Spotting species

Hiking in Finland
Jouni Laaksonen 22.7.2019

Is spotting the correct word? I hope it means how you enthusiastically watch birds, try to see new species of butterflies, or mammals, or flowers, and so on.

I’m not an eager birdwatcher, or butterfly collector. So very beautiful they are, but too quick to fly away for me to recognize or photograph them with my poor skills. Also I have not managed to get hooked in fishing. Live wild mammals are hard to see, for they have superior smelling, hearing or seeing senses compared to humans, and they avoid us before we can see them. Exceptions happen, and naturally I’m very happy if I manage to see a forest reindeer, wolverine, weasel, elk or some other resident of the boreal forests.

I’m much more interested in seeing a large wilderness area as a whole. To experience the feeling of being far away from modern civilization, deeply connected with nature, and being able to rely only on myself or possibly my companions. To see gorges and rapids and fell views, to experience the beauty of large old-growth forests, to see unexpected sights.

However, I get enthusiastic about seeing rare species of flowers! They don’t have legs or wings, so they are kind of easy to see and photograph. Though finding the more rare ones is not easy – which is what makes it interesting. You have to be at the exactly right place at the correct time of summer.

(Advertisement: My brand new book Hiking in Finland concentrates more on destinations, views, skills and so on, but I also try to give tips on how to spot different northern and/or eastern species here in Finland.)

We’ve spent many weeks in Northern Lapland this summer with my family. We have done longer hikes and lots of shorter day hikes. In the beginning of July we did a one and half week long road trip to Inari and Utsjoki area. Every day we did several day hikes, and evenings and nights we spent under a roof, in a comfortable cabin of a resort village or camping area. It was rather a coldish and rainy period, so this kind of hiking was just perfect for our family this time.

Back to the topic: The farthest point of our trip was lake Pulmankijärvi. Nuorgam is the northernmost village in Finland, and the road to lake Pulmankijärvi is some twenty kilometers from Nuorgam into Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area. If you would start driving a car, or a bike, from anywhere in Southern Finland, Pulmankijärvi is the farthest you could drive within Finland.

The reason why we wanted to visit lake Pulmankijärvi is that my wife, who is a biologist and even more enthusiastic about seeing rare flowers (and birds, butterflies, beetles, slime moulds, mammals, polypores…) than me, had found out that there is a plant species, Myricaria germanica, that has been found in Finland only near lake Pulmankijärvi. The exact location was not known to us, but we hoped to find it.

This plant exists in some other areas in the world, too, but for Finland lake Pulmankijärvi is the only place.

We arrived to the parking area at lake Pulmankijärvi one afternoon. It was a cloudy and cool day, but we set out eagerly to see the beaches of river Pulmankijoki that flows into lake Pulmankijärvi. There is a bridge for hikers over the river, for a week long hiking trail from Sevettijärvi, through Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area, ends here at lake Pulmankijärvi. I had hiked that trail earlier and seen these beaches, but at that time I didn’t know about the special plant life in here.

Hiking in Finland

Bridge over river Pulmankijoki near lake Pulmankijärvi. The bridge is part of hiking trail Sevettijärvi-Pulmankijärvi.

We knew this plant grows on open sandy areas, so these beaches looked very promising.

However, after we had criss-crossed many beaches over and over, with no hint of this mysterious plant, we started to feel frustrated. It started to feel that we won’t find this Myricaria germanica. Well, we had already had almost ten great day hikes during our road trip, and there were several interesting destinations planned for the return journey. Still, a pity…

Our daughters were already hungry, and us too, and we wanted to go to the cabin we had rented for the night at Nuorgam village. We decided to check out just one last beach more.

Hiking in Finland

Hiking in Finland

Myricaria germanica.

And there it was, and it was flowering just now! ! And not only did we see Myricaria germanica, but also other rare flowers: for example Yellow mountain saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides), Thymus serpyllum subsp. tanaënsis and Grassleaf sorrel (Rumex graminifolius).

Yellow Mountain Saxifrage.

Hiking in Finland

Hiking in Finland

Thymus serpyllum subsp. tanaënsis.

Hiking in Finland

Rumex graminifolius.

You can imagine we had broad smiles on our faces. 🙂

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