Ice-fishing expedition to the Upper North of Lapland, in 2018

The winter in Lapland 2017-2018 was cold with a lot of snow. In Rovaniemi almost one meter of snow on places. The planning for the yearly fishing expedition had to take into consideration this extreme situation. The fact that spring arrival was delayed for about two weeks made changes in the plan. The expedition usually takes place in between the 20th and the 25th of April. But with this year´s spring delay we decided to start to Kilpisjärvi on the 24th of April.

If you arrive too early to the fishing area the fish are not awake; they still have the calm winter in their bodies. When spring arrives the fish wake up and start to move around searching for something to eat. The possibilities for you to get a catch will then increase. Last year (2017) the spring was almost as late as this year and our expedition was then not as successful as we expected. Our expectations for this year´s expedition were not too high, either.
One thing we found out just before starting driving towards the Upper North was the fact that there was not as much snow as in Rovaniemi. At the time there was 72 cm of snow in Rovaniemi and 61 cm in Kilpisjärvi. The nice lady in the reception of the cottage village Ropinpirtti could also tell us there was no crispy snow whatsoever…..The sun was shining bright from a blue sky and decreased the amount of snow every day. The snow conditions were cleary different from the ones in Rovaniemi.

The main thing is, that when we reach the ice there does not need to be any snow on the ice, but we need to have snow to ski on on the way to the fishing place. The start was really challenging. There was around half a meter of snow that did not carry you. This is a picture of the way we used to ski previous years. Completely impossible to take this route this year; too much big stones.

The only possible route was situated a bit further away, but we had to choose that. Snow is smoother than stones, anyway. So we struggled through the smooth snow for more than an hour.

Once on the ice we started fishing. It was a wonderful feeling to be on the good old ice-fishing spot again after one year of waiting. The hole-maker started his job; there was around 70 cm of ice except for the areas near the two rapids that are in both ends of the area on the river. The ice was thinner there.

It did not take too long for me to catch my first fish. It was a harjus. Good size and good activity in the fish, promising. This first evening we caught some pretty nice fish and that was promising.

Early the next morning out on the ice again. The ski track gets harder the more we use it, but still no crispy snow. The sun was shining again, got a lot of good sized fish.

The days sitting on the ice did not feel long at all. There was always something happening. In the morning, I could hear the grouses “playing” around on the shore. The wooper swans flew over, singing. I also heard the first cranes’ arrival to the fells. The wooper swan is the national bird of Finland and I love the sound of it when it first return back from its winter residence. The wooper swan is one of the first migration birds to return to Lapland in spring. I get cold shivers as I hear the wooper swan for the first time. These swans were not the first ones I heard. They were out flying looking for open waters. The little white-throated dipper was also singing and diving in the rapid.

Every day we had a bread with log fire and fried sausages and other delicacies. But sometimes the pause was postponed because the fish was active all day long and it was hard to leave the ice for even a moment.

The third morning there was finally some crispy snow and the way from the car to the ice was decreased by half a kilometer. It was so easy, you could go skiing anywhere and the snow was hard because of the low temperatures during the night. After a sunny day we needed to use our previous ski track to get up from the ice again, because the sun makes the snow smooth again. But we were lucky to have crispy snow-mornings during the rest of our stay.

So after five days of fishing, we could state the fact that this year was very successful; the weather was just perfect, the fish were active and we got some good sized fish and we had no injures. Now and then we got a big pike on the hook and sometimes the line broke and you lost your hook to the “big-mouth” himself. (We are not really interested in getting pikes on this expedition, because we can get that anywhere. On this expedition we want harjus, whitefish and of course a trout now and then, but mostly we do not get those.)

As we left the cottage village there was not much snow left. The spring arrived to the upper north of Finland and we returned to the south of Lapland, back to Rovaniemi.

Protect your eyes in the sun

Ever since I came to Lapland I have suffered from a minor irritation in my eyes in spring time when the sun in shining on bright snow and ice. I have been used to put eye drops in my eyes before I go out, otherwise I had to deal with sore and itching eyes the following night.

Somehow I have thought I do not want to use sun glasses, because I thought the glasses change the colors and the light in the nature. I really want to enjoy the real nature, with real colors and real light.

As I grow older I realize that it is not a healthy way of thinking and not protecting you eyes. Your eyes are really important and you want them to work as long as possible. A number of studies have shown sun exposure may increase your chances of developing eye problems, such as cataracts, later in life. I have read a study that direct sunlight isn’t the only threat to your eyes. Reflected UV rays can also be harmful. For example, fresh snow reflects as much as 80 percent of UV radiation; dry sand about 15 percent; and sea foam about 25 percent. And, because you’re more likely to look down than up, more UV light is reflected directly into your eyes. Hats with brims offer no protection from reflected UV rays.

The time of day and time of year influence the severity of harmful UV rays. Because the eye is naturally shaded by the brow ridge when the sun is high in the sky, the highest ultraviolet radiation exposure for eyes is in the morning and mid-afternoon, rather than at noon, as it is for skin. Sun exposure to the eyes also tends to be more constant in fall, winter and spring when the sun is lower in the sky.

Another reason why I have not used sunglasses is that I have to use glasses with prescription all the time and I have found it complicated to use sunglasses at the same time. I have not found a solution that would satisfy me enough, until now….

There was an offer for two glasses to the price of one in one of the local stores. As I needed to get new reading glasses I asked for sunglasses with prescription for free. My new sunglasses are decreasing the irritating reflexion from the bright snow and still the colors of nature stay (almost) natural. I am very satisfied with my new sunglasses. The prescription allows me to see the worm on the hook when ice-fishing as well as the far away snowy landscapes. I hope I can leave all eye drops at home in the cupboard when I spend days on the snow and ice.

Of course the sunglasses will serve me also in the summer time as the sun is shining and also when driving the car in sunny weather.

The Eight Seasons and the little Weasel

The other day I heard an original Lappish man saying the winter is over in Lapland for this season. My first thought was: “What is he talking about?!” and I looked around on the huge amount of snow and over half a meter of ice around me. This is absolutely what I, as a newcomer, would call winter! But then I remembered, there are eight seasons in Lapland – not only four as in the rest of Finland!

My post about the eight seasons you find here: http://grandma-in-lapland.com/lapland-the-land-of-eight-seasons

According to this man, the arctic winter is over when the temperatures during day-time are around 0 degrees Celsius or more. And that happened this week; the cold we had last week with temperatures around -30 degrees Celsius suddenly changed to near 0 degrees.

Even though I still love the winter, snow and cold weather, even for me temperatures around -30 are a little too severe. You can hardly breath outside and the air is so dry, you get dry hands, dry face and dry lips. If you are fortunate enough to not have the seasonal flu, you could manage for a short while outdoor, but if you have the flu and your throat is already sore, the cold, dry weather makes it hard to breath.

The season “Frosty Winter” is supposedly over for this time, but still the “Crusty Snow” season has not arrived. The Crusty Snow is when you can go skiing on top of the snow as the sun has made the snow so hard with melting warmth during the day and still freezing temperatures during the night. In Rovaniemi at the moment the official snow depth is 93 cm.

So we could say we are on the zone between the Frosty Winter and the Crusty Snow seasons at the moment in the middle of March this year.

Another story:

The other day I had to bring my car to the service station for some smaller measures and check-ups. As I came to fetch up the car in the end of the day the service man told me first about the measurements he had made and then at the end he told me, by the way, he had also removed the perch from my motor……

You should have seen my face: the perch!!??!! You say there was a fish in my motor!?

