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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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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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.

 

Lapland has one of the largest Giant’s kettles or Devil’s churns in Finland

Hiidenkirnut in Finnish known in English as Giant’s kettle, also known as Giant’s cauldrons, Devil’s churns or potholes.

These potholes were created around 10,000 years ago, on the fringes of the melting continental ice sheet, by powerful meltwater flows which eroded the rock. Rocks and stones were swept away by fast flowing meltwater gushing through tunnels at the base of the glacier. In the case of Sukulanrakka, the meltwater also swept away the soil covering the rocky outcrops. As powerful eddies developed in the meltwater tunnels, the boulders carried by the flood began to swirl. Under the power supplied by the water, the rocks and boulders drilled down to the rock face underneath, creating round potholes known as ‘devil’s churns.’ Most of the rock material carried along by the meltwater accumulated to form a ridge running in the direction of the tunnel.

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There are 14 ‘devil’s churns,’ or potholes, on the rocky slopes of Sukulanrakka close to the village of Rautiosaari, around 25 km from Rovaniemi city centre.

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These potholes were created around 10,000 years ago, on the fringes of the melting continental ice sheet, by powerful meltwater flows which eroded the rock. Rocks and stones were swept away by fast flowing meltwater gushing through tunnels at the base of the glacier. In the case of Sukulanrakka, the meltwater also swept away the soil covering the rocky outcrops. As powerful eddies developed in the meltwater tunnels, the boulders carried by the flood began to swirl. Under the power supplied by the water, the rocks and boulders drilled down to the rock face underneath, creating round potholes known as “devil’s churns”. Most of the rock material carried along by the meltwater accumulated to form a ridge running in the direction of the tunnel.

Due to their depth, three of these are counted among Finland’s largest potholes.  The largest, “Devil’s soup bowl” lies at the foot of the hill and has partly collapsed. It is 8 metres in diameter and 15 metres deep.

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Two other devil’s churns, the Big Demon’s hide and Bishop Hemming’s churn, with depths of 9 and 10 metres, are located on top of the rock face.

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Here are a couple of stones from the giant kettles. IMG_6395

 

You can visit the area on your own risk, but there are stairs to use when you move up and down the giant stony area.

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Three smaller churns in the area.

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A picture from once when the churns were emptied and cleaned. tyhjä kirnu

Here is a map of the area, where you can find the 14 devil’s churns.

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The devil’s churns at Sukulanrakka have been known to local people for centuries. Many folk-tales have been told about these mysterious pot holes and about a demon who lived in these parts long ago.

When the demon heard that a Swedish bishop and his entourage were coming to convert the local people living along the river Kemijoki from their pagan ways. he resolved to get rid of these unwelcome visitors once and for all. He collected a huge pile of rocks, stones and arrows, and waited in ambush in a deep hole he dug himself in the bare rock. In the bottom of this devil’s churn the demon also brewed up a noxious potion to use against the invaders

There was a bitter struggle, as can still be seen from the massive boulders known locally as devil’s boulders which lay strewn around the area to this day. But in spite of all his weapons and his evil spells, the demon was defeated, and fled westwards over the Kemijoki river.

The devil’s churns at Sukulanrakka were first investigated in depth in 1966 and 1967, when the debris that had accumulated in them over the millennia was cleared out with the help of local residents, under the supervision of Professor Veikko Okko of Helsinki University.

 

 

 

 

Venus- the bright evening-star

During the winter nights in Lapland there is one star shining brighter than the others. The Venus star is the second planet from the Sun; Mercury is nearer to the Sun. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon it is the brightest natural object in the night sky. In Lapland you can see it during the clear nights in the west after the sunset. It is often called the “evening star”. Venus is always brighter than any star (apart from the Sun). The planet is bright enough to be seen in a mid-day clear sky, and it can easily be seen when the Sun is low on the horizon. Venus, like the other planets, has no shine of itself. The Sun provides the shine.
This photo I have taken after sun set in the west. It was a clear night with millions of stars, but one was shining brighter than the others…

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Venus is a terrestrial planet and is sometimes called Earth’s “sister planet” because of their similar size, mass, proximity to the Sun and bulk composition. The atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is 92 times that of Earth’s. With a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F), Venus is by far the hottest planet in the Solar System, even though Mercury is closer to the Sun. Venus’ surface is a dry desertscape interspersed with slab-like rocks and periodically refreshed by volcanism.
Venus “overtakes” Earth every 584 days as it orbits the Sun. As it does so, it changes from the “Evening Star”, visible after sunset in the west, to the “Morning Star”, visible before sunrise in the east. Venus is hard to miss when it is at its brightest. Its greater maximum elongation means it is visible in dark skies long after sunset. As the brightest point-like object in the sky, Venus is a commonly misreported “unidentified flying object”. U.S. President Jimmy Carter reported having seen a UFO in 1969, which later analysis suggested was probably Venus. Countless other people have mistaken Venus for something more exotic.

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There has been a great interest in exploring Venus from both the Soviet Union’s and the United States’ side and they have launched several robots to go to Venus. Some have crashed already on their way and some have crashed on the surface of Venus. But due to the big amount of robots sent to Venus there has been results about temperature and surface construction. All results have proven that on Venus there could not be any life, like on Earth, because of the enormous heat on the surface.
Here is a description of some of the first robots sent to Venus. The program has continued still in 1990:ies.
The first robotic space probe mission to Venus, and the first to any planet, began on 12 February 1961, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Venera 1 probe. The first craft of the otherwise highly successful Soviet Venera program, Venera 1 was launched on a direct impact trajectory, but contact was lost seven days into the mission, when the probe was about 2 million km from Earth. It was estimated to have passed within 100,000 km of Venus in mid-May.

