West of Örebro lies a range of low hills stretching from the great lake of Vättern in the south to the forests of Dalarna in the north. The hills are called Kilsbergen, and there is a walking track which follows the range for some 280km. For me these western mountains, cloaked as they are in forests of pine and fir, dotted with hidden lakes, represent an unexplored wilderness waiting for us to discover. Previous trips to Kilsbergen for us in past years have mostly centred on Ånnaboda, a popular destination an easy drive from Örebro. In summer we have swum in the mountain lake there. One winter when the twins were still small we went tobogganing down the slopes in the same area. I have also hiked a few times with my friend Anders in other spots in Kilsbergen, but never for more than a few hours.
Today we went out to Kilsbergen with Anders, Marianne and their son, Daniel, to grill sausages over the open fire. We drove toward the little village of Närkes Kil, north-west from Örebro. A line of swans flew southwards high above us as we passed Lake Tysslingen and drove through the tiny village of Frösvidal, before we began to climb on dirt roads through the forest.
Our destination was Trolldalen, a forested glade in the middle of Bergslagsleden, the walking track mentioned above. Trolldalen – ” the troll valley” – evoked thoughts of Bilbo Baggins and Middle Earth, and Hanna’s imagination turned rotting tree trunks barely visible through the darkening trees into warty, bulbous nosed creatures waiting to jump out and carry us away. A huge rock with a hollow beneath must surely be the opening to their underground lair.
The leafy, slippery, puddled track was surrounded by a carpet of undulating, green moss beneath the towering firs. A short walk brought us out high above a glassy lake, Göljan, surrounded by brooding forests. The wild silence was soon disturbed by the kids, shouting with delight as they wandered down the rocky slope to the water’s edge. A few rowing boats were drawn up under the trees on the distant shore, but there was no sign of human movement.
It was cold, but a fire was soon going and we got out our sausages and bread. Sticks were sharpened and soon four kids were gathered around with sausages suspended over the flames. The smoke followed them around, as campfire smoke seems invariably to do, but when we stoked the fire so the logs caught alight again the smoke was replaced by cheery dancing flames. Sausages were followed by coffee and biscuits and scones and cakes, and the kids sat on the roof of the storm shelter and chewed on sweets.
Our time was short – it had been drawing on toward evening already when we had arrived – so after some playing among the trees and talking around the fire the sun had already sunk below the horizon and the light was disappearing fast. We packed up and headed back through the deepening gloom of the dark forest, feeling the cold penetrating our layers of clothes. Back in the warmth of the car we retraced the route back to Örebro and our cosy home in town. Our little adventure in the wilderness was over… the forest we left to the trolls.