September 7, 2015. The days are getting a bit nippy, and some of the nights are downright frigid. Clearly, autumn is just around the corner, much to my dismay. To enjoy the last dregs of summer, Matthew and I decided to hike through Tryvann — known as “Oslo’s Winter Park, where skiers can enjoy dozens of downhill runs and cross-country trails.” But even when there’s no snow, it’s still nice to amble along Tryvann’s pathways for postcard views of shimmering lakes and vast swathes of forest.
Matthew and I typically like to motivate our treks with a rewarding end goal, meaning one that usually involves food. Today our target was Tryvannstua, another of the many adorable log-cabin restaurants situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere to accommodate hikers and skiers. Dozens of trails lead to Tryvannstua, but because we got a late start, we decided to travel by train to the nearest station. (In other words, we were weenies and whimped out, foregoing a long slog through the woods so that we could just get straight down to the the business of filling our plates.)
We jumped off the T-bane at the Voksenkollen stop with the idea of taking a short uphill stroll to the eatery. And we rationalized our “food first” focus by promising ourselves that we’d take a much longer hike all the way home. But as usual, the signpost at the trailhead provided a confusing list of options. Three different markers labeled “Tryvannstua” pointed in three completely opposite directions, each with an estimated distance that differed by less than a half kilometer.
We decided to poll passing Norwegians for their recommendations, but everyone shrugged and suggested a different trail, some not even marked on the bristling signpost. I felt a bit like I was in the middle of a Three Stooges movie, with Mo, Larry, and Curly each pointing up, down, and every which way. We finally selected the sign sporting the shortest distance and took off down the path.
In retrospect, I wish we’d emphasized to our potential wayfinders that we were looking for the most scenic route, because the trail we’d chosen turned out to be not so very picturesque. It looked as if a storm or some sort of blight had moved through recently, toppling or killing many of the trees so that they’d had to be chopped off right above the soil line. Hundreds of dead stumps studded the pathway’s shoulders, giving the hillsides a scarred, logging-camp vibe.
Eventually the wasteland gave way to a more forested section that somewhat surprisingly hosted an old wooden ski jump. The whole thing looked a bit rickety to me, but the signs made it clear that kids still use it for training. Trees clustered around the structure, so close that they overhung the ramp itself. I can’t imagine who’d want to take the leap and risk getting blown into the encroaching treeline and possibly skewered by a pine, though.
The trail itself continued along a steep pathway laced with gnarled tree roots that threatened to trip us with every step. Huge stones littered the path, making it look as if it had been paved for the giants said to roam these woods. Towering anthills and waist-high thickets of ferns gave the whole place a fairytale feel, and I could see how the atmosphere lent itself to legends of gnomes and trolls.
Around a sharp bend, we stumbled into a wildflower-studded meadow buzzing with the efforts of giant bumblebees drowsily harvesting the year’s final crop of nectar. Snow cannons and an empty ski lift testified to the meadow’s origins as a winter ski path. A funky 1960’s TV antenna crowned the top of the hill and provided an excellent viewing platform for the panoramic woodland vista.
A few more wrong turns, and we finally wound up skirting the edge of a pretty little lake bordered by birches and picnickers. Tryvannstua beckoned to us from its perch atop a bluff overlooking the water, so we traipsed inside for a snack. Kanelboller (cinnamon buns) were clearly a crowd favorite, but we opted for goulash and gulrotkake (“carrot cake” — much tastier than the awful name implies.)
The interior of the place possessed the true hygge (cosiness) that I’ve come to associate with these woodland retreats. Candlelight, fireplaces, carved woodwork, and antique skiing gear give Tryvannstua a warm, homey touch that feels authentic and time-worn, not Disney-esque and manufactured. According to the literature, the restaurant has its origins in a 1930s storm that downed tons of trees, which became the lumber for the cottage’s construction. (Perhaps this explains the deadwood field we’d walked through earlier.)
After a bracing cup of coffee, we took a stroll around the building to admire its traditional sod roof, ladened with wildflowers as well as ripening grain, blueberries, and raspberries. The path homeward took us through soggy wetlands decorated with colorful mushrooms and even more berry bushes, just as we’d hoped. Luckily, we’d asked the kitchen staff at Tryvannstua for a spare container in case we encountered such delicacies. We managed to collect a couple of pints of berries that we made into muffins as soon as we got home — one final taste of summer before winter hits.