Yes, he said, there was a very old perch, so he could not eat it. He had to throw it away. He also asked me if I used to drive on the ice-road on the river or near a lake or something. I must say, I had no answer at that moment to give to him.

But as I returned home and that question was struggling my head I suddenly came up with the answer: the Weasel!

I have been enjoying the life and movements of a little weasel for several years now in Lapland. Of course, I cannot be sure it is the same weasel all the time. But anyway, as I go ice-fishing a lot, I get a lot of small fish, too. That is fish I do not prepare for my own food. In the beginning I used to give them all to birds near the lake, but as I one day found out there was a weasel fetching up fish, too, I was happy to share the fish with “him”.

During the autumn and winter I have seen the weasel frequently on the camera but also in the real. It is so funny and I have been laughing a lot because of that weasel. I see it collects fish from the place where I use to leave the small fish.

During this winter we have used a trap for racoon dogs as the feeding place for the weasel. As the birds like magpies and jays do not get the fish from the trap, it leaves possibilities for the weasel. The weasel gets into the trap and brings out the fish…no problem!

The weasel collects and hides food in stores for later use. It definitively not eat them all immediately. There are several different stores to where the weasel brings food. You can see that from the tracks around the place. After my visit to the service station with my car I realized my car was also one of the stores of the weasel food! I am glad we found the fish in my motor before summer. Just think about the smell of rutten fish…

And I surely was the laugh of the day for the service man at the station!

Ski resorts in Lapland

I have visited several ski resorts in Lapland. As I live in Rovaniemi at the moment it is easy to jump into the car and drive for some hours and reach the beautiful ski resorts in the winter time.

I visited Saariselkä in the beginning of January. It really happened to be the first sunny day of the year in Saariselkä. After the kaamos, the dark period of the year, the sun gets up again around January 8th in Saariselkä. At the top of Kaunispää, the highest peak in Saariselkä they say the sun gets up three times behind three different fells every day in January. The sun is at that time so low and only up for some hours. The slopes for downhill skiing are mostly used during the spring months March and April. On the top of Kaunispää there is the longest sleigh slope in Finland. It is 1200 m:s long and starts from the top and ends near the center of Saariselkä village. Saariselkä is a dream location for cross-country skiing enthusiasts with a bustling nightlife and plenty of shopping opportunities. Saariselkä is normally the first ski resort in Lapland to open its cross-country skiing trails and its treeless fell highlands provide magnificent settings for viewing the Northern Lights.

The distance from Rovaniemi to Saariselkä is 250 km and the distance from Saariselkä Airport is 27 km.

The ski resort of Saariselkä has captured my interest because of the open, treeless fells. The shopping is not that interesting in this resort.

The ski resort of Levi, about 160 km from Rovaniemi, is more like a little city even if it is only a small village. There is always plenty going on in Levi. Levi is Finland’s  busiest ski resort. It offers not only snow fun, but also a superb nightlife. This pleasant alpine village is full of boutiques selling branded products intended for the whole family. In Levi is also one of Finland’s largest spa. The distance from Levi to Kittilä airport is only 17 km.

Levi offers slopes for downhill skiing, but also many tracks for cross country skiing.

Every time I visit Levi I also want to go to the top of the fell. There is the restaurant Tuikku with a marwellous view over at least 5 fells in the west of Lapland. Tuikku is very popular among the downhill skiing people. It is a place where they take a break and something to drink. And the slopes bring you all the way down to the village center.

A visit to the Husky Park

One of the tourist attractions of Lapland is a visit to a husky park and a husky sleigh drive.

Husky is a general name for a sled-type of dog used in northern regions, differentiated from other sled-dog types by their fast pulling style. They are an ever-changing cross-breed of the fastest dogs. Huskies are used in sled dog racing. In recent years, companies have been marketing tourist treks with dog sledges for adventure travellers in snow regions. In Lapland you can find husky parks in almost every touristic village.

When you arrive to the husky park the huskies are anxiously waiting for customers. Because they love to run! They can hardly wait for the run to start. The husky howls rather than barks.

The dogs are of different kinds. There are leaders and followers. In the first row are always the leader dogs. The owner of the husky park knows his dogs well and divide them into leaders and followers. The customers can sit in a sleigh behind the dogs and the driver stands on the back of the sleigh. The ride is very fast as the dogs are anxious to run. But in parks where there are several dog teams running it could also happen the dogs suddenly stop to smell the urins from other dogs. They quickly continue on order from the driver. The touristic drive is not that long, but if you get excited about dog rides you can of course also order longer drives.

After the ride you can get an introducion of the dogs’ lives from the guide of the park. And you can also visit the area where the dogs not running are resting. They like people and are also safe with children. Occasionally there are of course also puppies in the park. The owners plan the shedule for when to have puppies and when not.

Some huskies have blue eyes and some have brown eyes, but there are also dogs with one blue and one brown eye.

The animals of Ranua zoo in Lapland give me so much pleasure

I love the Lappish nature with lakes, swamps, rivers and forests, specially in winter time. And the animals of Lapland give me so much pleasure, both wild animals but also tame or half-tame animals. Readers of this blog have probably already noticed I also love to spend times in the Ranua zoo near Rovaniemi. I visit there several times a year and I never get disappointed. And so was this day’s (March 20th, 2017) visit also very successful.

Ranua zoo has a new and rare resident. A polar bear cub was born on November 25th 2016 and has spent about 3 months inside the den with its mother, Venus. And finally, last Monday, the door to the den was opened and the inhabitants could come out. I had the chance today, a week later, to visit the zoo.

At my arrival I could just see the back of Venus as she entered the den for a short feeding of the cub and their mid-day nap. So I went to see all the other animals first. When I returned to the cage of the female polar bear and her cub, they were still napping. But my waiting was rewarded as Venus suddenly put out her head and sniffed in the air to be sure there were no threats to the cub outside. After that the cub was also allowed to come out. And how adorable it was! It has no name yet. The zoo arrange a name competition for the male cub on the website and the name will be final in the end of the summer.

The father, Manasse, lives behind the wall and he was very interested in the smells that came from the other side through a crack in the wall.

So far the cub will go without a name. When it was born, the cub weighed around half a kilogram, but now it is already 10 kilograms.

In the nature the male polar bears are a threat to the cubs. They could kill cubs just to get the female polar bear rutting again. When the female bear has a cub, and that could last for about 2 years, she is not the least interested in the male polar bear. That is why Venus all the time sniffed in the air to find out if there were any threating male bears nearby. The mother bear was looking out for the cub all the time they spent outside the den. There were not so many visitors watching their show today, but in the morning as I arrived there were several buses with visitors. And children from a kindergarden were singing out loud to wake up the polar bears. But that did not work and they went disappointed back to the kindergarden again without seeing the polar bear cub. I do hope they have the chance to come back one day.

The staff of the zoo are very proud of this newcomer, and for good reason, as it is extremely rare for a polar bear to reproduce in captivity. Special focus has been put on monitoring the wellbeing of mother bear Venus. She has now given birth to two polar bear cubs in Ranua zoo. Five years ago her cub Ranzo was born and brought around 150,000 visitors to the zoo. Ranzo lives in an Austrian zoo at the moment.

During this day’s visit the cup and its mother enjoyed the sunny weather and the snow in the cage. The cub wanted to play with the mother and jumped towards her several times. It was so sweet!

The Ranua wildlife park is open daily 10 am to 4 pm. You can stay in the park after closing time. Until 6 pm, if you want.

After the successful show at the polar bear place I also checked the other animals of the wildlife park. Next to the polar bears was the quiet place of the brown bears. That was quiet because the brownbears are still hibernating. They could wake up any day now, though.

