In paid collaboration with Kestävästi kasvua kesään Itä-Lapissa -project
In the morning, the weather forecast for the day was looking grim, giving us reason to consider back-up options for our trip to the fell. Thankfully luck was on our side, as the worst rainfall cleared up in the early afternoon. When the time came for us to start heading towards Kivitunturi fell, the sky was left with nothing more than a dense fog. This suited us well, as a misty fog over the forest wetland adds to its magnificence! The plan was to do the Kivitunturi Nature Trail basic route, 5.9 kilometres in length. Our fell tour was not so basic, however, as we would be joined by an exceptionally energetic and furry companion to get to this exceptionally beautiful fell.
Led by our guide for the day, Reija, we drove along dirt roads to an empty parking lot. On arrival, the star of our hike hopped out of the back trunk of Reija’s car: Alit the husky. Reija’s company, Radnis Northern Venture, organises farm tours and other guided adventures such as the husky hike we were about to go on.
Alit had different coloured eyes, one brown and one blue – in fact, the word ’alit’ means blue in Sami, and the dog is from the Sami land. We took in the fell’s silence for a moment while Alit took the chance to do some unfinished business after the exciting car ride, then we were on our way!
The forest of Kivitunturi resonated peacefulness. The kota, our trip’s first stop, was as silent as the trail we followed. You could almost wrap yourself in the magic and stillness of Lapland’s warm and misty forest. The first signs of autumn could be seen here and there in the yellowing of birch branches and red shades of bunchberries.
It was a short walk to the first lookout point. After a warming workout up a flight of steps, we looked out from the terrace-like platform at the misty evergreen forest. The candle-like fir trees gave off a fresh earthy scent with a hint of musty aromas.
As I took my raincoat off, I realized that the brisk air had warmed up. The warm feeling was not just from the step workout to the platform – the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds.
Kivitunturi hiking trail differs from other fell trail in that no expenses have been spared with the trail infrastructure. Flights of steps, boardwalks, and other wooden structures along the trail lighten your step and make the route feel shorter. This feeling is of course also influenced by the interesting sights to see at regular intervals along the way, the first of which is this lookout point.
“Luojanluomalaavu” is the first actual sight on the route, and it certainly is a memorable sight to see. The name literally means ”laavu created by God”, for a good reason. Karoliina posed for a photo in front of the lean-to with Alit, though in reality we didn’t stop here for long. A little further down the path is the official campfire site, so at Luojanluomalaavu we focused simply on admiring the scenic nature.
The trail was spotted with smaller and larger puddles, which Alit enjoyed cooling off in. It was fun to watch the husky greatly enjoying himself as he splashed around in the water. I wasn’t feeling particularly warm after taking off my raincoat, yet the thought of joining Alit in the forest pools was tempting. I contained myself this time.
After our first sight-seeing warmup at Luojanluomalaavu, we were ready for the highlight of the trip, “Pirunkuru”. Here, a suspension bridge hangs over a magnificent gorge. Alit didn’t require any extra coaxing to cross the bridge, but after crossing we let him take a break with Reija while Karoliina and I went back to the bridge to get a better look at the gorge. The steep and rugged drop is not done justice in pictures – this beauty must be experienced in-person!
While looking out from the bridge, I noticed for the first time that the blanket of clouds had started to give way to a small blotch of blue in the sky! For a moment the clouds still worked to patch up the sky, but the day was starting to brighten.
After Pirukuru, the trail continued with a fair share of paths, flights of steps, and boardwalks. The forest opened up to a bright sight of bushy pines with tufts of hanging moss and puddles and ponds shimmering on the shoulders of the fell.
Our next break was at “Äitipetäjänlampi”, or mother pine’s pond. Awaiting us in front of the half-kota was a campfire, looking out to a calm, clear pond. Alit took a gulp from the pond and waded in for a bit before settling for a birch shrub root as his resting spot. After circling a few times, he was fast asleep. The dog lay in peaceful silence for the whole time that we snacked. We didn’t make a fire this time since we didn’t have the need for it. Reija had baked us blueberry pie, and boiling hot water was waiting in a thermos flask. Reija served us rose-hip tea, and everything was so delicious that it felt like nothing could have been better in that moment.
At our rest stop, I examined the trail map and oops! I thought we were already almost at the peak, but according to the contour line the real ascent only started from here. The curve rose almost straight upwards. In reality, the trail sloped gently upwards with trees to push from on the way to the top.
As we climbed higher and the weather brightened, the landscape started to appear. I am partial to the versatility of nature in Kivitunturi. The small bodies of water bring to life the already distinctive fell. I could spend forever admiring the view, the verdant nature nestled between water and stone creating a collection of miniature worlds.
The autumn colours of “ruska” were already visible on the blueberry bushes, as could be expected in August. There were also still plenty of large ripe blueberries, which we took the time to pick along the way. The lingonberries were not ripe yet, cloudberry season was long gone, and cranberry season was still to come, but the blueberries were a perfect snack for the trip.
I’m one of those people who finds water enchanting. As we reached a babbling stream running over jagged rock, it would have been impossible for me to pass by without stopping to examine it. I studied the water and how it smoothened the edges of rocks and formed a shiny, velvety surface over them. I broke the water’s surface and felt the rock with the entire palm of my hand, while the running water smoothened my hand as well. The water was clear, accentuated by the needles and leaves mixed within it. While I stopped to admire the water, Alit decided to take a drink as there was nothing more exciting to do.
The highest point of Kivitunturi is really quite humble. There is no showy pile of stones or sharp peak – in fact, as we examined the map, we realised that the fell seems to have at least two peaks. The path only traverses one of two gigantic bumps that sit side-by-side. The surface boasts a wide and beautiful landscape, low-growing pine trees and other forest, and the stunning scenery opens far out into the horizon. According to the old – or perhaps new? – wooden sign close to the peak, the Soviet Union is 71 kilometers away.
The peak was followed by a steep and narrow path downhill, through rocky and forest terrain. At this point, I wish I had something more supportive on my feet than rain boots. The slope led us to a beautifully colourful sunlit forest, the rays of light transforming blueberry shrubs into sparkling rubies.
At the parking lot, we said goodbye to Reija and thanked her and Alit for a wonderful trip. Alit hopped in the car as if he had springs in his paws. Our journey continued onwards to “Samperin Savotta”, our place for the night. A short drive from Kivitunturi, it is located on the shore of Kemijoki river at the edge of Savukoski village.
Waiting for us there was Ms. Santa Claus cottage’s cosy room and inviting beds as well as “Marski’s sauna”, already radiating heat. The heavy log sauna, originally built in Saunakangas for President Mannerheim, was later moved to this spot at Kemijoki’s beach cliffs. We studied the markings and numbers on the logs while keeping an eye on the spectacular sunset on the river. A thin layer of fog formed over the river as the sun set. The water of Kemijoki was clear, enabling the late evening light to shine beautifully on the riverbed plants. We stayed in the sauna until it got dark, and fell sound asleep as soon as we got into bed. Thank you Savukoski!
Translated by Karolina Salin