Into The Woods

The waning September month has been marked, for me, by adventures into the Norwegian outdoors, most notably by trips that scream “NORWEGIAN CULTURE”. One of the first things I learned about Norway is the popularity of cabins— second homes, not too fancy, out in the woods that people can escape to. My class took an overnight trip to one to explore storytelling and folklore in a classic setting: around the campfire. A mere five mile trek up the hills through well-traveled trails brought us to a two story cabin, with a well and outdoor bathroom to complete. Just nearby, a designated fire pit sat, waiting for us to use. But outside of our academic goals, this trip taught me a lot about Norwegian culture in connection to nature. For example, all people have the right to hike, explore, and camp on uncultivated Norwegian land, even private land (with few exceptions and regulations). It is through this belief and law that the world opens up to hikers, not needing to worry about trespassing or camping outside of official camping grounds. Additionally, in exploring a forest that had been lived in for centuries by Norwegian and Sami people, it was important for us to learn how the land was used and how folklore arose. We stopped at every new tree to identify it and learn what it was used— building houses, chairs, for instruments? And each rock formation or cliff side was carefully analyzed— could we see trolls (the most notable and classic Norwegian folk creature) in the rocky shapes?

Through this, even in a short time period, we developed a conversation with the woods around us. The same way we spoke fairy tales from our native countries around the fire, the forest spoke back to us.

A large wooden cabin with two students sitting on the porch.
Norwegian outdoors
A view of a sunny hiking path surrounded by green trees
Oslo Climbing Park

Next, my exploration of the Norwegian outdoors took me to Oslo Climbing Park, a vast collection of ropes courses and zip lines far up in the trees, with several of my classmates. We made it just in time for one of the last good days of the season. While it was a tad rainy, and our hands felt frostbitten as we walked ourselves across wooden planks, these next few weeks are the last time to walk these courses for the next several months. In October, the park will become a winter park, where they plan for the ropes courses to be unusable, but snow to fall freely, and park-goers can enjoy a variety of snow sports like skiing and snowboarding.

For me, this trip was about facing my fears:  for a long time, I was scared of heights and had to give up ropes courses and zip lines at a job I loved. When I stepped onto the first platform, what drove me to take the next step was the idea that I hadn’t come here, to Norway or to this climbing park, to let a childhood fear stand in my way of something I knew would be really fun and exciting. The first ropes course made the world open up to me, knowing I was making the most of my time abroad and taking chances I might not otherwise. It would be easy for me to have stepped back, told my friends I would find something else to do, but now I’ll always look back on that trip as the time I faced my fears.

The view from the top of a ropes course, with a student on the platform across the obstacle
View from the top of a ropes course.

Cady West