The Sun does not set in Lapland, and the nature is blooming. One might still see some snow here and there, but almost all of it is gone. Instead we have beautiful greenery all around us. Here are some photos to show you what the Midsummer looks like in Lapland.
For first timers it might cause a minor headache to think what’s necessary and what’s not for a hiking trip. As in any hobby it takes time for one’s gear selection to reach the fragile stability of essential and convenience equipment, and truth be told there has been a number of times these gadgets have caused genuine laughs around camp fires. Check out these creative items our active hikers carry around!
A piece of a reindeer
“Irregularly shaped piece of a reindeer skin is a perfect sitting pad! I borrowed (as in: robbed) it from my mum, who originally purchased it from Lapland for a couple of euros from a souvenir shop’s sale corner if I remember correctly. Now a days it warms my bum rather nicely even when the temperatures are really freezing, and it also easily rolls neatly to be carried with.”
“This princess canopy is a wonderful cover for mosquitoes in Finnish summer. I fasten it to a lean-in-shelter or a teepee with pins. To cover the buzzing noise of the insects I also have earplugs. Sweet, undisturbed dreams!”
“This stetson is made from actual jeans, the denim is from the 90’s. I found the pattern online, scaled to fit my head perfectly, printed on paper and cut the pieces from jeans. Missus sewed it all together. It’s hot as hell but definitely an eye catcher and you’ll recognize me anywhere! 😎👌”
“Somethings are certain, like the fact, that I always enjoy my morning coffee with warm, frothed milk. On a one hapless trip everything had been according to Murphy’s law. I was exhausted and still looking for a good spot to spend a night and was a bit displeased hearing this weak machinery noise coming from somewhere. Could have been a power line or such, I thought. Later on I realized that it had been my poor frother that had buzzed out all of its energy in my backpack.”
Knives along the years
“I used the first two knives for 30 years. The first was a good tool for cutting wood or branches and the second for carving tooth picks.Now they serve mainly as dear keepsakes or relics. Now a days I rely on cheap expendable knives so that I wouldn’t worry or cry about losing them. It’s rather nonchalant to open conservative food cans with them. All that HiFi-bragging in the woods is just pointless.”
“I get funny looks from folks as I walk in public with my backpack and gear including my century-old axe. It genuinely is about 100 years old, ‘Billnäs 12.3., so called Kemi-model. According to folklore it’s the type of an axe this country was built with.”
Cosmetic purse as a trangia-cover
“My father was a Great Adventurer. I have inherited plenty of camping equipment from him, also my trangia-camping stove and its coverbag. My father had a habit of using this trangia also on an actual bonfire where it naturally became sooty. My mum, being the neat and tidy person she is, was worried about the rest of the camping gear getting dirty from it and gifted my father with this overly fabulous Yves Rocher cosmetic purse which is a surprisingly perfect cover bag for the trangia! It’s almost like tailor-made. Now having inherited it, regardless of the funny looks it gets, I carry it with pride and a twinkle in the eye!”
Plup -water bottle
“It is just a water bottle, but folks notice it every time. I’ve had it for about ten years now. I bought it during my studies when I wasn’t yet an active hiker at all. These bottles designed by Stefan Lindfors were sold for about a euro each and were nominated as the “most-useless-item of the year” if I remember correctly – even if a share of its profit was given for the reservation of the Baltic Sea. This sturdy bottle has stayed with me ever since and has been a faithful companion on all of my trips and hikes. “
“Bamboo cutlery and chopsticks in a cute bag. Chopsticks are surprisingly handy for stirring, turning, poking and eating food. I use them for basically everything – for stirring coffee too – except for eating morning porridge. Bamboo is a light material so these won’t add extra weight to my backpack and they can be placed to hang outside of the sack too. I’ve used this set for already three years and originally purchased them online only due to their cute looks. They turned out to be an equipment that I carry with me wherever I go. First it was the spoon that was in heavy use, but then I realized how clever of a tool the chopsticks are. Now I actually use them also in my home kitchen too.”
“I carry this century-old nip glass with me for celebratory events during my hikes.”
“One of my most loyal camping items, especially during long-distance hikes, canoeing trips and other adventures during gloomy autumn and winter hours, is this rechargeable light I found from Lidl a few years back. I found it only that once in that one specific store, so unfortunately I can’t tell anymore where to get them!
The blue shimmer should also work as an insect repellent, but in reality it just doesn’t happen. This is the only weakness of the light – otherwise it has been a wonderful item to any tent, hut or teepee. It gives enough lighting and the battery lasts rather well. I charge it with a portable usb-charger which serves my other gear as head torch and mobile phone too.”
Is there something goofy or clever you carry around in your backpack that not every other camper has? Please share your item and its story in the comments!