Then comes the cage of the wolves. They were out walking in the snow and seemed very content with their lives. And so did the dholes, the wolverines and the lynxes. Especially the lynxes seemed to have the feelings of the spring in their hearts. It would be nice if they could have small lynx babies soon. The wildlife park is expecting a musk ox calf to be born later in the spring. Last year the first musk ox calf was born in the wildlife park. Ranua zoo is the only place in Finland where you can see musk oxes and last year’s calf was the first in 9,000 years to be born in the region of Ranua. The beavers also have small cubs at the moment. But they were all sleeping today during my visit.

Auttiköngäs is full of geological history and war history

Last week I decided to try out Auttiköngäs nature trail. Auttiköngäs is situated 70 km from Rovaniemi along the road to the east. It is easy to reach by car and there is a large parking lot from where the 3,5 km long nature trail starts.

Auttiköngäs is part of the great canyon that goes through Lapland in a north-west to south-east direction near Posio in the east of Lapland. I visited the canyon Korouoma many years ago. You can read about that here.

The weather this day was normal October weather in Lapland before it starts snowing. There was no wind and around +2 degrees Celsius. Just perfect for a hike in the nature. Actually the temperature was below 0 degree in the morning as I started the hike.

img_0697At the parking lot there is a restaurant in Auttiköngäs. The restaurant is open for visitors only during the summer season from the beginning of June to the end of August.

There are around 15,000 visitors at Auttiköngäs every year. The visitors are interested in the canyon and the log chute and dam built in the river in order to make it possible to float timber to the Kemijoki river and further to Rovaniemi and onward to the sawmills located near the Kemi city on the west coast of Finland. The first mention of the Auttiköngäs log chute dates to 1899. Log driving continued until the 1970s. Currently there is no log driving taking place at Auttiköngäs but the aim is to preserve the log driving structures at Auttiköngäs. Around the parking lot you can also learn about how the log driving used to take place and the museum near by shows a lot of items dated back to the log driving era. It is of great cultural value to preserve this to the coming generations.

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The items are presented in the museum and you learn about what the different items were used to.

 

 

An information board in the beginning of the hiking route tells you about how the log driving were done and what the log workers were doing.

The hiking trail starts over a bridge leading you over the log chute. The water fall is 16 m high in an almost up right position. The trail continues along the east side of the canyon with some view points where you can stop and admire the sight of the rapid. It could be good to mention here that the hiking trail is partly built of iron and duckboards for easier access. For the dogs there are some special routes because they probably do not want to walk on the iron grid. There is also a special route for dogs and their owners in the forest to avoid all the stairs with iron grid that are necessary for access around the canyon.

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Here is a map of the hiking route with the different sights and resting places.

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At the time I started my hike there were also other hikers out on the trail and as I reached back to the parking lot again it was full of cars, which shows how popular this place is for visits even at this time of the year.

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Along the banks of the Autti river you can stop and admire the view but the information boards along the route also tell you about the war history from this place. German soldiers have built structures ranging from trenches to shooting holes and artillery positions here. These were part of the Ringwall defence line constructed in the Rovaniemi area at the end of the Continuation war in 1945. The plan was to withdraw German units from the border between Finland and the Soviet Union to new positions in Northern Lapland and Norway. The intention was that fighting in the Auttiköngäs area would delay Soviet troups during the withdrawal. And that I really believe would have succeeded. The terrain here is hardly impossible to move around in or cross through! I was really surprised to find even a war history in this area. However, the Germans left the Auttiköngäs so rapidly that there were no batteries built here and some of the structures were not even finished.

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img_0713Soon the trail leads you to the hootchie where you can sit down and eat your picnic, fry your sausages or just admire the view. From the hootchie a suspension bridge brings you to the other side of the river Autti. This place is not in the canyon any more and the bridge hangs just above the water surface and is very easy to access.

The terrain so far has been partly challenging with all the high stairs to climb, but just before the hootchie the path starts to go down and easens up your walk a little.

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There were several people at the hootchie already as I arrived. One man was anxious to tell me about how he had been taking part in log driving in his youth about 60 years ago. He was probably in his 80:ies now.

They all wanted to tell me about the Siberian Jay birds that were around in the place. I could, myself, soon experience how a almost tame Siberian Jay came and picked some bread from my hand.

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There were four Siberian Jays in the place and they all soon came and picked up some breads we visitors gave them. The Siberian Jay is called “the bird of luck” here in Finland. I still do not know what kind of luck these birds will bring to me. Waiting for that.

Siberian Jays are living in old spruce forests and are known to visit the fire places where the lumber jacks used to give them something to eat in the old days. I have met Siberian Jays on several fire places here in Lapland during the last years. In the picture you can see the Jays picking up the left overs from the benches of the hootchie. img_0758

If I thought the walk to the fire place was challenging I had no idea of how challenging the last part of the trail would be. After crossing the river on the suspension bridge stairs would lead me up to the top of the hills again.

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The trail lead me up to the top and to the bird watching tower up there. This day was not the ultimate for view watching because of the fog above the river.

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The rest of the trail was quite easy to walk and information boards told me about the forest and the glacial erratics situated all over the place. A glacial erratic is a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. “Erratics” take their name from the Latin word errare, and are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres. Erratics can range in size from pebbles to large boulders.

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While waiting for the snow and ice to come to Lapland

It is October 2016. This month is unusual warm and even if we are in the middle of the month there is still no snow on the ground in Lapland.

As I would like to have snow and ice I get a little anxious and impatient. But then I decide I have to settle with the situation and try to get as much good out of it as possible. So my October in Lapland has been full of interesting happenings and new experiences.

This time of the year is suitable to pick cranberries. Cranberries are naturally a bitter tasting berry, but the taste changes after a night outdoor in minus degrees or in your deepfreezer and the result is less bitterness. The cranberry is many times used as medicine for illnesses especially in the urinary bladder or in the kidneys,

I was happy to find a swamp where I could be alone and pick cranberries, because this year the cranberry is not very frequent. So I spent several hours walking around on a very wet swamp. But I was happy to return with 1,5 l of the best berries.

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The autumn before the snow can also be used for hiking. The wibrant color period is in September, but as this October is extraordinary warm I decided to go for a hike last Sunday. On the map I found an interesting round suitable for one day’s hike. The amount of hours with daylight is decreasing every day now, so you’d better leave early in the morning to have time enough for a hiking tour and return home before dark. The length of the day light is 9 hours these days.

My route is to be seen on this picture of the map. The area  “Soppanan retkeilyalue” is in the south of Finnish Lapland. There are many hiking routes to choose between. On the area there is also a camp site in the summer time.

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My hike starts very promising as I in the beginning am overwhelmed by a bunch of Bohemian waxwings. They gather together like this in the autumns here in Lapland to fly south during the winter. I like the look and the whistling voice of these birds.

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Other companions on my hike were the reindeer. They are strolling around in the forests of Lapland this time of the year. I found some beautiful, white species near my hiking route. They were not used to people and would run away as they saw me.

 

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Along the route there are two hootchies where I could stop and sit down for a while with philosophical thought about the nature around me. At the fire places my soul rests and the world around ceases to exist for a short moment. I drink some hot cups of tea together with something to eat which I bring in my backpack.

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This place is near the Paasojärvi sea with a great view over the sea and a steep shore. As all leaves have fallen off the trees now, there is not much that disturbs your view. The weather was not the very most optional for a nature hike this day, but it was warm enough and no rain, so I was quite satisfied with the circumstances.

