into a wilder, more rural Sweden, but even as we bought reindeer sausage for our lunch we never dreamed that we’d actually find ourselves amongst them. Seeing the sign emblazoned with the unmistakable antlered silhouette, while pretty cool, scarcely compared with the thrill, nine or ten kilometers later, of seeing, among the birches to my left, a real live reindeer. Pete and I dismounted our bikes as quickly as we could without killing ourselves, drew our cameras, and, with all the Mohican-like stealth and grace of men who have just ridden fifty miles, attempted to get close enough to take its picture. The reindeer, shaking its antlers in disgust at the American tourists, ambled off in an unconcerned manner and was soon lost from sight. Undaunted, the two of us hunted the beast through the bush for a while before giving up, having found only an explosively startled grouse, and returned to our bikes. But we had still seen a real reindeer, in the boreal forests of Lapland. The excitement has not yet worn off.
Just so you all know, actual reindeer bear almost no resemblance to the sleek brown Christmas ornaments. They are grayish and shaggy and kind of disreputable looking. Possibly they let themselves go during the offseason and look spruce and dapper when it is time to pull Santa Claus’ sleigh once again.
It’s been a big week for the Ledyard Trek. After more than fifty days of striving, walking and pedaling the Petes have arrived in Finland. As I write these words we are north of the Gulf of Bothnia, in the Swedish/Finnish twin cities of Haparanda and Tornio. When John Ledyard arrived, in the winter of 1787, he collapsed in exhaustion at the door of a doubtless confused citizen. Our arrival was less dramatic — we purchased a large bottle of orange soda and took joyful photos at the border marker before collapsing, exhausted, on our hostel beds.
We’ve had some great experiences on the way to the border, though. Our mileage is pretty consistent with what we’d like it to be by now, and we’ve seen a lot of Swedish towns (and a lot of Swedes). Notable moments since last you heard from us include passing the little town of Moron, crossing an old wooden bridge in a lovely riverside park of birches in Skellefteå, being accosted by an enormous (at least 6’-3") and VERY friendly woman carrying four pints of alcoholic pear cider out of a supermarket, and finding an American food section, featuring Newman’s Own salad dressing, Chips Ahoy cookies, and (Joy!) Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, in a supermarket. It amused us to note that the American food was on the same aisle with Japanese, Mexican, and other ethnic cuisines. At one point the bike path led us right by an ariport runway, and when we stopped to take photos of the scenic devastation (thanks, Bohler), we learned just how big an SAS passenger plane is when it’s thirty feet above your head. We’ve mastered some new skills, foremost among them the ability to throw a Nalgene water bottle with a tight, football-like spiral for some distance. Going through more towns has meant slightly more frequent internet — I notice that the Red Sox and Celtics seem to win more when I’m out of the country — and more frequent food-buying. We have developed a real problem with McVities digestive biscuits, which we use as gambling chips in our increasingly desperate card games.
One wonderful theme to our continual northward journey has been the continual presence of light. We don’t have the famous “Midnight Sun”, as the solstice, more than a month from now, will find us en route to St. Petersburg, far to the south. However, it never gets dark at night anymore. We enjoy a long, beautiful twilight from about 9 PM till sunrise. The nighttime is simply a red glow moving across the horizon. Even if we wake up at midnight it is light enough to require no artificial light. We are considering sending back our headlamps. These long days are truly magical, and we are continually amazed at the unending hours of sunlight. We were told by some that we might have trouble sleeping in all the light. This has not been a problem. Even under blue skies, after dinner we burrow into our bags and sleep like contented infants.
Our biggest milestone thus far, in my mind, has been reaching the Arctic Circle, this past Thursday. The circle was slightly out of our way, and added about a day to the trip, but we thought that since, after all, we are funded by the Institute for ARCTIC Studies, we should pedal up and pay the line a visit. This we did, pedalling into a fierce headwind the whole way — the wind is no friend to bikers — and eventualy arriving at 66° 33´ 39´´ North, where the Arctic begins, about a thousand kilometers as the crow flies from Stockholm. It is not too much to say that this was one of the greatest moments of our lives. We have dreamed of reaching the Arctic Circle under our own power for months and months, and reaching the sign was, for me at least, the culmination of our time in Sweden. We are very proud of ourselves, and proud of the fact that you can now trace our journey on a map of the world. Find Sweden, draw a line from the capital in the southeast to the dashed line across the top, and there you go.
The Arctic Circle is marked by a small pull-over area in the hamlet of Juoksengi. There’s a large informational sign explaining a little about the Circle in Swedish, Finnish, English, French, and German. Its actual location moves slightly from year to year, and there is a small sign reading Polcirkeln denoting its most current location about fifty meters from the large multilingual display. I gather that the sign get moved as the circle does — at least it looked pretty portable when Pete and I examined it with the idea of bringing it back to college with us.
Our true selves having triumphed, we took a great many pictures at the sign, some of which we are sending home soon — they should be on the website, had a Manly Hug after ceremonially walking across, and threw a frisbee from the Subarctic to the Arctic regions. After spending a night encamped on the north side of the line, we biked back down to the Baltic and now find ourselves here, at the end of Sweden.
I have thought of this trip as “Going to Sweden” for so long that it feels a little odd to be leaving. We are excited to travel through Finland — indeed, I am a quarter Finnish myself — but we have grown to know and love Sweden. And so, as a farewell to this country I present the list of things we found endearing, frustrating, or otherwise remarkable about Sweden. In no particular order:
Woodpiles. Living in New Hampshire, I have seen my share of stacked kindling, but Sweden’s version of firewood piles is truly astonishing. About half of the houses we passed featured little mountains of neatly split and stacked pines that were quite obviously the result of many hours’ hard labor and careful attention. The height of firewood achievement came when we observed with awe a yard containing five eight-foot tall beehive formations stacked in a spiral so that only the logs’ cut ends were visible. It was incredible. [Polcirkeln, Shpolcirkeln — I want to see a picture of the spiral woodpile! — ed.]
Libraries. In order to use the internet we’ve gone into most of the local libraries we pass by. I suppose it’s the socialist system, but Swedish libraries, even in small towns, are much, much nicer than their American counterparts. You walk in to a drab little building with “Bibliotek” on the outside, and find yourself entering a cathedral of knowledge with several full and well-ordered floors of books, music listening stations, pleasant pine interiors decorated with tasteful art, a small cafe…and they are always full of people. It makes me wish that American society focused on this a little more.
