The Other Path

I've not been active on the blog so much recently - as frequently happens, life has taken over control of my day-to-day activities. My plans for returning to the Badlands have been put on hold while my wife and I go through a few rounds of IVF treatments. So backpacking and gear testing have both taken a back seat while we embark on this other journey.

Having said that, a small window of opportunity has cracked open. I have to go to Finland at the beginning of November to set up an exhibition in Rovaniemi - the place I've come to call home (even though I'm not living there right now!). I won't have much spare time during the week I'm there, but I see no reason why I can't slip away for one night and a little hiking one of the trails nearby. I'm excited to get the chance to go back and check out some of my favourite local walks. There's nothing like the promise of a short trip into the embracing silence of nature to brighten my spirits Even though I won't be far north (relatively speaking of course: Rovaniemi sits on the arctic circle, the fells and tundra of Lapland begin in earnest a little farther north) there are a couple of trails I've only partially walked that are calling out to me.

The first trail joins two hiking routes I used to walk the dog on. I've never hiked between the two though, so I'd get to cover some new ground. The other path - which I'd prefer - is a little longer, and heads over a mire and a couple of hills to a large lake (Olkkajärvi). Here's a trail description. I've not done much hiking through bogs, and Hendrik's experiences in Russia are not something I really want to imitate. If I do take this route, I'll be satisfied to have my ridiculously sturdy Meindl hiking boots. I don't really want to try out wet-footed hiking in a wintry bog. 

You can see both routes on the map above. The first is the U-shaped trail from Vaattunkiköngäs to Vikäköngäs. It's easy, but holds great nostalgia value for me. The laavu in the middle is nice, and often visited by reindeer (Santa is just down the road). It's not very long though - only about 10 km in total.

The second route (10km each way) heads south to Rantakivalo, and then off the map for another 3 km or so.

I've never taken this alternative route, and always wanted to walk to Olkkajärvi, so it would be fun to do some exploring. The only problem is the large bog, and the weather conditions that will probably add to the "fun" of crossing it. With the temperatures just below zero, the mire will probably be semi-frozen - not quite frozen enough to go happily skipping across it, but plenty wet enough for me to get a good soaking.

That which must be traversed.

Still, I think I'm going to go for that route. If the bog beats me, I'll simply backtrack and take the easier route to Vikäköngäs.

The trip is going to pose something of a gear challenge. I don't want to take everything with me, so I'll take some UL gear I have here (MLD Burn, WM Antelope, down jacket and other clothing) and combine it with some leftover gear I have in storage in Rovaniemi (a McKinley air pad, old stove, heavy boots etc.) and hopefully have enough light-ish equipment for the few kilometers I'm planning on hiking. I'd love to do a longer hike, but it's just not practical during my brief visit.

Will the elusive view over Olkkajärvi be something like this? Maybe...

One great thing about Lapland (and hiking in Finland in general) is the lean-to shelters dotted around. On both of the routes I'm considering, there is a lean-to (or laavu) which I can use for shelter - so no need to take a tarp or tent. Also, no need for a water filter - it looks like there will be snow on the ground, and the lean-tos are both by rivers or lakes full of pristine arctic water. Hopefully there won't be too much snow as I don't plan to take snow shoes.

Vikäköngäs rapids

Whatever happens, I'm going to enjoy a night away from everything, and the chance to hit the reset, or reboot button in the quiet, calm of a lakeside, Lapland laavu.