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The United States exploration of Venus also started badly with the loss of the Mariner 1 probe on launch. The subsequent Mariner 2 mission, after a 109-day transfer orbit on 14 December 1962, became the world’s first successful interplanetary mission, passing 34,833 km above the surface of Venus. Its microwave and infrared radiometers revealed that although the Venusian cloud tops were cool, the surface was extremely hot—at least 425 °C, confirming earlier Earth-based measurements and finally ending any hopes that the planet might harbor ground-based life.

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The Soviet Venera 3 probe crash-landed on Venus on 1 March 1966. It was the first man-made object to enter the atmosphere and strike the surface of another planet. Its communication system failed before it was able to return any planetary data. On 18 October 1967, Venera 4 successfully entered the atmosphere and deployed science experiments. Venera 4 showed the surface temperature was even hotter than Mariner 2 had measured, at almost 500 °C, and the atmosphere was 90 to 95% carbon dioxide.
One day later on 19 October 1967, Mariner 5 conducted a fly-by at a distance of less than 4000 km above the cloud tops.
Armed with the lessons and data learned from Venera 4, the Soviet Union launched the twin probes Venera 5 and Venera 6 five days apart in January 1969; they encountered Venus a day apart on 16 and 17 May. The probes were strengthened to improve their crush depth to 25 bar and were equipped with smaller parachutes to achieve a faster descent. Because then-current atmospheric models of Venus suggested a surface pressure of between 75 and 100 bar, neither was expected to survive to the surface. After returning atmospheric data for a little over 50 minutes, they were both crushed at altitudes of about 20 km before going on to strike the surface on the night side of Venus.

Be ware of reindeer on the road

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This winter in south of Lapland there is extremely much snow. The depth of the snow was approx. 85 cm in Rovaniemi last week. The last few days have been sunny and warm and that has reduced the snow depth a lot. The fluffy snow from last week has changed into more compact snow in the nature. This makes it also easier to approach the snow with skis or snowmobiles.

The large amount of snow in the city is a problem for the traffic and the cleaning has taken a lot of time. It has been very clever to mark the electricity boxes with a long stick. They very quickly disappear under the large amounts of snow.

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When the snow melts you will find out what you forgot to put away in the autumn before it started snowing….

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It is not only the cars and the pedestrians that suffer from the large amount of snow. Also the reindeer in the forests have to struggle with the snow. It makes it hard for them to find food and it causes troubles to move for them. If the forest is covered with fluffy snow 85 cm and the legs of an ordinary reindeer are approx. 80 cm, you understand the trouble the snow causes to the reindeer.

During spring the conditions change as the snow is getting more tight by the influence of the sun and warmer temperatures, the snow is getting so hard that the reindeer as well as people and snowmobiles can move on top of the snow because the surface is indurated by the warm sun in the day and the cold nights.

This time of the year you have to look out for reindeer on the roads, because they rather walk on the roads than in the forests because of the snow. Another reason for them to stay on the road is the salt spread on the roads to melt the snow. Reindeer also want the salt.

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Once I was driving there was even a reindeer sleeping on the road. It did not get up, but I had to slow down my car and pass by it very carefully. I could see it looking at me, so it was not dead, but it really did not bother to rise.

Every year about 4,000 collisions take place between cars and reindeer in the reindeer herding areas in Finland. The modern technique could be used to transfer warnings between the cars on the road. That is a project going on and it will be first available for commercial vehicles. The reindeer warning system means when one driver sees reindeer on the road he could just by pressing a button on his phone get the message to other cars in the surrounding areas to let them know where the risk to crash a reindeer is really remarkable at that moment. That would save a lot of reindeer lives. The collision risks with reindeer involved are largest in October-January. This warning system can be in everyone’s use at the earliest during the year 2016.

In the dark autumn evenings reindeer also walk along and across the roads. Last year there were tests made with a new invention with reflex color sprayed on the antlers of some 300 reindeer in the reindeer herding areas. This made it easy to see a reindeer even from afar and the driver had time to press the brake and avoid crashes. Many other ways have been tested, but for example collars with reflex has not met the expectations, they have eventually fallen off in the forests. The reflex paint was put on bone antlers, not on still growing antlers. Tests for how well the paint stayed on the antlers in different weather conditions were taken last spring. Last autumn tests for how successful the method is in preventing crashes is taken. The tests are not finished and the results are not ready yet.

This method would protect the female reindeer more than the males, because the males use to drop the antlers during winter. But on the other hand there are more female reindeer than males. If a reindeer dies in a collision the state of Finland grant punitive damages from 253-759 euro per reindeer, depending of how valuable the reindeer is. A stud or a doe is considered more valued than fawns for example.

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Ice-fishing expedition to the upper north, in 2015

This time of the year I use to attend an expedition to the upper north of Finland to experience ice-fishing on a frozen river. This year was no exception. I returned from this year’s expedition yesterday, tired but happy and content with the trip.
After a 5 hours’ drive along the Northern Light road which mostly follows the border between Sweden and Finland we arrived to Ropinsalmi in the municipality Enontekio in the north of Lapland, Finland. The nature and surrounding start to change from “normal” nature to fell nature after 3 hours’ drive. The fells of Finland and especially the beautiful fells of Sweden can be seen through the car’s window during the drive. Especially if the sun is shining on snow-covered fells the sight is breathtaking. The colors are mainly white, blue and brown.