Random towers. Throughout our travels in Sweden, we would, perhaps once or twice a day, see a tall tower rising above the trees. For the most part these would be in towns, but not always, and there is no uniformity to their form or construction. Brick, concrete, wood, steel — they come in all shapes and sizes, they have no apparent purpose, and they are absolutely everywhere.
Berries. Sweden utilizes its berries in every conceivable fashion, and they’re all delicious. The strawberry jams and blueberry soup mix are super, and the mixed berry yoghurt is by far the best yoghurt I’ve ever tasted. Good times.
Peter Forsberg. Forsberg, who plays hockey for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, is a saint in Sweden. Maybe a god would be the beter word. They love him. He’s like Michael Jordan was in the nineties, but much more popular.
Pulp Factories. Every north Swedish community of any reasonable size has, along with a tower, its own pulp factory. Usually an enormous complex on the outskirts, these establishments make for a scenic and fragrant welcome to town.
Socialism. The people really believe in it. At the rally that Pete mentioned in our last update, the crowd was populated by all parts of society, including prosperous-looking parents with young children, and elderly grandmothers with their little froofy dogs. Cities are flanked by vast fields of small simple homes — few have anything better, but few have anything worse. We’ve even been taken for vagrants and offered money (this will be expanded upon in a future update on the list of Ten Things That Make Petes Feel Like Bums).
Dogs. The Swedish Country Home is not complete without a brace of furious barking dogs, usually of the husky or timber wolf breed, hurling itself against its cage or straining at its leash in a vain attempt to devour passers-by. I’m not sure what people keep these animals for unless it’s to frighten American trekkers.
And so our little crew, having traveled from Stockholm to the Arctic Circle, bids farewell to Sweden. On behalf of Pete, myself, Ivan the stuffed bear, our plastic dinosaurs Eleanor and Alexander, our packs Red and Jerome, and our bikes Deece and Miko, I say goodbye to Sweden and hello to Finland. From here, we will bike to Oulu, just down the Finnish coast, and thence to eastern Finland. From Karelia we plan to don the hiking boots (and packs) once more and hike southeast to the Russian border. Due to the foolishness of the Russian government, we will then have to travel to Helsinki to get visas, and with regrets travel the last part of Ledyard’s route by bus. Our next update, in ten days or so, should come from Kuhmo, in the northern Lakeland.
We hope you are all well,
Chapter VI — “Rolling Through the Old Country”
Nurmes, Finland — May 24, 2002
We have never felt so popular in our lives.
Yesterday, as we were setting up camp in a commercial campground and spreading out our gear in the hot sun for a complete air-out, a small group of Finnish schoolchildren came by and started observing us. They spoke little english, but were friendly and we did our best to talk to them and point out our route on a map of Scandinavia.
They returned later that evening in numbers. First five, then ten, and soon a whole gaggle of about thirty twelve-year-olds gathered around the strange American trekkers, examining our every movement as we prepared our dinner of tuna-asparagus casserole. I pulled out my camera to document our celebrity, and my photos were met with a paparrazi-like shimmer of flashbulbs, as our tiny observers returned fire. Soon Pete was tossing our frisbee with them and teaching them trick throws, while I was surrounded by a group of about fifteen girls, who asked me questions like, “What is your surname?” and, holding out their cell phones, “Do you have?” Later, about a third of the class had their pictures taken with us, and they taught us Finnish words like “muikku”, which means “fish” and is what Finns say when they have their picture taken instead of “cheese”. Sadly, around 10:30 they had to leave our company, saying, “We must go now, our teacher is very angry.” We wished them good luck as they ran back to their camp. We’ve come a long way since our last update. From Tornio, we hugged the Baltic Coast for the 150k run to Oulu, where we spent several days in one of the world’s most beautiful cities doing research. Since then, we have turned inland and traveled southwest through the vast Finnish forest. Now we are in Nurmes, a small town in North Karelia, about 50 km from the Russian border and at the northen tip of Lake Pielinen.
The way to Oulu was short, but not without incident, as we had run-ins with the Law (who politely chased us off of the E4 motorway) and the notorious bike-trouble fairy. About 20k before we made it to Oulu, Pete’s wheel had enough of it and gave out. We noticed it wobbling excessively, and upon closer examination determined that this was due to twelve blown spokes. This problem was beyond even our mechanical prowess, but luckily, we located a nearby bike shop.
The owner was a hunched old man who spoke no english, but some gesturing at Pete’s sorry wheel soon communicated our problem. He beckoned us into his cluttered and dirty workroom, grimmaced at the wheel, and set to work. The man was an artist with bikes. We watched, awe-struck, while he took the twisted, greasy, and broken piece of metal and, in an hour’s time, wove a shining new wheel. The cost of his expertise and 36 new spokes? About 20 dollars.
Armed with a taut new wheel, we headed out into the glorious spring day. For months we had been watching the tiny buds on the trees, trying to will them open, but the landscape remained brown and lifeless. Then all at once, on May 15th, a million ghostly birches sprouted a million newborn leaves [one leaf each?! I’ll shut up now. — ASE], and the grass and flowers sprung from the ground. After seven months of winter, words cannot capture the power and beauty of spring’s long-awaited arrival, it continues to fill us with joy.
The landscape only became more beautiful as we approached Oulu, crossing a network of ivory footbridges between wooded islands and finally catching sight of the large and beautiful city buildings, built right out of the bay. It is a gorgeous city, bustling and lively, with a large square on the waterfront, filled with people relaxing with their friends in open-air cafes while a live band played for all to hear. We returned later that evening to join the people watching the sun, as it approached 11 pm, glide brilliantly down to its shallow bed beneath the horizon.
But first the sauna. The only affordable place to stay in Oulu is a lovely beachside campground, which, among other ammenities, offers a nightly sauna. We were excited to try it out. Our first Finnish sauna was an experience. Unsure of what to expect, we stripped down, showered off, and joined the small, hot room full of glistening, naked, middle-aged Finnish men.
We expected the Finns to be reserved and meditative in the sauna, but the opposite was true. They were friendly and broke right into conversation, which was a bit odd at first but nice. Between dousings of cold water, we spoke to a wiry guy with fluent english, and later to a hairy and jovial man with an extravagent potbelly. He spoke no English, but perisisted in trying to converse by grinning, saying words in Finnish, and counting to three on his thick, stubby fingers. Another man, the most hardcore of the bunch, sat right up close to the stones and, every couple of minutes, doused them with water to unleash another searing burst of steam. He stared at the floor and muttered at us in Finnish until we were driven out by the heat. Nevertheless, the atmosphere in the sauna was welcoming and happy, and we emerged feeling extremely refreshed.
