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.

img_0701

img_0781

img_0699

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.

img_0704

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

img_0696

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.

img_0709 img_0712

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.

img_0714

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.

img_0721

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.

img_0743

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.

img_0765

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.

img_0772 img_0773

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.

img_0769

 

 

 

 

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.

img_0616 img_0617

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.

img_0670

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.

img_0578-2

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.

 

img_0582

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.

img_0649img_0643

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.

img_0654

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.

img_0621

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.

img_0660

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.

img_0623

img_0668 img_0667

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.

img_0619img_0636 img_0632 img_0629 img_0626 img_0624

 

 

 

 

What to remember when you are out on the ice

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

IMG_6525

isdubbar

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

IMG_6856

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

IMG_3246

IMG_3262

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

IMG_6830
After the “adventure” in the water the snowmobile is full of wet snow and it will freeze and make it impossible to drive eventually. That is why you have to clean the snowmobile from all ice and snow as soon as possible. One thing that helps is to turn the snowmobile over to ease the cleaning process. This procedure does not harm the snowmobile, but helps you to clean away all snow and ice.

IMG_6831

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

IMG_9039

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.

nastakengät nastakengät2
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.

IMG_7099

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.

IMG_7069 IMG_7072
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.

IMG_7082 IMG_7077

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.

IMG_7097

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.

IMG_7152

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.
IMG_7138 IMG_7123

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.

IMG_7116 IMG_7117

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.

IMG_7128
(These matches for storm use are really useful when you have to light a fire to not very dry wood.)
IMG_7126
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.

IMG_7135

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.

Kuukkeli
(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.

strömstare

Photo from www.fageln.se.

IMG_7149

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.

IMG_0759 (Medium)

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.

IMG_7346
IMG_7349

This night is the night of big catches as I also end up with a pike weighing about 2,5 kilo.
IMG_7342
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.
IMG_7387

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.

IMG_7424

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.
IMG_7341

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.
IMG_7429

IMG_7381

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.

IMG_0842 (Medium)

IMG_0822 (Medium)

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.

riekko

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.

IMG_7416

IMG_0648

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.

hawk owl2

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

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!

juhannushiihtojuhannushiihdot

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.

IMG_2166

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. 

IMG_2191 Kullero-Smörboll

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.

offit

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!

IMG_2139

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

Santa fishingSanta summer

 

 

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.

IMG_4992

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.

IMG_5112

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.

IMG_5043

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.

IMG_5016

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.

IMG_5116IMG_5124

IMG_4994

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…

IMG_4997

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).

IMG_5020

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

IMG_5007

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.

IMG_5093 IMG_5090 IMG_5079

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.

IMG_5127

 

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.

IMG_2715

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.

IMG_2717

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.

IMG_4781

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.

IMG_2713

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.

IMG_2694

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.

Snowmobiles and their history

In ancient times hunters and reindeer herders used to move around on the fells on skis or dog-sleds in winter time. This was of course hard to do in deep snow and reindeer herders had to move around with their homes when they were out guarding the reindeer and could not return home every night because of the hard conditions. In the early twentieth century there were some inventors trying to invent a vehicle for snow conditions, but it was not until in 1954 as the American Polaris company presented the first snowmobile that the manufacturing of snowmobiles started. And that has change the life of reindeer herders; now the reindeer herders can return home every evening after checking on the reindeer. The invention of snowmobiles changed the lives in Lapland and it has also saved the reindeer husbandry until these days, because the younger generation is more interested in continuing as the conditions are not as hard as they used to be.

The first snowmobiles were large, multipassenger vehicles designed to help people get around during the long winter months. These snowmobiles made in the early 1950s were soon followed by the ones manufactured by the Canadian Joseph Armand Bombardier in 1959. Bombardier wanted to develop a fast, lightweight snowmobile that could carry one or two people. After many years of development and several prototypes of the lightweight snowmobile the first Bombardier snowmobile went on sale in 1959 and the first snowmobiles were actually brought to the north of Finland in 1962. Fifteen snowmobiles were brought to Inari in Lapland; one for the postman, one to a fisherman and the rest to some reindeer herders. From here the snowmobiles’ use spread also to other parts of Finland where there were needs to move easier on snow.

The Ski-Doo snowmobile was originally called the “Ski-Dog” because Bombardier meant it to be a practical vehicle to replace the dogsled for hunters and trappers in Canada. By an accident, a painter misinterpreted the name and painted “Ski-Doo” on the first prototype and Bombardier thought this would be a suitable name for the vehicle. Bombardier is considered the father of snowmobiling who began commercial production.
IMG_4642
The public soon discovered that those speedy vehicles that could zoom over snow were a lot of fun. Suddenly a new winter sport was born, centred in Quebec. In the first year, Bombardier sold 225 Ski-Doos; four years later, 8,210 were sold.

