Archive for the ‘Finland’ Category

The Seal Trail: Kayaking in Kolovesi National Park

This summer I spent 4 days kayaking in Kolovesi National Park with my Finnish friend Teresa and her husband Janne, and Jakob. The national park is a small part of the biggest lake in Finland, Lake Saimaa. This lake is HUGE, it’s hard to imagine. There are more than 13.500 islands in the lake – maybe that helps realizing it’s quite a maze! It’s famous for the Saimaa ringed seal, one of the only species of freshwater seal in the world. It became even more famous when WWF launched a live webcam, which became very popular. Thanks to Teresa I was following it as well, and that’s actually how the idea for this trip was born :D

We rented two double kayaks from Kolovesi Retkeily. Their office is just outside the national park, but they deliver the kayaks to the parking lot in the national park where you can start your trip.

We started our trip on a grey – but dry and warm – morning. There is no motorized traffic allowed in most of the national park so it was very peaceful. Our first stop was a rock painting not far from the parking lot.

Our double kayaks at the first stop

It took us ages to find the rock painting, it was really faint! Teresa helps by pointing it out…

Teresa pointing out the nearly-impossible-to-spot rock painting - even with some cheating in photoshop it's hard to see!

There are lots of campsites in the park, and wild camping is not allowed (within the national park). The campsites are all free, and they have platforms for tents, a fireplace, supply of firewood and outhouse. We didn’t paddle very far on the first day, we had to get used to everything that was new (at least to me!) like climbing in and out the kayak without accidents, and finding the right technique. Here we arrived at our first campsite, which we had to ourselves for most of the evening.

Reaching our first campsite

It was a great place in a small bay, with nice views over the water.

What a pretty spot!

My tent is not that big, but it was still a challenge to fit it on the platform – but with a little help from a tree trunk we managed ;)

My beloved tent, it just about fit on the platform with the help of a tree trunk ;)

Calm evening views. We saw a beaver near its lodge on the other side of the bay, and there was a family of loons – I love their eerie call!

Mirror reflections in the evening - we saw a beaver and a loon family that evening

The next morning: view from the toilet ;)

View from the loo :)

The next day started very grey as well, but again no wind, no rain and comfortable temperatures. Janne tried his luck fishing, but they weren’t biting…

Some people paddle, others fish...

We took it easy and slowly made our way north.

And some took photos!

At the northernmost point of our route, there was a hiking trail in the forest that we walked part of. Very pretty, and lots of blueberries!

Picking blueberries in the forest

Pretty forest…

Following the trail through the forest

By the time we reached our second campsite, we were in for a nice surprise: the sun came out! :D This campsite wasn’t as nice as the first one, as it didn’t have very good views, and it had lots and lots of big ants.

Our second campsite, and the sun came out!

BUT it did have something even better: if you followed a trail for about 1 km, there was a public sauna by a small lake. Of course we had to go there! a very pretty place to watch the sunset…

Panorama of the lake next to the sauna

How very Finnish: jetty, water lilies, forest and a sauna :)

And the view in the opposite direction

We had the sauna all to ourselves, and made a campfire so we could have sausages for dinner.

The sauna / fireplace / cabin

Janne tried fishing again, with no luck…

Campfire, while Janne tries his luck fishing again

It was really nice to have a sauna there, even if we couldn’t get it very warm. And the lake was surprisingly cold to swim in! But at least the sunset colours were fantastic…

Sunset panorama

Beautiful colours!

The next morning the weather had turned grey again. We went through a very narrow passage, which was fun:

Crossing a very narrow passage

Pretty water lilies…

Water liPrelies - so pretty!

And then the sun came out again, and we explored another narrow area, and then stopped for lunch (although it was 18:00 by then!) on this idyllic campsite on a tiny island…

Idyllic late lunch break in glorious sunshine

Such a beautiful place…

On the jetty during our lunch break

Tiny island! We would have all loved to stay here, but there were already quite a few tents, and the calm sunny weather also looked very inviting to paddle a bit further.

This tiny island with campsite was so pretty!