The next two days were rainy and we spent them being tossed about like a frisbee from nondescript office to nondescript office. We were attempting to find evidence of John Ledyard, and every such office seemed to contain copious and accurate records of everyone who had ever lived in Oulu, but, after we struggled to communicate that Ledyard had merely passed through, they shook their heads, took our street map, and indicated another streetcorner, another unmarked door, another quasi-historical institution that might be of help.
We had better luck at the library. The library contained several good books on Finnish history and a good assortment of old maps, but most importantly, it contained the writings of an Italien named Acerbi who traveled from Stockholm up the Finnish Coast to the North Cape in 1802. His writings were fascinating, and from them, we gained a much better picture of the experiences of a traveler around Ledyard’s time. I will include particulary enlightening passage about Acerbi’s interactions with the local people here:
“It has long been my habit to read from some book for half an hour or so before retiring to sleep. As I was reading, from Ariosto, I thought I heard a tapping at my chamber window. I ignored it, thinking it to be perhaps the product of a mind excited by Ariosto. But I heard it again, and I beckoned my companion to listen also. At length it occured for a fifth time, and I opened the door to find a fine girl standing outside. She wanted a corner of the bed. What happened next? I do not know what Ariosto would have said, but I will leave it to my reader to think what would have happened had they been in my place.”
We left Oulu amid snow flurries and headed for the Finnish interior. Toward the evening of our second day out of Oulu, we were biking past some fields when we caught sight of a little reindeer tied to a leash in a yard. We jammed on the brakes, loosed the cameras, and crept up to investigate. The reindeer stood about three feet at the shoulder, with wide, dark eyes, and decorative little antlers covered with a thick layer of black and gray fuzz. Its round body was covered with an arctic quantity of beige fur, and its oversized, furry, bootie-like hooves dangled off of its awkward, boney legs. It was like a cross between a newborn lamb and and a playful puppy, except ten times as cute. It eyed us curiously, and bashfully loped towards us and away.
We were overcome, weak-kneed with cuteness. We promptly retreated to the food bags amid discussion of what sort of food a reindeer might eat. We returned with carrots, our best guess, and Peter K thoughtfully peeled them in preperation for the reindeer’s afternoon snack.
The reindeerling pranced up towards us, emboldened by the prospect of some sort of treat. We held out our hands, anticipating the gentle nuzzle of a soft, furry nose, but either reindeer don’t eat carrots, or the reindeerling remained terrified of our hairy, carnivorous selves. At length, the owner came out, and led the reindeer into his shed while we, wistful and hurt, consoled ourselves by eating the carrots.
As we left the coastal region, the land suddenly began to rise in wave after wave of steep hills. The farms gave way to forest, and we turned onto dirt roads for two days to make our way to Nurmes. From the top of each hill, we were able to look out at the immense Finnish forest. Finland is the most forested country in the world, and the view is absolutely breathtaking — one giant sweep of green reaching off to the horizon. In the coming week, we plan to plunge into the backcountry, and are excited to spend more time deep in the woods.
Finland has been good to us. It’s an absolutely beautiful country — the Finns carefully landscape even their highways — the buildings, whether old or new, are pleasingly designed, and the landscape is gorgous. (The arrival of spring may have biased these impressions, of course). To our pleasant suprise, people have been very friendly, and several shopkeepers have offered us dramatic discounts for no reason. The people also seem, true to their reputation, to be very athletic — we often pass Finns on roller skis, gliding smoothly down an endless stretch of empty road. We’ve developed a great affection for Finland, or “The Old Country”, as Pete, who is a quarter Finnish, likes to call it.
From Nurmes, we plan to send our bikes ahead and walk the next leg of the trip along the famous UKK Trekking Route. It should take us about a week to get to the town of Joensuu (at the southern tip of Lake Pielinen). From there, we will again mount our bikes for the last stretch to our final destination of Imatra, on the Finnish-Russian border. If all goes as planned, our next update will be sent from Helsinki in approximately two weeks.
Chapter VII — “The Little Mermaid”
Helsinki, Finland — June 18, 2002
We apologize for the length and lateness of this update. A lot has happened in the last three weeks.
We have made Helsinki, and the end of the trek!
After three months and 2000 miles of hiking and biking, the Petes have come to the end of the trail and are now waiting for our visa applications to be approved. We are spending our time here walking around the beautiful Finnish capital, doing research in its archives and libraries, and setting up the rest of our travel and project plans (actually a much more taxing and difficult process than any walk or bike ride).
Pete and I, after some deliberation, decided that the physically demanding part of the trek would officially end when we reached the fountain of Havis Amanda, a mermaid who looks over Helsinki’s harbor. She is said to be the symbol of the city, and indeed of all Finland, and we thought that this would be a fitting place to end our trek.
Getting there wasn’t easy. On the last day, we made our way slowly from the countryside through endless suburbs and then navigated the concrete maze of Helsinki itself. It was a hot day, full of cars and people and motion and construction sites, which, after so long in Scandinavia’s fields and forests alarmed and confused us slightly. All the day long it seemed we would never arrive at the statue as the streets went changelessly on and on. At great length we came down a hill, passed a church on our left, and all of a sudden, in the middle of a crowded square, there stood Havis Amanda. We rushed to her, touched the stone foundation, had a Manly Hug, and then sat down, feeling the cold fountain spray on our backs, and tried to bend our minds around the thought that the we were done traveling under our own power.
When last you heard from us, we were in Nurmes, getting ready to start walking again. Pete and I were tremendously excited over the prospect of walking — the bikes have been great, but first and foremost we are hikers, and we had heard wonderful things about pockets of pristine wilderness in Finland’s east.
The wonderful things were true — for the most part. The UKK route (and the other trails we followed) were indeed very pretty, and quite wild, but the trail conditions were, at times, abominable. Blazes to mark the path would be put on trees with no trail bed beneath them, or blazes would disappear entirely and we would have to navigate with a map, a compass, and guts. I will never criticize White Mountain trails again.