After the first snowmobile came to Finland in 19621 from Canada the popularity grew and the snowmobiles became a normal sight in the North of Finland on the fells. In these days you can see snowmobiles in wintertime parked on almost every property of Lapland; both in cities as in the countryside. This lead later to the need to pass laws that stipulated how to move with this vehicle on the roads. You are not allowed to drive the snowmobile on car roads; only on marked snowmobile ways and in the forest owned by the state of Finland or on lakes and rivers in Lapland. You are not allowed without permission to drive on private estate with snowmobile.

Just eight years after Joseph Armand Bombardier began to mass-produce Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Velsa Oy began manufacturing Lynx snowmobiles in Kurikka in Finland; in 1987 his business was acquired by the company and moved to Rovaniemi in Lapland and is still working here. See the home page of the factory BRD Finland.

After Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s initial successful tests of the Ski-Dog, it soon proved that this new snowmobile made riding fun. Individual snowmobiles gave people of isolated communities the opportunities of a new form of outdoor recreation. People that once sat dormant throughout winter were now given the opportunity in more outdoor activities.The snowmobile helped people come to embrace the winter. And today it is a great tourist attraction for all ages to come to Lapland and go on snowmobile excursions. There are even small snowmobiles for kids to drive in the Santa Claus Village in Napapiirin moottorikelkkapuisto.

IMG_5162

This winter, in February 7th, 2014, the exhibition of snowmobile history was opened at Santa Claus Village by the Arctic Circle outside Rovaniemi in Santa’s House of Snowmobiles. The exhibition offers the visitor information on snowmobiles and their technological development during these five decades beginning in the 1960s. The snowmobiles on show in the exhibition are all private property borrowed from owners all over Finland and the exhibition will change in May 1915. This first exhibition about snowmobiles is called “The stories of classic snowmobiles” and it is open every day of the year as well as all the other places at the Santa Claus Village.

In the exhibition you can see snowmobiles from five decades and you will be amazed about the development that have happened in the snowmobiles. The exhibition offers something for the whole family with even a snowmobile racing computer game for younger visitors.

IMG_4624

IMG_4633

 

IMG_4637

An odd version of snowmobile is the Swedish Larven, made by the Lenko Company of Östersund, from the 1960s until the end of the 1980s. It was a very small and basic design, with just an engine in the rear and a track. The driver sat on it and steered using skis on his feet.

IMG_4627

On my visit to the north of Russia in 2008 I could see these snowmobiles of old models from 1960s still in use for transactions of goods in the streets in the village I visited.

IMG_3506

IMG_3507

Here is an example of a snowmobile of latest model from BRD Finland. There has been a development of technology here.

IMG_4636

The contemporary types of recreational riding forms are known as snowcross/racing, trail riding, freestyle, mountain climbing, boondocking, carving, ditchbanging and grass drags.

On March 29-30, 2014 there is a Snow star competition in Rovaniemi on the Mäntyvaara trotting arena with snowmobiles. The newest models from BRD are also on show there to lay your eyes on. The Snow star home page is unfortunately only in Finnish at the moment.

 

Winter swimming

These days, on March 20-23, the Winter Swimming World Championship is held in Rovaniemi with 1,244 swimmers from 34 countries. There has been huge preparations on the shore of river Kemijoki in the city center of Rovaniemi for several weeks already. The Finns are keen on winter swimming, so this event suits very well to take part in Finland this year.

IMG_4606

In the ice on river Kemijoki there has been made a hole, 25 meters long with 9 lanes. The last few nights have been really cold with temperatures around -22 degrees Celsius (-7,6 F), and to keep the hole from freezing there have been pumps working days and nights. Around the “swimming stadium” pupils from the University of Lapland, the Faculty of Art and Design, have created sculptures fitting into the atmosphere of the Championships.

IMG_4585 IMG_4594

This snowman was constantly surrounded by excited visitors of the games, who wanted photos taken together with him for memories to bring home with them. It was hard to get a picture of him without any people. The mascot of Ranua zoo, Jonne the Polar bear, was of course also visiting this event and anyone, who wanted a hug from him, got one.

IMG_4596 IMG_4597

To get from the city center to the “swim stadium” you have to either walk the 850 meters along the Lumberjack Candle bridge, or take the snowmobile taxi arranged by Lapland safaris, that was driving non-stop between the city center and the stadium.

IMG_4601

Today on the first day of the competitions the Endurance swim 450 meters for men and women took place. Here are the starting lists for those, who are interested. The swimmers were aged 50-69 years. A lot of brave people, if you ask me! To go into the ice-cold water with only your swimsuit on and then swim 450 meters is really an effort and it tests your body’s tolerance to 100 %. Except for the swimsuit swimmers must wear something on their head, either a swimming cap or a woolen or other warm hat.