Stories collected by Karoliina Säkö.
Imagine the moment when you wake up in the morning, rested, and in the middle of nature. Wind is blowing delicately, and the fabric of the tent is accompanying its rhythm. You have slept well, and you are anticipating for your morning coffee. You open your tent and sit on the edge. You are wiggling your toes, seeing how wonderful nature looks like from above ground. How lovely is this!
With Tentsile, you can reach new heights when camping out – and it’s no wonder: this unconventional outdoor accommodation has become more and more popular among hikers and campers. Although Tentsile is not the lightest tent around, you can still feel weightless when setting it up wherever there are trees, whether it be in the wilderness or in your backyard. A night spent in Tentsile feels like adventure everywhere.
Tentsile looks like a tent. You can sleep in it like you would do in a normal tent. The difference is that you set it up between trees, up in the air just like a hammock – only much tighter. The best thing about Tentsile is that you can set it up on a rocky beach or on a cliff with a view. This tent goes where no other tent can. No matter how uneven, sloped or full of rocks the terrain is – Tentsile hangs in the air above all that.
After a long and rewarding hiking day, the tent invites you in like a nest among the branches. What’s even better, you don’t have to sleep there alone as your friend can fit in nicely, too. You can stow your hiking gear, bike etc. under the tent where it will be sheltered from rain.
You are sitting on the edge of your tent, enjoying the evening snack, looking at the view, with a gentle breeze cooling down your weary legs. Maybe you can feel the undergrowth tickling your feet as you take the last sips of your evening tea?
It’s time to give your legs and your whole body the rest they need, comfortably and safely in the air, letting the sounds of nature lull you to sleep. In Tentsile, there is no pea under the camping mattress pressing your back. Just drift off to dream in a million-star hotel. Maybe in the wee hours of the morning, drops of rain drum the roof of your tent. If there’s no chance of rain, you can also use the tent without its outer layer, leaving just the inner mesh tent in place, and see all the stars.
It’s a new day. You are waking up slowly, smelling the wind and sitting on the edge of your tent. Do you see an open sea or lake, or maybe a vibrant-coloured marshland? Do you hear the singing of the cranes, splashing of the waves or a silent hum of the fells?
The feeling of urgency is gone. You ponder whether you should stay right here or continue on your journey. Tentsile is the perfect base camp for day trips. Wouldn’t it be great to set it up someplace nice and just go out on shorter hikes, carrying only a light backpack with what you need?
You can book a night in Tentsile for yourself and your friend at the North Gate of Nuuksio – just a short distance from Helsinki. The Salmijärvi region is a beautiful, forested place to enjoy the peace of nature and experience what it is like to spend a night in Tentsile. See the details of the accommodation and book your Tentsile night here.
Translation: Mikko Aslak Lemmetti
Lapland. That mystical wonderland in far North. One of the most exciting places in Lapland is a fell named Pallas, or Pallastunturi. Today I’m telling you about my hike to the highest peak of Pallas during winter.
Christmas and new years time is well spent in Lapland. Polar night and Northern lights are the best reality TV for me. What could a photographer enjoy more? I started my journey from the parking lot of Hotel Pallas. The weather was nice and clear. Temperature -20 degrees (celsius) but I wasn’t worried about that. The climb would keep me warm. I was using snowshoes although some people were hiking in winter boots. Start was the easy part and the path was clear.
The first point was a small wooden cabin. After that path became steeper and I was glad to have my snowshoes.
The view was so amazing that I just had to stop to photograph the landscape every now and then. Slowly rising Sun created colors so unreal.
Higher I got, the colder the wind became. Landscape also transformed more arctic.
About 50 meters before the top something unexpected happened. The Sun rose. Just a little bit, but still visibly. During polar winter the Sun should not get up this far North. Later back in the Hotel they told me that the highest peak is high enough for the Sun to reveal itself during clear skies.
Here I was, on top of the peak watching this light show. It took me about 2,5 hours to get up there. Then I spent 1 hour just photographing the view. Some people were skiing down the hill but I had my trusted snow shoes. So no fast track down.
Suddenly I felt like a 7-year-old kid in a candy store. So much “stuff” I had to enjoy before it ends.
Slowly the Sun started to set. During polar winter the light in the sky is like a 4-hour sunrise/sunset. Then it gets dark again.
Coming down went a bit faster. I was back at the Hotel’s parking lot about 45 minutes later. Temperature was now -25 degrees, but I was still warm enough and my 32 gigabytes memory card full of “candy”.
If you like my photos, please follow me on instagram @anttiphotography. Thank you so much.