The first day, in particular, was full of this sort of route, and we constantly had to stop and look around for the dark blue markings, making scant progress. In the late afternoon we got on to a good section of trail and after a few kilometers found a nice campsite atop a little rise. The area seemed pretty but not unusual until I went down to the stream to get water. Wandering a little off the trail I was greeted by sheer gray rock faces, rising some fifty or sixty feet from the streambed and running for perhaps a kilometer south before turning into plain forests again. Awestruck, I ran to get Pete, and we immediately moved our campsite to the lip of the gorge. The rest of the evening and the next morning were spent exploring. The place had such a primeval hush about it that I would not have been surprised to see a wooly mammoth lumber down the valley and begin to drink from the stream. It was magical.
That experience set the tone, and our hike through North Karelia’s lakes and forests was outstanding, in my opinion the most beautiful section of the trip. Among many highlights, we climbed the highest mountain in southern Finland, Koli Hill. At 347 meters it was a real challenge, but by using fixed ropes, bottled oxygen, and Sherpas we managed to summit. The view from the top, taking in all of forty mile long Lake Pielinen and its surrounding woods and ridges, was on that hot and cloudless day one of the best I have seen from any mountain. With the exception of the Koli area, though, the trail was quite flat, wandering through Robert Frost-style dark and deep woods that reminded me of troll stories from my childhood. The lakes that dominate eastern Finland were a constant presence, and most nights found us camped by some shimmering silvery woodland tarn. We would often take our lunches by the water, and follow them up with a brisk swims, just to confirm for ourselves that while the day was warm, the lakes remained very, very cold.
Summer weather brought with it some changes in our routine. Hot drinks appeared less and less frequently on our dinner menu. I went to the T-shirt, shorts, and Outing Club bandana ensemble, while Pete shed his shirt entirely and apparently donned a moose pelt. It matched the marmot that slept on his chin quite well. By the end of the trek, after consistently hot bright weather, Pete was sporting a magnificent pack tan on his torso. It’s still with him now.
The UKK route saw the introduction of a heretofore unmatched element of leisure to the Ledyard trek. We would select our campground based not so much on our progress but on the beauty of a potential site. Sometimes, when we knew that there was a fire pit coming up at the end of the day, we would buy sausages and whittle sticks with which to roast them. Once there was a rowboat at the lakeshore we camped on, and after dinner we took a peaceful row around the water. It was dusk, and the air was very soft and still, and to be afloat on a lake in the woods of Finnish Karelia was really quite wonderful.
Another change in our lives during the hiking portion of the trip was the larger role of a novel we picked up in Haparanda, Timothy Geary’s classic work “Ego: the Bigger the Better”. Set in the exciting and tumultuous world of fashion models in the early ’90s, “Ego” began to come out of Pete’s pack (I had finished it in Haparanda) more and more during meal times and in the tent at night. Eventually the adventures of feckless Miles, conniving Kristina, and crafty Giovanni began to dominate our conversations. At the same time, we found ourselves forgetting words and failing to perform easy tasks. We cannot wait to get back to our own books.
June also brought mosquitoes. We’d heard about these friendly little fellows for months, but had stayed clear of them so far. In the woods, though, the bloodsuckers caught up with us. At first there were only a few sneaky insidious insects, but soon the word that the Petes had arrived was clearly out in the mosquito community, and the evening would bring swarms of them. Fortunately at this point my hair is long enough to act as a flail, much like the tail of a horse, and brush the mosquitoes away. As the trail went on though we met larger and fiercer bugs, until by the end of the hike they were the size of basketballs and wielded crudely made tomahawks. Pete and I took to carrying our trekking poles in front of us like spears, and eating back to back to fend them off. We went to sleep to their chainsaw-like hum, and woke to see brigades of them gathered outside our door. It was amazing. We are sad to have left the trail, but we are glad to be rid of our winged enemies.
We stopped hiking in Joensuu, and paused in the pleasant lakeside town to get our bikes again from the train station. Our campground was right next to the town beach, and as it was a rest day, we headed down there to play frisbee. A group of ungainly-looking Finnish fellows were playing two on two volleyball. After watching them for a while, we said to one another “We can take these guys”, and strode out to challenge them.
Our pride is still lying there on that beach. We have never been beaten so badly at anything. We sure hope that they do not take us as representing America. It was humiliating. Fun, though.
Such things, along with update-writing and research, make up our rest days. We thought that you might wonder what else we do when we’re in towns, and so, as a new installment of the surprisingly popular “Day in the Life of the Petes” series, we present A Rest Day in the Life of the Petes.
AM 10:00 — Alarm goes off.
10:30 — Pete C. “We should get up now.”
10:32 — Pete K. “Yeah, we should.”
10:32-10:58 — Matress hugging.
10:58 — Pete C. “The bathroom is far.”; Pete K. “Mmmmmm.”
11:06 — Bladder Gravity having overcome Bed Gravity, the Petes blearily stumble out of bed and stagger, in a modest hurry, to the mens’ room.
11:15 — Brief scuffle over who gets first use of the still dry towel.
11:16-11:43 — Pete K. showers.
11:45-12:10 — Pete C. showers.
PM 12:11 — Frosted Flakes!
12:21 — Angry recriminations over whose gluttony caused the distressing emptiness of the cereal box.
12:30 — The Petes set about their day.
12:45 — Arrival in the local library.
12:46-1:00 — Pete K. reads the International Herald Tribune. Pete C. reads Der Spiegel.
1:01 — Blitzmail accessed! Savoring of messages from friends, loved ones, Student Assembly.
1:30 — Pete K. pleased to note the continuing success of the Boston Red Sox. Pete C. pleased to note the continuing success of Dartmouth Crew. Sigh.
1:33-2:01 — Frantic typing of blitzes. Pete K. writes the first two paragraphs of update, sends to himself.
2:02 — Petes booted from computers by prepubescent Finnish girls and their Instant Messaging friends. Mild surliness.
2:08 — Arrival at local archive.
2:09 — Lone English-speaking staff member grumpily called in from coffee break. Has no records of travlers. Has no record of Americans. notes massive town-destroying fire in 1821. Suggests that finding John Ledyard “impossible”. Questions Petes’ sanity. Suggests local library.
2:31 — Chastened Petes return to library. Inquire after old records. Maps? Books? Are shown old maps and referred to local archive.
2:36 — The Petes learn a great deal about Finland and its roads in 1787. Understand our buddy John better. Still no concrete sign, though.
3:45 — A visit to the town museum. Old maps, old ploughs, old clothes. Tent from when the Lapps lived here. Petes entranced.