The competitors undressed by the pool and climbed into the water. Diving was prohibited.

IMG_4609

During the first run one of the competitors had a heart attack and divers had to bring him up from the water and they gave him first aid and an ambulance took him to the hospital for a check up. After this dramatic start the competition went on smoothly and swimmers who felt they wanted to end their run because they were not feeling well, were greeted by the audience and thanked with applauds for they braveness. No-one had to feel like a looser if he or she could not finish the run. All competitors are really experienced winter swimmers and all are winners and we all have our better or worse days.

IMG_4588

After the race the swimmers could immediately go into the sauna or to the hot tubs near the pool. There were a lot of staff helping the swimmers to get a warm blanket and their shoes on. Many of the competitors really did not matter about the cold outside, even though the audience were trying to keep warm by jumping up and down. This day’s amazing sun-shine did help the audience to keep warm, though.

IMG_4592IMG_4608

 

The area around the stadium has activities, product presentations and shopping possibilities as well as restaurant services and tourist information. The competitions continue tomorrow. The weather forecast are unfortunately not as good as they were today. Anyway, I think the arrangements around the IX Winter Swimming World Championship are really successful so far.

 

Rovaniemi

Detailed 5 day forecast

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.

IMG_3640

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.

släde

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.

sparkkälkesparkkälke2

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.

snöskorsnöskor2

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.

huskysafarihuskysafari2

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.

IMG_2292

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.

IMG_5162

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.

IMG_6880

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.

jäägolf jäägolf2

 

winter golf

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.

vinterbadare

Winterswimming2014

 

 

How to keep warm when ice-fishing

January changed to February and in Lapland that means the daylight increases every day with several minutes. Now the daylight lasts for approx. 8 hours already. To think, just one and a half months ago there were practically no daylights at all and now it is already 8 hours! Moving towards the midnight sun….

This is the time of the year when ice-fishing season starts. You can read my post about ice-fishing for beginners here. The most interested fishermen have of course been ice-fishing already for a couple of months, but because of the lack of daylight but also because of the cold period we have had, with temperatures around -20 degrees Celsius, the experience of an ice-fishing day would not have been all pleasant.

IMG_0549Even if the outdoor temperature is around 0 degrees, spending several hours outdoors, mostly sitting without moving, requires warm clothes. Best chances not to be cold you have wearing not only one warm cloth, but several layers, so to say. I use even up to 7 layers on my upper body and about 4 layers on my legs to keep me warm for several hours ice-fishing. I would definitely not enjoy ice-fishing if I had to be freezing all the time!

Starting with underwear in natural material, such as cotton. Then something woolen like very fine woolen underwear, i.e.Ruskovilla, Merinovilla or TAM-SILK wears. Then some colleges; both sweater and trousers. On these, a waistcoat or a sweater, or both in fleece material and a windproof jacket. On top of everything I use a very warm overall. The overall should be both windproof and waterproof. It is very easy to undress the overall in case the sun would shine and you feel you just have too much on. It is really easier to undress than to put more on, which you do not want to carry with you.

You find more of my stories about ice-fishing expeditions here.

IMG_4236

IMG_7091

 

IMG_7023

IMG_4235The hands and feet are important to keep warm, but at the same time you should be able to do quick movements when you have a catch. They should also be easy to take off quickly when needed to get the line and the fish up on the ice. One way to keep them warm is to buy hand and feet warmers from fishing equipment shops or from Motonet. But those I use only in extreme conditions. They keep your hands and feet warm for about 6 hours.

But also warm leather gloves with sheep wool lining would do. On your feet you should use rubber boots with woolen lining. The boots should be big enough to fit two pairs of woolen socks. Rubber boots could be needed on the ice when there is water coming up from the holes. The circumstances on the ice could also suddenly change from snow to quite deep water (without jeopardizing the safety on the ice, I ensure you. I will tell you more about that in another post.)

But definitely big rubber boots, especially in spring time.

The stool you are sitting on could be of the model you buy from a fishing equipment store, or you could make one yourself, from Styrox, which is a warming material and very light also to carry.

pilkkijakkara

If you are lucky and get a lot of catches, you probably do not need to think about the cold, but if the fish is lazy and the waiting time is long, you probably also want to get up and move a little. One thing is of course to make more holes, because that warms you up, really. Both a hand worked auger and a power auger requires some muscle exercises, that would get you warm. Another thing to do when feeling cold, is to take a break and move towards a “laavu”, lit the fire by the fireplace and enjoy a nice cup of some warm drink. Some people call the laavu a hootchie in English.

