Jouni Laaksonen 3.12.2018
(This is the fifth week of a a backpacking expedition through Lapland. The series of posts starts here.)
In this post we are crossing area number 5, Lemmenjoki National Park.
Acquaintances of ours lived along the road Inari–Angeli and we visited them. In the morning of first of December we continued towards Lemmenjoki National Park. This day was mostly skiing along a snowy gravel road, to cross rivers Kettujoki and Vaskojoki, and to get quickly past the area of managed forest.
In the end we skied almost 30 kilometres. There was nothing much to see today, and so we continued skiing late into the dark evening. We pitched our tent on the shore of River Lemmenjoki.
Skiing along a forest road is dull, and I see from my diary that I planned today several articles that I wanted to write to Helsingin Sanomat (the biggest newspaper in Finland), Erä and Latu & Polku (outdoor magazines), and Suomen Luonto (magazine about Finnish nature). I thought I found a different angle for each piece, and made plenty of notes. After the hike I wrote articles according to these guidelines, and to my satisfaction every article was also published. This was an important step for me towards a career of outdoor journalist. Since this hike I’ve not done much else than written about hiking and outdoor, both articles and books.
The too warm weather was gone, and it was a nice –15°C now. Good winter temperatures, though the ice on rivers was not reliable yet. The lakes were properly frozen by now, though, and we skied along lakes a lot during these days.
The next day we decided to try to ski to Ravadasjärvi wilderness hut. That would mean another nearly 30 km day march, but the cozy warmth of a hut tempted us. We had planned to use three days from Inari–Angeli road to Ravadasjärvi, but we indeed skied it in two days.
There was a fresh snowmobile track for a while in the valley of River Lemmenjoki, and our speed picked up a lot. Then the snowmobile driver, probably a reindeer herder, had turned to a wrong direction, from our point of view, and we continued off track skiing. There were many times we had to pull our sledges up a steep ridge, to avoid an unfrozen whitewater in the river, and this was hard work every time.
Low and high feelings
Late in the evening we were unsure of our whereabouts. The small lakes in the river valley did not seem to match our map in any way. Also we had started bickering, both of us felt a bit angry, or foul mood. There was a steep ridge ahead of us, and I decided silently in my mind that on top of that ridge we will stop and have a longer pause. We have to sit down and eat and drink. Our blood sugar is down.
When we reached the top, Markus started to unfasten the belt of his sledge pulling system without saying a word. He had made exactly same conclusion and decision about a proper sandwich break.
This works every time. If you are hiking and feel low, angry, tired, lost, you have to stop. Sit down and eat something more than just a few nuts or chocolate bites. And drink. When your body and mind get fuel, you see where you are on the map, and your spirit lifts.
The next day dawned again bright. Ravadasköngäs waterfall was frozen solid and was spectacular. Today we had just a short leg to Kultasatama hut, and it was good to rest all the afternoon after two 12 hour skiing days.
Kultasatama wilderness hut.
Markus had bought a package of frankfurters, small sausages, in Karigasniemi, and smuggled them all the way here so that I did not know about them. Somewhere between lunch, five afternoon snacks, dinner and evening snack (yes, we were eating again like lunatics), Markus showed the package of sausages and offered half of them to me. He said he had calculated we should be at the midpoint of our hike now. 33 days behind us, about the same amount ahead.
I was touched, and we roasted the frankfurters by the fire of the wood stove. Yum!
Cold and beautiful
Now started a three week period of extreme cold. It was –25 to –35°C every day. Also, it was cloudless every day and night, which meant the sky was colourful every morning and evening, and we saw plenty of aurora borealis.
We continued to Morgamojan Kultala wilderness hut. It was a short leg, and after lunch we left our gear to the hut and navigated to the top of Morganmaras fell. We reached the summit soon after noon, and saw the sun for the last time during 20th century. Not the whole sun, but the uppermost tip of it could be seen.
Note Markus on the right hand side of the picture. He already glided down, now it’s my turn. During this time of year when sun does not rise at all, on a cloudless day this is what the northern sky looks like. The southern sky is lit with yellow, orange and red shades. However, cloudy days, that is black-and-grey-and-white days, are more common.
You notice word ‘kulta’ in the names of these two huts. ‘Kulta’ means gold, and these huts were indeed built by gold diggers after the Lemmenjoki gold rush in 1940’s. Even nowadays gold digging is active in this area.
We turned south-west, and skied solid 15 km day marches through ancient pine and spruce forests, areas of downy birches, areas of juniper bushes, and over snow-covered bogs.
Only a squirrel had been to Vaskolompolo hut before us during this winter. The situation was exactly the same throughout our journey: there aren’t many who hike during November and December.
These were great days. Beautiful (though cold) weather, our skis did not sink too much, and just adequate day marches between huts to keep us occupied from dark to dark, but letting us rest properly during evenings.
When we arrived to Jorpavaara wilderness hut (not open hut any more, but then it was), we left Lemmenjoki NP behind us and arrived to Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area. I’ll tell about our journey through Pöyrisjärvi area next week.