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As you can see from the picture the road was dry and not covered with snow anymore. The spring time has come to Lapland. Still the ice on the river Torniojoki-Muonionjoki-Könkamaeno was about 70-80 cm thick.
After checking in and changing of clothes we immediately aimed to the ice-fishing area; first by car and the last part of the journey by skis. The first day’s transport to the ice consists of a motor auger, a hand auger, a shovel, stools for everybody, some utensils for the fire making and of course many different fishing rods and shovels to take the ice from the holes.
The strongest person in the expedition starts making the holes with the motor auger. That is definitively not a job I could do. The auger is heavy and as it starts to drill you must have complete control of the auger and keep it in its place. My job is limited to opening the holes in the mornings with a hand auger as the nights are cold and the holes are frozen in the mornings. That is a much easier job with ice of 1 or 2 cm.
This year’s expedition starts in the best possible way. After little more than an hour there is a big catch on one of the rods. No-one knows what is on the hook; we cannot see the creature, we can only follow its moves as it struggles to get itself free from the hook, and those are really strong ones! The procedure now is to try to get the fish so tired that it will be possible to lift it up through the hole without breaking the hook nor the line and loose the fish. That stadium happens after a process of draining the fish for about 10 minutes. But then the fish surrendered and the catcher (not me!) lifts it up on the ice. And that is a salmon (Salmo salar), 2,75 kg and 75 cm tall. A catch of a salmon at this latitude is real rare, as the salmon lives in the sea Bothnian Bay 300 km to the south from here. The Salmon jumps in the rapids up along the river, but no one could imagine they can travel this far. In the pictures you can still see the hook in the mouth of the salmon.

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This night is the night of big catches as I also end up with a pike weighing about 2,5 kilo.
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Our ice-fishing expedition lasts for 5 days of at least 10 hours of ice-fishing every day. You might think this is impossible to carry out. But I did not find it difficult at all. The days go fast and contain a lot of nature spotting, pauses at the fire-place and even shorter trips on skis in the surroundings. There are pauses during the day when the fish simply do not eat and then it is suitable for the fishermen to also take a break and do something else, such as rapid spotting. The rapids are not far away from the fishing place.
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The weather during this expedition is perfect every day with little wind and modest temperatures. Starting the first day with some degrees above zero and getting colder towards the end of the period. To go skiing on snow half a meter deep at this time of the year usually happens on hard snow and you kind of “fly” away along the snow. But in an evening after a whole day of degrees above zero, the snow gets softer and does not carry a skier any more. And that was what happened to us the first night. We sank into the snow about 30 cm at the most and it was a struggle to get to the fishing place. But as the weather conditions changed and the temperatures got colder later during our stay the conditions for skiing got better and better. Here is a picture from three different days of skiing tracks. You can hardly see the last track; when the snow was so hard there were no tracks at all made from the skis.

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On the first two warm days the conditions on the ice was also a bit challenging with water on the ice and uncomfortable to move around.
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But the conditions changed and at the end it was just perfect with sun shining from a blue sky and hard snow to move on made it so much easier for us.
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The catch consisted of 1 salmon, some pikes, some whitefish and a lot of greylings. We wanted especially a lot of greylings as they are very tasty and not so easy to catch on other places where we use to do ice-fishing. And a surprise like a trout or even a salmon is always the bonus of the expedition!
One day during the expedition we always make a trip to the place Kilpisjarvi in the north of Finland, near the place where the borders from Norway, Sweden and Finland meet. This year was no exception and the weather in Kilpisjarvi was perfect as always. The Saana fell was shining in the sun and the surrounding Swedish fells were absolutely white from snow even if the amount of snow on the ground in Kilpisjarvi was not exceptional much.

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As I sit by the hole waiting for some catch I use to observe the nature and different sounds from the nature. During these days I saw flying swans, two species of the northern hawk-owl (Surnia ulula), two species of the white-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus), a lot of snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) and I heard the sound of willow grouses (Lagopus lagopus) from the bushes of fell birches (Betula pubescens ssp. tortuosa) nearby.

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These pictures are of a white-throated dipper and a snow bunting taken of me with my camera that does not have a lens that can take closer pictures.

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The meeting with the hawk owl was the first one ever for me. The hawk owl is a non-migratory owl that usually stays within its breeding range. It is one of the few owls that is neither nocturnal nor crepuscular, being active only during the day.

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This year’s expedition was a success and I am glad I was able to make it.

The Arctic fox

The Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus or Vulpes lagopus), also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra biome.
It is well adapted to living in cold environments. It has a deep thick fur which is brown-grey in summer and white in winter. Its body length ranges from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), with a generally rounded body shape to decrease the escape of body heat. The Arctic fox lives in some of the most frigid extremes on the planet but does not start to shiver until the temperature drops to −70 °C (−94 °F). Among its adaptations for survival in the cold is its dense, multi-layered, pelage which provides excellent insulation, a system of counter-current heat exchange in the circulation within the paws to keep core temperature, and a good supply of body fat.