3:46 — So what if we’re a little dorky?
4:30 — Town church ascertained to date from 1825. Pictures taken anyway.
5:00 — Rest Day Food Buying! Bread, butter, honey, McVities Digestive Biscuits, Rittersport Chocolate, Fanta.
5:30 — Return to hostel.
5:35 — Yum, yum.
5:56 — Food comas.
6:05-6:35 — Pete C. “wins” the right to do the evening’s chores after failing to prevail at cribbage or rummy.
6:36 — Pete K. smugly sympathetic. Pete C. swears off cards For Ever.
6:40 — Nap time.
7:15 — Petes gradually rise, stretch, yawn, write in journals, consider the soreness of their quads.
7:30 — The traditional Rest Day Rain having relented, the New England Peetriots go outside and amuse themselves by throwing an empty Nalgene water bottle to one another.
8:15 — Pete C. cajoles Pete K. into “going out”.
8:25 — Petes stroll the town, disguise selves as Finns by eating ice creams in 41 degree (5 celsius) weather.
8:30 — Scene in a small Finnish town on a Wednesday night declared “pretty grim”.
9:00 — Petes return to hostel.
9:10-9:30 — Phoning home.
9:31-10:10 — Angst-ridden discussion of life.
10:15 — Pete C. notes the quality of the evening light, decides to take pictures of the town at sunset, begins to muster courage.
10:15-10:25 — Mustering.
10:30 — Petes go outside, take photos, note that it is actually very cold this time of evening, return to hostel.
11:00 — Dinner. Pasta, ground beef, broccoli, pesto sauce.
11:01-11:35 — Eating.
11:35-12:40 — Shower Two.
12:50 — Exhausted Petes go to bed, sink into mattresses.
12:55 — Contented mumbling.
1:00 AM — Sleep.
From Joensuu we pedaled south through the Lakeland towards Imatra, on the Russian border. The biking is wonderful in Southern Karelia, with lots of bridges and flat shoreline roads to skim over. Before we knew it, we were in Imatra, the furthest point along John Ledyard’s trail that we would bike to. We had considered ending in Imatra (before our heightened pace allowed us to continue to Helsinki), we’d been heading towards it since Tornio, and getting there was pretty exciting.
The city itself, though, was nowhere near as as exciting as the 7 kilometer bike ride to the Russian border. After leaving the town itself, we pedaled for a while through desolate logging land before coming to a big customs house where the road widened. Arriving at the end of Finland thrilled us, and it was pretty neat, if a trifle disconcerting, to look at the sniper towers (famililar to anyone who has seen James Bond movies or played the video game) and think “that’s Russia”. We went as far as we could before th gigantic jackbooted guard informed us that we could go no further. He did, however, permit us to take photos of ourselves next to the scary stop sign that marked the beginning of no-man’s land between Finland and Russia. The guards watched us scruffy, suspicious characters like hawks to make sure we didn’t break for it, and then waved us on our way back into the West. We expected that the ride to Helsinki would take us three uneventful days. It did not. Our first hundred and fifty kilometers or so went smoothly. We had plenty of time so we biked at a relaxed pace, stopping once at a bar near Lapeenranta to watch England’s soccer team defeat Argentina in the World Cup.
I will note at this point that the World Cup has become a problem for us. With England, our Realistic Hope, and the United States, our Unrealistic Hope, both advancing nicely, and the Forces of Darkness (France, mostly) out of the tournament, we are following the world’s biggest sporting event devotedly. Spain and Brazil still concern us.
About a day after the Argentina game, though, we had our final encounter with our old nemesis, the Bike Trouble Fairy. Riding up a hill, I went over a little bump and heard a metallic sound from my rear wheel. When I dismounted I found that my wheel was sufficiently bent that to even roll the machine required a stern shove every rotation. We tried to fix it for a couple of hours, but the spokes began to snap when we tightened them, and at last we were forced to admit that my bike, Deece, after carrying me some 2500 kilometers, would carry me no further. We were 90 kilometers from Helsinki.
We developed a plan whereby we would strap everything but our backpacks on to Pete’s bike and rotate riding the heavily laden vehicle and walking. In this manner, we were able to keep up a steady pace and cover the remaining distance in about two days. There were some alarming moments, most notably at the end of the first day when we found ourselves without water and far from any source. We decided to ask for water at the next house we passed by. We were a little concerned about this uncertain prospect, but at the first house to came to our fears were allayed.
The people we asked for water, Juha and Monica Petrell, were as friendly and welcoming as could be, and we soon found ourselves roasting their sausages, sharing their sauna, and sitting around their fire exchanging experiences late into the night. The experience was tremendously warm and happy, and we were almost glad that my bike had broken. We cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to them. Another day and a half found us in Helsinki.
So here we stay in Helsinki, strolling the harbor, eating the excellent chocolate ice cream, and waiting for our visas to come through. The next (and second to last) update will deal with St. Petersburg, and will arrive in about two and a half weeks.
We hope you all are well,
P.S. We’d like to take this opportunity to express our fondness and appreciation for all the just-graduated seniors on this list: Leyla, Aly, Mike, Debbie, Caroline, Molly, Hannah, Kenny, Joe, Zach, Erica, Jen, Emily, Tim, Joanna, Alex, Dom, Annie, and Adam. Good luck. We love you guys.
Chapter VIII — “There and Back Again”
Stockholm, Sweden — July 9, 2002
At long last we’re back in Stockholm, Sweden, and in two days’ time we’ll both be back in America. The last three weeks have been far more amazing and erratic than we could have imagined when we arrived in Helsinki, parked our bike, and stepped onto motorized transport for the first time in three months.
Our first day (in Helsinki), June 12, was Helsinki’s birthday. The evening’s events featured a free rock concert in a park, and, figuring it maybe would have a couple hundred people and some decent local bands, we decided to check it out. We were not prepared for what we got — the concert featured a selection of the biggest names in Finnish pop, culminating in a performance by international pop sensation Shakira. It was wonderfully entertaining, if slightly disconcerting when the 70,000 high schoolers in attendance started singing along to Finnish rock anthems we had never heard.
After the concert, the crowds swept over the dark and deserted streets and headed for home. The metro was closed, and the throngs of people pressed into buses, which were already overflowing, packed with a tangle of limbs and bodies and the drivers didn’t even try to collect fares. Outside, the crowd started shoving as everyone struggled to get on. In the chaos, Pete and I were separated, but eventually we both made it back to the campground and the refuge of Kelty. That night, we went to sleep making jokes about the third-world nature of the frantic masses, oblivious to what awaited us in Russia.
