In paid collaboration with the Sustainable Growth for Summer in Eastern Lapland project
On the last day of our Eastern Lapland trip, we headed to Posio, where I would have the chance to see Riisitunturi National Park’s wild side! In the style of many other hikers, I have often marveled at the more popular sights of Riisitunturi such as the candle-like fir trees coated in crown snow-loads. Summertime in the area was a new experience for me – I had been anticipating this for some time!
The drive from Kemijärvi to Posio is around 1,5hrs in normal driving conditions. Along the way, between Morottaja and Tonkopuro, is a stunning stretch called Mooseksenkuru. Here, the road flows smoothly between magnificent sand ridges.
From Maaninkavaara we headed south and marveled at a stretch of road that was striking in a different way – a straight line that continued for over 10 kilometres. After the scenic drive, we found our way to Kota-Husky, where the owner Sari welcomed us warmly. We discussed the schedule for the day as we made a round of the dog yard and greeted the excited pack of huskies. Kota-Husky organises dog sledding experiences in Posio during winter. Today, however, we would go hiking in the traditional way, with only two-legged companions.
Before the hike, with instruction from Sari, we found our way to our accommodation at Kovajärvi. The spacious wilderness cabin is idyllic and robust. As an added bonus, the cabin stay includes a nearby private laavu with a fireplace and a lakeside sauna. As is custom with wilderness lodging, the cabin does not have running water. Drinking water has instead been brought to the spot in a milk can. The yard also sported an outhouse. After an active day spent exploring Riisitunturi, you couldn’t ask for much more! I would happily relax here for a few nights.
But first, our adventure in the fell.
Hiking in Riisitunturi National Park is allowed everywhere in the park, but because there is only one parking lot, most visitors’ day hikes are concentrated in the marked trails of the area surrounding the parking lot. These trails are already quite familiar to many Finns. Generally, it is better to stay on marked trails, as following them ensures good trail etiquette. Kota-Husky regularly offers a responsible and sustainable option to hike in areas further away without trails, other infrastructure, or passersby.
As a partner company of the national park, Sari has a specially granted parking spot at the edge of the park. We left the car there and got to it! I consider myself to be a fairly experienced traveller, so it was fascinating to take part in my first guided daytrip. I also took the opportunity to test my new hiking boots on the terrain. I would only go on a longer trip once I knew I could trust the quality of the new shoes.
There certainly was no path – we followed Sari along the edges of swamps, ridges, riverbanks, and around thickets. Sari had warned us that the trip was challenging, and of course it was. The thickness of the brush varied, but in places it reached up to our knees, and the shrubbery covered the ground surface in a way that made our progress sluggish despite our steady pace. After the morning’s rain everything was wet, but the air was fresh to breathe and drops of condensation sparkled here and there. We found ourselves in the type of forest that many dream about finding and look for during their trips to Lapland: that is, untouched.
Walking in untouched nature is entirely different from a structured environment, somehow rawer. Even shorter distances are slightly strenuous and it’s impossible to walk on autopilot here, as the terrain demands your focus on the details. We examined orchids along our path, saw the body imprint of a reindeer or moose that had been resting on the ground, and snacked on ripe blueberries that covered the area. We conversed, we hiked, and most importantly, we were entirely in the present.
The terrain had slowly risen upwards, and after circling around a larger swamp area it rose steeper. We climbed to the top of Lavavaara, which doesn’t look like much on the map. Yet, looking out at the landscape to the northwest, the valley was more breathtaking than I could ever have imagined, painted golden by the late summer sun. The lakes in the northern end of Posio mirrored the blue sky and marshes foreshadowed autumn “ruska”. Summer’s verdancy was clearly over, making way for the first signs of amber autumn. Lavavaara itself blushed red, and my search for the best shooting angles with my camera complicated made it near impossible to stop for a snack break. Luckily Sari had anticipated my love for chocolate, and her partner Lauri’s homemade redcurrant juice was so good that I was happily distracted by them for a moment.
The trip is not timed to the minute and doesn’t require map-reading or even staying on a trail. This made it all the more relaxing. Though the physical strain is tougher than normal, the feeling of peace is enhanced by the knowledge that there are no time, kilometre, or route constraints.
On our way back, we followed a slightly steeper section down the slope of the fell. Discussion naturally flowed to the terrain that sled dogs run on in winter, and how guides plan the routes so that they are pleasant and safe. Today, the route we followed to Lavavaara was also deceivingly well planned despite passing through untouched wilderness. I would never have chosen to follow the marsh so closely if I had been on my own. With Sari’s reliable guiding, it was exciting walking in the morass that didn’t submerge us too much and was in fact a perfect test environment for my new shoes! To my delight, I can say that the shoes passed the test, and based on this trip I’m highly satisfied with the purchase.
The return journey is always shorter than the way there, though the downhill also played a part this time. I stalled the end by stopping at lush blueberry bushes as much as I dared, though at the same time I was already looking forward to the evening’s sauna by the lake.
The sauna warmed up, dusk set and the nature of Posio was magical in its serenity. As I cooled off on the terrace, I looked out at the lake and thought about the endless opportunities of rich experiences to enjoy here. Hiking. Scenery. Freedom of movement. Fresh air. The sauna. Woollen socks.
Our stay here in the heart of Lapland’s charm was a great way to end the week. This versatile trip had opened my eyes to the sights and experiences of Eastern Lapland in a unique way. I also had fond thoughts about the immediacy of human contact here. Thank you, Eastern Lapland – I can’t wait to test my shoes here another time!
Translated by Karolina Salin