I had the idea we might just go and sit in one of the ‘resting huts’ which provide shelter for walkers and passers-by in bad conditions. I was hoping no-one else would have the same idea, since the one I had in mind wasn’t far from town – but then who else would choose to go and sit in a hut with no electricity or water in the middle of nowhere on New Year’s Eve?
On the way there we spotted three moose by the roadside. The snow was deep and they waded through it towards us, their legs barely visible. They stopped and looked at us. We stopped and looked at them. Then we all moved on.
At the hut all was quiet – the moonlight led the way up the snow path to the dark little wooden building, and the door creaked as we pulled it open and peered around with a torch.
We were in the hut a couple of hours, watching the fire we’d made, eating crisps, drinking glögg, peering out of the chocolate box windows at the moonlit frozen river outside. Standing outside we could also hear the rushing water which refused to lie down and freeze.
We could have sat at home in the dark and been a lot warmer, but you can’t beat the feeling of bringing candlelight and fire into a cold, dark hut – it’s the contrast that brings the glow. The three bears could have had their breakfast porridge here, and think they’d sneaked into someone’s house. For us, too, being here is like playing house – it feels like it must belong to someone but we don’t know who. Any moment the bear that owns it could storm through it’s door waving its black paws and baring its teeth. All there is to do is look out the windows, or at the fire, and huddle together in the dark, waiting to see who comes. Fortunately, or unfortunately, no-one does.
It was hard to tear ourselves away from the hut’s mysterious quietness, but we had a plan to head out to the Ice Hotel for midnight. There we would find hammy dramatics, people clutching cell phones and bottles of bubby, fireworks, and a sense of being at a party. We were loathe to leave the hut, and this feeling of being at home in a strange place, for the mayhem of a New Year’s Eve celebration.
We packed up, blew out the candles and carried everything back out to the car.
Ten minutes up the road we saw the three moose we’d seen on the way out. Now they’d settled down for the night – spreading out in hollows in the snow, lying on their sides, their heads sunk deep into their necks, their bodies pressed against crusty white pillows. The moonlight was bright enough for them to read by. Clearly they were very much at home.