The first several days were spent in a numbing haze of logistics as we planned out the coming leg of the trip. Chief among our hurdles was acquiring a visa to Russia, a process we came to refer to as “The Great Game”. Nothing was as easy as it had been explained to us over the phone, and the first week featured twice-daily visits to our friend Anna-Stinna at the RTT Travel Agency, and subsequent sprints to email and telephones to coordinate with the hostel in St. Pete. We ended up staying in Helsinki for two weeks.
Being in Helsinki so long, it became our home. When our small band first wheeled into the city center, carrying oppressively heavy packs, suddenly hampered by our possession of a bike, and exhausted after a long walk through endless outskirts, it was all we could do to make our way to the metro. But in our time there, it had shrunk from an intimidating and confusing metropolis to a quaint city with one metro line, gentle traffic, and helpful, friendly people. At its center, there is a wonderful grassy park that features street performers and daily concerts. The harbor is beautiful, and located right on the water is the famous Kauppatori, or fish market, which sells all manner of vegetables, beautiful berries, and delicious fish. Once we had fought through the worst of the visa hassles, we spent our days relaxing in the park, strolling the cobblestone streets, and absorbing the day’s ration of tourist attractions (Helsinki has its share, but not enough for two weeks).
As museums dwindled, we searched out free entertainment. Our greatest find was the Stockmann’s department store, an enormous complex that occupies more than a block in the center of Helsinki. Its various branches included various services of great interest to Petes:
A large selection of English-language magazines and books
TVs that televised World Cup games
Music listening stations
A fussball (table-soccer) table (sadly, we had to pay for this so it didn’t get much use)
Free arcade terminals
Free internet terminals
Suffice it to say we visited often.
Our free-stuff instincts failed us on Midsummer’s Eve, however. Midsummer, the longest day of the year, is a big holiday in northern countries, but most Finns go to lakehouses and celebrate there. Bonfires are also lit to celebrate, and it seemed to us that the biggest and best of these would be held on an island on the west side of town. We determined to go, despite the 12 Euro admission cost. We figured it was an essential part of the cultural experience, and at 12 Euros, it had to be really, really cool, we reasoned.
It was a hard-core tourist trap. The evening featured the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire by a crew in Finnish national costume, narrated in Finnish, Swedish, German, French, and English, and a variety of extremely overpriced foods and souvenirs. It was all well enough, but not worth our 24 Euros. Shortly after the bonfires were lit, we trudged home, haunted by visions of the fresh meat and yoghurt and chocolate and ice cream we could have bought with the money.
Upon our return to the campground, however, things began to pick up. While making our dinner of rice and cheese, we started talking to a collection of Finns and Germans gathered around a campfire. We got on particularly well with the Germans, who were motorcycling around Scandinavia. They were an odd pair — a short, portly fellow also named Peter, and a tall, athletic man with an extravagant German accent named Phillip — but they were very friendly, and we had had many similar experiences on our respective journeys. We talked with them late into the night, and went to bed feeling that this was what Midsummer Eve was really all about.
Midsummer’s Night was even better. We met up with Peter and Phillip in the evening as they were organizing a soccer match. We collected a bunch of drunken Finns and split into teams — according to our heritage, I played for the German National Team and Pete played for Finland. Our religious viewing of World Cup soccer had made us very eager to play, and we were thrilled when we turned out to be the leading scorers on our respective teams. We played in a field by the campground until quiet hours rolled around at midnight, and then resumed on the beach, playing for hours and hours all through the non-existent night. It was wonderful. We’ll note for the record that Germany dominated.
At long last, our Russian visas arrived. Getting to Russia had been our focus since we finished biking, and despite our interesting diversions, we were glad to get on the road again. We were excited by everything Russian. We marvelled at our Russian train’s Cyrillic lettering, its old wooden interior, and the intimidating hats of its conductors. En route, our eyes were glued to the windows as soon as we neared the border, and we were amazed by the small settlements we passed, full of little gardens and run-down shacks and the occasional large building, magnificent, run-down, or both. We were ejected into the streets of St. Petersburg around 10 at night. The legendary Neva river flowed in front of us, with the evening sun painting the 19th century buildings on the far side golden. Above, an enormous statue of Lenin was silhouetted against the salmon clouds. We sprinted across the potholed street between racing cars. The road, typical of St. Pete, was eight car widths wide, but lacking lanes, crosswalks or any traffic markings at all (occasionally there would be a crossing sign indicating two hapless pedestrians running desperately for the other side). Not wanting to try to figure out the metro, we walked the three kilometres to the hostel, past beggars, fishermen, military cadets, kissing couples, historic buildings, Russian stores, and general chaos. Like all of Russia, it was hectic, confusing, a bit scary, and strikingly beautiful.
It took us a full day of wandering up and down Nevsky Prospekt, the main street, to begin to get our bearings. It was overwhelming. Around every corner there was a breathtaking church or palace testifying to Tsarist opulence, or some massive symbol of Soviet glory, but these things were also monuments to fallen empires, and the general disorder and poverty of the society was evident. But watching this society, which has been such a force in history for so long, was fascinating.
All over the place, people were trying to get money, selling flowers, magazines, or other wares on the street, begging, pickpocketing, or running tiny shops. Some were western style stores, well marked and featuring western-style prices and security guards, but many were dodgy little places around the corner of a tucked-away courtyard or at the end of a hallway in the basement of an apartment building. These stores could contain anything from a couple of shelves of $2 pirated CDs to rooms full of radiant antiques, with nothing selling for less than $1000. Even the supermarkets were different. After a long day of wandering around, we just wanted to grab some food and collapse at the hostel. But supermarkets in Russia are different: each type of food is kept behind one of several counters, and you shop by standing in each line, requesting each item, and paying for it all individually. Especially when one can’t speak Russian, it’s very difficult, and it’s impossible to buy a large quantity of food (the system was designed during Soviet times to limit consumption).
As we walked back to the hostel late that night, we were gruffly accosted by the police and asked to produce our passports and visas. We were alarmed, because we had heard stories of the police stealing money and planting drugs on hapless tourists like ourselves. But there was nothing we could do, especially in light of their enormous guns, so we nervously handed over our documents.
They frisked us down and started questioning us.
“You have guns?
You drink beer?