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In this forest the old spruces wore a kind of “beard”. On some places the “beard” was really frequent and tall. The beard is officially named Usnea, but called the old-man’s beard or beard lichen. Usnea is very sensitive to air pollution. Under bad conditions they may grow no larger than a few millimetres, if they survive at all. Where the air is unpolluted, they can grow to 10–20 cm long. It can sometimes be used as a bioindicator, because it tends to only grow in those regions where the air is clean, and of high quality. Nice to know the air is unpolluted here.

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One of the places I stopped for a rest is like a hut where you can sit indoor in case of rain. It is also possibly to spend the night here if you want to do that.

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I found the sweetest guest book in this hut and I could read the story from a visitor a couple of weeks ago. He had spent 3 days and nights in this hut as he had been watching and photograping auroras/northern lights in the sky. During the days he had been fishing from the sea nearby. I always check for guest books in the huts and I mostly find them, too. Some guests write only short marks of their visits, but some guests really makes an effort to write an interesting story for other visitors to enjoy. The most common marks in the guest books are the weather conditions.

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The hiking route lead me over swamps, up on high hills, near seas and rivers and through the forest. I was very satisfied when I returned home in the evening with one more experience in the baggage.

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Ice-fishing expedition to the Upper North of Lapland, in 2016

I have just returned from this year’s ice-fishing expedition to the “arm” of Finland. It was an expedition that lasted for 5 days with varying weather conditions and varying fortune in the ice-fishing.

In the “arm” of Finland there are the highest fells of Finland and the river Torniojoki/Muoniojoki with extensions runs all the way along the border to Sweden from Kilpisjärvi in north to Tornio in south.

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To drive to our accommodation took us 5 hours from Rovaniemi with a short stop in the village of Muonio to pay a visit to a nice little shop of a friend of mine, Pikku Puotinen.

After some arrangements concerning too much snow on the parking lot near the cottage, we moved to the place for ice-fishing near the fell Lammasoaivo. IMG_9459 (2)

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During the stay the weather conditions varied from absolutely fantastic, warm, sunny days to cold, windy and also one rainy day The temperatures varied from -10 degrees Celsius to +5 degrees. In the beginning of the expedition the snow was hard, really hard. Even about half a meter deep. The reindeer could easily walk above on the snow. But in the end of our visit the rainy day had destroyed the hard snow completely and the reindeer as well as we had difficulties to walk in the forest.

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We moved on skies for some kilometers every day and we could also in the beginning enjoy the hard snow and the easiness to go skiing in the nature, where the depth of the snow was about half a meter. The last day was really a trial on skis, but we made it, with a sweaty result.

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Regarding the fishing, the ice was 70 cm thick, there was  hardly any snow on the ice and we got a lot of greylings and some whitefish. The amount of fish was really more than expected. My unluck, although, was the trout I had on my hook for several minutes, but finally, as I almost got it up on the ice, it succeeded to free itself from the hook! The disappointment lasted for the whole day. This trout was probably even bigger than the one I got in the year 2013 weighing 1,5 kilo.

Here is a picture of the trout in 2013. Just for my own comfort, to forget the one I lost this year…..

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The greylings were many and some were really big. Some nice whitefish I also got.

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Every day inbetween we lit a fire in different places depending on from which direction the wind was blowing at the time, and fried some sausages and had something warm to drink.

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At times when the fish was not eating, I watched the nature and, as usual, the little White-throated dipper (Cinclus Cinclus) in the rapid. Impossible to get a good picture of it with my little camera. On the snow I also found a “runway” for swans. Two swans had visited the ice during the night and left the marks where they took off again.

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Otherwise the spring had not arrived yet to this area and very few migratory birds had so far returned to Lapland. Some flocks of Snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) were flying around from the south bank of the river to the north bank. I missed the Common crane (Grus grus).

(this picture is borrowed from www.luontoportti.com, all other photos in this post are my own)

The rainy day we spent with a visit to Kilpisjärvi, the northernmost village near the place where the borders from Sweden, Norway and Finland meet. Even if it was raining on the fishing place 40 km from Kilpisjärvi, the sun started to shine as we arrived to Kilpisjärvi.

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An interesting visit to the Kilpisjärvi nature center provided me with information about the nature and the people of the area around Kilpisjärvi. After that we had a delicious lunch at the Kilpisjärvi Retkeilykeskus before we returned to ice-fishing.

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Very tired, but content we finally ended this year’s expedition to the Upper North of Finland. So far I have never been disappointed with the ice-fishing experiences in between the fells of Sweden and Finland. And so far the weather has always been, at least, partly sunny and not too cold for ice-fishing.

A visit to this place in the summer time is on my wish list.

 

 

 

 

 

The village of Inari in Lapland

I have finally visited Inari/Aanaar, a village in the north-east of Finland. As I many times already have been visiting the north-west part of Finland, Kilpisjärvi, I have put up a goal to some day also visit the north-east part. That finally came true last weekend.

Why I have postponed the visit to Inari for so many years is due to lack of company, lack of courage to dare to drive the long way alone in winter time and so on, and so on. Suddenly I found out I do not need any company to go there and winter was coming to an end so the roads were really nice and dry to drive. Inari is situated about 330 km from Rovaniemi in the middle of the “head” of Finland.

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Inari (Inari Sami: Aanaar, Northern Sami: Anár, Skolt Sami: Aanar, Swedish: Enare, Russian: Инари) is Finland’s largest, most sparsely populated municipality, with four official languages, more than any other in the country. Its major sources of income are the lumber (timber) industry, nature maintenance and tourism.

The municipality of Inari has a population of 6,783 (30 June 2015). The population density is only 0.45 inhabitants per square kilometre.

I started early Sunday morning and on my way to Inari, along road nr 4, I stopped for a short photo session on the top of Saariselkä Kaunispää, 250 km from Rovaniemi. The weather was fantastic and as I already mentioned the roads were in very good shape. No need to be afraid the car would not pass through.

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The view from the view tower was absolutely astonning. I could see far north the fells in Finland and there was snow everywhere. There were still winter tourists in Saariselkä.

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I have visited Saariselkä before, but that was during the Kaamos period and it was hard to see in the darkness how the nature was shaped. I was lucky enough to see the auroras in the night that time.

After Saariselkä there is the village Ivalo/Avvil before you arrive to Enare. Ivalo has an airport. The church of Ivalo is a modern creation. The former Ivalo church was burnt down by the Germans during the World War II.

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After Ivalo the nature changed. The road became also more curvy; not so straight forward as the road Rovaniemi-Ivalo. Along the road I saw waters, sometimes on both sides of the road. There was of course ice on them now, but I can imagine how beautiful it must be in the summer time with the lakes and the forest.

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Road nr 4 leads you directly into the village center of Enare. On the right side you have the big Inarinjärvi lake. As I arrived I realized there was a happening going on on the ice near the shore. The final reindeer cup race was taking place. As I already had attended a reindeer cup competition this year I chose to drive directly to the Sami museum Siida.

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The Siida museum was one of my main reasons to visit Inari and it was still open for 3 hours this day, as I arrive around 1 o’clock pm.

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Inari is the center of Sámi culture in Finland and the museum Siida presents the Sámi culture in an interesting way. Siida means village in the Sámi language.

The Sámi Museum Siida is the national museum of the Sámi and a national special museum in Finland. Its main purpose is to support the identity and the cultural self-esteem of the Sámi.

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The Siida museum presents the nature of northern Lapland in a very interesting way, but my main interest was today the handcrafts of the Sámi people and their culture.

After my visit to Siida, I went back to see the final races of the reindeer cup. The winner this year was Pikalaaki reindeer driven by Hanna Mikkola from the Pintamo cooperative of reindeer herdsmen.

