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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The Sami hut and its inhabitants

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

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

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At least this is what the Sami family believes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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