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First of all, I would like to thank @teamutangranser for sharing a very pleasant gravel track starting basically at my doorstep. Although I know my neighbourhood pretty well and I thought I've uncovered every little biking sweet spots hidden nearby, that route let me discover some new interesting trails I haven't used before.

 

It was quite chilly morning (-16C) so I really wasn't that eager to go out. Each 30 minutes in the morning means a few degrees more so I gave myself a bit of time for a slow breakfast and thorough warm-up. I'd rather start a little later than risk hypothermia at the very beginning. Actually it's a bit of a problem for me during the winter, my body needs a few kilometers to warm up. Often when I go biking in the winter, my feet and hands freeze in the first phase and even when my body finally warms up, my feet and hands remain cold until the end of the ride. So I prepare and pack all my equipment and do a quick warm-up till I break the first sweat. Few movement exercises in a calm and steady tempo to stimulate blood flow, around 5 minutes of more intensive moves until I can feel the first drops of sweat dripping down my spine, I am finally putting on the final layers of my winter armor and I'm ready to go.

 

I'm leaving our little cabin around 9 AM. Forecast said that it's gonna be a beautiful day and boy it was right. Clear, blue sky above, snow crunching beneath my bike's wheels and chilly wind on my cheeks. What could possibly go wrong? First thirty kilometers were routes I know really well and traveled multiple times. Delicious oatly latte, served always on double espresso accompanied by kardemummabullar in @cafetornhuset is my absolute must-have when I'm riding through Gustavsberg. And it could not be any other way this time either.
 

Few kilometers later I stepped into unknown (at least for me) territory and I could notice a difference in my perception of surroundings. Suddenly all of my senses concentrated on here and now, arousing my curiosity for the landscape I found myself in. Snow white, paved road in the woods, all trees covered in fresh snow and sun shining between tree crowns. Every now and then a soft gust of wind moved branches a little, causing snow crystals to shimmer, reflecting sun rays, creating shining clouds of frost drifting through the woods. What a beautiful place to be.It felt like riding through the winter wonderland.

 

Next spot that got stuck in my head was frozen lake Kvarnsjön. I really enjoy minimalistic landscapes of places like this. Completely frozen body of water covered with ice and snow created a huge, undisturbed open space. Riding a bike through a frozen lake was connected with some really extreme emotions.
 

On the one hand, fear and uncertainty, probably coming from youth when instead of being educated on how to safely spend time on frozen lake I was being scared with visions of deadly accidents happening on ice. I still have a picture in my head of me falling underneath the surface into cold water without possibility of climbing out. That perspective changed a lot since I moved to Sweden where everyone is taught in early school years how to check conditions to safely enter a frozen lake and what to do if the ice breaks. It's pretty common knowledge here. And thanks to that knowledge, how to deal with extreme situations, I'm able to conquer my fears. However recently I experienced a situation in the middle of a frozen lake that violently sent me back to a time when walking on ice was deeply connected with fear. I was coming home in the late evening, long after sunset, when I noticed cross-ski tracks on the surface of the lake I was passing by. Around 5-10 meters off the coast. Way across the lake is much shorter, so I figured I'd take it. Walking onto ice, I noticed ice-hole that assured me that the layer of ice is thick enough. Walking further I noticed that the tracks were heading toward the middle of the lake so I decided to follow that proven route – especially that my headlamp's battery died a few meters before. Around halfway through, exactly in the middle of the lake, I could hear the ice cracking beneath my feet. Startled, I started heading towards the shore, screaming my lungs out in fear, feeling my boots filling with water. 'That's it' – I figured – 'I'm gonna land in ice cold water'. Surprisingly, I also felt a small hint of relief and curiosity – I was about to finally find out how it was to fall into ice-hole. However, when I stepped into thicker ice and calmed a little, it came to me that after a sunny day, in the middle of the lake there was a puddle of water coming from melted ice and after sunset, when the temperature dropped way below 0, it started freezing all over again and I stepped into that thin layer of ice which naturally broke and made me fall ankles deep into that puddle. I bursted out with uncontrollable and loud laughter, letting all emotions out. It had to look hilarious, me running for my life with arms wide spread (apparently that's the way to avoid falling under the surface) screaming 'no, no, no...' in late evening, in the middle of a frozen lake. Good times.