IMG_4482

In some places in Lapland, on some lakes, but also in the coastal area of northern Sweden, there is a habit to build like small houses on skids to transport with you behind the snowmobile when you go ice-fishing. These sheds keep you from the freezing cold winds that could disturb an otherwise well planned ice-fishing expedition. The sheds have no floor inside, so you can drill holes in the ice and sit inside the shelters ice-fishing. Inside the sheds there could also be warming equipment working with gas or other kinds of heating systems. In case you have such a shed to use, you could go for longer ice-fishing expeditions without “laavus” nearby. You could fry your sausages and warm your drinks inside the shed. I will explain more about these sheds in another post.

 

IMG_3172

IMG_2398IMG_3223  IMG_2401

 

Ranua zoo in winter

On a sunny day in winter a visit to Ranua zoo is really worth the effort. There are active arctic animals playing in the snow, not the least the polar bears, the wolverines, the wild boars, the wolves and the lynxes, which all are active winter animals. The snow makes it easy to find the animals; they have fewer possibilities to hide in a white surrounding. They seem to enjoy the sun in winter as much as we do.

IMG_0521

 

IMG_0535

IMG_7039

 

IMG_0529 IMG_0532

 

The brown bears are having their hibernating period and are sleeping. About two years ago there was a warm and sunny spring and the brown bears woke up on March 1st and started to play in the snow. Usually they wake up in the end of March. There is still snow on the ground in the end of March. This year I am very excited waiting for news about whether the brown bear Malla has given birth during the winter hibernation. The zoo is keeping an eye on the den where the brown bears are sleeping. Small brown bear cubs would really be a reason to visit the zoo again.

IMG_0524

 

The zoo has plans to put together the two polar bear adults again if there could be more polar bear cubs. The very popular polar bear cub Ranzo, born in December 2011, is already a grown up and will probably be moved to another zoo in the near future. Ranua zoo simply does not have fences enough for many adult polar bears. Wild animals, like bears, are not very satisfied to share fences with others. There have been some disputes between bears in the earlier years, which have led to even one of the bear’s death, and this the zoo definitively does not want to happen.

You can get a whole new viewpoint to the animals by participating in the animal feeding shows, such as, by watching carnivores being fed. If you are lucky, you might get to feed animals yourself, instructed and monitored by the animal keepers. During the winter, between 17.2.2014 -9.3.2014 and 18.4.2014 – 21.4.2014, animal feeding shows are arranged daily. Check out the times on the home page. I do hope they will soon update it with this year’s dates….

There is also possible to stay overnight near the zoo, in the holiday village Gulo Gulo or at the caravan area. Check the homepage for more information.

In Finland there are three zoos open during winter time; Ranua zoo, Ähtäri zoo in the middle of Finland and Korkeasaari zoo in Helsinki.

 

Go skiing in Rovaniemi

There is still the Polar night or kaamos in Lapland, but since December 21st the days are getting longer and longer; today more than 3 hours between sunrise and sunset already. You can check the length of the day on the weather forecast page.

IMG_3132

As the days are getting longer it means you can stay longer outdoors and for example go skiing. In Rovaniemi there are lighted ski tracks for cross-country skiing for those who do not have time to go skiing in daytime, but want to do it after work in the evenings. Here you can check where there are lighted tracks and also the conditions of the tracks before you leave for a ski tour. The page is only in Finnish, but you can see there are a lot of tracks all over Rovaniemi city and the best color is green. At the moment there are no green tracks, because of the last weeks’ warm weather and the fact there has not been so much snow lately. But the color yellow is acceptable, too.

I went for a tour on the ice of a lake the other day. There was not much snow either, but enough for an enjoyable tour and I did not need any tracks at all. As my work is very hard for my arms at the moment I need to get some exercises to lose up my muscles in my upper-arms and that was exactly what a ski tour made for me! I felt like a new woman after that.

IMG_1447

In Rovaniemi there is also the down-hill skiing and snowboarding possibilities at Ounasvaara hiihtokeskus with ski lifts and the ski jumping also for more experienced ski-jumpers. On the page you can check the conditions of the lifts and the slopes. There are also 45 km tracks for cross-country skiing on Ounasvaara hill.

IMG_8428IMG_2372 IMG_5088

At Ounasvaara hiihtokeskus there is also a ski rental, so you do not even need to have your own skiing equipment to go skiing. The selection of the rental equipment is wide and it is being regularly renewed, therefore there is always an excellent and modern ski equipment available. The selection has downhill -, cross-country – and Telemark skis, snowboards, snowshoes and sportswear.

 

It is also possible to check the Ounasvaara hiihtokeskus, the slopes and the view from the ski-jump tower over Rovaniemi from the web camera.