So on we went, through fantastic reflections in the soft evening light…

Evening views

This was my favourite part of the kayaking trip!

Late night kayaking in very calm weather

The light was getting more and more yellow…

A perfect blob!

Until we reached our final campsite, and had this AMAZING sunset…

FANTASTIC sunset when we arrived at our third and final campsite

Which then turned red…

So beautiful...

And I just couldn’t stop taking photos!

Sunset panorama, I couldn't stop taking photos!

We had a fun evening by the campfire with the other people – one couple that we met every day during our trip, and two sisters who were just starting their trip. Janne even baked pancakes, yum!!!

Not very sharp photo, but it captures the mood around the campfire quite well!

The next day we first checked out some more rock paintings which were even more difficult to find. It was still sunny, and quite warm – but we could there were thunderstorms all around us.

Paddling the short distance back to the parking lot on the last day - with thunderstorms all around us

We didn’t have far to go on the last day, and none of us was quite ready for getting back to the car, so we were going extremely slow ;)

Not quite ready to come back to civilisation! ;)

Only when we got to the campsite, it briefly started raining a bit – we had been so lucky with the weather!

This photo is taken on the drive back to Pieksämäki – pretty clouds and pretty lake!

A last photo of lake Saimaa on our way back to Pieksämäki

Finally here’s a map of our trip with the distances paddled per day.

Map of our kayaking trip

What a fantastic trip, I really enjoyed it! I was never very keen on kayaking, especially after trying it on the cold sea in Tromsø – but this was so relaxing. And you can easily transport a lot of gear inside those kayaks, which means you can bring lots of nice food and have a comfortable trip – I loved it :D

Pallas to Hetta: 4 days of skiing in Finland

It’s become one of our traditions to go on a longer ski trip around Easter. This year we had planned to return to the area near Abisko, where we went last year, but the weather forecasts looked terrible: rain and strong winds for days on end :( One day before departure, we decided to change our plans and head to Finland instead, where the weather looked very promising :) We chose the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park , a 5 hour / 400 km drive from Tromsø. We drove there after work on Wednesday, and spent the night in a cabin in Muonio.

Here’s a map and height profile of our trip – click to enlarge…

Our trip from Pallas to Hetta, 70 km and 4 days of skiing

Day 1: Car park to Mäntyrova – 11 km (3.5 hrs)

We visited the information centre at Pallas before finding a car park and starting our ski trip in the late afternoon. It was cloudy and warm – it even started to rain after a while. Never mind, we knew this was the last day with this type of weather – plenty of sunshine was forecasted for the following days! The warm weather and old (melting and soft) snow did give us some headaches with waxing our ski’s. I was lucky on the first day, as I had a mysterious mix of old layers of wax that miraculously worked perfectly, but Paul struggled to find something that would work. Just before 19:00 we reached the Mäntyrova Wilderness Cabin, which to our surprise was still empty – this national park is very busy around Easter. Two minutes later, a Finnish girl arrived at the cabin. She was very friendly and we enjoyed sharing stories all evening. She had come from the opposite direction and was a great source of information on cabins and trails that we were planning to visit. Nobody else joined, and we went to bed early that night.

Day 2: Mäntyrova to Suaskuru – 26 km (12 hrs)

The next morning we found out that the weather forecast was correct: sunshine! The rain had turned to snow during the night, and it was really beautiful around the cabin…

Mäntyrova Wilderness Cabin in the early morning sunshine The trails looked inviting that morning!

The Finnish girl told us that the summer trail over the Pallastunturi mountain near the hotel had been prepared as a ski trail, and that it would be a beautiful route on a sunny day. So we skied to Pallas Hotel (4 km from the cabin) and started our way up the mountain from there.

A short break at the hotel Starting our way up from Pallas Hotel

Actually the track up the mountain hadn’t been prepared, but there were tracks from other skiers, and with our ski’s with metal edges we don’t really need a maintained track anyway.

On top of the mountain (or hill rather, it was about 800 m high) there is no vegetation and the poles that mark the trail become crusted in snow This photo shows very well what the landscape was like: the hills are bare on top, with forest lower down - great views!