 

Anyway, back to my bike trip. On the other hand, being in the middle of wide open space, at first is a little overwhelming but it becomes a nice change from our everyday existence among stuff, people and buildings surrounding us. That feeling when you can take a deep breath and feel nothingness all around. Its even more exciting while standing between two different environments. Watery depths beneath, infinite space above and me, standing on a thin frozen lake surface. Between two alien worlds. I've gotta admit, when I found myself on land again I felt relief coming from uncertainty floating away but I also kinda missed that feeling of vast space surrounding me.

 

After a few next kilometers, I crossed paths with one of creatures I met and wrote about before, a gray heron. During my trips I usually meet quite a bunch of different animals, this time was not different – I spotted a few hares, fox's fluffy red tail blinked somewhere in the woods and I passed a few deers dining at heyrack, not to mention countless groups of does warming themselves in the sun.

 

Sometimes however, I meet animals in extraordinary circumstances and those are the encounters that are most memorable. I was riding down a beautifully situated bike road in the middle of a huge forest glade when I suddenly noticed on my left a gray heron heading my direction. It circled around me and cut the road around 20 meters in front of me, over a small bridge over a narrow river and landed on one of the stones on the river bank. Amazing sight, beautiful bird.

Of course I stopped on that bridge and watched, curious of what would happen next. It just sat there and watched me back. I smiled and rode away. After a few meters I noticed that heron left too. Little interspecies encounter over a small stream. When I got back home I told my wife about it. She reminded me about power animals.

 

*“It's a concept present in western spiritualism too, where an animal appearing in a certain point of life symbolizes or foreshadows certain things. After checking what would a gray heron symbolize, it turns out that it blesses us with flexibility and child-like openness to what life has to offer. 

Thanks to it, obstacles become adventures and difficulties turn into challenges and opportunities to grow. Gray heron teaches us not to waste those moments and to turn them into something nice. It encourages us to try out different activities, techniques and methods. It may seem like you are treating some stuff superficially. Heron's creative power lets us be a jack of all trades. To take what the Universe gives and go with the flow. Heron gifts us with a boost of trust in our own intuition and instinct that makes us follow its whispers. It means we don't worry too much, overanalyze or think about pros and cons or ask 'why?'. We just know and follow that knowledge.”
*https://bafka.ovh/2020/04/15/zwierzeta-mocy-czapla-2/

 

Strangely accurate, this description matched my personality and current life situation...

 

Then however, I was more fascinated and excited with the world surrounding me than was interested in analyzing what and how. Carried with that encounter I kept pedalling forwards. Further away I faced a little obstacle – one of the forest roads was completely impassable due to the fresh, dozen centimeters thick, snow layer. It made me push my bike for a little over 3 kilometers. However, according to ancient japanese proverb:

'There is no adventure
If you are not pushing your bike'.

 

There was plenty of adventure.

 

When I was marching forward, I found a perfect spot to rest a little and grab a bite. During our last winter escapades, Aneta and I enjoyed taking some warm soup with us. I noticed that a few occasional spoons of warm food affects my body's thermal management really well without negatively affecting my productivity. It's an instant boost of energy. Because of that I brought soup thermos filled with mixture consisting of groats, black lentils, vegetable broth, handful of bean sprouts and fresh coriander. Nibbling in the afternoon sun peeking through the tree branches was a delight. And finding out that after the next turn there was a cleared route ahead was even more of a delight. Warmed up and well fed, I was ready to head into the unknown again.

 

After riding through a few other beautiful winter landscapes I got to the first ferry crossing. Rindö – Stenslätten. It meant I was close to my destination. My adventure was coming to an end on Vaxholm Island, where on a small Waxholmsbolaget boat I could go back home in a warm cabin sipping well deserved beer. Crossing the ice flowing river in the sunset was magical. After a few kilometers there was a Rindö-Vaxholm ferry waiting. This time I could enjoy watching the well illuminated Vaxholm fortress museum with purple sky reflected in icy  water full of floes. Few days earlier, when I was checking when that ferry leaves, 7:20 PM got stuck in my head. And it was still there when I was heading towards that island. Arriving over two hours early, I was planning what kind of pizza I should order in the local port pizzeria. When I reached a harbour, just before heading to italian restaurant I quickly checked ferry departures. Good thing I did that. Last ship was supposed to leave at 5:20 PM, exactly 5 minutes after my arrival.

 

Great success, I got lucky again!

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