We quickly answered no, but they asked us at least a half dozen times. We also had trouble communicating where we were staying, but by this point they had checked our wallets (after actually reaching into our pockets) and discovered we actually had no money with us at all and were therefore no longer of any interest, so they soon let us go.
The next day was our research marathon. Alexander Dron, a humorous and friendly gentleman with remarkable fluency in English, was with us to translate. Early in the morning, we set off for St. Petersburg’s foremost library. Simply getting in proved a considerable task. Normally, people without college diplomas aren’t allowed to use this facility (!), and we were kicked from office to office trying to get in. Eventually, however, our letter from President Wright paid off, and after several hours (not bad for Russia), we were allowed to get library cards -- we now have new candidates for our ugliest photo ID’s -- and enter the library.
Mr. Dron guided us down a vast hallway of card catalogues to the drawer that held the Cyrillic spellings of “Ledyard”. After some searching around, we located the work of Zaklar Dicharob, a man who has recently published a book on Ledyard. It turned out to be the best source we’ve seen. Not only did it tie together many other sources and clear up some ambiguous details, but it put Ledyard’s trip in the context of an international struggle between England, France, Russia, and the United States for control of the Pacific fur trade. This cleared up a lot of mysteries surrounding Ledyard’s dubious treatment in Russia, and we realized that his journey was more than just one man’s adventure. Sadly, Dicharob’s book also indicated that there were no primary sources in Russia for us to study. It did state that nothing of Ledyard’s was confiscated when he was deported in 1787, so probably his missing journals were destroyed before he was even arrested.
One of the benefits of being in civilization again was people. We got to talk to people again! Most of the guests in the hostel spoke English, and although some of them were definitely odd (one guy was in Russia “to meet women” because “American women aren’t submissive enough”) but others were great. In particular, we met a bunch of British kids, including a cheerful fellow named Ed with a rapid and thick English accent, and a sweet girl named Sam who had been teaching English in Tokyo and later came with us to the Hermitage and ballet. They were great fun, and after our Day of Research we decided to go to some pubs with them. We got along extremely well, and ended up staying out very late. Watching the sunrise above the open drawbridges on the Neva River is a sight I will not soon forget.
Everything everyone says about the Hermitage is true. Situated in the Winter Palace, the famous museum has beautiful interiors, and every room is filled to the ceiling with incredible work by world-famous artists. We spent the day gliding through pillared halls of Greek and Roman statues, admiring rooms full of Cezanne and Matisse, and gazing at Rembrandts in rooms that would be stunning even without the incredible art they contained. It was a powerful, exhausting experience that cannot be adequately summed up in words.
Afterwards, we went out to dinner at the Cafe Idiot, a small expatriate cafe which, as we discovered from a newspaper article on the wall, is considered one of the top twenty cafes in the world. To round out our Day of Culture, we went to the ballet and saw “Giselle”. It was all very wonderful, and remarkably, the whole day only cost $7 per person.
While in Russia, we took an extended side-trip to Moscow. Although Moscow is actually quite far from St. Petersburg, the train trip was overnight and cheap, and we were able to stay with our friend Andy, who is interning at the American Embassy there. Thus, we got to see the Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Tomb, and other Moscow attractions. It was exciting and a bit uncanny to visit places that we had seen on the news and read about in books our entire lives.
It was also great to see Andy again, and amusing when occasionally he would stop us in the middle of our conversation, lean in closer, and whisper, “I’ll say more when we get back to America, but the room is bugged.” We all got a real kick out of that — if I was Andy I would play up the whole room-bugged thing as much as I could.
A train mix-up allowed us to spend Independence Day in Moscow, and because of Andy’s Embassy connection, we got to go to the barbecue party there. It was wonderful, if a bit bizarre, to be around so many Americans again, celebrating our country in the shadow of Stalinist skyscrapers and the Russian Parliament Building (familiar from CNN). We played volleyball and ultimate Frisbee, and ate hamburgers and hot dogs and potato salad to our hearts’ content.
Then suddenly, it was time to start heading back, retracing our route to St. Petersburg, to Helsinki, and then by boat to Stockholm. This was both relieving and disappointing — we hadn’t seen a tenth of what we wanted to in the vast country, but it was difficult and stressful there, and we were exhausted from the whirlwind of impressions and experiences. The return trip was good for reflection, as long bouts of travelling were interspersed with short, deja vu stops in cities we knew quite well. The ferry needed 17 hours to get to Stockholm that had taken us three months to travel between on foot and by bike. And then we were back, pulling into the Stockholm harbour with the familiar skyline of the old city on the horizon.
We hope all of you are well. We’ll send out one final update when we’re both back in the States.
Chapter IX — “The Return of the Jedi"
New Hampshire, U.S.A — July 17, 2002
The Ledyard Trek has ended. After nearly a year of dreams, plans, stress, pictures, miles, sweat, words, and wonder, we the Petes have returned home to America. It is strange to reflect that it is all over. I am sending this, the final update, to recognize all the many people who contributed to making our trip as truly wonderful as it was, and to lend some finality to the succession of updates that we have been sending (and you have been reading) since the cold wintry March day on which I typed the first one from Stockholm. Today is sunny, it is July in New Hampshire, and we are very far from there, in every respect.
It is lovely to be at home. To hear and read English everywhere, to eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (at this point the flavor matters very little) and real meat and fresh vegetables, to watch baseball on television, and of course to sleep in our homes and be with our families fills a space in us that has been vacant all spring. At the same time, being back is a little odd. The nighttime here is very dark, and mattresses are astonishingly soft. Shopping without too much regard to price and less to weight, and conversing with people not named Pete are also welcome but slightly unsettling experiences. There is no doubt that this trek is the greatest accomlishment of our lives and has been a tremendously important and influential experience. We will be spending the next few weeks trying to achieve some perspective on it, and writing and developing photos for the next step of the project. We will be publishing some articles, and eventually I will produce a book. Pete will be putting together a gallery exhibition of his finest photographs at some point in the coming year. For anyone near Hanover, we will be putting on at least one slide show about the trip, and of course you all are welcome.
The trip would not have been what it was, and in some cases could not have happened at all, without the contributions of the following people.
Thanks and recognition to:
Mr. Weyman Lundquist, our mentor, inspiration, and general patron, without whom the trek would not even have begun.
Mr. Oran Young, for advising us, and the rest of the Institute for Arctic Studies, for awarding us two Steffanson Fellowships.