The views were great…

It's impossible to get lost, the trails are marked very well! Some lone trees when you get lower down the slopes

Going up was no problem, going down was a lot harder – at least for me. The snow was icy in some parts, while in other parts there was a crust through which you could fall into much softer/wetter snow – quite a challenge, and not always that much fun. We were glad to reach the Rihmakuru “kota” – a large wooden tent with a stove in the middle. We took a long break here to eat lunch, and enjoy the sunshine.

Out of the wind, and in the sun - perfect! Rihmakuru kota

We considered staying here for the night, but it was only 3 km to the next cabin, which we had heard was brand new and beautifully located. So after a while, we dragged ourselves out of the kota and back on our ski’s…

Looking back at the mountains we crossed What a beautiful day!

We didn’t regret it, as the weather was gorgeous and the views were fantastic. We took lots of photos, but it still didn’t take long to reach Nammalakuru Wilderness Hut. This hut only opened in late October 2013, it’s brand new! It has a locked half where you can reserve a bed (for 10 euros), with place for 12 people. The other half is open and has room for 20 people. All open cabins are totally free by the way – quite amazing!

Reaching Nammalakuru Wilderness Hut A beautiful, brand new building, with great views! Inside Nammalakuru Wilderness Hut

We got there at 18:00, and the only other people there were a Finnish couple who appeared to have just had a fight (?) – which made the atmosphere a bit strange. We were well rested after our long lunch break, the sun was still shining and it didn’t take long to decide that we could continue a bit further. The next cabin was only 1 km away, though this one was much older and much smaller…

Looking down towards Montellin Maja Open Wilderness Hut Tiny Montellin Maja Open Wilderness Hut

It didn’t have a gas stove, only an open fire place, and only room for about 4-5 people. While we sat in the cabin contemplating our plans, a group of 4 guys came in, intending to spend the night there. In the Finnish cabins it’s the last person who arrived who had the right to a bed – based on the philosophy that others will have had a break and can continue to the next cabin. We didn’t fancy the idea of sharing this tiny cabin with 4 large guys, and we should have really decided to ski back to Nammalakuru at this point… but we were a bit ambitious and decided we could ski another 7 km to another kota.

Half of this route was an annoying downhill on a narrow scooter track through the forest – but luckily the snow here was firm enough to walk on, so I took my ski’s off and just walked down :P At the bottom we joined one of the maintained tracks, which made our progress a lot faster. We were getting tired and hungry though. We were relieved to reach Suaskuru kota, but a bit discouraged when we found out that a group of 8 Scouts (age group 13-15 years old I think) were staying there, and that this kota had an open fire inside. The scouts asked if it was ok for them to stay, and of course we weren’t going to send a whole group of kids away ;) but we were not really up for skiing another 5 km to the next cabin, so it was going to be a tight squeeze.

The open fire meant we couldn’t prepare dinner very easily (so instead we had the next day’s lunch and snacks…) and it also meant it was really smokey inside. Oh well, we were tired enough to sleep like a log – we had skied 26 km that day, on challenging trails!

Inside Suaskuru kota

Day 3: Suaskuru to Sioskuru – 17.5 km (9.5 hrs)

The next morning was sunny again :) The only problem was that we (and all our stuff) smelt like a campfire :S. We had originally planned to do a loop in the national park, and return to our car by ski’s. Since we had pushed so far north yesterday, we started thinking of just continuing all the way to Hetta (or Enontokiö, not sure why it goes by two names). This would mean no boring backtracking on the same trails, and having new terrain in front of us, but it also meant we’d have to find some way to get ourselves back to the car in the end – worst case it would mean a 100 km taxi trip.

Suaskuru kota Direction signs at Suaskuru kota

We started our day by skiing the 5 km to Hannukuru Wilderness Hut. Here there were lots of facilities: a large reservable wilderness hut, a large open one, a kota, AND… a sauna! :) It was the middle of the day and the place was deserted. It had also started to cloud over, and there was even some light rain – what a perfect time to have a sauna, to get rid of the campfire smell and to get clean!