Some people think that Santa lives in the North Pole, but that is not true at all. Santa and his elves and reindeer live in Lapland, Finland. Click here to see what Santa’s childhood home looks like, and here you can learn more about his reindeer.
We want to show you the magic of Lapland and wish you a Merry Christmas. Below there are seven photos from Lapland that we think will make you smile!
Merry Christmas and happy New Year!
Tankavaara is a small village in the North-Eastern Lapland. Here the Polar Night has begun in the beginning of December. During summers you can pan for gold in Tankavaara, but in winter this place turns into a winter wonderland!
In the backyard of Tankavaara Gold Village there’s a gate that is a starting point of several nature paths. These paths take you to Urho Kekkonen National Park, and one specific trail is open for winter hiking. It leads to Big Tankavaara Hill (Iso Tankavaara) which opens a beautiful view towards the surrounding wilderness.
I went cross country skiing on this 7-kilometer-long winter trail. I wanted to see how it looks like now, when the Polar night has begun. What Polar night means is that the Sun doesn’t rise at all for a certain period of time in Northern Finland. But it is not completely dark, in fact it brings beautiful shades of blue, pink and yellow to the sky!
I was lucky and run into some reindeer wandering in the wilderness. Aren’t they cute! They looked just like from a Christmas tale.
I walked higher to the Big Tankavaara Hill and saw this magnificent view. I had left my skis to wait at the crossing of the nature trail and the path that leads up to the hill. Unfortunately I should have taken snowshoes with me as well, since the snow got too soft and deep on the top so without snowshoes I couldn’t reach the highest point of the hill.
The Sun doesn’t rise above the horizon but there is some daylight a couple of hours, and the colors are simply beautiful. In Tankavaara the sun rises next time in January.
In the night, if the sky is clear, the stars shine beautifully and the Milkyway is visible. And with a bit of luck it is possible to see the Aurora Borealis. I took the following picture some days ago from this same place on a snowmobile sleigh trip to the fells which is as well available for tourists visiting Tankavaara.
And finally, these pictures of the Milky Way I took on the way home. The camera captures the Auroras and starry sky a little bit different than what the naked eye can see, but still seeing the night sky with your own eyes is breathtaking. I feel lucky to live in such a place!
Over the last half a year or so, I have been experimenting more with my photography here in the Finnish nature. I’ve focused on big landscapes as well as focused in on the smaller details. My time spent in the forest, on the islands and near the lakes have been nothing short of spectacular. Below are some photos that I’ve taken over the last few months (from around July to December), here in wonderful Finland.
Above: A warm, summer scene within a small patch of bitch trees. Since Finland has many colder months, it almost makes the summer feel more special in a way. I’m lucky in that I enjoy all the variety throughout the seasons 🙂
Above: A sunset in July at around 23.00. This photo was taken along the river Pielisjoki in Joensuu.
Above: Another intimate summer photo. The time spent outdoors around sunset brings some fantastic and eye-catching glowing patches amongst the Finnish landscapes.
Above: Somewhere on an island near Tuusiniemi at around 03.00 in the beginning of September. I made plans especially for this night since it was predicted that the northern lights may appear. I spent the night camping near a summer cottage and was once again blown away by this incredible show of light. The aurora have become really special to me and I’m incredibly grateful to be in Finland so that I may experience them in person.
Above: Another photo from that night.
Above: Autumn. When autumn kicks in, you’ll know all about it 🙂 If I had to pick my favourite season in Finland, this would be it. The golden leaves, foggy mornings and starry nights make it a clear winner in my books.
Above: Trees in the fog on a fresh and crisp morning in Kontiolahti. This morning had an incredibly mysterious feeling to it, and I had to stop several times to pinch myself and check that I wasn’t dreaming 🙂
Above: A view of the treetops on a misty and snowy day. I climbed to the top of a nearby hill to take this photo and really enjoyed seeing the layers upon layers of forest fading into the distance.
Above: An October moonrise with an amazing halo of light above some forest in Joensuu. This is something that I’ve never really tried to photograph but thought it would be interesting to capture.
Above: Some finer details along the floor of an autumn forest. Interesting things may be at your feet 🙂
Above: Misty birch forest.
Above: Another misty autumn scene.
Above: A rocky lake shore in Joensuu at the end of October. No matter what I do with my photography, I always end up back in places like this. There is a sense of tranquility that is hard to find elsewhere.
Above: A November landscape at my favourite local spot. The water has become cold and icy.
Above: Icy patterns on a frozen lake shore. The small details can sometimes be quite interesting as well.
Above: This is my most recent photo from Joensuu (around 3rd December). The lakes are freezing up and creating interesting shapes of ice these days. One has to visit regularly to see all the amazing changes from day to day.