 

Snow and ice design and architecture

The surroundings of snow and ice for approx. 7 months a year in Lapland has inspired the Lappish people to create ways and methods to take advantage of that fact. There are several occasions during winter that are related to snow or ice, like art exhibitions, buildings and happenings.

Snow and ice buildings and happenings related to snow are of course depending on the weather conditions, but with many years of experiences there have not been great problems so far. The winter is cold and snowy in Lapland.

A building that this year raises for the 19th time is the SnowCastle in the town of Kemi, about 100 km from Rovaniemi by the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. The SnowCastle is already under construction and will be opened on January 25th 2014. The SnowCastle has different themes and both contents and architecture vary every year. Inside the castle there are light-effects on the ice-sculptures and the constructions. The SnowCastle will be open daily until the season ends on April 6th. This date could change depending on the weather conditions. Reservations can be done for the restaurant and for the chapel. Many couples get married here during the season. These pictures are from the SnowCastle in 2007.

IMG_1475

IMG_1463

 

IMG_1469

The snow-building is also represented at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi. Every year there is something made of snow and ice. Even a whole log house made of only ice with an ice bar was built there in winter 2008-2009. 

IMG_4912IMG_5076

IMG_1867IMG_5072

 

The Arctice Winter Wonderland with long snow slopes and a playground for children at the Arctic Circle is very popular. This year they have expanded with a building containing ice bar, art gallery and ice hotel.

In SantaPark you can visit the ice gallery. There are sculptures of wild animals living in the arctic regions. Last year’s visitor was Sid from the Ice Age movies. This year Niko the reindeer is visiting the Ice Gallery of SantaPark. There you can also meet the Ice Princess, try to sit on her throne and have a cold drink in glasses made from ice.

IMG_2149IMG_4018

IMG_8602

 

At the Lapland University there is a Snow Design Project running under the Faculty of Art and Design and the University has the knowledge of snow design that it wants to export to other parts of the world.

Earlier projects of snow design in Rovaniemi are such as these:

IMG_3112 IMG_3113

IMG_6819 IMG_6822IMG_6821

IMG_8707 IMG_8708

IMG_2040

IMG_0480 IMG_0489 IMG_0495

 

Many hotels around Lapland offer the customers possibilities to sleep in an igloo in combination to a hotel room. The night in an igloo is an extraordinary experience where you also get a certificate. You are provided with warm clothes and sleeping bags, the beds are comfortable and you always have the possibility to return into your hotel room if you find the igloo night too challenging.

IMG_4943

 

At the Arctic Circle outside Rovaniemi, near the house of Santa Claus a new world, Arctice Winter World, has opened its doors this winter. You enter the world through the wooden house and for an entrance fee you can visit the ice bar with spectacular ice sculptures and the igloo hotel, everything made of just snow and ice. Outside the igloos there is a huge icy slope for downhill tobogganing.

IMG_4213

IMG_4188

The Arctice Winter world opened on December 5th, 2013 and is planned to keep open until the end of March this year. I was amazed by the igloo hotel. There were several rooms of different size and all with its special ice decorations on the walls. The beds looked tempting with comfortable madrasses. You can book a room on the home page and you get a sleeping bag to use. The walls in the hall are also decorated with outstanding sculptures.

IMG_4193 IMG_4203

IMG_4207

All over the Arctice Winter world there were special colored lights. After the entrance you enter into the ice bar and café. On real reindeer hides the whole family can enjoy non-alcoholic or alcoholic warm or cold drinks. Cold drinks can also be served in real ice glasses.

IMG_4189 IMG_4188

IMG_4186

 

 

 


An autumn day with experiences for body and soul in Pyytöuoma Nature Park

After a warm and exceptional long summer time this year in Finnish Lapland the autumn now announces its arrival with lower outdoor temperatures and the leaves falling off the trees.

Still you can enjoy fantastic and fabulous hiking day trips all over Lapland on the large amount of suitable hiking paths in the forests or on the fells. One of the most beautiful hiking paths for a day trip  in the forest is the path of Pyytöuoma in Posio in the east of Lapland near the Russian border. This is not far away from Korouoma canyon, where I have hiked before.

pyytöuoma

IMG_9264Some people like to hike in the open areas on top of fells, but I like it very much to walk through forests and learn about the wild life and the nature of the Lappish forest. The environment is also changing all the time; sometimes you cross a little river and sometimes you have to climb up along a wall of the cliffs a bit and many times the path goes over swamps on duckboards, And almost certainly you find a fire-place where you can stop for a while and just sit down and enjoy your picnic and the surrounding views.