On our way to Hannukuru, when it was still very sunny On my way to get water from the lake

We really enjoyed the sauna, and didn’t see anyone while we were there. Just when we were getting ready to leave, two groups of skiers arrived, all keen to use the sauna. Lucky for us, as we had enjoyed having the sauna to ourselves, and lucky for them, as they arrived to a sauna that was already warmed up :)

The Finnish girl in the first cabin had told us that the landscape just north of Hannukuru was really beautiful – and indeed it was! We left in light rain, but after an hour it cleared up and we had sunshine again…

Skiing through a narrow valley The view after coming out of the valley: fantastic!

Just after that panorama was taken though, we were hit by very strong headwinds. Force 7 means resistance while walking, so we reckon it was at least force 8 :P It was tough, slow-going but also quite spectacular. I wish I could have taken photos, but I was afraid that the contents of my bag would blow away as soon as I opened it! We had a short break at the cozy Tappuri Open Wilderness Hut. There was an old man there, who seemed very friendly but unfortunately didn’t speak a word of English. If we wanted to reach Hetta the next day, it would be better to continue to the next cabin (3.5 km away). We hesitated because of the strong winds, we’d have to climb up to the open terrain again before reaching this cabin. But luckily the wind wasn’t so strong anymore, and we reached Sioskuru Open Wilderness Hut within an hour.

Sioskuru Open Wilderness Hut at sunset

This cabin had a reservable and an open part, and we shared the open part with one Finnish lady. We enjoyed a good dinner and went to bed early.

Day 4: Sioskuru to Hetta/Enontekiö – 15 km (4 hrs)

The next day started really sunny again, and we had breakfast outside! It was lovely to sit out of the wind in front of the cabin, and after a while the first people on a daytrip from Hetta passed the cabin.

Lots of activity around Sioskuru Open Wilderness Hut Inside Sioskuru Open Wilderness Hut

By the time we left it had gotten a bit more cloudy, but it was still a nice day. The route went uphill at first, but later it was downhill all the way to Hetta. We stopped halfway, at the Pyhäkero cabin, which had a cafe! :D Unfortunately our 5 euros only bought us one slice of cake, but it was still nice.

Another attempt at waxing the ski's - but by the end we only had blue wax left, which is meant for temperatures below zero, and it was about +6! The start of a longggg downhill

After the short lunch break we skied all the way to Hetta. There were large flat bits in between the downhill sections, and with the very soft snow it was hard to get some speed. In the end we had to resort to the skate-skiing technique, which our ski’s are not really made for – but it worked a lot better :) We reached Hetta by around 15:00. It was Easter Sunday, and everything was closed. We knew the national park visitor centre should be open, but we didn’t know where it was, and my phone was nearly out of battery. Luckily we managed to find out that the visitor centre is 1.5 km east of the town centre, and it was indeed open :) the helpful girl behind the desk told us there were no more busses that day, but she had a list of taxi drivers we could call. In the end we paid 135 euros for the hour-long drive back to the car – but I think that still worked out cheaper than staying in a hotel, and getting a bus + taxi the next day.

We really enjoyed this trip, the Finnish hut system is perhaps our best discovery this year :) I would love to come back in autumn, but apparently that’s also a very busy time. Perhaps January would be a better time for our next visit, they have tykky here too – see here for some fantastic photos taken during the polar night.