That was it for the last few months in Finland! I look forward to the amazing winter and what interesting photographic opportunities it may bring. Also, I just enjoy being outdoors regardless of whether I have my camera with me or not 🙂 I hope that all of you have an amazing winter and enjoy your festival season.
See you out there!
Polar night has officially begun in the North and the whole of Lapland is already covered with a thick layer of snow. Here are some photos that I have taken during this last month in the areas of Kittilä, Muonio and Sodankylä. I hope you enjoy them – see how beautiful Lapland can be in November!
Above: Sun shining in a snowy forest near Levitunturi fell. In the beginning of November there was still some bright sunlight that we could enjoy. Day by day there was less and less sunshine and now it’s almost completely gone.
Above: Afternoon moments by Jerisjärvi lake. These little houses are very old but fishermen still use them actively – Jerisjärvi is famous for having lots of fish. This was a really cold day: it was -22 degrees celcius or about -8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Above: Some last rays of sunlight make this snowy forest look almost pink. This photo was taken by Kitinen river in Sodankylä.
Above: My friend on top of Levitunturi fell. Levitunturi or Levi is a cool place because it’s easy to reach: a road leads to the top and there’s even a parking lot and a café!
Above: This was a cloudy day, no sunshine whatsoever. I saw a white reindeer walking alone on the ice of Ounasjoki river. The reindeer noticed me as well and looked at me.
Above: Not all waters freeze even during the coldest winter nights. This photo shows what it looks like in Immelkaltio spring near Levitunturi fell.
Above: I took a picture of myself standing in the middle of some beautiful snowy trees. We had had lots of fresh snow the previous day.
Above: a whooper swan on Jerisjärvi lake. There’s a part of this lake that does not freeze – each year there are some whooper swans that decide to stay here instead of heading South. Whooper swan is the national bird of Finland.
Above: In Lapland there’s not much, if any light pollution. That’s why spotting the Milky Way is relatively easy, as long as there are no clouds.
Article by Onni Kojo
After Karhunkierros I continued my way north. The forgotten UKK route continues at the north end of Karhunkierros. This trail was almost non-existing, but it was fairly easy to find the markings on the trees. Very quiet, after meeting other hikers every day. I was not talking to other people that much. Finns are just so bad at small talk! But also because in these popular hiking routes, people tend to have own groups in which they travel.
I didn’t mind. I enjoyed walking alone as much as I enjoyed company.
Beautiful old growth forests covered the fells that opened up in front of me. I was now in the region of Salla. Their slogan is – Salla – In the Middle of nowhere. I like that! It did feel like being in the middle of nowhere. The beauty of Lapland is very much in the sense of open space.
When you get to Lapland, the nature starts to change around you. More old trees, different kinds of plants, more barren, but beautiful still. The Lapp huts along the way have remained even though the trail seems to be rarely used. I found myself in this hut between two fells, next to a small lake. Fireplace inside, pure drinkable water right next to it and still few berries to be eaten. This was perfection. It was now officially fall. My favorite season.
The nature roasted in to a golden-yellow glow. The forests of Salla were absolutely stunning! This season was a perfect timing for admiring them. I stopped often to wonder the different shades of orange and red while I was walking. Dead silent everywhere. I would meet a pack of reindeer or willow grouse every now and then.
It was necessary to take more breaks as the ascents began to be longer and the fells higher. At one stop I startled. There was a dog behind me! For how long it had followed me, I didn’t know. It had a collar with antenna. It was some hunter’s dog. But where was the hunter?
Day was beautiful and not too cold. I admired the vast view of forests that continued beyond sight. The dog was still with me while I was sitting on this rock. We continued the journey together. Still no sight of the hunter. I tried to look a phone number on the collar, but the number was wrong. Well, maybe the antenna worked and we would meet the owner soon.
I stopped for lunch at this lean-to shelter. Not knowing what the dog could eat, I didn’t give any food. As a protest, I was barked at.
Soon we hit a dirt road. I knew that if the antenna worked, they would see from the gps and drive there shortly. After 2 minutes, a land cruiser raced next to me.
He was a bear hunter and he had seen from the gps where his dog was and told me that he knew from the movement that there were humans around. The guy had driven 40 km from the other side of the forest to that spot. He also said that it was a good thing that I didn’t give the dog any food, because otherwise they would learn to go after the hikers to give them food!
In the village of Salla I got more supplies and ate a huge, well-deserved pizza. Hanging around at the main street of the village was like from a movie. Guys drinking beer at a bench next to the grocery store, hitchhikers from Germany at the bus stop, grannies cycling along the street. It was a nice and sunny autumn evening. A lovely little town it was. I continued my way towards west now.
