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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Vibrant autumnal period (Ruska)

In autumn in Lapland the days get shorter, rain raises the water levels of rivers, lakes and swamps, and the cooling weather helps to form a misty cloud cover over the waterways. The vibrant autumnal shades of the ruska period is a sign of nature making its preparations for the coming winter.

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In Lapland the period in early autumn when all the leaves of plants and trees turn into a yellow, red and orange colour they call Ruska.

 

Ruska intensifies day by day in early September as the nights get cooler from swamps to fell highlands. The colourful splendour is at its most spectacular around the middle of September, and sometimes at the end of the month.

TIMG_1055his phenomenon starts when the daylight hours decrease and the weather gets colder. Plants start to prepare for the long winter, the chlorophyll starts to move from the leaves into the branches, trunk and roots and this makes the colour cells in the leaves glow. The more the night-time temperatures fall below zero and the drier the weather, the more vibrant the array of colour. The birch turns a gentle shade of yellow, aspen turns red, and the leaves of blueberry and bog bilberry shrubs turn bright red.

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Many people like to come to Lapland from i.e. the south of Finland to admire the ruska by hiking in the forests and on the fells. Here you find information of how to join a ruska-trip to Lapland. And here is another travel agency’s offer. 

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Some of our birds migrate to warmer climates when autumn comes, but the local birds have to survive the cold of winter. During the autumn, squirrels store pine cones in the ground safely out of the reach of woodpeckers. The stoat and fox are also very good at hiding things.

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Some animals take a winter rest, hibernation and wake up again in the spring when the sun once again provides warmth and nutrition becomes available. The bear, badger and raccoon dog hibernate during the winter. During the autumn, these animals accumulate a layer of fat under their skins that their bodies use for nutrition through the long winter.

I am excited waiting for what the winter brings regarding the brown bears in Ranua zoo. See my earlier post.
The northern lights have already been seen in the sky above Lapland this autumn. They expect a very active northern light winter this year, so I suppose the tourists interested in the phenomenon will hurry to Lapland within the next months. Especially the Japanese are very interested in seeing northern lights.
IMG_4623In the autumn in Lapland you can fish in fluvial waters, lakes and marine areas. The provincial fish, the salmon may still be fished from the lakes. Before departing on a fishing trip you should check legal matters and statutes from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry website Lure fishing may be practiced on state-owned lure and recreational fishing regions. You can fish on private waterways without needing to pay the provincial lure fishing fee, but you must receive permission to fish the waters from the owner of the waterway. Private, joint permit region waterways like these are, for instance located on the Tornionjoki, Ounasjoki and Lower Kemijoki rivers. You need a permit to practice lure fishing.
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Reindeer herding in Lapland is based on year’s cycle that nature determines. The heat or mating season is in October. The male reindeer gather then a herd of female reindeer or does around him and at this time of the year there are large herds of reindeer also moving around on the roads. So there is a reason to be careful when driving. The female reindeer then carries the calf until the late spring. The calves are born in May and start to walk already a couple of hours after they are born.

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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What is Santa Claus doing in summer time?

In summer Santa and his elves are of course busy preparing for the upcoming Christmas and making Christmas gifts to all children all over the world, but they do have time to rest, too. They spend a lot of time outdoors in the beautiful nature of Lapland, they enjoy the midnight-sun and go fishing. Santa also goes fishing, but he never catch anything. The reason for that is that Santa never uses a hook when he is fishing. He never hunts, either. Santa loves all animals and the animals love him. He cannot see any reason to do hunting and fishing.

Santa’s reindeer are all out in the forest during summer, so he does not have to take care of them and he has a lot of spare time when he can do other nice things.

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Santa fishingSanta goes fishing just to sit in a boat out on a lake, on a lake’s shore or on a river’s shore and enjoy the quietness of the surrounding Lapland forest. He thinks it is a perfect time to do some thinking and remembering about pleasant times and happy people he met during Christmas, on these fishing trips. He also walks in the forest and listens to the voices of the wilderness. He also spends time preparing the next Christmas delivery by reading children’s letters. He gets letters from children all year around, not only before Christmas. He also likes to read books on his free time. He is very amused by books that claim to reveal “the secrets” about him. He thinks it could be of importance for him to know what people are talking about out there before they come to visit him in his office.