Tykky at Riisitunturi National Park

I still remember the first photo I saw of “tykky”: the Finnish name for the accumulation of hard snow/frost/rime on trees on top of some mountains in Finnish Lapland. These areas often experience low cloud cover and mist, combined with moderate winds, so the ice and snow stick to the trees and a thick layer accumulates during winter – especially during the months without much sunlight (which could melt the snow and ice). The photo that started my obsession for tykky was by Italian photographer Niccolò Bonfadini, and it’s called “Sentinels of the Arctic”. Intrigued by this fantastic image, I started to research where this photo was taken, and slowly a plan was born…

There are several places where you can find tykky, but one of the best is Riisitunturi National Park in Finnish Lapland, not far from the border with Russia. A 750 km drive from Tromsø – one way! We split the trip in two, and spent one night near Muonio on the way there. We finally arrived at the parking lot for the national park quite late on a Saturday evening – luckily the cabin that we planned to stay in was only 2 km away. When we got to the cabin, we found a man and his son were already in bed, so we quietly ate some biscuits and cheese and went to sleep. The next morning we woke up in a true Winter Wonderland…

The soft sunset colours made for very nice views. The lake in the background is Yli-Kitka A couple of French tourists were out with huskies

The cabin is located just below the top of the hill (about 450 m high), so we set out to explore in that direction. I had dreamed about this trip for a long time, and I couldn’t stop smiling at the beauty all around me :) In the weeks before our trip, I often checked webcams and weather reports of the area, and it had first been warm and windy (destroying the tykky). Then it turned cold and foggy (good for building tykky!), and finally we timed our trip perfectly with the arrival of a stable high pressure area with lots of clear and cold weather. I wish I could say those are the skills of a meteorologist, but to be honest it was more like good luck ;)

I just couldn't believe the beauty of the landscape surrounding me! It was cold though! Everything you breath onto turns into ice

We slowly made our way to the top, stopping every couple of meters to take photos… The sun was already setting (behind some clouds on the horizon, that day we didn’t see any sunlight), and a near full moon was rising in the opposite direction.

The windblown top of Riisitunturi Tykky & Moonlight

The best tykky were found on top of the fell, where they were more isolated, and very photogenic against the twilight sky and the views of the wider landscape in the background…

A nice group of tykky against a twilight sky

You don’t need much fantasy to see all kind of creatures in the trees… from E.T. to a snow dragon :D

This partical tykky reminded me of E.T. :) It was fantastic to wonder around on the top of Riisitunturi, with no shortage of photogenic trees A snow dragon!

We made our way down to the valley on the other side, where the forest was denser. Our destination for the day was this typical Finnish “lean-to” shelter with a campfire place. It was completely snowed in though, and it would require a lot of hard work before we could even think of starting a fire (plus we forgot to bring matches or a lighter :P). Instead we just crawled in and had some snacks before returning to the cabin.

Paul making his way down to the valley, where the forest was denser Our destination for the day: Soilun Laavu, a typical Finnish 'lean-to' shelter

Darkness caught up with us before we reached the cabin, but it didn’t matter with the bright moonlight :)

Darkness caught up with us on the way back to the cabin, but the deep blue landscape combined with a nearly full moon was magical!

It was now Sunday night and most tourists had left the park. There was one guy at the cabin who was testing gear for a Finnish outdoor magazine. He had dinner in the cabin, and then left to sleep in a tent not far from the cabin. We chatted to him for a bit and he told us that some other people had asked him to warn us that we left a light on inside our car. We were already worried about our car battery surviving the extreme cold conditions (it was between -20 and -25 in the park), so having left a light on was not exactly a great idea. Paul decided to do a quick roundtrip to the car to turn the light off. It was silly that we didn’t check more carefully, but at least we fixed it within 24 hours, and it seemed the battery was still going strong then, so we crossed our fingers it wouldn’t be a problem later on.

We spent the evening taking photos of the hut in the moonlight. Paul’s startrail photo captured some weak aurora’s near the horizon, which we couldn’t see with the naked eye.

Inside the simple but cozy cabin - the magic light is Paul's gas lamp hanging from the ceiling The cabin on a starry moonlit night

I will include some information about the cabin, in case anyone is thinking of visiting – we found it quite hard to find detailed information online, though we did get some great emails back when we emailed the national park information centre.

