You can find Part 1 of this trip report here.
On Monday morning, I bathed and broke camp. This was followed by a 7.5 km/4.7 mi hike to Rautulampi, a shelter at a beautiful lake in an area of higher elevation and fewer trees. I ate lunch and rested here. I think I’ll let the pictures of this area speak for themselves. I felt like I was in a different country, as it was very different from the Finland I knew.
Sometimes the trail disappeared in a field of rocks:
After hiking 7.5 km/4.7 mi from Rautulampi, I had reached my next destination, which had new and old reindeer corrals, a shelter and a campsite. I was lucky to get there when I did, because shortly afterward the clouds started rolling in.
I met an old Finnish gentleman there who spoke Finnish and Russian, but no English, so I had to stumble my way through with broken Finnish to communicate. I think he understood most of what I was saying, as he didn’t seem to look at me at any point as if I had said something like “I just hiked up the rubber ducky and now I’m going to stop and shave my armpits.” He told me about how he was on an extended trip and had covered about 200 km/124 mi up to that point. Kudos to him! I can only hope to be in that kind of condition when I reach his age. He went back to the closed shelter which was a little ways away and I made some bannock in a pan at a fire ring. Looking at my food supply, I realized that I was eating a lot less than I thought I would. I felt strong and healthy, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal. Shortly after eating, a thunderstorm rolled in, so I quickly set up my tent and moved in. It was getting late by this time, and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I zipped up the tent, slipped into my sleeping bag, and listened to the rain and thunder. It turned out to be very windy and rainy overnight, but I managed to stay warm and dry.
Tuesday morning was different from the other mornings, as it was cool, misty and foggy, with much more limited visibility. I hiked 4.5 km/2.8 mi to the small Kiilopää tourist area, where I cooked lunch at a fire ring and saw a big bull reindeer. There was also a Saami earthen shelter there (rented out to tourists).
The weather didn’t change much over the course of the day, and I then realized how lucky I was to have the clear, sunny skies and 28*C/83*F temperatures most days. Yeah, it was pretty warm for most of my trip to Lapland. Didn’t expect that either, did you? Anyway, I hiked 5.5 km/3.4 mi back to “old ugly gorge” and put my stuff in the cabin there. That’s when it started.
My eyes started itching, especially the right one. I tried not to rub it, but I couldn’t help myself. I also started sneezing, so obviously I was having some kind of allergic reaction. Great. The trip managed to be incident-free up to that point except for one blister at the beginning, but that was about to change. My eyeball (yes, the eyeball itself) started getting very red and swelling up, along with the eyelid. This was not good. I had never suffered from “swollen eyeball syndrome” before, so I was starting to get a bit worried and wondering how this would affect the rest of my trip. I stayed calm, took a pain killer containing an anti-histamine and made myself a cup of coffee. It was raining continuously, so it’s not like I was missing anything outside. I chillaxed in the shelter and decided to stay there overnight, rather than to go outside and set up my tent in the rain to sleep there. You could say I wasn’t quite in the mood to do that. Luckily, my eyes had returned almost to normal by the morning, except for some redness and a little swelling. You can’t imagine how happy I was about this.
Though my eyes were back in good shape that morning, the weather was not. It was 5*C/41*F, raining and very windy. I packed up my stuff and headed out. I would have rather waited to see if the rain and wind would let up, but it was the last day of my trip, and I didn’t want to have any problems catching the bus back to the airport. I hiked 7 km/4.3 mi back to the village of Saariselkä and by the time I got there, the temperature and constant rain and wind had taken their toll. I was soaked from the waist down and my hands were cold and stiff and clamped shut around the piece-of-junk plastic poncho I was trying to hold down around me (“I’ll lighten my load by bringing this lightweight, small plastic poncho with me instead of the large, 900 g/2 pound German military surplus poncho I usually use,” said The Weekend Woodsman foolishly, as he was making his gear selections in his warm, dry house a week prior). Luckily, I had a second pair of clothes in my pack, so I dried myself off, changed into the other clothes and got my stuff sorted and ready for the trip home.
Having made it back to the village with way too much extra time and a growling stomach, I ate some smoked reindeer casserole, Saami-style flat bread and a doughnut and drank coffee at a small restaurant in the village. I checked out the junk in the souvenir shops and then finally made my way to the bus stop. I took a final look at the village and the treeless hills in the distance and thought about how fast the trip went. On the other hand, I missed my family a lot and felt like I was away from them for too long. Luckily, the trip home was uneventful. When I finally got there at about 11 p.m., it seemed bizarre that that morning I had woken up with red eyes in a sleeping bag in a cabin in a rainy national forest in Lapland, but that I was going to sleep in my warm comfy bed at home. These kinds of trips really put things in perspective.
This trip to Lapland was certainly the beginning of a new chapter in my “outdoor life”. I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, what I need and don’t need, how much I eat, how much I sleep, how much I feel like hiking each day and what it’s like to do a trip like this on my own. I didn’t explore unknown territory or do anything amazing, but it was a significant step for me. I’m already itching to go on the next big trip next summer for a full 2 weeks. My “dilemma” now is deciding whether I should go back to the same park and explore a lot more of it (off the marked trails and away from the shelters) or to go to a different wilderness area altogether. Why must life’s decisions be so difficult? ;)
P.S. – In case you’re wondering, my backpack and shoulder bag together weighed 19 kg/42 lbs. That’s total weight, including food, water and all gear (including a bunch of stuff I didn’t use). The weight without food and water was 13 kg/28.5 lbs. The food I brought with me weighed 5 kg/11 lbs, and I ate 3 kg/6.5 lbs of it (well, it would have been 3 kg if I didn’t eat the fries at the hotel and the last meal in the village). So for a trip of this length, my total weight could have been 17 kg/37.5 lbs. Remember, I said in my first blog post that I am not an ultralight backpacker. I brought a 2 lb wood-burning stove, a large knife, a small metal grill and other such items with me. Personally, I don’t mind the weight. I like having the items with me.