Planning my St. Olavsleden Pilgrimage

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April 29th 2017
Published: March 21st 2017
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My first visit to Norway in 1964My first visit to Norway in 1964My first visit to Norway in 1964

Flying over the fjords.
I always start a new year by planning my trips for the year, if not before. Last year, Linda granted me five weeks away to walk the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. I knew she wouldn't agree to that long a separation again so that set one limit for any trip this year. This year we have a new more constraining limit to our ability to travel together. Our dog Bonnie was recently diagnosed with diabetes, requiring two shots daily, in the morning and evening. We didn't want to burden anyone with having to take care of her, especially as she doesn't like to be away from the comfort zone of us or our home. This requires that we take her wherever we go, which pretty much limits us to road trips around the United States. So this eliminates our plan to take a cruise around the southern end of South America for our 45th anniversary at the end of this year.

Linda always starts a new year by NOT wanting to plan our trips for the year. She takes awhile to recover from the holidays. However, she does love to visit our children and has already visited son
Bob exploring the Fram in 1964Bob exploring the Fram in 1964Bob exploring the Fram in 1964

The Fram explored the polar region
Will, our daughter Rosanna, son-in-law Evan, and grandson Connor in Danbury CT for ten days in February. She also wants to visit her family in New Castle PA and go to Danbury again. So her 2-3 week trip to CT and PA is scheduled for October. We agreed that I could take a separate 2-3 week out of country.

After having walked the Camino de Santiago in September and October 2016 (see Planning My Camino de Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage and following), I've been thinking about walking another pilgrim trail. I can't seem to get it out of my system. I have many choices when it comes to pilgrim trails as almost every European country has one or more, including non-pilgrim trails such as Hadrian's Wall across northern England. But I wanted to wait to walk that trail when Linda and I eventually visit England and Scotland again. Linda says she would like to walk at least part of Hadrian's Wall; remembering fondly the time she was huddled with the kids and a flock of sheep behind the wall which blocked the wind and rain (see Spring Break in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England). I was walking a section of the Wall and got soaked! My top choices narrowed down to the St. Olavsleden leading to Trondheim Norway and the Via Francigena leading to Rome.

I started investigating the Via Francigena, and even bought a book to help planning. But I've visited Italy recently, if 2010 can be considered recent. And I haven't spent much time in Norway recently. My last trip there was in 1997; twenty years ago, on a business trip when I was program manager for the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation program between the U.S., Russia and Norway. I visited previously in 1964, 1968, 1974, 1985, 1990, and 1995. So perhaps it was time for another visit. Another pro for picking Norway is my Norwegian ancestry, although I had researched my ancestry in a 1995 visit and wouldn't be going to that area of Norway.

While pondering these options I received an email from my sister Carol asking me for advice for her son Justin, who she told me would be walking a pilgrim trail from Oslo to Trondheim. She didn't know what I was planning! Not one to ignore such coincidences (there are no coincidences!), I decided to walk the St. Olavsleden from near the Swedish border westward to Trondheim. The Via Francigena will also have to wait for another year. Linda has agreed that this is a great idea!

For my planning I am using the St. Olavsleden website at: and I also joined the Facebook groups Hiking Along St. Olavsleden and Pilegrimsleden - St. Olav Ways.

The following abbreviated history comes from their website: "Olav Haraldsson was born in 995 and grew up in Ringerike. While in his teens he set off as a Viking, serving as an officer for noble men in England and Normandy. He was baptized in Rouen, where he encountered the holy Benedictine movement. Shortly after this, in 1015, he left England to claim the Norwegian throne. He brought several English bishops with him on his ship, suggesting that he already had plans to Christen Norway. Olav was a highly intelligent and determined man and a skilled political and military strategist. For the first few years, everything went smoothly. Olav became the first king to effectively take control of the whole of Norway. He gradually established an administrative network and a legal system that held Norway together. He undertook several missionary expeditions to parts of Norway that were not yet Christian, particularly in northern and central Norway. He
My second visit to Hell in 1985My second visit to Hell in 1985My second visit to Hell in 1985