Mrs. Evelyn Steffanson Nef, for continuing to support the grants in the name of her late husband.
My mother and father, for their advice, love, and support during the trip and throughout my life, and for instilling me with a love of learning and adventure that defines who I am.
Pete’s mother, who, in Pete’s words, has not only always helped him pursue his dreams (however odd) and supported him through this latest adventure with unending love, emails, and enthusiasm, but in a saintly action dealt with a box of smelly clothes we sent back from Finland.
Mr. Brian Kunz, for sage advice and encouragement with regard to the trip and to the outdoors in general
Ms. Julie Clemons, for superb leadership of the Dartmouth Outing Club and plenty of patience and support for the trek.
Everyone at Outdoor Programs and Directorate, our outdoor role models and friends, for generously helping to subsidize the trek.
College President James Wright, for his financial contributions and for providing us with an authoritative letter instrumental in getting us into libraries in Russia.
The Leslie Humanities Center, for financial support.
The HOP and the Peter D. Smith Award, for financial support of the upcoming photo exhibit.
Fischer Skis, the makers of the best cross-country skis available and some great folks, who went out of their way to support our trip.
Kelty Equipment, the makers of our wonderful tent and my sleeping bag. My beloved pack Jerome, too, but I bought it long before the trip. A quality company.
Mountain Sports Research, the makers of our trusty stove Miss R., without which we would have faced many a cold night and bleak morning.
Northbridge Communities, for subsidizing our transportation to and from Stockholm.
The Maskin Center in Soderhamn, Sweden, which provided us, at a discount, with bikes and thus allowed us to continue with the trek.
Willie Photo Shop in Tornio, Finland, for coming through with a hand held light meter and keeping Pete from suicide halfway through the trek.
Mr. Ashley Thomas, the DOC’s world-class webmaster, for doing a terrific job on our website.
My girlfriend Hilary, for her constant love and support before, during, and now after the trip, and for encouraging me to follow my vision, to the point of donating money to the Trek, even though she would rather have had me in America.
Pete’s girlfriend, Lauren, for putting up with him (and putting him up) and loving him during the six months prior to the trip when he was Hassled Pete and during the three months prior to the trip when he was Frantic Pete.
Dr. Vasiliy Vlasihin, for facilitating our search for Russian translators.
Mr. Alexander Dron, for doing such a good job translating for us that we still think he may come from Connecticut, not from Moscow.
Mrs. Svetlana Podbereznykh, for easing our stay at the St. Petersburg HI hostel
Ms. Anna Stina, of the RTT Travel Agency in Helsinki, for securing our nettlesome Russian visas.
The Lundberg family, Lennart, Monica, Martin, Malin, and Johann, for their tremendously gracious hospitality in Stockholm, welcoming us into their home and making us feel like honored guests at both ends of the trip. We could not have asked for a better introduction or farewell to Scandinavia.
Andy George, for allowing us to stay in his apartment in Moscow and guiding us around that city, and for good advice on Russia in general. Jon “the third musketeer” Eisenman, for keeping the spirit of 202 Andres alive in America even though two of us were gone, and for generally being a good man.
Monica and Juha Petrell, for giving us a wonderful night of Finnish hospitality on the road to Helsinki
Professor Allen Koop, for letters of recommendation and general advice.
Professor Dick Sheldon , for helping us with Russia.
Professor Gerry Auten, for advice on exhibition space
Professor Virginia Beahan, for pretrip advice, support, and recommendation letters.
Professor and John Ledyard Scholar William Spengeman, for insight into Ledyard’s character that profoundly influenced how we looked at the trek and the man.
Professor Brian Miller, for helping out with last minute advice, recommendation letters, and timely advice during the odd photo crisis.
Marvelous Phil Marvin,who took care of problems at Dartmouth for us, which usually involved photo equipment, the attic of the Rock, and burdensome requests.
Mr. Mark Alvarez, for providing an excellent set of pots that cooked many a meal on the trail.
Jonas Akermark (Thayer ’01), for advice on Sweden and maps thereof.
Graeme Cornwallis, Jennifer Brewer, and Steve Kokker, for doing a usually good and always engaging job of writing the Sweden, Finland, and St. Petersburg Lonely Planet guides.
Mr. Mike Silverman, for helping us with some troublesome gear issues.
Anyone who’s e-mailed us, at any time in the trip. We loved getting your letters.
The Rock, for being the Rock and offering us short-term lodging when we return to Hanover.
Brad Friedel, Claudio Reyna, David Beckham, and Michael Owen, for giving us heroes during the World Cup.
The 2001-2 New England Patriots, for inspiration.
Ed, Claire, Sam, Liz, and all the other fun people we met at the St. Petersburg hostel, for good times in the common room and on the town.
Other thanks to:
All the characters we’ve met along the way: Ibrahim the Somalian refugee, his friend the Crazy Sailor, Hakan the Missionary, the Gavle hostel owner, his cousin the Sundsvall hostel owner, the Gavle Drug Dealer, the Robertsfors Tippler, Toni the Finnish Phi Tau, the Nurmes children, Baron the philandering gypsy, Dan and Jason the American backpackers, Philip and Peter the German bikers, the three Finnish floozies whom we met in Helsinki, and our St. Petersburg companions Woody and the Talker.
All the librarians and archivists who were kind to us along the way.
The people who shaped John Ledyard’s original trek: Catherine the Great, Empress of all the Russias, King Gustav the Third of Sweden, Thomas Jefferson, and William Langhorne.
Our predecessors in studying John Ledyard and Scandinavia, James Acerbi, Stephen Watrous, Jared Sparks, and Zakhar Dicharov.
Princess Madeleine of Sweden.
The Penguin Ice Cream Company of Finland.
The Bob Jam company.
The Marabou Chocolate company.
The McVities Digestives Biscuit company.
The Daim Candy company.
The Santa Claus Reindeer Pate company.
His colleague Timothy Geary.
And, of course, John Ledyard.
We sincerely hope that you all have enjoyed these updates. We have certainly enjoyed writing them. Thank you all for reading them.
Yours in the Out O’ Doors,
The Ledyard Trek Expedition was sponsored by the Dartmouth Institute for Arctic Studies, the Dartmouth Outing Club, the Leslie Center for the Humanities, College President James Wright, and Northbridge Communities, Ltd. Gear sponsorships were kindly provided by Kelty, Mountain Safety Research, and Fischer Skis.