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The Arctic fox eats any small creatures it can find, including lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It will also eat carrion, berries, seaweed, insects, and other small invertebrates. The Arctic fox has such keen hearing that it can find exactly where a small animal is moving under the snow. When it has located its prey, it pounces and punches through the snow to catch its victim. Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and they will stay together to raise their young in complex underground dens. Occasionally, other family members may assist in raising their young.
Metsähallitus (The National Forestry Office of Finland) is responsible for conservation, management and monitoring species on the areas which it manages. In addition, Metsähallitus has the national responsibility of promoting conservation and organizing monitoring of certain threatened species.
At the moment Metsähallitus has extended responsibility for two animals in Finland, and those are the Arctic fox and the Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis).
Metsähallitus is a state enterprise that administers more than 12 million hectares of state-owned land and water areas. Metsähallitus has the challenging responsibility of managing and using these areas in a way that benefits Finnish society to the greatest extent possible. In Lapland there are large areas that belong to the Metsähallitus responsibility areas.
Metsähallitus has been making researches regarding the Arctic fox since the end of the twentieth century and sadly to say, this year Metsähallitus did not find any activities in nests from Arctic fox in the Finnish Lapland. In fact the last time a nest from Arctic fox with puppies was found in Finland was in 1996 in Utsjoki in the very far north of Finland. The Arctic fox lives in the Norwegian fells on the other side of the Finnish border. In 2014 Metsähallitus checked on 213 nests from Arctic fox, but they did not find any marks of recent activity in them. Metsähallitus has registered 334 old nests from Arctic Fox of which 100 are in such bad shape they are not checked every year anymore.
Species of the Arctic fox were seen in Enontekiö and Utsjoki during last winter. About 100 years ago the Arctic fox was common in these areas, but has decreased dramatically since then. The reason for this has not really been found out.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) works to make sure fragile ecosystems are supported and protected. They mitigate the effects of climate change to make sure the survival of the Arctic fox and other species.Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Warming temperatures are linked to many changes in the Arctic, including reduced sea ice, melting permafrost and rising sea levels and that could be one of the reasons the Arctic fox is moving north to the other side of the border from Finnish Lapland.
The Arctic fox can be seen in the Ranua Wildlife Park, Ranua Zoo.

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The brown bears in Ranua Wildlife Park love attention

After the hibernation the brown bears of Ranua Wildlife park just love to meet the visitors and get attention from people. On days with only a few visitors they are just bored. I went to the park early in the morning and made a round to the brown bears to check on how Jemma, the brown bear cub, among others is doing after the hibernation. She was just fine, sucking her paws and making a strange noise, like from a content cat. I was the only visitor at the cage and I could very well listen to her “humming”. But no other action was made from her side as long as I stayed there.

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After a short break at the hootchie with some fried sausages and sandwiches, I returned to the brown bear area. The igloo bar was not open, even if a sign at the entrance says it is open daily 11-15.00…

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At this time some groups of tourists had arrived to the park. They were also looking at the brown bears. Apparently the guide had told them to loudly applaud the bears and get their attention, as this had the effect on the bears they started to play and make funny movements. I joined one group and got the chance to see how the bears acted i front of a group and could compare it to how they acted when I was alone.

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Jemma’s mother, Malla, has learned to keep her back-paws and show it to the crowd. She got reworded for that with an apple or a carrot from the nice guide in the group. She continues showing her skills on and on until the guide tells her, this is enough, see you again tomorrow! I could see the bears very acquainted with this guide and she also told her group she used to visit here since she was 15 years old and now, as a guide, she returns regularly three times a week to see the animals.

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Next to Malla was also “the old man himself”, Palle-Jooseppi, the brown bear, almost 30 years old already. He was found in the wood abandoned as a little baby bear and brought to the zoo. He is a bit lazy and like to relax a lot, but he does not say no to an apple or two. He woke up on the call from the guide and took the position. He caught all the apples right in his mouth. And the tourists applauded his skills. He listens to the guide and rises his paws when asked to.

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Malla and Palle-Jooseppi live together in the same cage. It is a very large area. At the moment they do not seem to be interested in one another at all and spend time far away from each other. But hopefully the interest will wake up and they will make some baby bears next winter. Malla gave birth to little Jemma last winter, but unfortunately she abandoned the cub as they got out from the den together. For security reasons the staff then took the cub from its mother and placed it alone in a separate cage. A grown up mummy bear could even kill her cub if she does not like it.
Jemma’s father Jehu managed to escape from the zoo last winter and the staff did not see any other options, but to shoot him. He could become dangerous to the surrounding inhabitants of Ranua. And so, little Jemma spends time alone in the cage without a mother or a father. No wonder she has developed this habit sucking her paws and making the noise. The same noise is made by the cubs as the mother bear suckle them in the den. I feel so sad for Jemma.
Well, Jemma is used to people and wants their attention. She stood up in front of the group and danced and got rewarded with apples and carrots. That made her day, but also the tourists were overwhelmed.

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After that I did a short check on the other animals.

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As I drove back home to Rovaniemi, along the road the birches were “screaming”, “help us, oh Mighty Sun, to be released from this burden of snow!” “Send your warm rays and melt the snow around our crowns so we can stand up again!”
I love winter and snow, but spring is also a lovely time of the year, when nature wakes up again and birds return to the north from their resorts in the south during the coldest time of the year.

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The wolf is an endangered animal in Lapland

In Finland there are four large carnivores; bear, lynx, wolverine and wolf. I have written posts about bears, lynxes and wolverines here in my blog earlier. Now I want to tell you about the wolf in Finland and specially in Lapland. The wolf is the second largest carnivore after the bear in Finland.

The wolves (Canis lupus) are social members of the dog family and live many together in packs. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell, and can communicate using posture, facial expressions, scent and a variety of barking and howling calls. The howling call of a wolf in the night is impressive and is started by a single wolf, who may then be joined by a chorus. Wolves howl to communicate with each other and to define their territories. The chances to hear wolves howling in Lapland are really small. As you enter the cave and walk your way down to SantaPark you can hear wolves howling from the loudspeakers….

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Twolfwalkhey mainly move around during the twilight hours and they can move over distances of tens of kilometers in a single day. An old traditional story tells that a wolf could move over nine treeless bogs (valleys) in one night. In a pack only the dominant alpha pair actually breed, but the pack help to raise the cubs. Three to six cubs are born to a pack each year. Females become sexually mature at the age of about two years, while males typically mature a year later. Wolves mate in February or March, and their cubs are born a couple of months later. Cubs usually leave the pack at the age of 1-2 years. They go far away from their birthplace searching for a mate and a territory of their own.