4 days I hiked these gravel roads to a place called Pyhä. For me, it was a familiar place as I had been working there the previous winter. Here, I would also have couple days off from the hike and I actually worked as a guide on these break days! I was welcomed with the Lappish hospitality from my dear manager at work. It was unreal to be indoors and have a bed after weeks of hiking!
I experienced this Lappish hospitality on those 4 days of gravel road hiking, too. This guy drove next to me with a transporter. He was a hunter. He was amazed. Why the hell I was walking here by myself! After we shared a laugh, he offered me his cottage to stay! He just said that I could go there and sleep! I didn’t get there that night before the dark. Anyways, people in northern Finland can be extremely hospitable. I had many other encounters like this in Lapland.
Pyhä is an old holy mountain of the forest Sami people that used to live on these lands. The word ‘Pyhä’ in Finnish, means ‘Holy’. This place is unique. You’ll find remarkably unique landscapes, old growth forests and silence from here. There is a national park that covers most of the area. Finland’s biggest gorge is here between the fells and one of the most beautiful waterfalls I know. Right next to the national park there is also skiing slopes, a small village and lots of activities packed in one small place. A perfect combination for everyone! It’s like Lapland in a nutshell.
Pyhä-Luosto national park’s logo features a Siberian jay. You see these birds here every day. These curious and pretty birds sure are fun creatures!
After hiking amongst many other visitors, who had come to see the fall colours, I headed to the town of Sodankylä. I walked by the driveway and from there took another 4 day gravel road hike to the west towards Ylläs.
Those days were one of the most boring ones of my life. There were just vast areas of semi natural forests and not much to see. One stop near Kittilä was nice though. This big lake you could see from the shore overlooking the landscape of fells.
My plans had worked quite well so far. I had stayed pretty much on that path that I had thought. There was just one problem – the winter was coming.
There was already some wet snow pouring when I started hiking through yet another national park: Pallas–Ylläs. This national park is one of the oldest and most known in Finland. No doubt, the scenery is breathtaking. Here I met many other hikers and made new friends. After a few days of rain and wet snow, the weather turned beautiful. Crisp cold mornings and bright blue days. I enjoy those kinds of days.
Herds of reindeer would pass by every day. They start their mating time around this time of the year so it is good to be little bit cautious with them. At least with the stags.
These herds can be hundreds of individuals, sometimes running around the fells. One morning I got woken up by this huge herd as some of them have bells around their necks like sheep. They are a semi-domesticated species and all of them are always owned by someone even when they go around the wild every now and then. There are a lot of domesticated reindeer as well in the farms all around Lapland.
They say that a white reindeer is for good luck. I saw one every day! From a distance though. I heard a story about how furious the stags can get during mating season. I was having lunch at this Lapp hut with few other hikers when this older guy told us a story that involved a reindeer antler, a carotid artery and lots of blood. I kept my distance.
Nice lunch discussions and encounters continued along the way. I remember this one dad who was hiking with her 5-year-old daughter. They were on a one-night hike and we had a chat at this yet another Lapp hut shelter. I told him about my journey. By now I had walked about 2000 km. He told me word to word ‘I doubt your mental health’. I laughed. But he was right as well. I might have gone mad by now, walking by myself for months. There were a few things that kept me sane. One was social media – (staying connected is almost too easy nowadays; I did also have days when I didn’t use it), the other was just staying on the course, so perseverance. I would meet new people all the time so I wasn’t really lonely. There were only a few times I felt loneliness, but I think that is good. In this hyper social world of ours we easily forget to self-reflect. It is very important to just be happy with yourself. The modern world easily distracts us to use our time on just looking on what other people do.
But yeah, to walk over 2000 km you have to be a bit crazy. In a good way!
To be honest, at the moment while I’m writing this in a studio apartment in Helsinki, I feel lonelier than when I was hiking alone. I would meet so many fantastic people along the way. The wilderness cabins would usually be full of people, sharing their adventures. People would gather around a fireplace and share their stories. Would that happen in a city? Just random people at a park for example just meeting and sharing stories about their days?
There is something really familiar to us, when we meet new people while hiking in national parks or in the wilderness. We are so close to the things that humans are made for. Surviving in the wilderness and staying together as a tribe.
I shared a wonderful evening with people all over Finland on the last day of the Ylläs – Hetta hike. To hear everyone’s craziest adventures was so much fun. You also learn so much from others while you share stories. We even saw pretty good northern lights that night.
That is one exceptional aspect about the open wilderness cabin culture. There is always another side of the coin, though. This culture is based on respecting the place and other visitors. That includes cleaning up after yourself and giving space to people who need the shelter most. This age-old rule is easily forgotten nowadays. Always respect the nature and others around you, always! We can still keep this culture alive and have these places, so we can share stories by the fire. It would be sad to see this go and have private cabins all around instead of the open ones, if we do not adhere to common rules!
