Jouni Laaksonen 23.3.2020
I hope you and your dear ones are healthy!
I have many hobbies, and some of them are shut down right now. I like to play badminton and volleyball, but those activities are banned in this situation (COVID-19). I also love to read, and that’s very much okay now also. And I love to hike.
Hiking is what I did last weekend. There’s plenty of snow here in Northern Finland, so hiking means skiing. I am a bit of an explorer, I often want to see new destinations. On Saturday I chose a forested area I had heard good of. This area is protected, but it is no national park, or in any way known to larger audience. There are no ski tracks, no hiking trails, no services at all.
I skied for all the afternoon, some five hours. A skiing tour this long is so invigorating! Even a short drop in the nature helps to lift spirits, but when you stay longer, the benefits are much greater.
After all the forested hill that was my main destination was not so special. The forest was nice enough, but I’ve seen more wonderful ancient forests. The pure enjoyment of skiing and a long time spent alone in the woods was the main thing this time, together with a surprise encounter.
The weather was perfect:
- There is about half a meter of snow here, and the upper layer of the snow is hard-packed. Above that hard layer there is one or two centimeters of soft, dry snow. This means your skis do not sink in it at all, but at the same time the surface of the snow is not too hard and slippery and thus steering your skis is easy.
- This kind of snow conditions are perfect also for observing animals. Every movement they make during the night or previous days is recorded on the snow. I saw tracks of for example capercaillie, moose, weasel, pine marten, and one that you will see on this post below. See my two older posts if you are interested in animal tracks in snow, drawings and photos.
- The sky was cloudless. Sun was shining so brightly that sunglasses were absolutely must. However, the temperature stayed under 0°C all the afternoon, meaning the skis glided nicely all the time.
I like skiing on ski tracks, but I enjoy thousand times more this kind of skiing: Skiing outside ski tracks in good conditions, selecting myself the way I want to go!
Hiking in an area that is in it’s natural state, that means non-ditched bogs and unfelled forests, is always a joy. There is plenty to see, like old pines with shield bark and marks of centuries old forest fires, ancient spruces with lichen beards, large aspens with burls and gnarls and polypores on the tree trunks, and so on. Even a non-biologist can see that nature is diverse.
In addition to that there’s always the possibility to encounter something not so common. It may be seeing otter tracks on snow, or hearing red-flanked bluetail, or finding a small cute waterfall. This time it was a beautiful icicle fall (or what is the correct term?), and then a very special thing indeed. But first the icicles:
Then I was skiing across a bog and met wolverine tracks. There are only about 300 wolverines in all Finland, so in general it is very rare to see wolverine tracks. Here where I live, it is not so rare, though. There are more wolverines here than in other parts of our country, and I see wolverine track every winter.
However, seeing them is every time delightful.
I took some pics and then continued my way. My direction was the same as where the wolverine had come from, for a little while. Then I crossed the tracks, and saw something black. Is that wolverine droppings? Yes, it is. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. I happened to look behind me, and… I saw I had just skied over wolverine den!
I’ve never seen a wolverine den before. It was a deep opening in the snow bank, of maybe 30 or 40 cm wide and 15 or 20 cm high.
Wolverine den and wolverine droppings.
I took a few photos and skied away. There may be young wolverines inside the den, and I didn’t want to keep the mother away from them.
Wow! You never know what you see when being out in the nature. But one thing is for sure: if you don’t go hiking you don’t encounter things like this. 🙂
Are there now more people hiking than normally in your area?
Here in sparsely populated Northern Finland in normal circumstances when I go hiking, I expect to see no one, or only one person or small group. Unless I head to one of the most popular national parks.
If I go to a campfire site along a hiking trail in my home town, I may encounter someone, but often I see nobody. And when I head outside any trails I definitively see no one. This latter was the case this weekend.
There have been news saying hiking in the national parks in Southern Finland has increased a lot during the last few weeks. People cannot do what they usually do during weekends as all gathering together is forbidden, so going to parks and woods is one of the things that is allowed, if you don’t want to stay home all the time.
However, there apparently were so many people in same areas that it was crowded, and thus the idea of not being near other people was somewhat ruined.
Is it the same where you live? Have you noticed more people hiking than normally at this time of year? Or is going out completely forbidden? 😦 These are strange times.
Skiing on Sunday
On Sunday the weather was as perfect as on Saturday, and we went skiing all the family. We chose a bog that has not been ditched, quite near our home, and packed a wood burning stove with some provisions in my backpack.
Our younger daughter wanted to play ‘I’m the leader’, and she made us zigzag using bog pines as slalom sticks, and she led us between two narrowly positioned trees, and so on. She had fun, and when the youngest of the group has fun, everyone has. 🙂
If you are healthy and you have the possibility to enjoy the nature (without breaking the rules there are in your country right now because of Corona pandemic), go out!