The cabin is a so called “open wilderness hut” where you can spend the night for free (1-2 nights is the recommended maximum length of stay).  The road to the nearest parking lot is ploughed all winter, and from there it’s less than 2 km to the cabin. When we were there (mid January), there were no ski tracks, but later in the season they make a track to the cabin and to the top of the mountain/hill (465 m at the highest point). Firewood is provided, as well as gas to cook on. The hut can accommodate up to 6 people (2 bunk beds, where the bottom can sleep 2). It’s very basic, you need to bring most things with you (ALL cooking equipment like pans/plates/cutlery, candles/lights, toilet paper, a warm sleeping bag, possibly a mattress as there are only 4 thin ones in the cabin). There is a wood shed and outdoor toilet. In the Norwegian cabins we are used to having buckets available to melt snow on top of the wood stove. No buckets here, and the wood stove doesn’t have a flat surface, so it’s impossible to melt snow on it. Instead, during winter time you will have to melt snow on the gas stove (something not allowed in Norwegian cabins as it uses too much gas!). We only had 2 small pans with us, and if we filled them both with snow, we got exactly 2 mugs of water from them… Not very efficient, so in the end we used a plastic bag to collect snow, and while snow was melting we constantly took out about half of the boiling water from the pan, and filled it up with snow. Something we also learned from experience: don’t put a pan full of snow directly on the gas stove. Snow is a good insulator, and if you don’t have a layer of water in the bottom of your pan, the bottom will overheat, glow red,  and possibly damage the pan.

Another photo of the cabin at night. It was windy, so the top of the trees are blurred in this long exposure Paul experimented with startrail photography. We used a remote to take 78 photos that were later combined to one - but somehow the interval between the photos was not constant, so you get funny morse code in the star trails ;) There was some faint aurora near the horizon, and you can see sparks coming from the chimney :)

The next morning we had planned to leave a 20 km ski trip to another wilderness cabin, but our alarm (aka my phone) didn’t work and we woke up rather late. We quickly decided to stay another day, especially after seeing the beautiful sunrise…

Sunrise the next day Hello sun! So good to see you :)

We more or less ran outside to take photos of the beautiful light. This was the first time we saw sunlight here, as there had been clouds on the horizon on the previous day.

Sunrise panorama

A park ranger came to the cabin by snow scooter, and he started clearing the snow away in front of the outhouse, in front of the door, around the fireplace and wood shed… he worked really hard, which made me feel guilty so I started to saw wood for the stove :D

The cabin (with on the left the outhouse) hidden between the trees Sawing wood for the stove... important when it's -25!

After a quick lunch, we turned our sunrise photography into sunset photography… the sun is up for less than 4 hours so it almost melts from one into the other. I didn’t think we could beat the experience we had the day before, but I was so wrong…

Sunset on tykky mountain The last light on the mountain top was so beautiful

The last rays of sunlight reaching the mountain top were especially magic…

Paul posing next to a tykky Soft pink light on a magic landscape

After the sun was gone, I figured we’d get the same twilight colours (deep blue and pink) as the day before, but this time everything turned soft and pastel… breathtakingly beautiful!

The top of the trees catch the very last rays of sunshine And then everything turned pastel...

We took so many photos, we felt like we were inside some Christmas card landscape :D

I kept taking photos, I couldn't believe the quality of the light A park ranger had been to the shelter by snow scooter, and we happily followed his track

We went down to the same lean-to shelter as the day before. Mr Park Ranger had been here as well, clearing the entire campfire place, and the woodshed and toilet. I am really amazed by the services of the Finnish National Parks!! He also left a nice snow scooter trail for us to follow :)

This tree shows very well how they adjust to the harsh climate: being long and thin is best! The moon rising behind the trees

At night the moon was so bright you could see your shadow, which always makes me sing this song out loud :D

Some more startrail photography at night, this time just one long exposure. The moonlight was almost as bright as daylight!