IMG_2628To find this Pyytöuoma, you drive by car along road nr 81 from Rovaniemi towards Posio. About 37 kms before Posio you turn left on to a sandy road leading you about 8 kms to a parking area where you can leave your car. From here the 3,7 km long nature path starts. The path circles in a beautiful scenery along the Pyytöuoma riverbed and cliffs. There are some steep places where you go down to the bottom of the canyon and also places where you approach up from the canyon again, but the path is very well suitable even for family day trips.

Pyytötuoma area is protected and almost in its natural state. There are rare species of flora and fauna living in the ancient forests of Pyytöuoma. If you are interested, along the path there are 12 info signs about the nature and forest management of the area.

IMG_0111After a while, almost halfway, you are walking on the bottom of the canyon and you cross a little river. In case you have your fishing equipment with you, you can always try to catch the rare river trout (brown trout), which lives in these kinds of small rivers in the Lappish forests. But from here the path starts rising again up on the other side of the riverbed. This is the most trying part of the path but once you end up on top of the cliff  you will get your reward. The view is just astonishing and there is also a beautiful fire-place waiting for you. The picnic you brought with you should be enjoyed here by the fire. There is a sign also telling that there is a well here near by, but I did not manage to find it, but I probably did not try hard enough.

IMG_0106 IMG_0114

After a deserved pause the hike can continue. Now the path leads you through the forest and the information signs tell you about the work in the forest and how the Finnish Forest and Park Service has planned to keep the natural state of Pyytöuoma with as little incite in the nature as possible.

IMG_9271After a walk along a duck board you see a small “lake” or just a body of water in the middle of the swamp. The water is clear and it tempts you to taste it. I found out by tasting that it is clear and ice-cold and also good tasting.

Finally in the end of the path we end up at a “laavu” or a covered fire-place. This was a day trip for us, but if you choose to make a several days stay in the forest, this laavu could be the place to stay over night at this time of the year. You could keep yourself warm at the fire-place and in case of rain you would stay dry.

IMG_0099

This was a very interesting and enjoyable day trip for me both because of the exercise my body got by climbing and walking and the soul could just rest in the beauty of the nature of this canyon and the surrounding nature. In the evening the temperature lowered to nearly 0 degrees and you could see a thin ice coat on the surface of a lake near by.

IMG_0121

IMG_9281

 

 

The Lapland Gold

If you try to get in contact with your Lappish friends these days by phone or by visiting, you would probably find that they are not at home, neither would you be able to reach them by mobile phone. The answer you get on the phone is that their phones are out of reach; no possibilities to connect. What is going on in Lapland these days??!

The answer is cloudberries! This year Lapland is blessed with more cloudberries (rubus chamaemorus) than the last 2-3 summers. The beginning of this summer in Lapland has been exceptional with warm and sunny weather for weeks now and only one night with degrees below 0  during the blooming of the cloudberries. The insects have done a wonderful job, and the inhabitants of Lapland are now delighted and every one is out picking cloudberries on every possible time off from work or other duties. You can even stay out on the swamps and in the forests all night long and collect berries because of the midnight sun shining. The Lappish people do their sleeping during the winter. The summer is the time when you fill your deep-freezer with all the delicacies from the nature. First the cloudberries, then the blueberries and the lingonberries and finally the cranberries.

IMG_7613IMG_4458

Outside the densely built-up areas the possibilities to connect to mobile phones are weak and on large areas even non-existent. That is why you cannot reach your friends who are out collecting cloudberries on the swamps. Luckily the emergency number 112 is still working in case the cloudberry picker gets lost or has an emergency out there. Every year someone gets sick or disappear on the swamps when picking berries. There is of course also reason to be careful in the wilderness, not at least with the possibilities to meet an angry bear. All bears are of course not angry; usually they absolutely do not want to meet people and they escape as soon as they get the whiff of a human being.

IMG_3974IMG_2774

Many keen pickers are also able to sell part of their harvest to berry buyers for a quite good sum of money. The offered price for cloudberries has been real good for some years now; up to even 18 euro/kg, and even unemployed people have been able to get quite an extra income on berry picking. The state of Finland does not claim any taxes for these kinds of income. This year, due to the good harvest, the price unfortunately has fell to hardly half the price; 10 euro/kg, from last year. On the other hand pickers are now able to pick with both their hands instead of only one hand as they have done the last years.

IMG_5936 IMG_9455

The Lappish food factories bring berry pickers from Far East, from Thailand, to help to collect the harvest needed for their fruit products manufactured in their factories. There has been a lack of some cloudberry products now for some years, which will be fixed this year, I am sure. During many years already these kinds of berry pickers from Thailand have been brought to the Lappish areas during summer. Some inhabitants of Lapland do not approve of these manners and every year these topics are up in newspapers and on other public forums. Some Laplanders claim there are not enough of berries in the swamps and that they think the incomes would be more useful for the unemployed Laplanders instead of given away to foreigners. But this year hopefully these kinds of greedy thoughts are left behind and the harvest is big enough to share among also others than the Lappish people. May the thought of how  the job for one man as berry picker here in Lapland for one summer season helps a whole family back home in Thailand to get a better life, bring peace into the hearts of the Finnish people, too. And frankly, not many of the Finnish pickers are disturbed by these foreign pickers, and you are still almost certainly able to enjoy the harvest from your own secret cloudberry places alone. The areas of the swamps and forests in Lapland are really vast.