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In the night I accompanied an Aurora safari around Inari. The company Visit Inari could provide me with a memorable tour and a perfect guide, Pekka, who could also help me with some camera settings to get perfect northern light pictures. The excursion lasted for 3 hours and we could see the auroras almost all the time!

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The next morning I also attended an excursion for ice-fishing with the same company, Visit Inari. Even if I see myself as an experienced ice-fisher I still wanted to experience fishing on the huge Inarijärvi lake, too. The excursion went by snowmobiles to some spots on the lake where the guide Mika had heard we could perhaps catch some greylings. The weather was sunny and nice and the ice was almost snowfree. The driving went well and we finally ended up trying to get some greylings from the holes in the ice. Harmfully, we did not catch any fish this day. We also tried on a place known for its perches, but without any success. In the end of the excursion the guide prepared a light lunch for us in the wilderness.

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My return to Rovaniemi started with some snowfall, but as I drove south there was no more snowfall and everything went well. I am so glad I finally made this trip. I had the opportunity to see the nice village of Inari for myself. Inari is situated so beautifully on the shore of lake Inari and I am sure the village is absolutely fantastic also in summer time.

In summer time the tour companies offer hiking tours, boat tours and fishing expeditions or just boat cruises on the lake. Definitively worth trying. Inari is not only for winter experiences.

Comments or questions are welcome.

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Still winter in Lapland

Many places in South of Finland and Sweden are already declaring the spring’s arrival by showing people pictures of flowers in the social medias. Here in Lapland we know very little about spring, yet. The season here is still winter. If you have read my post about the eight seasons in Lapland you can see it is still winter in April. Read more here.

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This time of the year is one of my favourite times. There are snow everywhere and in the evening skies there are Auroras every other week to be seen. The sky is blue and the sun is shining in the daytime. As I am a keen ice-fisher the season for ice-fishing and winter net-fishing is now starting. So far the fish have been hiding in the deep parts of the lakes and fishermen are moving around, drilling holes all over the lakes, but still do not get any fish, or at least very few. Well, that will certainly change during the next weeks. The weather has been cold and clear. Mornings have been very cold; around -20 degrees Celsius. But as the sun rises it warms up the air and it is bearable to stay outdoor doing ice-fishing already early in the mornings. Read more about auroras here and about net-fishing here.

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Net fishing is always unpredictable. Sometimes you get nothing and sometimes you are surprised by valuable and rare fish specimens. Some areas do not give you anything but pikes and burbots. You get tired of eating the same fish every day. Pikes and burbots are big fish and there is food for several days in one specimen.

But one lucky day you are surprised with a pike-perch or even a salmon trout and then you know why you continue working hard with netfishing in cold and windy weather. The reward is so much worth for a keen fisherman.

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On a big lake it helps if you have a snowmobile for your use. To get from one place to another takes so much time only by skies. Early in winter it is impossible to walk on the ice because of the huge amount of snow. But after some changes in weather from warm, sunny days to freezing cold nights the snow gets hard and easy to move on. In March the changes in weather result in hard icy surface on the snow and you can move around everywhere with help of a snowmobile or by skies. By snowmobile you can easily visit different fire places around in the nature to warm your hands and feet during a day out in the nature.

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Ice-fishing early in the winter is often a very wet experience. Water rises from the drilled holes up on the ice and that could cause difficulties with the snowmobile. Not to mention if you have a self-built shelter in tow behind the snowmobile. A dip in the water with that combination means a lot of hard work with the howell and other tools to get the carriage up on the “surface” again. Those problems are forgotten in March when you can go everywhere without risk to get stuck in wet snow-water. I have explained more about these problems here.

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This time of the year is also the time when the eggs from salmon trout are planted out in the small rapids of the rivers to hopefully grow into big salmon trouts some day. So was made also this year.

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Sometimes young salmon trouts are put into the lake to grow. All these measures grant the interest for ice-fishing and angling to stay high.

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As I am waiting for the birds to return to Lapland I have to enjoy the fish I get. Within a couple of weeks there will be swans, gulls and grouses on the ice. I look forward to that.

 

 

Nice hand made souvenirs from Lapland

In the area of reindeer herding in Finland; in Lapland, the souvenirs to bring home from there as memories are very often made of parts from the reindeer. Actually the Lappish people have always used all parts of the reindeer. Except for the meat they eat they also prepare all kinds of useful objects from the fur, the antles and even from the bones. There are practically no leftovers when the Lappish people make use of a reindeer.

Tourists visiting Lapland want to buy some souvenirs to bring home from their trip. The choice is many times a hand made item, made by the Lappish people.

An old traditional souvenir is the Marttiini knife. The knives have been manufactured in Rovaniemi, Lapland since 1928 and are of high quality. The Marttiini product range covers knives for hunting, fishing, camping, collectors, household and for professional use. The founder was Janne Marttiini, and his picture is still used in marketing.

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Souvenirs made of reindeer antlers are manufactured by a local craftsman, whom you find on the pedestrian street of Rovaniemi almost the year around. He offers his beautiful products to people walking by his tent in the city of Rovaniemi. There are candle holders and many many small objects made of reindeer antlers.

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KUPILKA is a product name for dishware of traditional Lappish form made of natural fibre composites. The biomaterial consists of 50% pine fibre (wood) and 50% thermoplastic. KUPILKA products have been designed by Kari Kuisma together with a well-known Finnish architect and designer Heikki Koivurova. KUPILKA means a “little cup” and the word stems from the Finnish word “kuppi”. It also refers to a term used by Finnish people decades ago, when men and women warmed up their hands with their “kupilka” or “little cup” by drinking hot beverages during the rough Finnish winters.

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In the reindeer restaurant Sirmakko you are served for instance the traditional sauteed reindeer on KUPILKA plates.

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Under the label “tarinatuote” you find many local hand made products from Lapland. I got inspired by these gloves and bought myself a pair of gloves made of reindeer leather with nice fitted ornaments. They are made by Sisko Ylimartimo from the company Tikkurituote. Ireally love my smooth reindeer gloves!

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If you visit an handcraft market in Lapland you most certainly will also find silver jeweller made from Paarma design. Tytti Bräysy is the artist behind these lovely necklaces. I found these products on the yearly Arctic Market in the end of November in Rovaniemi.

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Many products are sold by the Sami people themselves in the Arctic Market and other similar occasions. Silver jewelry line A Drop of Inari by Katja Lettinen is inspired by the supernatural beauty of Inari. The engraving style reveals lines of birch trees against the backdrop of a snowy mountain. With this jewelry line she was named Artisan of the Year 2014. Every piece is designed and made with touch of arctic mood in Finnish Lapland, Inari.

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One table on the Arctic Market inspired me to buy equipment to make my own Sami bracelet. There were different bags and purses made of reindeer leather and also buttons made of reindeer antles and a nice necklace with a silver chain and a piece of a reindeer bone.

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The package inhold everything I needed to manufacture my own Sami bracelet.

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Must say I am a bit proud of myself as I managed to do this.

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Some inspired artist has come up with these winter bikinis made of reindeer leather and fur. Dare to wear them?

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What to remember when you are out on the ice

The weather outside is cold at the moment. The lakes in Lapland will be covered by ice in the next weeks. Most of all I hope for some weeks with only ice – not snow. Because then I can go ice-skating, which I like very much. Last winter in the beginning of November we had excellent ices on the lakes and I took the opportunity to go ice-skating several times. I have been ice-skating every winter as a child and even now, at this age, I took an ice-skating class here in Rovaniemi some winters ago, just to catch up some old skills and do some exercising. I keep my skates with me in the car wherever I go now, in case I will find a suitable place to do some skating some day. Of course, priority nro 1 is the safety. Never enter an ice you do not know if it is thick enough and safe to enter! Always keep your ice nails with you in case of emergency!