We thought we’d have the cabin to ourselves that night, and we enjoyed a nice dinner together. Suddenly, the door creaked open, and in came an exhausted looking guy. He collapsed on the bed, and just when we thought we should perhaps help him somehow, he got up to smoke a cigarette. He turned out to be Turkish, married to a Finnish woman. He could speak Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and Finnish, but not English… He was keen to talk to us, but it was very hard. He wasn’t your typical outdoor person, arriving there on wellies (if I understood him well, it took him 5 hours to walk 5 km), with a backpack full of beer and cigarettes. We had yet to find out his nicest treat though… he SNORED. Yes, lots of people do and it’s usually quite annoying. But this was on a complete different level. It was so loud that I got a hoarse voice trying to talk to Paul while he was snoring. We hardly slept at all that night. Paul tried to wake him up by banging on the ceiling, but that only resulted in a huge splinter in his hand… At 3 in the morning we were almost desperate enough to start skiing to the other hut :D He said something about the friends that he was staying with coming to the cabin the next day, and we wondered if they just sent him there so that they could have a good night of sleep?!

Anyway, this wasn’t a great start to our 20 km ski trip the next day. We started bright and early, but not very well rested. Being up some hours before sunrise was worth it though, look at this view… I couldn’t believe my eyes!! You can see another version of this photo here, which shows the entire anti-twilight arch.

The intense twilight colours on our last morning in the park - incredible!

Unfortunately we had underestimated the 20 km trip. We had hoped Mr Park Ranger had also been in that direction, so that there was a scooter trail to follow, but no such luck. Still, we thought 20 km shouldn’t be a problem as the Finnish “mountains” are very gentle (the height differences were usually only 100 m). There were lots of lean-to shelters along the way if we wanted breaks. What we hadn’t thought of though, was the deep soft snow in the dense forest in the valleys. It is very hard going making your own track through deep snow, and if you add a dance around fallen trees and having to cross rivers and other obstacles to the mix, it gets really tough. It was -26 that day and I found it hard to stay warm during much needed breaks. After 3 hours we hadn’t even covered 5 km! We had no idea what the rest of the way would be like, and though Paul was happy to keep going, I was getting really worried about reaching the cabin and dealing with tiredness and the cold. We finally decided to turn around and go directly back to the car – another night with Mr. Snore wasn’t too tempting ;)

Reaching the car wasn’t easy either, but after almost 8 hours of skiing, we finally arrived back at the parking lot. When the car started without any hiccups, I would have hugged it if I could! We ended up driving all the way to Muonio that evening, and back to Tromsø the day after. In spite of a rather unsuccessful last day, the trip itself had been fantastic!! It was a dream come true to visit this winter wonderland, and I can recommend a trip to Riisitunturi to anyone! Below is a map of our gps tracks in the park.

Our gps tracks within the park. From the parking lot to the cabin was only about 2 km, to the shelter (laavu_01) and back about 4 km. The blue line on the left is our failed attempt at reaching another cabin, we instead returned to the car - total trip about 9 km but it took us all day!

Some people have asked how we dealt with the cold: layers, layers, layers is the answer ;) (basically: woollen thermals, a fleece layer, a down layer and a water/windproof layer – and down mittens with soft-shell gloves inside). We didn’t have major problems, though I did get very cold feet once, a result of my ski boots being slightly too tight (bad idea), and standing still too much while taking photos – it wasn’t a problem until I came inside the cabin and they started warming up – ouch! As for camera batteries, I was worried they wouldn’t last very long in the cold, but I  was able to take about 400 photos or 2 full days of shooting using only 1.5 batteries.

Finally, some links:

http://www.outdoors.fi/ – information on Finnish national parks and other hiking areas, all in English!

http://excursionmap.fi/ – Map of Finland, including all cabins, shelters, hiking paths, ski trails, snow scooter trails etc etc…

My Flickr set of Riisitunturi National Park

Finnish Lapland – Where King Winter Makes The Rules – a beautiful article from a Dutch photographer who basically went on the same trip as we did :) his photos were an inspiration for me!