IMG_4466 IMG_5961

 

Added when the cloudberry season was over: Due to discussion with local berry picker there were a lot of cloudberries that had to be left on the swamps because they were too mature, not suitable to eat anymore. .

 

By a river in the wilderness of Lapland to catch the river trout

Did you think I am not fishing this time of the year? Actually, this year I am not summer fishing in Lapland, but I want to tell you about earlier years as I have fished in Lapland in the beginning of summer. In Lapland there are a lot of small rivers and really tiny rivers in the wilderness, not much bigger than a ditch, where there is a lot of fish.

IMG_9474You can get greyling (harjus) from the rivers near the rapids also in summer, not only when ice-fishing. In summer you catch greylings standing on the shore of the rapids or you could stand in the rapid yourself, if you want. I never did that, though.

 

IMG_9523IMG_9502

IMG_9506

If you are out camping you can fry your catches on a trangia spiritburner right away. Delicious!

IMG_7658 IMG_9511

Another peculiar fish in the tiny rivers is the little brown trout or river trout (tammukka, purotaimen) as it is also called.

tammukka

The river trout is related to the common trout, but it does not really grow big. The river trout stays in the river where it was born. Normally trouts migrate from the birth place to bigger rivers and rapids and at times they grow really big; they could even be about 15 kg. But the trouts that stay in the little river where they were born never grow big, to not even 1 kg. The river trout is found all over Finland but specially in Lapland it is really small; about 25 cm. The government of Finland has decided the minimum of all fish you are allowed to catch, and the minimum length they have put on a river trout is 40 cm, but the fact is, they never grow that big in Lapland! So you could say the river trout every little boy in Lapland uses to catch does not even exist in the eyes of the government. Read more about fishing licenses and restrictions here.

IMG_4139 IMG_4132Even small children can go angling river trouts in the small rivers. It is easy to catch, But one thing is important; you should keep quiet when angling! The river trout does not like voices and noise. It is easily frightened away. You should sneak quietly into your place on the shore before you start angling.

I love to walk along these small rivers in the absolute wilderness. The forest is so quiet around you. Sometimes you meet some reindeer and sometimes a beaver. I have also seen poo-poos of bears, but I never saw a bear, luckily. Even if I am very keen on fishing I also often just admire the nature and try to enjoy every minute of my stay in the wilderness. A foot bath in the ice-cold, clear river-water is a lovely experience after a long walk into the wilderness and refreshes your feet .

IMG_7621 IMG_2204

Enjoy these photos of the wilderness of Lapland!

IMG_9460 IMG_4129

 

IMG_9470IMG_7619

IMG_7618 - Kopia

In Lapland during summer season the main trouble is the mosquitoes. You should never forget to put on some insect repellent when going angling by the river. The mosquitoes could ruin the pleasure about angling for you. 

 

 

The time to catch river trouts is at its best in early summer. At the same time the cloud berries are blooming and every Laplander hopes for no night frost or hailstorm that could spoil the opportunities to enjoy a perfect cloud berry crop later in the summer.

IMG_2166IMG_7613

Hiking in Lapland and shelters for staying overnight

On hiking trips in the Lapland nature and especially along hiking routes you will find shelters or huts to use for resting, just for some hours or even to stay over night. There are huts which hikers can use for free, and others for which a fee is charged. You can look for maps and useful information about hiking here.

IMG_2373The most common and well-known type of free, open huts are the open wilderness huts. The wilderness huts are meant for one-night stays. They are usually located in the northern and eastern parts of Finland, usually in roadless backwoods. Other open huts include day trip huts, which are not meant for staying

IMG_6528

overnight. Also open turf huts, or campfire sites as you also can call them, and Lappish pole tents are suitable places to stop and rest during the day, but in exceptional circumstances they can give shelter for the night, too. The shelters and huts are managed by the Metsähallitus of Finland. Near the huts and shelters there is also firewood for free use by the hikers.

IMG_4576 IMG_0099 IMG_3800IMG_5989

Reservable huts are locked, and a fee is charged for staying. By using reservable huts, the hiker can be sure to have somewhere to stay overnight. But then the hike must be planned in advance, and that is not always what the hikers want to do. There are of course also more equipped cottages to rent for more than one night’s stay managed by the company Wild North. 