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While I am waiting for the winter to bring ice I have finished the bracelet I bought from the Arctic Markets and planned to make myself. It is made from leather and tin thread after a Sami pattern. And I must say: not bad! I like it very much.

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Regarding outdoor life on ice a big amount of snow is definitively affecting possibilities to move on the ice. The winters in Lapland always have a lot of snow. One thing is that if there is more than 40 cm of smooth snow on the ice it makes skiing without prepared tracks (not to mention skating) impossible. Even walking is hard work. The snowmobiles are of course able to drive in quite deep snow, but if you want to go ice-fishing you have to shovel the snow away from the place before you can drill the holes in the ice.
There is another problem, too. If the ice is approx. 60 cm thick there is no risk that it breaks, but what happens is, that the big amount of snow weighs a lot and presses the ice down and water begins to rise up on the ice. This happens usually near islands, near the coast or from crevasses anywhere on the ice. Water is also rising through the holes you have made for ice fishing. As there is a lot of snow on the ice you probably do not see the water under the snow. The deep snow prevents the water from freezing even if there are several minus degrees out there. Snow has an isolating function. Animals can hide themselves under the snow and survive from freezing to death. The snow isolates them from the freezing cold.
When driving with the snowmobile you could suddenly realize there is water under the snow on the ice. If you are lucky the area of water is not so large and you can rescue by driving fast over the area. If the area is large and the amount of water under the snow is big you could suddenly find yourself sitting in the water on your snowmobile unable to move forward anymore. The water under the snow has also partly melted the snow.

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The first time this happened to me several years ago, I got scared, of course. In my mind water and ice means there must be a hole and I thought I was going to drown in that. But that is absolute not the fact! There is water, all right, but if you wear good rubber boots you are able to walk on the ice in the water. The ice is still 60 cm thick. You’d better not be alone when this happen to you. Because now you have to get the snowmobile away from this water. You are not able to lift the snowmobile all by yourself. It is also good to have a shovel or other implements to your help. By “building” a kind of platform of snow and little by little lifting the snowmobile up on that platform you manage to start the engine again and carefully steer the snowmobile away from the water area. If you are alone, you’d better call for help.
These water areas usually appear in the beginning of winter when the snow cover is growing and they disappear sometimes during the spring season. There are usually no water areas in March and April. If you are driving in the same areas year after year you could learn to know where these places usually appear and you could avoid them. But you could never be 100 % sure because the crevasses could appear anywhere. They are caused by the ice movements that happens when the temperature outside falls and rises.

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After the “adventure” in the water the snowmobile is full of wet snow and it will freeze and make it impossible to drive eventually. That is why you have to clean the snowmobile from all ice and snow as soon as possible. One thing that helps is to turn the snowmobile over to ease the cleaning process. This procedure does not harm the snowmobile, but helps you to clean away all snow and ice.

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There is also a very useful invention from SOIMET Ky that lifts up the snowmobile from the ground; the snowmobile jack. You could use it out there when you get shucked in the water on the ice to get lifted up so you can build a stable ground under the snowmobile. And you could also use it in cleaning the snowmobile from wet, icy snow after an adventure in the water. You lift up the snowmobile and start the engine. The roller will clean itself from snow while going around lifted up in the air.

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The Silence of Lapland

(Written in February 2015)

The other day I found myself sitting in the complete silence of Lapland. I was out ice-fishing alone on a lake in the wilderness of Lapland. There was no wind and this day even the air force of Finland was not out practicing flying, like the day before. I could see there were a few other parties of fishermen on the ice, but they were very far away. The lake is situated far enough from roads, so there were no traffic sounds, either.

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Then I suddenly realized I did not hear anything, and I do mean ANYTHING! It was complete silent. (In the case I would suffer from tinnitus now, this would probably be the only sound I would hear at this particular moment.) What a special feeling! I really started to LISTEN to the silence.

In between I caught some perches and the sound of them grabbling in the snow on the ice was for a moment the only voice I heard. The catch of a fish resulted immediately in the voice of a Raven (Corvus Corax) in the near forest. It of course prepared itself to take care of the leftovers from the catch. The Raven made a silent flight over my place to note the size of my fish. I could clearly listen to the sound from its wings in the air. The Ravens are the scavengers of the nature. If you leave some caught fish you do not want to take home, you can be sure they are gone from the ice the next day.

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The Common Raven (Corvus corax), also known as the northern raven, is a large all-black passerine bird. Found across the Northern Hemisphere, it is the most widely distributed of all corvids. It is one of the largest corvids, and is possibly the heaviest passerine bird; at maturity, the common Raven averages 63 centimetres (25 inches) in length and 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) in mass. Common ravens can live up to 21 years in the wild. Young birds may travel in flocks but they later mate for life, with each mated pair defending their own territory.

Common Ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years and in some areas have been so many that people have regarded them as pests. Part of their success as a species is due to their diet; they are specialists in finding sources of nutrition. They eat insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, and food waste.

Some notable feats of problem-solving give evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent and they like to live near people. I have listened to a Raven “talking” a couple of years ago in the Ranua Wildlife Park. Over the centuries, it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of North America, and Siberia and northeast Asia, the common raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or god.

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On my ice-fishing trip I suddenly hear a sound of a snowmobile. A quick survey over the lake tells me there is a snowmobile starting to move far, far away at the other shore of the lake. An ice-fisher decided to move from one place to another, and the sound of it is so clear. As there are no obstacles for the sounds to move along the ice, the sound travels really long ways.

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After a short ski trek back to the cabin (and yes, I left some fish for the Raven, too), to purge some nice-sized perches for my dinner, I see the small Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) jumping around on the ground and in the trees near the cabin. Their tender voice is the only thing I hear as I enter the yard. I have put some grease balls in the trees for them to eat during cold days. These birds need to find nutrition as well as the Raven, because they are also resident and do not migrate during winter. I just love the sound and the sight of the little beautiful bird. They are not afraid of people and they do not seem to be easily scared away if you just move around normally on the yard.

The commonest call is a nasal zee, zee, zee, but the notes of the bird evidently vary considerably. Occasionally a double note, ipsee, ipsee, is repeated four or five times.

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The Willow tit has to share the grease balls with a stubborn Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), who is also visiting the yard. It is also a resident bird.

I sometimes find myself checking on the Willow tits if I some day would find the Siberian tit among them. I would really want to see that, too, as I am in Lapland.

The grey-headed chickadee or Siberian tit (Poecile cinctus, formerly Parus cinctus) is a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. It is a widespread resident breeder throughout subarctic Scandinavia and northern Asia, and also into North America in Alaska and the far northwest of Canada. It is also resident as the Willow tit, and most birds do not migrate. Curiously (with respect to its name), the bird has no grey on its head, which is black, white, and brown. It has a larger area of black under the bill than the Willow tit. And slightly longer than the Willow tit (13,5-14 centimetres).

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So I end up sitting at the terrace watching Willow tits and the Woodpecker picking some grease from their “dinner table”. This was a wonderful, silent day and the sounds from the few species of birds in Lapland at the moment, were really easy to separate from each other. There will certainly be more noise and impossible to separate different sounds from each other within a month of two, as all the migrating birds return to Lapland in the spring.

Nature paths and the necessary equipment in winter hiking

The weather conditions in Rovaniemi has been just perfect for outdoor activities for over a week now. I have spent many days outdoor walking among other things.