Summer in Finland, part 2: The Cabin by the Lake

After our week of cycling, we booked a cabin at the northern end of Finnish Lakeland. For those familiar with the area, it was near the village of Korpijärvi (between Varpaisjärvi and Rautavaara, about 80 km north of Kuopio). We had the cabin for a whole week, and it was the best week ever… The cabin came with a large sauna and its own rowing boat. During the whole week, we used the car once – to go food shopping in Varpaisjärvi. The rest of the time we cycled, we walked, we rowed, we swam… :)
Here are two photos to give you an impression of the cabin…

Our cabin by the lake... perfect place! Paul took this photo with his kite, you can see our very own beach :)

On the first day we cycled around the Korpinen lake, and quiet forest roads. We found a nice jetty to have a break, and a dragonfly kept us company :)

Time for a break during our round-the-lake cycle trip My little friend the dragonfly :)

In the evening we tried the rowing boat. It took some practice before we could row in straight lines instead of zigzags, but we mastered it by the end of the week ;)

Rowing took lots of practice but by the end of the week I could row in a straight line instead of zigzagging ;) In the evening it cleared up

In the evening it cleared up, and the small lake in front of our cabin turned into a painting, reflecting the sky….

The calm lake was like a painting... Paul couldn't get enough of rowing around the lake

The next day we cycled to Älänne, a small nature reserve only 5 km from our cabin. There, we hiked one of the trails through the forests and on the shores of the lake. It was beautiful!

Hiking in Älänne, a small nature reserve only 5 km from our cabin Mushrooms in the forest

There were lots of big sandy beaches on the lake, and at the end of the trail there was a nice shelter where we made a campfire. Funny story: during our hike I accidentally stepped next to one of the boardwalks, into a marsh. I got my shoe and sock pretty wet, and Paul offered to dry them on the campfire. I kept asking him if they were safe, if they were not too close to the fire etc… but in the end I relaxed and just enjoyed our break. When we wanted to leave, I found out my sock was half burnt away and the show was smouldering from inside the sole… OOPS!!

Some of the lakes have very nice sandy beaches Campfire at a shelter at the end of the hike

The next day was our first day of sunshine :) and we decided to explore the winding river that feeds into the lake. Metallic blue/green dragonflies darted around the river, we had fun chasing them in the hope of a good photo ;)

Sunshine! Time for a rowing trip :) There were lots of these pretty dragonflies with metallic blue/green wings

The water lilies were very pretty as well!

Some very pretty water lillies Close-up of the waterlilly

In the evening I took some sunset photos in the field behind the cabin, and then the full moon rose over the lake…

Evening in the field behind the cabin A full moon rising over the lake

Wednesday was another sunny day, and we explored the large lake and another river by boat. We cheated this time, and put our engine on the boat :D (we had our inflatable zodiac with us).

Another boat trip with great views :) A sunset panorama of 'our' beach and lake

The sunset was so beautiful, everything was blue and pink, the lake was a perfect mirror, and the moon rose on the far side….

Reflections The full moon rising over the lake at sunset... beautiful

We went for a row in the boat in the moonlight, while patches of fog drifted from the fields over the lake. A magical evening!

Water lillies & the moon, taken from the rowing boat A magical misty evening Rowing in the moonlight

On Thursday we went back to Älänne to try one of the other hiking trails. It had looked boring on the map, but it was a fantastic hike :) The best part was when we crossed a ridge between two lakes – so pretty!

Another hike in Älänne, on a ridge between two lakes Through the pine forest

We stopped halfway to have dinner and a campfire at another shelter. We found out afterwards that it’s not wise to stay in the forest after sunset, as the mosquitos come out in full force… So we hiked back in record speed, and enjoyed cycling back along the deserted roads….

Hot dogs from the campfire at another shelter along the trail Cycling back to the cabin on deserted roads

And then sadly, our last day at the cabin arrived. It was another warm sunny day, and we spent it picnicking in the boat and swimming in the lake. In the evening we made dinner outside, and enjoyed this sunset view…

Sunset on our last evening at the cabin

We had another sauna and a magical swim in the lake after midnight. Behind the cabin there was a nice display of noctilucent clouds, while the moon lit a shallow layer of mist over ‘our’ lake. Another magical night…

Noctilucent clouds! A final photo of our pretty little lake in the moonlight

It was very hard to say goodbye to the cabin the next day, but it was time to leave for our final destination in Finland. To be continued :)