Auttiköngäs is full of geological history and war history

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nature paths and the necessary equipment in winter hiking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo from www.fageln.se.

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