Åshild Garvik Pedersen was formerly the right hand of the head of Statoil. In June she opens the Stranddalen Tourist Lodge in Suldal for a new season, as manager. Below, she tells us how this came about.
Åshild: I wasn’t even aware that the position at Stranddalen was vacant. I happen to overhear the general manager of the Stavanger Trekking Association, Preben Falck, who mentioned it during last year’s opening of the Skåpet Tourist Lodge last autumn.
I attended in my capacity as deputy chairman of the association’s board of directors. “I intend to apply for that position! Just so you know,” I said. Preben gave me an odd look, and was probably thinking, “Huh?”. But, he called me the next day, and the position was mine a few months later.
I love people and nature, and I’m someone who likes to work a lot and am very service-minded. At Stranddalen, I get to enjoy a combination of all this, which I expect will work out well. And now, there’s no turning back. I have officially been the manager since the first of January, and now I really look forward to starting the season, which lasts from 23 June until 24 September.
Many have already booked their stay. So, if you are planning to visit this summer, I recommend making a reservation soon. Hikers can spend the night in one of the cabins during the entire off-season too, but only on a self-service basis.
For nine years, I was in charge of the itinerary of then group managing director of Statoil, Helge Lund. It was all-consuming, exciting and altogether splendid. I worked with incredibly talented people. No two days were alike, and everything could get juggled around at the last moment.
Although I would have things perfectly under control, scheduled appointments could be cancelled with the stroke of a pen. That’s when I had to scramble around and get creative. My background as a nurse meant that I was already accustomed to multi-tasking.
My job at Stranddalen will also require long days and lots of work; from six in the morning until the guests retire in the evening. But, I like it that way.
Furthermore, I get to meet people who are out on a hike, and they are wonderful folks. Just think about how everyone greets each other up in the mountains. That is not common in the city. Up here, people are more relaxed and arrive wearing hiking clothing with no need to perform or impress each other. They are perhaps more themselves, more genuine.
(from the Stranddalen Tourist Lodge)
Peak Hike to Napen (1,350 m.a.s.l.): Follow the waymarked trail south toward the Sandsa tourist lodge about 4 km to the foot of Napen. From here, there is a distinct trail going steeply up to the peak. The trip takes about 2 hours each way.
Peak Hike to Såta (1,423 m.a.s.l.): This is the area’s highest peak, and it is situated about 5 km north of Stranddalen. Follow the waymarked trail toward Krossvatn until you reach Veneheia. Continue on the unmarked route up Såtedalen Valley to the peak. The trip takes about 4 hours each way.
Fagerstøl (pastoral hike): Follow the waymarked trail leading to Sandsa past Fagerstøl and continue to Lake Fagravatnet. Leave the trail and walk parallel with the power lines up to Øystad- Stranddal. Follow the valley east. Just below Kjelkanuten Mountain, you will arrive at the waymarked trail coming from Sandsa via Napen. Follow the trail through the Kjelkaskaret ravine and back to the lodge. The route is partially waymarked, and it takes about 2-3 hours.
Source: Stavanger Trekking Association
And there is something special about Stranddalen. It’s the nicest place I know, and the area is actually called the “Jewels of the Ryfylkeheiene heathlands”. Arriving at a lodge that is so off the beaten path and still being able to take a hot shower and be served homemade food is simply fantastic.
Most staffed lodges are accessible by car or boat. Stranddalen is located two hours away from the nearest road. We have therefore carried on the tradition of using pack horses, which deliver fresh produce once a week.
My father was from Suldal and we have a cabin here, so I have done a lot of hiking in the Suldalsheiene heathlands. My first visit to Stranddalen was 12-15 years ago. I remember thinking how nicely situated the lodge was amid magnificent and lush nature among mountain formations.
The history of the place also makes it quite special. I have gone hunting in these parts, and it strikes me each time I’m sitting atop a peak and enjoying the view of the heath, just how powerful experiencing it can be. People have inhabited this area for thousands of years and lived off the heathlands. They made the trek from Setesdal and Vest-Telemark to Suldal with goods they could trade. They were strong and brave – even if they were forced to do this to survive.
The distance from Stavanger to here is not as great as many people believe. It takes three hours by car, including two ferries. You then hike either two hours from Øvre Moen, or three to three and a half hours from Kjelstadlia. In September, when it gets dark earlier, we will have guides who accompany people on the hike here from Øvre Moen on Friday evenings. This allows you to wake up in this beautiful scenery and thus get much more of out the weekend. Perhaps do a peak hike or borrow a rowboat and a fishing rod.
We are also setting up a mountain library in cooperation with the Libraries of Rogaland. If you come across a book you enjoy at one lodge, you can take it with you to the next lodge or share it with a friend.
I have been enjoying the great outdoors ever since I was small. My parents would often take me and my five elder siblings. Outdoor recreation has a positive effect on our health; it makes us happy and can also provide comfort. At the same time, there is an element of harshness to it, as varying weather conditions are a force to be reckoned with. It is pure and natural, and gives us peace of mind and enriches our lives. It does mine, in any case. If a place exists where you can truly experience mindfulness, it is surely in the mountains.
The area has poor mobile coverage, which makes it extra peaceful. I was out on a long cross-country skiing trip the other day, and a flock of wild reindeer suddenly stopped and stared at me. And a big and frisky hare jump out a little way ahead of me. Wild reindeer have been and still are important in the area around Stranddalen. This is one key reason why the protected landscape is called “Dyraheio”, meaning “Heathlands of the animals”.
“Go for it, Mom!” was what my kids said when I told them about the job. My husband has also given me his full support, and all four will be visiting me at the lodge. I am always a bit melancholy when I am leaving a position, because it is sad to leave a nice workplace with good colleagues. But, the one I am going to next is nice too.
I’m 46 years old, so if I was going to do something else, it had to happen now. People who know me were not surprised. They say that this must be ideal for me, but they think I’m brave to do it. There are lots of people who want to, but do not dare. Sometimes you must take a chance on doing something even if you’re unsure of how it will turn out. You have to include a bit of risk in the kitty if you’re going to take a gamble on something.