(This post was published last March, but due to problems with my host I have to publish it once again. The time of the year is also now suitable to publish posts with snow theme.)
So far this winter I have not visited any of the nature paths near Rovaniemi center and I decided to do something about it. A friend of mine asked me one afternoon to join her to the nature path on Ounasvaara hill near the center of Rovaniemi. We had learned there would be a hiking path also for winter hiking. My friend was very preventive and wore a pair of shoes with steel-studded bottoms to prevent her from falling if the trail is slippery. This winter steel-studded shoes have been a top-selling product this winter sold in the shoe stores and outdoor equipment stores here in the north of Finland. It has even been so popular, that you hardly any more this winter manage to find a suitable pair to buy if you want to. They have sold out almost every pair of steel-studded shoes in the stores.

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The steel-studded bottoms made it safe for my friend when we went walking on the winter hiking trail. I myself wore only normal winter shoes and somewhere in between the trail was really a bit slippery and I had to be careful where to put my feet. We met a couple on the trail and the woman was using Nordic walking sticks and that would of course also be an option on slippery trails.

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The trail started impressively by a gateway in the forest and was marked with pictures of a hiker and a snowflake along the route that was easy to follow. In summer time there is a nature path, too, but the winter hiking trail differs a little from the summer version.

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Anyway, the trail has been prepared by a snowmobile during the winter and was very easy to walk on; only partly slippery. We took the long route of 6 km with a short visit up on the top of the downhill slope of Ounasvaara. The view from up there was marvellous. We were just thankful we did not have to go downhill by skies from there.

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Our hike ended with some fried sausages at one of the fire places along the trail. The evening sun shined at us, but the fire-place was not so tidy and nice. All black with soot from the frequent use of the fire-place by the citizens and students living near by.

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Inspired by this hike I planned the next hike the same week. This time to the Vaattunkiköngäs nature path at the Arctic Circle Hiking Area about 20 km from the Rovaniemi center. This time I went alone and this time I came to regret I forgot my equipment for the shoes to prevent me from falling….Not that I did any falls; only many times close.

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The nature path of Vaattunkiköngäs does not have any winter maintenance. The area is often used by local people as well as by tourists because of its beauty and how easily reachable it is. This lack of maintenance has resulted in a path that was almost all the way very slippery and partly almost impossible to walk on. I sent some warm thoughts to my friend with the steel-studded bottom shoes all along the path. I struggled my way, and I managed not to make any falls along the icy trail.
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The walk over five bridges over the rapids is very beautiful and I had to stop and enjoy the nature every now and then. Part of the trail is equipped with duckboards and easily approached even by wheelchairs in summer. The snow depth in the forest is about 70 cm now and I could see that the snow really amuses some of the visitors, as there were tracks in the deep snow besides the trail all the way.

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This time it was not the walking that gave me satisfaction, but the goal for my walk. I ended up at the fire place of Karhukumpu. I made a fire and fried a sausage and ate it together with a cup of tea and a bun.

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(These matches for storm use are really useful when you have to light a fire to not very dry wood.)
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As I sat there and enjoyed the meal and the sun shining on me, I heard kind of “small talk” from the nearest spruce. It took me a while but then I saw my visitor: A Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus)! And at the same time a second one occurred, too. The Siberian Jay is known to wilderness traveller as a very inquisitive and fearless species, which can be seen near camps and fires and even take food if such is left nearby. I put out some of my leftovers on the bench and it did not take long time for the Siberian Jays to come and fetch it just a couple of meters from me.

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If you have heard the legend about the Siberian Jay you now realize how happy this made me. The say is that the Siberian Jay brings luck to the people it meets. It is called a good-luck bird. If a hunter kills a Siberian Jay, his hunting success disappears for ever. One legend also tells that the souls of hunters transmit to Siberian Jays after death. Ancient people called it the “soul bird”.
The Siberian Jay is 27–30 cm, between the wings even 40 cm and it weighs 74–98 g. It is the smallest bird of the crow family, living in Finland. It does not migrate during winter. It has a very nice “small-talk” sound but also a tub-thumping sound when needed.

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(This picture is not my own. I took it from Wikipedia to show the colors of the back of Siberian Jay.)
On my way back to my car I stopped at the rapid and took some photos. There was also a German man taking a lot of pictures. They are astonishing, the rapids. My interest was whether I could get a glimpse of the White-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus) there. But I did not see any. It is probably a little early for that. I’ll try again in April. The local Bird Association uses to make excursions to this place every spring to spot the White-throated dipper as it makes diving into the rapid.

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Photo from www.fageln.se.

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Checking out the newcomers in Ranua zoo

Today was a sunny day and 4 degrees celsius here in Rovaniemi, and I decided to make a trip to the Ranua Wildlife Park. I have not visited there since last spring and there have been some changes I wanted to check up.

At the cashier I was told the brown bears were still awake; they had not started the hibernation yet. That was nice to find out, because I was prepared I was too late to see my favourites, the brown bears, this time.

The Otters were taking a nap as I passed by, and after that I saw there were small cubs in the Wild Boars fence. They were digging in the dirt and did not pay any attention to me.

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In the Polar bear fence the male polar bear Manasse was swimming alone around in his pool enjoying the sunny weather. But the amount of visitors certainly did not disturb him nor inspire him to do any tricks with his toys. We were only a handful of visitors this Tuesday afternoon. His female friend, Venus, was moved to a fence of her own and she uses to spend more and more time inside the den. The staff of the zoo is certainly hoping for good news near Christmas about the birth of small polar bear cubs. The behaviour of Venus is pointing in that direction. I caught a quick glimpse of Venus as she was outside the den catching some fresh air.

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In the Brown bear fence it was just silent; the only inhabitant in the first fence, Malla the female bear, was probably inside the den to make preparations for the hibernation. Some orange left-overs outside the door showed she has been out eating them this morning still.

As I approached the fence for Jemma, the younger female bear, the humming voice told me she was there. She still licks her paws and the stone she is lying on and at the same time she makes the humming voice; like a content cat, just as she did last spring at my visit. I suddenly just felt sad about her. She was there all alone and had nothing else to do but to lick her paws. No visitors, no staff members, no friends. If you sometimes think you are bored and alone, you know how Jemma was feeling this day. The staff of Ranua Wildlife park had been manufacturing some tools to play with for the bears so that they would not feel so bored, but today none of the bears was playing with them. I like the idea, though.

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I miss the old male brown bear, Palle-Jooseppi, who has been put to sleep last summer because of his suffering from pains in his bones and his age, 28 years. He wa once found in the forest as a cub alone and abandoned by his mother and has been living in Ranua zoo since then. But this summer it was time for him to move to the brown bears’ heaven. R.I.P. Palle-Jooseppi!

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After the brown bear fences there is a new bridge leading to a new area.

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In the new area live the newcomers, the dholes or the mountain wolves. There are six of them. The oldest of them are Lymy, 8 years and Viuhu 5 years. The four younger dholes are only 2 years old: Jekku, Velmu, Raiku and Kuje. They were spread all over the fence at my visit. The dholes which were overseeing the gray wolves in the fence next to them, were making some nice voices. They seemed a little nervous about the near precence of the gray wolves, but they will probably get used to them eventually.

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The dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a canid native to Central, South and Southeast Asia. Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, red wolf and mountain wolf. It is genetically close to species within the genus Canis; like   wolves and dogs. 

The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females. I wish the dholes welcome to Ranua and I hope they will find it nice and comfy in the zoo, even if the circumstances of course are nothing like being out in the wild. The dholes are endangered animals in the areas where they live.  

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After the bored brown bears and the nervous dholes, it was nice to find the wolverine couple playing together and enjoying each others presence. There will certainly be some wolverine-babies next spring.