I will be walking through Hell again on the St. Olavsleden
created a permanent base for Christianity, for example by building churches. He was less successful at building loyalty and friendship among other leaders who felt threatened by the growing central monarchy. In England, powerful King Canute (Knut) was plotting to reconquer Norway. He bought the loyalty of Norwegian leaders. Resentment of Olav’s “tough control” grew ever stronger. As a result, King Olav lost his power and fled the country. Olav spent his final year, 1030, in Kiev, then a spiritual center in Europe flourishing of theology and philosophy, art and monasteries. In the summer of 1030, he stepped ashore in Selånger, Sweden intent on reconquering Norway. The decisive battle was in Stiklestad on 29 July. Due to a classic military error, his troops were outwitted and Olav was killed. His body was smuggled away and buried in a sand bank on the spot where Nidaros Cathedral now stands. A year after the Battle of Stiklestad, Olav’s body was exhumed. The bishop pronounced him a holy man with the support of the populace. Olav was canonized as a martyr. His death for Christianity was seen as certain proof that he was God’s instrument. He was honored as an apostle of Norway for completing the long process of Norway’s Christianization." Pilgrims have been walking the pilgrim trail from Selånger to Nidaros (now Trondheim) for a thousand years. They received blessings, which I also hope to receive in addition to the St. Olav's letter.

To obtain my St. Olav Letter, I must walk the last 100 km. I will obtain my "passport" at the Stiklestad Pilgrim Center, to which I will add stamps as proof that I have walked this distance. I will then catch a bus (once a week on Fridays) to Stormoen near the Swedish border which is 107 km from Trondheim taking the fjord route. One major difference between the Camino de Santiago and the St. Olavsleden is the number of pilgrims who obtain their certificates at the end, with 277,915 having completed the Camino (me being one of them) and 231 having completed the St. Olavsleden from Sweden in 2016. Of course, many more have walked sections of the trail without walking all the way to the Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim. Perhaps those reading about my walk will be inspired to try the St. Olavsleden, too!

Despite the smaller number of pilgrims, the problem that the St. Olavsleden still has, which the Camino de Santiago doesn't, is lack of logistics support. While the Camino has one or more albergues every 10 km or so, the distance between accommodations (farms/hostels) is greater and each has fewer beds. The fjord route has more accommodations so that's why I'm taking that route. It's also very scenic, with the last part being a boat ride from the island of Tautra to Trondheim (only on Wednesdays and Sundays). And while the Camino has bars and cafes (and restrooms) all along the Way, so carrying food and drink to last all day is not necessary, the St. Olavsleden has fewer. Fortunately, the farms/hostels provide supper, breakfast, and a packed lunch. As the marked way only opened in 2013, the administrators are still working to line up more accommodations and food venues. Until then, reservations are still a necessity.

Heidi, the manager for the Stiklestad Pilgrim Center and one of those administrators, and Hali Liddell, a member of the Hiking St. Olavsleden Facebook page, helped me with accommodation reservations. They are my first Camino Angels...or in Norway they are called St. Olav's Angels (a name provided by Hali)! I confirmed most of the accommodation reservations by 5 April. So on that date, I booked flights departing Colorado Springs on July 4th, via Houston, Amsterdam, and Oslo to Trondheim using United Airlines frequent flyer miles.

By 11 April I had confirmation at all the farms and hostels along the way. On 7 July I will start walking from Stormoen, near the Swedish border and 107 km from Trondheim, and spend one or more nights at the Ostnes Farm in Vuku (17.9 km), the Stiklestad Farm in Stiklestad (10.2 km), the Munkeby Hostel in Munkeby (18.5 km), the Laberget Leirsted in Laberget (20.6 km), the Hellberg Herberge in Hellberg (20.3 km), the Oldervik Hostel in Smaland (6.8 km), and the Klostergarden in Tautra (10.5 km). There I will take the boat (also reserved) to Trondheim to complete my pilgrimage at the Nidaros Cathedral (2.3 km). I will stay at the Nidaros Pilgrim Center for two nights before flying back to the States.