In general though, during my journey, I met great people and almost every shelter and cabin that I visited was in good condition! Way to go Finland!
I heard news that there was already snowfall in the very north western part of the country. That’s where I was heading. I based my plan to the fact that last winter the snowfall was so late and that people had hiked up to Halti even at the beginning of October. It started to seem that it might be impossible. I didn’t change my plans. The snow might have melted.
I walked along the driveway towards Kilpisjärvi for days. I headed to the wilderness after three days. There was this dirt road leading to the wilderness area of Käsivarsi – ‘Käsivarren erämaa-alue’. From there I was to hike to Kilpisjärvi through the wilderness. After about 10 km walking the dirt road it was obvious that there was a lot of snow. The snow limit was in about 600 metres above sea level. I still continued, I didn’t want to quit. Mainly because my other option was pretty lame. To walk the along the road all the way to Kilpisjärvi, another 70 km or so.
I went to the first cabin at the end of the dirt road. I was a little depressed. I couldn’t hike up to Halti. The October gloom got more intense day by day. Nevertheless, I had an amazing adventure in the wilderness! The soft snow made it super hard to go through even with skis. At times the snow was down to my knees. At the first cabin I found some hard plastic and iron wire so I decided to make my own snowshoes. Surprisingly, after testing them, they worked!
I walked with my snowshoes about 7 km to the next hut. I was the most exhausted I have ever been. It was so heavy to walk in the snow. I had lunch and a cup coffee and decided to head back and plan another ending for my journey. There was no way I could walk in these conditions even if there would be melted ground after the next fell. I was beaten, but still so happy that I tried. It sure was an instructive and fun adventure!
A boring couple of days of walking by the road followed. I would just camp where ever I could find a spot. There were a lot of campfire places along the road and rivers. Fishermen use this road and these rivers during summertime and make campfires everywhere. It started snowing and the temperatures dropped even more. It was now officially winter here.
When I finally saw the Saana fell and the village of Kilpisjärvi, I jumped out of joy. This would be the last village before heading to Norway. I decided that I’d climb to Saana and then walk to Norway and to the Arctic sea. It was only 50 kilometres away!
This was the only area that is geologically considered to be a part of a mountain range in Finland. After hiking up to Saana I had visited almost all the different habitats found in this country. From the shores of the Baltic sea, through the fields and villages of the south, across the lake land and boreal forests, over the endless swamps and up the fells of Lapland, I had walked across the whole country! 2300 kilometres by now, to be exact.
I wanted to finish the trip by going to Norway. I hadn’t swam or seen the sea for months, so I would end this at the mighty fjords of Norway.
The very last day I walked from close to the Finnish border down to the fjord beach. It was one of those clear sunny days when the blue sky just opens and the universe just feels so vast. I felt good!
The feeling was also a bit melancholic, I would end my journey now. During that one day, the scenery changed from the arctic tundra into almost like the southern type of nature! Even the leaves were still orange and yellow, even though 30 km inland in Finland there were no leaves on the trees anymore. I was close to the sea though. The snowy cap mountains and sheep welcomed me to the village at the beach. Why is there sheep everywhere in Norway?
I have nothing greater to say after all this. Finland is a wonderful country and we must continue to care for it and its magnificent nature. Whoever reads this, remember, be sure to take some time off for yourself in life. Losing the track of time is the best way of charging your energies! Even a small amount of time is enough, you don’t have to hike 2000 km. Through this self-reflection, one also learns to be a better person to others and the nature around us.
You can follow my adventures on Instagram @onnimarkus
Blog in Finnish: onnitravels.blogspot.com
Article by Onni Kojo
In this article I will be going more into the less known places of Eastern Finland.
The end of July was really warm. Hot even. The weather made hiking harder. Insects like mosquitoes and horse flies were annoying. I was now heading close to the eastern border of the country. Here, you can still find crystal clear lakes, untouched forests and endless mire lands.
The downside with the seemingly never ending nature is that it has also been cultivated a lot. In North Karelia, 89% of the land area consists forests. Forestry companies own a prominent amount of them. Peat, or turf, is also a significant resource around here. I saw that as I was walking past those infinite fields on these hot summer days. By the way, if Finland had done the same with their swamps and turn all of them into peat fields, we could have a very plentiful source of fuel. Peat is harvested for fuel from these fields.
It’s good that we didn’t.
Swamps are super important for the environment, since they are host to a range of plant life and a high level of humidity, hence plenty of insects. Now this might be uncomfortable when visiting swamp areas, but when you realize how many birds and reptiles there are because of the insects, you respect them much more. And because of the smaller animals, there is always a bigger animal coming after them.
