Deep in the gray of early December, bright starlit night skies. The recent snowfall, just enough to cover the ground with a carpet of white to light up the dark days. Finding comfort in the lighting of candles at dawn and dusk. Savoring the soft hush of the season, memories of light-filled summer travels in the mountains of central Norway.
A national heritage road, Route 55 runs through the Jotunheimen National Park connecting the towns of Lom in Gudbrandsdalen and Luster in the Sogn and Fjordane district. A seasonal curly ribbon of road, edged with tall poles, wooden sentinels in wait, there to mark the road borders when the road opens again after the deep snows of winter begin to recede. In summer, snow-capped mountains, ice-covered ponds and tall waterfalls grace the views in every direction. An east-west corridor over the mountains, when open, used extensively for recreation and commerce. Where tourist buses, RV’s and freight trucks negotiate steep hairpin turns, and vie for priority with motorists, hikers, bikers, bicyclists, skiers, walkers, joggers and fishers. And where ancient stone cairns dot the rocky landscape, marking hiking trails that travel deep into the mountains.
In early July, the weather was mild and sunny in the valleys, windy and cool in the high elevations. But the gray weather did nothing to diminish the beauty of the wild mountain landscape or the enthusiasm of the multitudes of people and vehicles sharing the narrow and steep mountain pass. A raw and rugged beauty of high summits, with most peaks over 2000 meters, connecting a lush river valley with the deep inner fjords in the west. A mecca of cultural and rural heritage, with traces of wild reindeer hunting and summer farming traditions visible. A summer landscape draped in mountain flora, wildflowers in bloom, abundant lichens and moss, and white birch forests.
The Sognefjellvegen is home to several rustic and historic mountain hotels and is book-ended by two not-to-be-missed bakeries – the Bakeriet i Lom and the Lustrabui Bakeriet – that both bake traditional breads and sweet rolls in wood-fired ovens. A new and innovative food culture that is waking up to local and slow, food deeply rooted in heritage, with many possible stops along the way for fine dining, coffee, sweet treats and take-away roadside picnic ingredients. A roadway rich in scenery and vistas, info-boards, rest-stops, picnic tables and long-term lots that offer parking for hikers and fishers heading deep into the mountains to access extensive hut-to-hut trail networks. A destination in itself and a spectacular pathway to places beyond, where the mountains reach high into the sky, and the views reach deep into your heart. Be prepared to linger.