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In Finland there is approx. 140-155 wolves at the moment. They were counted in February 2014. Most of the wolves live in the eastern parts of Finland. About 5-10 wolves were found in the Lappish area; that is a few more than last year. The wolf is an endangered species in Finland and hunting is prohibited since 1973. Hunting is a subject to licence only.

Wolf is the largest member of the dog family living in wilderness. The length of the body is 100-140 cm, the tail is 35-50 cm. Weight is usually 20-50 kg, but there has been found also bigger individuals. The male wolf is lager than the female.

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susi_kayntijaljetThe coat is mainly yellowish-grey, but there are variations. People often mistake big dogs for wolves, and wolves can be most easily distinguished from wolf-like dogs by their slanting eyes – if you come so near you can see the eyes – and the way they hold their tails at a downward angle. Their tracks are very hard to tell apart from dogs’ tracks. Wolves often walk straight, while dogs tend to wander more. The wolves’ footprints are often larger than the footprint of dogs.

Wolves hunt deer and elk and in Lapland reindeer. They hunt in packs. They kill and eat almost every part of the kill; they even biting larger bones into pieces and all that is left could be a few scraps of the skin. They sometimes hide their kill.

susi ulvooIn Finland you can see wolves in Ranua zoo and in Ähtäri zoo. To keep wolves in a zoo there need to be a large area for the wolves to move around in. In Ranua zoo there are three wolves at the moment. They were all born in the zoo in 2009. The parents, the alpha pair, were Leena ja Ville. They were brought to Ranua from Sweden in 2006 and 2007. Their first brood – in 2008- were four cubs; Halla, Huurre, Kuura ja Halti. Their second brood, in 2009, were also four cubs. At the moment there are three wolves in Ranua zoo. I have to find out their names.

The wolf has never been really wanted in Finland. In the Sami language the wolf is gumpe. The Sami people were afraid of the wolf and still are, due to that the wolves kill their reindeer. The ancient story about wolves tells that the wolves had the magic skills to make people sleepy. The Sami people use to yoik as they are watching the reindeer. Their yoiks are about the nature, people and animals. The wolves are frightened as they come near the people and the reindeer, when they hear the yoik. But soon they get used to the yoik and the Sami has to sing a new yoik. They have to come up with new yoiks all the time to keep the wolves away from the reindeer.

A long time ago the wolf was also a valued animal. There is an old yoik about the wolf Suologievra. The name means “the strong on the island”. In the ancient days people used to think the world was like an island in a big sea.

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Once upon a time Stuorra-Jownna, or Jouni the Great from Utsjoki in the North of Lapland wanted to become a wolf. The witches had told that, if you go around a curved tree counterclockwise several times you finally become a wolf. So did Jouni. He walked around the tree until he was changed into a wolf. Then he run around in the shape of a wolf and he visited many reindeer ranges. He could stay as a wolf for two weeks at a time. One day he noticed his time was ending; actually on the same night, and he still had nine valleys ahead to run. If he could not make it to the tree in time, he would be doomed to stay as a wolf for the rest of his life. There is an old saying: “The wolf always finds his way”. And that night he run over nine valleys and reached the tree, where he had changed into a wolf, in time. This time he run around the tree clockwise and during the run he little by little changed back into a human being.

 

What’s up in Lapland during the summer?

I have had technical problems with my blog the last two weeks, so there have not been any updates lately. I had to contact my web host for at least 3 times to get it run smoothly again. But the best information I found from a forum on Internet, where you could discuss the problem with other users. I found out my problems were the same as many other users’ and so I could solve the problem myself, and now the blog is working fine again.

Well, the spring has finally arrived to Lapland, although I last week read in the paper about a snowmobile accident in the upper north of Finland. They are still driving around with snowmobiles over there. There is still snow on Saana fell in Kilpisjärvi village and every year they arrange a skiing competition on Midsummer, that is June 20 at 5 pm this year. The track is about 250 m long. Registration between 3-4 pm on June 20 in Kilpisjärven retkeilykeskus. You can rent equipment, like skis, in the same place. What an adventure to go skiing in the Midnight sun on Jun 20!

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An other certain sign of spring time are the cloudberry flowers. Hopefully there will not be cold nights in the nearest future. That would destroy the cloudberry flowers and the result of that is no cloudberries this summer.

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I just love the flower Trollius europaeus known as Kullero in Lapland. It has yellow flowers and the flowers look like small suns shining along the roads or near rivers. They like shady and wet places. 

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Now is also the time when you can go  catching the river trout in the small rivers of Lapland again. I just love the quietness when you walk along these rivers. Of course, the annoying thing this time of the year are the mosquitoes. But there are ways to get rid of them. One is named Off.

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So what’s up with Santa Claus? Well, he is preparing to open his cave SantaPark again on June 23! The elves are so excited to meet all the children again. They are just jumping up and down in excitement!

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You can read about what Santa is doing in the summer here.

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Ice-fishing expedition to the Upper-North of Lapland, in 2014

Yesterday I returned from my yearly ice-fishing expedition to the North. This expedition has been the final of my ice-fishing season for many years. This year the expedition did not differ a lot from last year’s. We visited the same backwater on the same river as last year. You can take part in my story from last year’s expedition here.