Many extensive areas of forest and open fell are owned by the State and managed by Metsähallitus, especially in Finnish Lapland. In the south, more forests are owned by local people. Finland’s liberal laws of public access give everyone the right to roam the forests and countryside freely, no matter who owns the land.

I have spent many days in the Lappish forests and lakes and I have loved to explore different kinds of shelters. I, myself, have not yet stayed over night in any of these shelters, but I have heard other people doing it and they have loved it. In summer time of course there are the mosquitoes, gnats and horseflies bothering. That is not the case during winter, but I can think of a lot of reasons not to want to stay over night in a shelter during winter. But I could be wrong, I admit that. To be able to sleep outdoors in summer you have to use some kind of insect repellent or venom on your skin.

I have been surprised to find these shelters in so many different shapes. Some of them more architectonic with more constructions than others.

IMG_2199 IMG_9849 IMG_7189 IMG_1590

 

On my trips in Lapland I have also found shelters for cooking or just eating, made of inhabitants of Lapland without any connections to the Metsähallitus and their huts and shelters.

IMG_8371 IMG_7142

 

I must say the most fascinating hut I found was the one made of reindeer keepers long time ago for overnight stays. I felt the wind of ancient times blowing as I opened the door to the hut.

IMG_0091

 

 

The Arctic Circle Hiking Area for all year around use

As you drive about 20 km to the northeast along highway 4 from Rovaniemi towards Sodankylä you find the Arctic circle hiking area with Vaattunkiköngäs, Vikaköngäs and Vikajärvi. It is an area managed by Metsähallitus of Finland. It is about 36 km2 big and it is just a perfect area to visit when you long for pure nature experiences but you do not want to go away for a long time, and you want to return home in the evening. There are several marked trails suitable for day trips in the area.

Map of the surroundings of Arctic Circle Hiking AreaI visit the Vaattunkiköngäs many times a year. I want to visit it all year around in different times and enjoy at least autumn, winter and spring there. You reach the parking area for Vaattunkiköngäs as you turn right on your way towards Sodankylä approx. 20 km from Rovaniemi. There are informative signs that tell  you when to turn. Drive about 2 km from highway 4 and you will end up in a perfect parking area with information like maps and descriptions of the hiking paths starting from there. There are also toilets and waste recycling points.

IMG_7190Hiking and camping are allowed in Finland due to Everyman’s Rights, but at the Arctic circle hiking area you are recommended to camp in the vicinity of campfire sites and other rest spots. The area is mostly visited during the summer and when there is only little snow. But as the area is visited by so many people all the time I have managed to visit it also in the middle of winter because there are paths in the snow made by other visitors and they are easy to walk. In the summer and spring you can pick berries and mushrooms  here.

IMG_7187

IMG_7189
My favorite time of the year for a visit at Vaattunkiköngäs is spring. During spring floods in late April and early May part of the duckboards in the area may be under water due to the melting snow. But as the snow  has melted you can safely walk the duckboards around the area.

IMG_2171

After starting from the parking area you first of all cross the Raudanjoki river on a hanging bridge. The river has several rapids used for rafting and kayaking. You walk along the Könkäänsaari trail of duckboards and you can stop by and read on the information boards about the surrounding nature with its birds and animals. Soon you will end up at the Könkäänsaari lean-to-shelter, where you can set a fire and fry you own sausages or just rest before you continue. Along the trails there are several rest points. There are dry toilets at each rest spot. The trail from Vaattunkiköngäs to Könkäänsaari is suited for disabled visitors during the snowfree season. The Könkäänsaari lean-to shelter has also been designed for the disabled. The trail has been classified as a demanding wheelchair route.

IMG_2183

IMG_2180The Arctic circle hiking area is made up of several parts which are in their natural state and very wilderness-like. On one hand there are the rapid areas of the river and on the other hand there are parts of the river with still water. In the different areas you can become acquainted with the region’s typical plant and animal species on special information boards along the trail. As the area is not situated near the road there are no disturbing noises from cars. In spring time you can enjoy the hundreds of bird species singing in the area.

In spring you can find an adorable yellow flower there. It is the Globe-flower (Kullero); a Lappish flower I did not know existed before I came to Lapland. It grows only occasionally in the south of Finland, but is very common here in Lapland in spring time.

IMG_2191Kullero-Smörboll

 

The Globe-flower shines like a sun and only the sight of it makes you happy.

A visit in winter time has its own specials, like campfire where you can warm your toes or fingers and fry your own sausage. The Metsähallitus provides all the lean-on-shelters with wood all year around. You can just pick from the fire-wood store and set the fire. But be careful with the fire and extinguish the fire as you leave the shelter.

IMG_6522 IMG_6524