July 9, 2004
After taking the morning flight up to Kiruna I caught the bus from the airport to Abisko Mountain Station - the starting point of the King’s Trail. This year there was an invasion of caterpillars feeding on birch leaves. There were billions of them. The caterpillars had been very efficient, and the all birch trees stood defoliated several kilometers along the road from Abisko to Narvik. Not a leaf was left on the branches.
On the bus I met two hikers who were trekking in the mountains for the first time. When we got off the bus at Abisko I saw their backpacks. As beginners often have, they had backpacks big as houses. I myself, on the contrary, had tried to minimize my gear this time. Everything, including my tent, fitted inside my 50 liter backpack. With a 10-15 kg backpack I was going to ‘fly’ along the trail this time..
I made a short visit at the newly built Naturum (show room of plants and animals in the landscape along the trail) and stepped out on the trail at about 2 PM. If you stopped on the trail inside the birch forest and listened, you could hear a quiet clicking noise. It was the sound of thousands of caterpillars falling to the ground.
The trail was reasonably dry, but you could see signs of the heavy rain that had raged the entire week before. Today the sky was gray, but there was no rain. Perfect hiking weather.
As usual it was a lot of people on this segment of the trail. During the day I met 60 hikers and passed 6 pitched tents.
Usually I manage to reach the reindeer fence east of Kieron when starting in the afternoon from Abisko. But with the light load my goal was to get a little bit further during the first day. At about 8:30 PM I pitched the tent at Ribaloukta (O1614450, N7572176). After having dinner on fresh pasta and ice-cold stream water I had no problem falling asleep after a pleasant day.