Santa also enjoys swimming in the clear water of Lapland lakes in the summer. He also sometimes goes swimming in the winter through a hole in the ice, but the hole has to be chopped quite big then. One of Santa’s favourite things to do is to take short naps now and then. The summer nights in Lapland are so light with the midnight sun, so it is hard for both people and elves to sleep during the nights. That is one reason to take short naps during the daytime.

In summer Santa also opens up his favourite cavern, SantaPark, just outside Rovaniemi city. The park is open during Christmas season, but Santa has decided to open it in the summer, too, so children who do not have time to visit him on Christmas could get a chance to meet him and his crazy elves in summer. This year SantaPark opens it door on June 17th at 10 am and the cavern is open every day except for Sundays and June 22nd during the summer until August 10th. Check the home page for more detailed program and other information.

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This summer Santa has renewed the One Hundred Years Curriculum Elf School in SantaPark. It is a top secret until you attend the Elf school yourself and find out what it is. I can’t wait to learn the new things in Elf school! It would be nice to meet the tallest and the shortest Professor Elf of SantaPark once again!

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On the opening day, June 17th, you can watch the Niko – the reindeer-movie “Little Brother, big trouble” on the main stage at 2 pm. The Ice Gallery of Santa Park has also been renewed this summer. You might spot some familiar figures from the movie there.

Here is a link to a short movie telling what Santa Claus does in the summer time, on times he does not sit in his cavern meeting interesting guests from all over the world. http://www.santatelevision.com/santa-claus/santa-claus-summer/

IMG_2200The Santa Claus village is open every day also during summer, and you can cross the Arctic Circle just outside Santa Claus’ office. In summer you can see the white line marking the Arctic Circle, which is covered by snow in winter time.

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis

Last night, once again, I was admiring the Northern Lights’ green curtain dancing above my head in the dark sky in the middle of the night. The Northern Lights never cease to fascinate me. Every time is unique! There are never two alike Northern lights. Even if there is no wind blowing at all on the place where you stand, the Northern Lights are moving all the time like the wind blows them; sometimes they increase and then again decrease. The next minute they come from another part of the sky and increase rapidly to long green stripes and then again decrease down to a shorter “curtain” of bright green. I have once seen a green Northern Light with a bright red center. That is more unusual.

I use to check up with sites that are special Northern Light forecast sites and I also have one of the sites sending me an e-mail when the activity is increasing, so I can move to a place where the possibilities to see Auroras is at their best. The fact is, you cannot see them in a town or city, because of the “light pollution”. There should not be any disturbing lights nearby. The nearer the North Pole you are the more above your head are the Northern Lights. If you look at them from more far away from the North Pole they appear more near the horizon.

Here are some of the sites I use to check up about Northern Lights:

The Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory near Rovaniemi is making observations and statistics over Northern Lights and I often check up their home page. This is, however, not a forecast site. It is more like statistics of how frequent the Auroras have been last night, for example. The space weather prediction center gives you more a hint of what is to be expected the next hours and The Geophysical Institute of Alaska can give you quite exact predictions of upcoming Northern Lights.

Soft serve news is also a very good site with information about Auroras and it also provides you with links to predictions sites.

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So, what is exactly the phenomenon Northern Lights or the Auroras? The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora australis’ in the south.

The Northern Lights appear in many colors although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

Northern Lights can be seen in the northern or southern hemisphere, in an irregularly shaped oval centred over each magnetic pole. The lights are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora australis’ in the south.
Where is the best place to see Auroras? Areas that are not subject to ‘light pollution’ are the best places to watch for the lights. There should be a clear sky, mostly in a cold winter night. Winter in the north is generally a good season to view lights. The long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights provide many good opportunities to watch the Auroras in Lapland. Usually the best time of night (on clear nights) to watch them is local midnight.

Researchers have also discovered that auroral activity is cyclic, peaking roughly every 11 years. This year, 2013, is a peak period.

The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in color are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common Northern Light color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.

As I do not own a camera with possibilities to take my own photographs of the Northern Lights, I have to add some photos I have found on the Internet. These are typical Northern Lights seen in Lapland.

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