As United didn't have any frequent flyer seats coming back (at least before the unfortunate incident where a passenger was dragged off one of their flights), I booked flights departing Trondheim on 18 July via Oslo to New York (JFK). This will be my first flight on a 787...and all for $505! I arrive at JFK at 8:05 PM. My daughter Rosanna and/or son-in-law Evan will pick me up. I will visit them for a few days in Danbury CT as I won't be accompanying Linda in October. I will take the train to Washington, DC on Sunday and fly home on Monday, 24 July.

As for what I will carry in my backpack, I learned what not to bring after walking the Camino. I will start with a lighter load than I carried then. I won't have to bring a sleeping bag liner, fleece throw, or towel as a sheet, duvet, and towel are available for rent at the farms and hostels, as is supper, breakfast, and a packed lunch. However, Norway in July will be colder than Spain in September, but my layering with a fleece and windbreaker should be ok with the addition of a poncho. I will have one change of clothes, an extra pair of underwear and socks, but cut out most toiletries, non-prescription medicines, and wraps for my feet as I didn't use these for the Camino (although I could have used something for my sprained ankle). There is no backpack shipping service as on the Camino, so will have to carry the backpack all the way. I will keep the total weight to under 15 pounds, and perhaps use a smaller lighter backpack than the 35 liter one I used in Spain. As it turned out my backpack weighed 10.5 pounds.

For physical training, once again I am volunteering as a National Park Ranger at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument for the Spring and Summer where I patrol 15 miles of trails on Mondays. The other days of the week I will walk the trails around Woodland Park, the Garden of the Gods, and around Colorado. My inaugural walk will be the Bronco's 7K Run/Walk here in Woodland Park on 6 May, where the Bronco cheerleaders and some players will be here (only one of three venues in the state with Denver and Fort Collins being the others). I will work my way up to 21 km, which is the longest distance between farms and hostels. The walk from my home to Manitou Lake and back is about this distance. As it turned out my training plans never got as far as walking to Manitou Lake and back.

So planning is pretty much completed, and its time to get ready!

So as they say on the St. Olavsleden, god tur!


21st March 2017

We very much enjoyed our 2 weeks in Norway in mid 2016(check our blogs if you wish)and may even get back there some day.Rather than trek by foot like you we drove, taking on some magnificent roads over mountains and tunnels under the sea.A one day trek to and from Pulpit Rock from the National Park car park was a great experience.We used cabins in motor camps and found them clean and well equipped although if we hadn't had our own bed sheets we would have had to rent them which can make a one night stay quite expensive.Trondheim was a quaint place to visit and plenty to see when you get there.We look forward to reading more of your plans and eventual pilgrimage.
21st March 2017

Enjoying Norway...
I remember reading your blogs about your travel around Norway. They may have inspired me, too!
21st March 2017

It seems like there is a very good reason not to have pets! I'd hate to have to take separate holidays. But, we have acquired a couple of goldfish who are fairly easy care. We have a house sitter this time who is keeping an eye on them! Have fun!
21st March 2017

That would solve our problem. Now to find someone who Linda would feel comfortable with.
21st March 2017

Negotiaition is always a big part of planning
Plan C sounds exotic. But I have a feeling will require intense negotiation with Linda. Touching 4 close island countries to reach your goal of touching 100 countries won't be appropriate, in my opinion. It will take toll on your long standing reputation as a globe trotter. Don't take that short cut to complete your 100, Bob. I suggest ST. Olavsleden, but please make sure it does not bring undue stress on your health and Linda totally goes for it. I look forward to hear more on your planning.
21st March 2017

Completing 100
I understand where you are coming from...what constitutes having been to a country is widely debated here. I think the consensus was to spend at least a night in a country, although purists would say immersion for weeks or months is needed to qualify. In that I'm choosing to go to a country that I have visited many times, I hope you understand that my hitting 100 countries is not a top priority for me. Walking across Norway is. I'm enjoying reading your blogs. Keep on traveling!
22nd March 2017

A year of travel- plan, plan, plan
Sounds like a dangerous plan making this without Linda....negotiation is a good plan and after these years of marriage I imagine she is used to your plan and process. You are right there are no off to Norway. Sounds fantastic. Hopefully you'll find a house sitter for the future.
22nd March 2017