We had beautiful spring weather all the time, a bit windy a couple of days, but sunshine every day. We spent 5 days ice-fishing. Thank to Protection 50+ my skin is not as tanned as it was last year. Thank to eye-drops my eyes did not ace in the evenings as much as last year, either. So, overall a very good expedition. We did not get so much fish, though. After five days of fishing we ended up with 50 fishes to bring home. We had greyling, whitefish and pikes. Even if we promised each other not to bring any pikes home this year, we ended up with 3 quite small and good-looking pikes. I remember last year’s 3 kilo pike we left on the ice in the evening for the foxes to take care of.

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I always have a little problem to see the difference between a smaller greyling and a smaller whitefish the first day, because this is the only days during the year I can fish greyling and I use to forget how it looks like. The biggest difference is in the fin on the back. The back-fin on a greyling is much bigger than on a whitefish. As the fish are bigger the problem disappear and you can easily see the difference. The upper fish is a whitefish and the other is a greyling.

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We stayed the nights as usual in the adorable cottage village of Ropinpirtti. Always friendly Terttu has always the small, unpretentious cabins in perfect condition. It is always a pleasure to return there to the cottages situated in between many fells of Lapland. We always laugh at the boot up in the tree….It has been there for at least 7 years now.

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We never spend much time inside the cabins because we are out ice-fishing 9-12 hours per day and only return in the evenings to fix something to eat and go to sleep. So we did this year, too. There was daylight for 15 hours already up in the north, and one night at 22:30 o’clock I caught this amazing sunset on picture.

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The snow and ice conditions in the “arm” of Finland were hard this year. The snow was about 70 cm thick and the ice 90 cm. But on the ice there were hardly no snow. From where we park our car we went about half a kilometer down to the river by skis and we could go above all the snow because of the hard crusty snow, but the sticks could go through the snow occasionally and the fact occurred to you; it was really deep snow. My ring on the stick broke one day and I was able to measure the depth of the snow that way. It was over half of the length of the stick…The power auger was a must to make holes in the ice. The 110 cm long auger barely could make the holes.

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But after the first day’s opening of the holes it did not really freeze during the nights, because the temperature was above 0 almost all the time.

Suddenly some reindeer occurred on the ice and went over the border to Sweden. The river Könkämäeno is marking the border between Finland and Sweden and we also crossed the border many, many times. After a while three Sámi people on snowmobiles turned up and asked if we had seen any reindeer, and so they went after the reindeer. I could not help wondering how valuable the reindeer were, as I saw the three rapid, modern snowmobiles they used to go after just three small reindeer…

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I did not catch fish all the time out there on the ice. Sometimes I watched the fish through the holes, as I also did last year. And sometimes I walked around on the river and I also watched the rapids which are on both sides of the backwater. This year the rapids were more ice-free as they were the same time last year. I saw a couple of the nice little black and white dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and also some mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).

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I did get some very nice fish, though. Just to mention some; the biggest whitefish was 890 g and I also got three pikes.

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The fish is most active in the morning and in the evening and at those times they are easiest to catch, but there are also active, shorter times in between when you also get some fish. But there will always be some dead time when it is suitable to have a break and fry some sausages by the fire. One of our expedition days we always visit the village of Kilpisjärvi near by and go and eat some delicious food at Kilpisjärven Retkeilykeskus’ buffet table. This year we went there out of curiosity to see how it looked like a year like this when there has been more snow than usual. Yes, there was still much snow, even if the roads were snow-free. From the daily paper I could also read there was still 146 cm of snow and 93 cm of ice during Easter last week in Kilpisjärvi. Kilpisjärvi is the last outpost of Finland just before the Norwegian border. You can also read about Kilpisjärvi in one of my earlier posts.

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So, after five successful days we put all the stuff into the car and headed towards Rovaniemi again along the Northern Lights Route, 450 km.

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Ice – an unpredictable element

This year’s (2014) spring has arrived earlier than usual to Lapland. As I last year in May could go ice-fishing around Rovaniemi, this year the ices are not all reliable and safe any more here in the south of Lapland. A warning is actual for entering ices, especially on the rivers where there is streaming water. Easter has for many years been the season when the outdoor temperatures allow you to really enjoy ice-fishing in the sun without getting cold. This year’s Easter was late (April 18-21) and due to the small amount of snow still on the ground the week before Easter here in the Rovaniemi region, the sun melted the snow on the lakes already before Easter. It became slippery to move on the ice and snowmobiles had difficulties to get the grip to move forward. The ground and ices are almost snow free now. But still, I plan an ice-fishing expedition to the upper-North this week, to get the last big portion of ice-fishing this winter.The ices up north are still nearly 90 cm thick. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.

In the newspapers these last weeks you could have read about accidents with snowmobiles that have sunk through the ice with drivers and passengers. You should definitely equip yourself with ice-peaks now, as you do in the autumn in the beginning of winter. With them you could have a fair chance to get up onto the ice again if you sink through the ice. These are mine.

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If the ice is thick enough for a man, but not for a snowmobile, one way of moving on the ice is to go by skis. In Lapland the lakes could have fairly thick ice even if there is no snow on the ground anymore. Skis also give you possibilities to enter even thinner ice than it would be possible for you to do by foot, because your weight is spread all over the skis, so every inch is lighter when you go on your skis. You should always test the thickness of the ice with your sticks to be sure the ice is durable enough. If you still are uncertain you should stop now and then and drill a hole in the ice to measure the thickness.

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In early spring time it is a profitable time to ice-fish trout and white fish in the lakes. This year so far I did not get much white fish, but I expect more of them in the north. Winter net-fishing period is over now due to the unpredictable ices, but as the trout swim in low waters in the spring the time to catch trout is most profitable at this time of the year. Just before we ended the net-fishing we managed to get a nice 2 kilo trout in the net.

