"Great," I call out towards the sea. It's 30 minutes past midnight and we're standing on the summit of
Ryten Mountain on the Lofoten Islands in Norway, over 60 miles north of the Arctic
Circle. The perfect camp spot to see the midnight sun.
Across from us to the west are mountain ranges with sharp peaks and rugged cliffs. Below lies a bay with white sand and turquoise water. To the north, lies the vast ocean horizon. What we see of it: nothing. Everything is white. The weather report lied. Instead of "partly cloudy", The Fog surrounds us completely. My boyfriend has laid out stone trail markers so we can find our way back from the summit to the lower-lying tent. Visibility is less than ten yards.
So here we hike up with our backpacks, tripod, camera, and tent onto this crappy mountain, get up in the middle of the night just to see this crappy sun, and then this! For half a minute a dull yellow veil appears where presumably the horizon is. That's it. Otherwise, just damp, cold fog. We go back to the tent and snuggle up in our sleeping bag.
"Remember when we were in Iceland for sixteen days and didn't see the northern lights once?" asks my boyfriend. "We're not big on finding these celestial things."
I zip up the tent. The sky can kiss my ass. Flap shut.
How Caribbean-Arctic beautiful it was on Ryten Mountain the next morning. How we finally saw the ole midnight sun and what that felt like, you can read here.
Hiking in Lofoten is special. The mountains of the island chain in northern Norway are very steep and literally shoot straight up out of the sea to end as sharp teeth on the peaks that like to catch and hold all the clouds of the Atlantic. Several beautiful hiking trails require technical climbing equipment—and even the trails that can be climbed without ropes and carabiners are no evening stroll.
Ryten Mountain is one of the more harmless mountains. I briefly doubt this when I slip on a near-vertical patch of gravel and hit my knee on a rock. We've only been on the trail for 1,500 feet. But the steep climb is worth it. We are soon rewarded with a fantastic view of a bay with colorful wildflowers on one side, and a lake and islands on the other.
Unfortunately, clouds begin to waft in over the mountain peaks. Oh well, they will go away. It should be "partly cloudy with sun," as the very reliable Norwegian weather app, YR, has promised.
A couple from Belgium meets us about a quarter of the way up. "Whoa, you can't see a thing up on the top," they say. "It's all white."
I nod. "It'll clear up!" I reply enthusiastically.
Over wooden planks protecting a squishy marshland, we walk beside rocks that seem to be covered in green velvet. Then we spot Kvalvika Beach below us. An incredibly scenic bay, where turquoise-blue-green water runs like watercolor paint onto a brilliant, white beach. The mountain peaks are still in clouds—but they will soon be gone. This is the perfect location to view the midnight sun!
Just as we reach the summit, the weather decides something else. Namely, it turns really crappy. Within minutes, a tenacious wall of fog moves in and swallows up all possible views.
Completely enveloped in damp and impenetrable white, we look for a place to pitch our tent. Great flying sausages! Three hours we sit at our tent, amidst this broth. Waiting, dozing, reading, chatting. At 10 PM, it seems to clear up. I become ecstatic (for nuts, of course). Then the fog returns in mere seconds. By the time it's 0:30 (the real midnight sun is not quite at midnight because of human-introduced daylight savings times), you wouldn't see a glowing pink elephant six feet away. Yippee. Midnight Fog. Completely forgot to write that one on the bucket list.
By the way, this is how it looked the next morning on the way back down. Hilarious. But also, damn beautiful. We are happy to finally see at least this view:
What's up with this arctic sun? Does it shine only during the day on purpose? Is the midnight sun perhaps a conspiracy?!!!11!?
No. As we take an evening stroll through the small fishing harbor next to where we are staying, my boyfriend points to a gap between the mountains on the horizon. "Maybe we can see the sun right there tonight!" he says. Optimistically.
I'm done being optimistic.
Still, we get up at midnight and go look. And…holy crap…there's the sun! Right between the mountains. Golden it glows, casting warm orange light onto the small waves in the harbor directly in front of us. I look at the clock, and at the sun, and at the clock again. It's 12:25 AM. I'd love to reboot my phone to see if the clock is broken. It's so incredibly surreal to see the sun in the sky at midnight.
In the photo it looks like any other sunset. But here, where we are standing, we not only see it, but we can feel it. We know we are witnessing something very special. Something that can only be seen for a few weeks in only a very small part of the world. The sun shining in the middle of the night. It's like Christmas on Easter, or an iceberg in the desert. Crazy. And we are just a half-mile away from our house. Without any hike, tent, or mountains.
Sometimes things are just there. Just happen. When you least expect it and don't make much fuss about it.