In addition to biodiversity, mires are important carbon sinks.
I would be walking through endless swamps for weeks! But first, I had to visit some of my relatives. I had planned my route so that I could pay them a visit this summer. I also needed a bath so bad. I’m making a statement now. There is nothing more satisfying than sauna, a swim in a pure lake and to having a cold beverage after hiking a day in heat. Trust me. Or maybe there is, but this combo is surely very close to the ultimate satisfaction.
I had a weekend off from hiking. It is important to rest properly on such a long walk. I also needed to do laundry, as from now on it got harder and I really had to plan my stops and rest days. Where could I charge my phone and batteries, where could I do laundry and get more supplies? Up to this point, I could just visit friends and family, but after this I’d have to book a guest house every now and then.
After the July heat, the temperatures dropped tremendously. There was a cold north wind to all around Finland. These extreme weather changes are getting more and more common in Finland. Before, our climate has been fairly mild, at least in southern inland.
For me it was good though! The north wind kept the nasty insects away and it was nicer to walk than in the heat. I was so prepared for having to deal with millions of mosquitoes around here. I did encounter a few flying devils that I really hate, like the deer fly. Also it is notable, that in the very eastern part of North Karelia, close to the border, there are ticks that can carry diseases. That’s why they are one of the only dangerous creatures in Finnish nature. There is only one venomous snake in Finland, the common viper.
Equal growth pine forests and gray skies led my way to the next national park, Patvinsuo. Here, it is fascinating to see some age-old pines amongst the new growth ones. I hiked through vast open swamp areas to the lakes of the national parks. I found some nice beaches along the way and met other hikers. It was nice to talk with people. My social life took place only online on some days of the hike
I ate last of my Karelian pies (you only get the real ones in Karelia) and continued the journey north via ‘Karhunpolku’ – The ‘Bear trail’. This would lead me to the town of Kuhmo and from there I would take the Eastern border trail all the way up to Lapland.
At Karhunpolku, I didn’t meet any other hikers! Again, once out from the national park, there was no one else. The forest looked magical, full of white lichen, moss, pink blossoming heather and berry bushes of different colours.
Slowly, through the beautiful ridges cutting the swamps and forests, I made my way towards north. These trails would also have other kinds of shelters besides the huts and lean-to shelters: wilderness cabins. This culture of open wilderness cabins is one of a kind in the world. Some of them even have saunas! Absolutely brilliant for a tired hiker, or a country-cross skier in the wintertime!
These shelters always have a visitor’s book, where one should write about their visit. These journals were so much fun to read every night. I found notes from few other long distance hikers, even couple from one of my teachers at the wilderness guide course. One note was from this one guy who had done a big hike the previous summer (I met him earlier in the summer somewhere in the lake country). He had only written: ‘On my way to the North’. Pretty modest from a guy that hiked across the whole country!
These stories and encounters with people are worth writing down. Apart from these forgotten hiking trails, I met many people. I had many of confluences with interesting people. I heard stories that I would’ve never heard. People opened up to me in a very different way. I mean telling me, a stranger, about their lives. Maybe there was some kind of nostalgia to the old days, where there would be vagabonds and tramps all around the country. You stayed connected with the people because of this folk.
Sometimes when I had to walk along the driveway, I felt like a rebel. Maybe little bit extremist, but why use fossil fuels, when you can just walk to places? There was other free riders and rebels along the way. Every time there was a biker or a long distance cyclist passing by, we shared this smile. These people know what freedom feels like.
One of the most interesting stories was from this old man and his wife who I met somewhere near Kuhmo. They were locals and had lived there all of their lives. This mosaic of old growth forest, lakes and swamps was, just 50 years ago, a true wilderness. Now, there was are a lot of clear cut forests in the area. Luckily there still are conservation areas in between of these more cultivated lands.
I was in the lands of storytelling. No wonder there would be people who like to share stories. From the notes in the visitor’s book, to the old guy at the market square of Kuhmo telling me about his life, I was having difficulties to write it all down. I felt like a 19th century explorer going around the wilderness collecting stories from times that were forgotten.
I mean, Finland’s epic, Kalevala, was collected from these lands. The vast area of White Karelia (Vienan Karjala in Finnish) spread from here far to the east to the Russian side of the border. Culturally, White Karelia also has three poetry villages on the Finnish side of Kainuu.
There was other culturally important places along the border too. A Traveller faces the relics of the wars around here. Old foxholes, bases, fortresses, some of which have been restored as a historic sites. There has always been war around these lands and I think it’s good to visit these places as we should never forget how horrible war is.