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The red-eyed roach is easy to catch in the spring when ice-fishing, but you really do not eat them. There are a lot of them so they are popular for children to catch. The children will not get bored when ice-fishing.

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The nature wakes up in April-May and emigrating birds return to Lapland and the fells. The trees also wake up and you can read about how you can take advantage of the trees in the spring time in my post Lapland – the land of eight seasons. 

The dried reindeer meat is also ready to eat by now, as the days have been sunny for a while already.

As the ices melt the seabirds arrive in Lapland. First arriving are usually the swans. They really do not need much of open water to settle down. After that they spend the days searching for something to eat from the bottom or just relax on the ice.

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I suffer from sea-sickness if I go fishing in the open sea, therefore ice-fishing is suitable for me, as I love fishing. During the summer I have to figure out something else to do as I do no fishing then. Picking berries or taking care of my garden are hobbies for me in the summer time.

Nature paths in winter time

Before I arrived in Lapland I thought of nature paths as something you do in summer time or at least during snow-free times. But that thinking I had to change as I have found the nature paths near Rovaniemi also accessible in winter time, preferably maybe in early spring, when there still is a lot of snow, but the sun is shining from a clear-blue sky. The period of daylight is too short in midwinter to do any longer hiking tours in the nature.

People in Rovaniemi use to walk nature paths during winter, so the duckboard way is easy to find, but on the other hand, if the ground is frozen, you do not even have to walk along the duckboards, because the risk of stepping into water is non-existent. If you go walking outside the paths you could preferably use snowshoes, which is very popular, too.

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My favorite area of nature paths near Rovaniemi is the Arctic Circle hiking area, the Vaattunkiköngäs-Vikajärvi area. These paths I use to hike in summer as well as in winter time. To sit by the log fire enjoying your picnic and fry your sausages together with friends or alone surrounded by white nature and possibly in early spring you could hear some birds voices. The winter time in the forest of Lapland is otherwise a silent period. But in early spring the first migratory birds return again after they have spent the coldest period of winter in some warmer climates. I like this early spring period because it is easy to separate a bird’s song from others. Later in spring the forest is so full of voices, so you hardly could separate one bird from another. Just take your time and let the sun warm up your frozen face and open your ears to all the fantastic voices of spring! I also use to admire the different formations from the snow you can find if they are untouched. There is always the possibility to stop by a lake and do some ice-fishing during your hike if you have the equipment with  you in your backpacker. At the Arctic Circle area I on the other hand would not recommend any ice-fishing, because there is no lake, but a river with rapids and that is never safe to enter in spring time.  .

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strömstareInstead you could try to get a glimpse of the cute little bird, the White-throated Dipper, that lives by the rapids in Lapland and even goes diving into the open rapid water in winter time. In spring time you can possibly also listen to its drilling song if you manage to separate it from the voice of the rapid, of course.

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At the Korouoma canyon area people use to walk the paths often also during winter because of the possibilities to do ice-climbing on the frozen waterfalls. The frozen waterfalls in Korouoma are the biggest in Finland. Ice climbing possibilities in Posio are provided by Stella Polaris Lapland and Bliss Adventure. Trained professional guides make sure that your ice climbing experience is safe, fun and unforgettable! Please note that you are not supposed to try to go climbing the frozen waterfalls on your own, if you don’t have the special equipment and experience required for individual climbing. But, anyway, you can always admire the huge frozen waterfalls, and I must say, that is enough for me.

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The Saariselkä area in the north-east of Lapland is also a popular resort for hikers that offers excellent possibilities for day-trips throughout the year. During summer visitors can hike along hiking trails and nature trail of varying demand or even cycle. In winter the area boasts 250 km of maintained ski trails and such as nature trails are excellent places for trekking in snow shoes. A vast variety of services can be found at the Saariselkä tourist resort during all seasons.

 

Snow and ice and how to enjoy them

In northern Finland we have snow for almost half of the year. Snow plays a big role in the life of the Finns living in Lapland. This fact has led to development of many different ways to move around on the snow or to take advantage of the snow and ice elements as much as possible.

Skis were invented already by our ancestors to help people to move on snow. Skiing is faster than walking. In those days the skis were used for necessary movements, but today to go skiing is a popular way of getting exercise. Downhill skiing in its various forms is the choice for many people. In Rovaniemi you can go cross-country skiing and downhill skiing on Ounasvaara fell.

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Sledging is another way to move around on snow. The sledge was developed especially for sledging downhill, but you can also use it to transport goods.

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People have used kicksleds for a hundred year to get to school, to the church or to visit each other. The look of the kicksled has been the same for many decades, with a seat and handles, but in recent years a more sporty model has been developed to use even in competitions in Finland and all over the world.

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Snowshoes look like tennis rackets fastened to your feet and they make walking in the snow a lot easier. In old days they were made of natural material, but nowadays they are made from different kind of plastic, You do not sink into the snow, but you stay walking on top of the snow.

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From time immemorial huskies have pulled sleds in the Arctic regions. They have been reliable and reach their destination in even the hardest conditions. The husky was born to pull sleds and it is really happy when working. Today many tourists go for safaris with huskies and enjoy the speed of around 17 km/h. You can choose longer or shorter safaris with huskies from husky farms in Lapland.

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The reindeer have also been used for centuries in Lapland to pull sleds. Their hooves enable them to move in the snow. At first glance, the reindeer seem very slow and lazy, but they can also race in competitions. Reindeer safaris are arranged all over Lapland during winter.

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Along with the development of technology the snowmobile was invented. Reindeer herders use snowmobiles, but the snowmobiles are also used for tourist safaris. There are several safari companies offering snowmobile safaris during winter; both for beginners and more adventures tourists.