Planning with Linda...
Yes, planning with Linda can be a challenge. But as you've seen from previous blogs she is perfectly willing for me to take separate vacations when my destination doesn't interest her. However, we usually find some place we both Hawaii which will likely get added for our 45th anniversary trip in December.
22nd March 2017

I really enjoyed reading this blog -- the stream of consciousness and planning made me nostalgic for our travel-fliled moments where we were almost immediately planning our next destination. I love how you factor in (or out) based on what you and Linda want -- it's so thoughtful and funny. Can't wait to see what you do and I'm starting to think you may have to give yourself the new nickname of pilgrim! ;)
22nd March 2017

Pilgrim here!
I've discovered that a pilgrimage is ideal for traveling alone, as such an experience is intended to feed ones soul. It has the side benefit of keeping me in the training mode as I definitely need such an incentive to exercise every day. Also, Linda can't walk long distances due to arthritis so has an excuse for not joining me.
22nd March 2017
In 1995, visitng the church on Notteroy Island in the Oslo fjord where my great great Grandfather Carl Borgersen is burried.

Oh to be a pilgrim
Oh to be a viking...pretty sure you are...oh to be a pilgrim...yep we know you are. Now you are planning Bob...the land of your forebears awaits. Sounds challenging...sounds fantastic!
22nd March 2017
In 1995, visitng the church on Notteroy Island in the Oslo fjord where my great great Grandfather Carl Borgersen is burried.

I recall your recent blog when you were a Viking. You need to add Scandinavia to your Bucket List. And you and Denise always love to walk.
24th March 2017

Making that first step,
This pilgrims walk sounds very interesting and exciting , Bob. I look forward to hearing about it... I don't know about Norway but in Sweden summer holidays seem to end in the middle of August , lots of places close down and campsites etc are deserted.... and it definitely feels like autumn has come early so maybe bear that in mind when looking at your start dates. Good luck Lynne
25th March 2017

Making that first step...
Planning for this trip has been a challenge in that the logistics is so complicated. And as you mention...the weather. I was in northern Norway in mid August '68 and the weather was fine, but every year can be different. The advice I get is to finish in Trondheim by 1 Sep. My main concern is accommodations. First the distance between them and then what is available, so which are like camping, and I don't want to bring camping gear as that would add extra weight. There are many tradeoffs. Thanks for your advice!
25th March 2017

another year another plan
Sounds fantastic Bob . The scenery I guess will be wonderful and it should be a different experience to the Camino . Looking forward to watching and waiting and seeing this take shape
26th March 2017

Very different from the Camino...
As I continue to plan, my research is revealing many major differences. One is to bring long underwear even in summer. Another is to bring sufficient food for several days, as not all accommodations have food. Another is to be prepared to camp out. If this is true, then I may decide on the Via Francigena as I don't want to carry so much for longer stages.
28th March 2017

new trip
It sounds like a logistic nightmare. I am sure that you will organise in the end whichever one works better for you. As you are walking you need to carry as little as possible. Difficult choices to make I think and which will need a lot of planning. I do have Norway on the radar and the other Scandanavian countries. Glenn not so keen on colder climes though. Still all the fun is in the planning and you will make the right choice I am sure
28th March 2017

The plans are coming together!!!
Linda has agreed that I can be gone for two weeks using Option C. So I will fly from Colorado Springs to JFK and catch Norwegian Air from there to Trondheim and back. Heidi, the director of the pilgrimage center in Stiklestad is providing me answers to all my logistics questions, so as soon as I hear back from her regarding the best time in summer to start my pilgrimage I will be ready to update this planning blog!
5th April 2017

I've just finalize my plans...
and will be gone from 4 - 18 July!!
5th May 2017

Your blog entries are always so inspiring! Even all the trips you are pondering taking make me thing, wow, I want to go, let alone the trips you ultimately decide to go on.
6th May 2017

Thanks! I hope I've inspired you to walk at least some portion of a pilgrim trail someday. In Germany it would be the St Jacobsweg. It's the other pilgrims that make such a journey so worthwhile.

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