The forecast is good. Clear skies and sunshine until at least tomorrow. Odd, then, that as Jaakko and I drive to the supermarket to stock up on sausages and jerky (and take a sneaky look at the Salomon Speedcross trail runners), the clouds looming to the south look suspiciously heavy and storm-laden.
Jaakko had just returned from a four day trip to Pöyrisjärvi. We'd originally planned a bit of packrafting down the Ounasjoki River, but after his trip he said he didn't want to do any gentle floating on flat water. I was flummoxed; where could I take him – and his insatiable desire for adventure – for a fun-packed, thrill-filled trip around Rovaniemi?
After mulling over a couple of options while in the shop, I decide we'll head to Vaattunkilämpi. Although it's an easy hike, if gives us several options for pitching a tent and exploring the area, the possibility for a swim – plus there are some rapids I think he'll be interested in on the way.
The weather holds for the drive to the trail head. I've packed my
, and Jaakko is sporting his well-used
– both are filled with the extravagant pleasures of sausage, pepperoni, biscuits, and bottles of beer, for this is not any overnighter / 24 / microadventure. This, is a
hey, it's been at least 6 months since the concept of a short trip has been appropriated and given a new name!). True to the nature of men going into the wild, we are wrapped head-to-toe in tight synthetic materials, and we both carry our cameras on our shoulder straps, ready for the first sign of adventure and excitement should we encounter it.
And encounter it, we shall.... after the rather pretty, dingly dell.
On this trip, we are accompanied by another action hero and master of the universe: Thor (a.k.a. Rufus, a.a.k.a "Livingdale's Snufkin").
Into the swamp we venture, treading along the duckboards at a leisurely pace in the late-July heat. The mosquitoes are present, occasionally in numbers, but not particularly bothersome. We stop every now and then to take a photo of a stick or an amusingly-angled tree.
Around us, dragonflies hover and skitter around. In the throes of mating, we hear their wings scratching in the swampy vegetation, before a pair burst into the air, mid copulation.
I attempt to photograph them, but they are too fast for my slow lens (and Rufus keeps disturbing them at precisely the wrong moment – there goes the money shot). Instead I decide to photograph something a bit slower-moving.
The heat is as sultry as the fornicating dragonflies. Rufus hangs back, and I turn to see him standing in the swamp. I assume he's doing this to cool down, or drink the manky water. No amount of shouting or cajoling will entice him out of the turbid water.
When he eventually climbs out, for some reason I suspect he's been up to no good.
My suspicions are further aroused when Jaakko points out the presence of frogs, and I realise there is the distinct possibility that he might have found one to snack on.
Adventure! Excitement! Frogs mauled to death by savage, fluffy, wolf-descendent!
But this carnage is only the beginning. As we progress along the duckboards, we enter a section that can only be described as "poorly maintained".
We tread carefully along the uneven boards, but it's no use – in a moment, before either of us can do anything, one of the boards pivots, its end flying upwards towards my face, nail sticking out at a horrific angle, ready to make contact with my eye.
Fortunately, the upwards thrust of the duckboard is offset by the heavy fall of my sizeable foot, and my eye is saved to be gouged out another day.
Shortly after this thrilling episode (which, frankly, is crying out for 3D IMAX treatment), we arrive at out destination, along with a sudden increase in mosquito volume.
As we arrive, lo and behold, we hear a distant rumble of thunder. Our spidey-senses were correct: we would indeed have an unpredicted storm. I am quietly happy about this as I need to storm test the Eureka Wickiup SUL3. We therefore look around for a conveniently flat-enough area to pitch the shelter before the rain hits.
We decided to share the shelter, as it is plenty big enough for two and a dog. This is the first time I've used the inner, though, but after a little confusion with the door placement, it was easy to erect.
Jaakko, who has seen a GoLite SL3 which the SUL3 is based upon, tells me the materials are indeed a little better, and the guy out points are significantly stronger. It seems to be what all the rumours suggest: a slightly improved SL3 that potentially might have a little more longevity. Only time will tell, and an initial review will appear after another test or two.
The rumbles are getting nearer, and we have other business to attend to. Important business.
It is around this point that we come up with the idea of the
In fact, the title we settle for at the time is
, but I secretly re-named it (twice; the first attempt was
) without telling Jaakko while writing the notes for this report. (Bearing in mind that this report is written in the present tense, we're getting into some seriously meta-narrative territory here.)
So, yes, the
(and yes, it's "bro" in spirit only – all gender-performances are welcome) is the latest evolution of the microadventure format, that updates the concept to simply include bringing a decent beer with you. As you're only going on an overnight trip, there's plenty of room for a beer in your pack. There are only two rules: the beer must be good (e.g. from a microbrewery), and the trip report must include your tasting notes. If you don't like beer, well, what's wrong with you? Honestly?
For this trip, we'll be drinking a
from the rather good Finnish microbrewery, Stadin Panimo.