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Many ways have been developed to get around during the long-lasting period of ice on lakes and rivers. Figure skates, hockey skates and Nordic skates are different forms of skates. The Finnish national team sport is of course played on hockey skates and Nordic skates are for long journeys. In Rovaniemi there are several arenas for hockey and figure skating. You do not even have to bring your own skates, because you can rent skates and get instructions how to go skating if it is your first time. First timers have lots of fun just trying to stay on their feet.

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In summer time you can play golf in Rovaniemi, at Arctic golf course, on the shore of river Kemijoki, but as the summer is so short, they have taken advantage of the snow element and invented ice golf and winter golf. On the frozen river Kemijoki you have been able to play ice golf for several winters already and on the golf course of Ounasvaara, Santa’s own golf course Arctic golf course, you find probably the world’s best winter golf course. It opens in the end of February-the beginning of March, depending on the snow situation. It was opened for the first winter season in 2011 and so far the seasons have offered good opportunities to enjoy golf, with 9-holes, also in winter time. The home page of the course is unfortunately not translated into English concerning the winter course. You can rent golf clubs from the course, you do not have to bring your own. Just remember to use colored balls, orange is the best color. A white ball is of course impossible to see in the snow.

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Some people also use to go swimming in the river Kemijoki during the winter period; the winter-swimmers! A hole is sawed into the ice and the winter-swimmers take a dip in the chilly water. All you need is a swimming costume, a woolen hat and a pair of slippers and a big bath sheet. The winter swim gives you an extraordinary experience and is told to have many healthy effects, too. This year the Winter Swimming World Championship is arranged in Rovaniemi; on March 20-23, 2014. Check out the program! There is something for everybody, and you do not have to practice winter-swimming to take part in the big event.

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It happens a lot in Ranua zoo in winter time

News about a new-born brown bear cub was told from Ranua zoo in the beginning of March. As predicted last spring, the brown bear Malla gave birth on January 8th, 2014. She stayed in her den for the hibernation period and breast-feeding the new-born female cub until March 31st, when the door was opened for her to come out. The zoo had put up cameras in the den so the birth late in the evening of January 8th could be seen by the staff in the next morning. This video is shown to all visitors to Ranua zoo as they arrive in the ticket office these days.

On March 31st Malla and the cub came out through the door and the cub met the world outside the den for the first time. The surrounding was all snow and the cub seemed a little anxious and it made a lot of voices. The video of the little cub can be seen here. Malla and her cub were kept in a smaller fence while the male bears Jehu and Palle-Jooseppi were out in a bigger fence. Malla also wanted out to the bigger fence and as she was let out there it happened she was stressed of the situation and abandoned her cub and run out and did not show any interest towards the cub any more. She acted even aggressively towards her cub and the staff at the zoo found it best to take the cub from her, for the safety of the cub. So at the moment the cub is fed by the staff of the zoo and will not be brought back to the mum any more. The mother will not recognize her own cub anymore and she will act aggressively towards a stranger. A name competition will be arranged on the home page of Ranua wildlife park to find a name for the little female bear. If everything works out fine, the cub can probably be seen in the zoo in the beginning of summer. These abandoning behaviors happened either because Malla was an unexperienced mother or due to other stress factors. In the nature she could even kill her cub, but that is now prevented by the decision to take the cub from her. Let us see how this will work out.

The father Jehu has woken up from the hibernation already and was anxiously waiting outside the den for Malla and the cub to come out to him***.

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It is amazing how tiny a brown bear cub is at birth. You may think a big bear could give birth to a much bigger cub, but the newborn is really tiny and spends many weeks on mummy’s stomach, where it gets breast-fed, and kept warm in the warm fur of mummy. In the blog from Ranua zoo you can see for yourself the amazing video from the birth of the brown bear cub and also how it has grown during the first month. It is impossible to decide the sex of the cub until it comes out from the den.

In the wolverine fence you also find only the father Rasputin running around. The female wolverine Batsi has actually also given birth to two tiny wolverine cubs and is spending time with them inside an underground den breast-feeding. The wolverine cubs were born during the weekend on March 8-9 and were caught by a camera. The cubs weight around 100 g each. In the nature the wolverine gives birth inside a cavern made of snow. Last time there were wolverine cubs in Ranua was over 10 years ago, in 2003, so this is a very special moment and predicts a busy summer with a lot of interested visitors for the wildlife park.

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Another thing that happens in the near future at Ranua zoo is that the two years old polar bear Ranzo is going to leave the zoo and move to the zoo Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria, in the beginning of May. In the zoo Schönbrunn they are building a new Polar bear world, Franz Josef Land, which will open in April. Ranzo will meet an adorable Polar bear girl, Lynn, also 2 years old, and they will hopefully be parents next year. Ranzo’s move to Vienna is quite natural, as his grandmother, Vienna, was born there. So he returns to his roots, so to say. Still Ranzo is happily unknown of his coming destiny playing with his toys in Ranua zoo.

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This picture is of Ranzo and his mother last spring. IMG_1828

At the moment Ranzo is alone in his fence, while his mother Venus has moved over to his father Manasse’s fence and they are enjoying each others’ company at the moment. New polar bear cubs are of course expected next winter from these meetings. You can look at a video from their meetings also from the blog.

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*** Unfortunately the brown bear Jehu found a way out from his fence to the freedom in the end of April 2014. The staff of the zoo has a special security plan for incidences like this regarding brown bears’, polar bears’ and muskoxes’ escapes and the only thing was to shoot the Jehu bear, to avoid danger to people outside the zoo. The brown bear Jehu never met the new cub.