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Another new comer in the park is the female muskox. The lonely days for the male muskox are over and they also seemed to enjoy each other’s company as they stood there eating hay together. There are no quick movements among the muskoxen; slowly, slowly everything happens.

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In the end of my visit in the Ranua wildlife park I stopped by to check on the Otters again. They were awake now and were really fuzzing around in the pool and the areas around that. They really seemed to enjoy each other’s company; the two male otters Harri and Olli. I wish they could get a female otter’s company soon.

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My conclusion of my visit is: there is really a need for a male brown bear and a female otter in Ranua Wildlife park now. The two female bears are so bored and would certainly be cheered up by a newcomer.

In the Predator Center in Kuusamoone can also get acquainted with some of the large predators that are found in Finland. At the moment, there are several bears at the Center, the oldest of which was born in 1992. Vyoti is probably the best known of all the bears. Foxes and lynx also reside at the Center. The man, Sulo Karjalainen, is living closely together with the bears, and he tells the press there are hugs and kisses between him and the bears almost every day. I wonder if there would be any suitable male brown bear to bring to Ranua zoo, that could cheer up the lonely female bears. On the homepage of the Predator Center you can among other thing follow the bearcam live.

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If you know of any other available single male brown bear, I would suggest you to contact the Ranua Wildlife park.

 

A letter to Santa Claus

Do you know who gets most letters in the world? Santa Claus, of course! Santa Claus’ post office at the Arctic Circle receives letters every day the year around from children all over the world. The nearer Christmas it gets the more letters arrive to Santa. Last Christmas Santa received more than half a million letters from 200 different countries. With less than 70 days to Christmas, it is time for everyone to send their Christmas wishes to Santa Claus.

The Santa Claus Official Post Office is situated at the Arctic Circle approx. 8 km outside Rovaniemi center in Finnish Lapland. It is open every day all year around. There the elves help Santa to open the letters and sort them out by country and when the Christmas rush is over they help Santa to answer everyone’s letter, too.

 

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You can also send your Christmas cards to your friends from here. There are two post boxes where to put your cards; one for the nearest Christmas and one for the next Christmas,

Santa Claus’ Main Post Office—the only official Santa Claus’ post office—is part of the official network of Finland’s post office, Posti. From Santa Claus’ Main Post Office, you can find a wide assortment of Christmas products, souvenirs, gift items, stamps, postcards and other products related to the collection and study of stamps.

A memory like no other from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office is a real letter from Santa. Here you can order the letter from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office in Rovaniemi. The recipient will receive the letter just before Christmas!

Since 1985, Santa Claus has received approximately 17 million letters from almost 200 countries! You can also write a letter to Santa Claus! His address is:

Santa Claus
Santa Claus’ Main Post Office
Tähtikuja 1
96930 Arctic Circle, FINLAND

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Outside the Post Office you can find an interesting point from where you can find out the distances to different parts of the world from here.

 

 

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In Santa Claus Village the Post Office is flagged with the official flag for Santa Claus Post Office.

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Just before Christmas 2014 the official Posti of Finland relised a new stamp with the picture of Santa Claus looking out from Ounasvaara fell over the city of Rovaniemi. There is only a limited amount to buy of this stamp.

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Brown bear cub Jemma in Ranua zoo

Do you remember the little brown bear cub in Ranua zoo, that got abandoned by its mom in spring 2014 and had to be taken care of by the staff? Well, now she has grown a lot since then and finally in August 2014 she got her name, Jemma, too. Ranua zoo arranged a competition among the visitors to decide the name for the young cub.

There was no problem between the bear parents Jehu and Malla, but in spring 2014 when Malla and the new born bear cub came out from the den where the hibernation had taken place, the staff in the zoo soon found out Malla was not kind to the cub. They decided to protect the cub from violence from the mother and took the cub away from her. Some bear mothers really are so violent to their cubs that they could even kill the little cub. And that was something Ranua zoo definitively did not want to happen to this cub.

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A very sad incident is also, that Jehu one day decided to escape from the zoo and got out through the fence into the surrounding forest. The staff of Ranua zoo took the hard decicion to shoot Jehu at that place, because they did not got him back in and he was not considered safe for the surrounding inhabitants of Ranua. At the moment the brown bears in Ranua are Jemma, Malla and Palle-Jooseppi; all three in separate cages.

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Well, Jemma grew up being fed by the staff from bottles. She did not miss her mother and she really likes the audience coming to watch her playing. She has come up with some special sounds as she is licking her paw. Sounds like a kitten. In between she looks up to see if anyone notices her skills. So adorable!

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You can follow more happenings from Jemmas life from the FaceBook site of Ranua Wildlife park.

Polaris, a star in the Lappish sky

Polaris, also called the Northern star, is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor and the 45th brightest star in the night sky. It is very close to the north celestial pole, making the current northern pole star. Ursa Minor (Latin:”Smaller Bear”, contrasting with Ursa Major) also known as the Little Bear, is a constellation in the northern sky.

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The North Star or Pole Star, is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. That’s because it’s located nearly at the north celestial pole, the point around which the entire northern sky turns. Polaris marks the way due north. As you face Polaris and stretch your arms sideways, your right hand points to the east, and your left hand points to the west. About-face of Polaris steers you to the south.

Polaris is also famous for marking the end of the Little Dipper‘s (Ursa minor) handle. The Little Dipper is tougher to spot in the night sky than the Big Dipper. But if you use the Big Dipper’s (Ursa Major) pointer stars to locate Polaris, you’ll be one step closer to seeing the Little Dipper.

 

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In the Sami stories the Northern Star is called Boahjenástir. It is located in the middle of the northern sky. Earlier people envisioned the sky as a roof-like dome that had to be held upright and unmoving by a world column. In this dome, the North Star was a fixed point around which all other stars endlessly circled.

 

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Earlier there existed a great fear among the Sami that the world would fall apart. This fear still exists, in different ways. This is one of the reason why Sami people used to offer a male reindeer to the North Star in Autumn. The sacrifice maintains the balance, keeping the world pillar from falling. If the pillar falls down, all the sky will fall down. And this would be the end of the known world.

 

The Sami hut and its inhabitants

If you ever had the opportunity to make a visit to a Sami hut where the Sami family was gathered around the fire place, you would probably look at the family and think these are all the inhabitants of this hut. But there are also other inhabitants in the goathi.

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One group is Máttáráhkká and her three daughters. Máttáráhkká dwells under the goahti, Sáráhkká is under the fire, Juksáhkká and Uksáhkká are both near the goahti´s main door. Boasso-áhkká also resides under the goahti, on the opposite side of the main door. From there she holds an eye on the men’s secret things and place.

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At least this is what the Sami family believes.

Sáráhkká is the most important soul of the home. She molds the body that grows around a child’s soul inside the mother. She helps a mother to give birth, and aids with the womb. Sáráhkká is very popular; she should always have a part of all food that was eaten in the hut (goahti). The Sami people were told to give her a lot to drink.

Juksáhkká can make an unborn child male, but she demands great gifts. She also instructs boys in the necessary tasks of men.

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Uksáhkká helps newborns. She protects the young children from illnesses and keeps children from harm.

So, the goahti is not simply an ordinary living space and a place to stay over night in. It is also a ceremonial place, a sacred site, and the center of the world. Thought the goahti’s smoke hole, you see the star world; the North Star, the Holy Moon and Beaivvás (the Sun). The Sami move crofter from one place to another, migrating with reindeer herds and go fishing in other places. Their center of the world, the goahti, moves with them, their home is dwelling in their hearts.

According to the Sami stories the holy spirits are always with them wherever they go.