Bike-rambling around Älmhult (Sweden)

Möckelns badplats at dusk. Photo © Siena Anstis.

This area of Kronoberg County—around Älmhult—may not be particularly glamorous, but it made for a charming and simple weekend outing from Malmö with a kid. There is at least one clean, comfortable and affordable rental near the lake at Möckelns badplats (with bikes for rent). While this apartment was located a few kms outside the town of Älmhult itself, there is local bus that stops a few hundred meters away and that particular accommodation was within feasible walking distance from the town’s train station with easy connections to Malmö. Once bored of the beach and playground (where you can swim in clear, crisp water and grill over a fire), there is a gentle bike ride on mostly dirt and gravel roads through Swedish farmlands up to Råshult where you can have a quick fika. If you’re feeling brave like I was, on the way back to Malmö, you can bike on a mix of dedicated bicycle lanes and open roads through forests and farmlands to Osby and jump on a train back south from there. There were some cars on the faster roads (up to 70km/hr) but they kept a respectful passing distance. I followed Google Maps’ biking directions for the most part, but re-routing where it attempted to send me onto the major highway.

Rambling in Söderåsen National Park (Sweden)

Photo © Siena Anstis

It rained, the entire time. But, the 7 or so km loop following the blue trail to and from the Skäralid entrance in Söderåsen National Park was quiet, green and even manageable for a three-year-old. At Liagärden, we stayed overnight in an open shelter, with the not-so-quiet company of a field mouse. The park was easily accessible from Malmö with two train and one bus connection. While we walked, the location had great potential for trail running and I saw a few people out even in the driving rain.

Running Ystad to Ales Stenar & back (Sweden)

Photo © Siena Anstis
Photo © Siena Anstis

Of the running variety. I ran the coast from Ystad to Ales Stenar for a total of about 40km. Shooting season at the military base was on hold, so I was able to cover most of this ground via the rolling ‘hills’ that lounge the coast with spectacular views of the water and cliffs. From Malmö, it’s an easy train connection to Ystad. Follow the Skåneleden trail from the Ystad station and down to the coastal path. Do not be dissuaded by the first few kms through the urban port with huge lorries, car ferries headed abroad and other locations, and general lack of ambiance. Where possible, opt for staying directly on the beach, if you don’t mind running through quick sand. There were few opportunities for water, but this Salomon vest does the trick without chafing and the little town of Kåseberga, just below the rocks of Ales Stenar, has a few shops with water, juice, and fresh baked goods. If you want to stick around, you can also wild camp outside the Ales Stenar national park and wake up to a wonderful view of the water and, if you’re lucky, the judgmental gaze of a herd of cattle.

Rambling on the Island of Ven (Sweden)

The island of Ven in June. Photo © Siena Anstis.

The island of Ven: a wonderfully easy trip from Malmö and a beautiful place. In the summer, pick a weekday to visit since the crowds will be (slightly) diminished. From Malmö, a train to Landskrona and the bus (or a walk through the town) to the port. The ferry ride itself is short and sweet, and if you’re lucky the waves will splash high enough to soak the top deck. After the port (with the best ice cream I’ve had in Sweden to date–essentially the first thing you see after stepping off the boat), you hike up a hill where you can rent a bike. The lines were long-ish on a Friday, so the earlier the better. The island itself is a mix of paved roads and dirt/rock paths (which tend to be less busy). Pack a snack, spread a blanket, and enjoy a beach, a whiskey, a wonderful pint on the leafy patio of the Tuna Krog, or just a long ramble (or bike-ramble, in my case, with three-year-old & bike trailer in tow). This would be a fantastic place for a long run, even on a day-trip from Malmö.

Running the Coast of Cornwall (UK)

Photo © Siena Anstis

A fantastic run, even in the dead of winter. A great starting point is Duckpool Bay in Cornwall, which can be accessed by a short bus ride from Bude. Once at the beach, look left, look right, majestic cliffs in both directions, and choose your path. Both ways are spectacular. It’s a good idea to bring some typeof head covering to manage the relentless whistling wind and a supply of water and food since they aren’t readily available at the various public beaches along the way, at least not in December.

Running the River Cam (UK)

Photo © Siena Anstis

A beautiful run on any day, particularly early in the morning just before boats start to crowd the river. You can start the run from Bridge Street, to the left side of the Prezzo Italian Restaurant. Follow the foot/bike path down the river, past Jesus Green & Midsummer Common. Take the second foot bridge on your left that leads over the river and connects to the Pembroke College Boat Club, and then swing right at the end of the bridge and follow the residential paths back to the water (basically, keep pushing right after the bridge until you’re back on the river, on a small dirt path). The path goes for a while before leaving the river and makes for an excellent 21km loop.

Running in & outside Brescia (Italy)

Forests around Brescia. Photo © Siena Anstis.

Not for the faint of heart–this run is up, up, up and then down, down, down on the return–a 19km or so loop into the hills and parks outside Brescia up to M. Maddalena. The long winding hill I chose started at the intersection of Via Panoramica and Via S. Gaetanino. I headed up on the road and then looped off to one of the marked trails (watch for little flags painted on rocks or other objects designating these trails) into a forest. I can’t quite remember the name, but the forest was beautiful and there was a spectacular view of the mountains in the distance once at the top of M. Maddalena. Not the most precise directions, but frankly any running around Brescia is stunning, especially up to the Castello di Brescia in the town itself.

Running the beaches of San Diego (U.S.A.)

The beach in Torrey Pines State Reserve in June 2019. Photo © Siena Anstis.

If you happen to be in San Diego for a few days, as I was, I would highly recommend this run. I took a taxi from La Jolla to the Torrey Pines State Reserve and ran the beach (with a small residential deviation towards the end) all the way back to La Jolla. Once in La Jolla, keep an eye out for the Coast Walk Trail deviation which provides beautiful views over the coast from the cliffs. It’s a phenomenal beach run with hard packed sand and a long, quiet beach.

Rambling* in Los Nevados National Natural Park & to the Peak of Nevado Del Tolima (Colombia)

At the top of Nevado Del Tolima (5,276 m). Photo © Siena Anstis.
Finca la Primavera (where you spend 2 nights total) on the way up to the peak (3700m). Photo © Siena Anstis.

*”Rambling” isn’t quite the right word here. Think, rather, an ascent equivalent to or worse than a marathon due to altitude. One of the most beautiful and exciting multi-day walks of my life, and by far the hardest. Pounding headaches, seemingly constant dehydration, and utter exhaustion. It was worth each step. Changing flora, breathtaking views, and the mystery of starting up a glacier–to reach the top of Nevado del Tolima (5,276 m)–at 3 am in the bitter cold wind and total darkness. We were lucky enough to catch a brilliant sunrise bathing the entire park and a smoking volcano in the distance. I would highly recommend Paramo Trek. The guides were professional, incredibly well-prepared and organized, knowledgeable, and very kind. I did this hike in April.