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By 11 p.m. we’d climbed a few miles, sometimes scrambling hand over hand through snow, and settled into a stone hut where the Germans had planned to put their big gun. Across the fjord, the snowcapped Lyngen Alps stretched out like dragon’s teeth. While Nyheim cooked fresh-caught salmon over a tiny camp stove, he talked about what it’s like to be a Sami. If a Sami disappears into the mountains and doesn’t come home for days, he said, no one worries. Weeks, no one worries. Months, maybe they worry, but probably not. It sure seemed a lot like friluftsliv, but without the poetic fuss.

I asked him about his guide service. He told me it’s still small and the reindeer still pay the bills, but he’s happy with his decision. It was, he says, the right time. Apparently the Norwegian government feels the same. Down in Molde, Ose started his outfit four years ago with a five-figure government grant. This year the crown, still flush with oil money and seemingly impervious to the Great Recession, plans to dole out some $10 million to adventure travel–related companies. We’ve all heard about Norway’s free health care and education, but subsidized adventure? That has to be a first.

After midnight, Nyheim and I abandoned the hut and headed down to our truck, grabbing hunks of reindeer moss off the ground for dessert. (Taste: curiously like romaine lettuce. Consistency: curiously like dried parsley.) Somewhere between one and two in the morning, we exited the forest along the shore of Lyngenfjord. As we said our goodbyes, Nyheim handed me his card, which features an abstract, V-shaped logo. I asked him if it was designed to represent the antlers of the reindeer so precious to his people.

“It could be,” he says. “It could also be the handles of a snowmobile. It can be whatever you want.”

Sounded an awful lot like today’s Norway: Old and new, side by side, take your pick.

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