While I was walking the Eastern border trail, I was for a few times, stopped by the Border Patrol. They were just keen on what I was doing, as they were no hikers around here. Metsähallitus (Finnish Forest Administration) had just stopped maintaining the trail. I worried that the campfire places would not have any firewood because of this. It would be harder to dry clothes and shoes after many days of hiking in the swamp areas! Luckily they were still somewhat serviced, maybe because the local day hikers or hunters would still be using them. I did actually need the campfires a few times because at the beginning of my two week journey at this trail, it was quite rainy. Also the trail was in some parts, in very bad condition. I would have to cross the creeks because the bridges would be broken down. I would have to walk in the swamp a few times because the boardwalks would not exist anymore.
It was good meeting with the Border Patrol because we both changed information like, what animals we’d seen, what was it like at the next campsite etc. Now to clarify a bit, the guards were driving with a jeep along the dirt roads, not hiking the trails like they used to. Still, nice guys that were amazed of my journey.
Last time I talked with them, they half-jokingly stated that I’d have to put something red on my head, as the bear hunting season had just started and these lands and forests were full of hunters. I might get shot otherwise. It was only later, at this Wilderness Centre in Martinselkonen, I realized the Border Patrol was not joking. I talked with the owner of the centre. He said that if the hunters would not get the bear at one shot, which is highly likely, the bear would be extremely dangerous wounded. Not only the wounded bear, but the hunters running after it and shooting, while I’m there as well!
Later I heard a few gunshots here and there. Some of the dirt roads along the trail had pickup-trucks beside them and tents in the forest which the hunters used. I met few hunters as well. It was interesting to hear what they were doing, as this was a totally new world to me.
I’m not a hunter, so I’m not going to go into it. All I know, is that hunting and fishing are a big part of the Finnish outdoor life. To kill for trophies and for sport is in my opinion bad, but to hunt for game, for food, is just an old way of living.
Anyways, I was now in the land of lot of bears. I saw signs of them every day. Like ant nests dug, all the blueberries eaten (European brown bears love blueberries!), or I would just step on a pile of bear poop.
I didn’t see the king of the forest. They have a natural fear of humans and they could smell me miles away. There is bear watching tours you can book, if you want to see these mighty creatures! At Martinselkonen for example.
I saw other animals though. Moose would walk in the forest or crane (bird) would fly past me every now and then or make its very recognizable sound echoing in the open swamp areas. All kinds of forest grouses would hurtle from the bushes when I walked quietly by myself through the boreal forests. Some of these age old forests had hanging moss or beard lichen on the branches of the trees more than I had ever seen before. This is a clear sign that the air is super pure. This moss doesn’t grow if there is any pollution.
I would some mornings, be woken up by whooper swans. Their sound is loud and can be heard miles away because the lakes carry sound. These small ridges would cut the swamps and lakes. Little birds flew in all directions from the berry bushes on the ridge slopes. In addition to blueberries, lingonberries and crowberries grew everywhere.
I diverged from the trail a bit to get supplies. There was only one village with a little country store around here. Ala-Vuokki store had a post office, bar and a gas station in the same building. Very typical to have all the services in one place in these remote areas. The store owner was interested of my journey and offered me coffee and pastry! I continued to the trail the same day. Days were getting shorter and nights darker.
A few times I heard hunting dogs barking or the forest machine would break the feeling of being in the wilderness. Otherwise, I still walked mostly on magical lands. No wonder these forests and lakes were attached to the age old storytelling lands. And did I already say that I didn’t meet any other hikers along these hiking trails? There were couple of days that I didn’t see any other human being!
After the long eastern border adventure, I made my way to Finland’s latest national park – Hossa. The contrast was huge. Suddenly there was all these newly made trails and huts. People hiking along the turquoise waters of Hossa or mountain biking next to these magnificent cliffs.
I had a resting day in the town of Kuusamo. From here I would continue to one of the most known hikes in Finland – Karhunkierros.
Before this, it had been relatively easy to hike, at least in terms of altitude differences. Finland is pretty flat country. So until here, I would not have to ascend more than sixty meters or so! But here, it was crazy! Climbing up and down these hills was brutal. With a backpack full of one weeks supplies, anyways.
The scenery changed more to the northern kind. Gorgeous sceneries, big rivers and cliffs. I also saw little bit of northern lights the first night. Already! The days got even shorter and the leaves of the trees would turn to yellow, orange and red. By now, I really had to try and wake up early because I had to use the daytime for hiking. Summertime was easy – it didn’t really matter what time I was walking since there would be enough light even during night time.
I started to see more northern species like the Siberian jay and reindeer! I was now truly in north. I felt so good. I had hiked through the endless swamps all the way to up the north, by myself!
You can follow my adventures on Instagram @onnimarkus
Blog in Finnish: onnitravels.blogspot.com
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