As we put the beers in the river to chill, the clouds roll in, and Jaakko is overcome by the magnificence of it all.
Sheets of rain drape wet tendrils across the sky.
Thunder draws nearer, but the isolated storm permits the sun a brief appearance...
...before all hell breaks loose, and the clouds take an ominous turn.
Fat, heavy raindrops start to splatter around us, as the wind begins to tug at the trees. We retreat to the safety of the
just in time to see a flash followed immediately by a MIGHTY CRASH OF THUNDER that shatters the air around us. It's right on top of us.
We all deal with a cracking good storm in different ways. Some cower on their sleeping mats and start saying their goodbyes. I distract myself by lighting the BushBuddy with some beard lichen that was lying around (a first for me), while Jaakko plays a quick game of Angry Birds on his phone.
Oddly, the really heavy rain seems to slip around us while the storm grumbles overhead. Before long all that remains is the sparkle of raindrops on the vegetation.
Out little patch of solitude is quiet again.
We replace the splatter or rain and the rumble of thunder, with the sizzle of sausage.
I wander down to the lake to fish out our beers. The barest hint of a rainbow pierces the clouds. Not much rain means not much rainbow, I suppose.
Back at the
we crack open the Savuruis Porter. The lake hasn't chilled it that much, but that's fine as porters are supposed to be served a little warmer. Unfortunately, I don't have the appropriate glass, and my Kupilka seems to accentuate the head, but no matter.
I hoped that the beer would suit the situation very well – a smoked malt seemed appropriate, and after all, Jaakko's pack was also a Porter!
The smoky malt and slightly resinous quality of rye enhances the distinct porter character very well. There are subtle woody notes, and a hint of dark fruits – raisins perhaps – way back in the mix. The hops are perfectly balanced for the style, making it not too bitter, not too sweet, and the mouthfeel is pleasantly light. I prefer a robust porter generally, but the flavours combine to give the 6.5% ABV brew the illusion of a fairly fullsome body.
Not bad. Not bad at all. A subtly smoky beer that goes very well with campfires and sausages.
To round off the meal, Jaakko pulls out a "special package" (I'm really trying not to paint the whole
concept with flourishes of homoeroticism, but it seems unavoidable!) from his pack.
I was aware of the concept of steam-baking on the trail, but I've never tried it, so I'm particularly thrilled (adventure! excitement!) when Jaakko whips out his brownie/muffin mix and a sheet of baking paper. After mixing in some water and positioning it carefully over some boiling water, after 20 minutes we have a delicious dessert.
There's really only one more thing needed to finish off the meal!
After imbibing generous drams of Scotland's finest (which I was very happy to discover is sold in
friendly small bottles) we stumble down to the jetty to enjoy the sunset (such that it is; more a sun-dip than a sunset), and I notice Jaakko has some difficulty standing up straight.
For the second time in as many months, a fiery hole opens up in the sky, reflected in the still waters.
The reeds and lilypads are cast against a mirrored sky.
Golden ripples break the surface. It was quite beautiful.
We make the most of the fading embers to enjoy a final cuppa before bedtime.
I empty out my Mariposa and hang it from a nail, just in case any mice decide to help themselves to my breakfast.
It's time to retire for the night. I was a little concerned that the WickiUp SUL3 inner would reduce the usable space in the shelter, which would be problematic for such tall, burly men as Jaakko and I. But I'm pleasantly surprised by the space available. It's possible to sit up in it without being able to touch the apex.
At over six-foot (186cm), I can lie down with plenty of room between my head and feet and the inner walls. The steep angle eliminates claustrophobia, and the mesh area provides enough ventilation. I'm also pleased it's not a full mesh design – I can live without the views if they are obscured by mosquitoes, and in the land of 24 hour daylight, I'll take what little additional darkness I can get.
I sleep reasonably well, considering Rufus apparently wants the tent to himself. I wake a couple of times a bit chilled, thinking I really should close the bottom of the quilt and maybe the fly door. But of course I'm too lazy. (Incidentally, I was impressed with the
- lots of nice little touches).
In the morning, a brisk start is required to get Jaakko back to the train station. There's barely enough time to stuff my porridge in my face before we're packed and on the move.
Back through the swamp we go, swotting at the early rising mosquitoes as we march.
I notice the moon, high in the sky, for what seems the first time since spring.
A caterpillar crawls along a duckboard, and I fail to take a very good picture of it.
Back near the trail head, we stop to take a good look at the rapids.
Jaakko insists that these are "fairly easy", and although I can see his point and the line through the water, I'm not willing to even contemplate trying them. Maybe I'm getting old, but I can't help feeling that, for me, a nice steamed muffin is fairly representative of the kind of excitement and adventure I'm looking for on a trip.
But you never know...
Although Jaakko has visited while passing though several times in the last couple of years, it was great to finally get to go on a trip, albeit a brief one, with him. It's fund to get a chance to discuss trips, gear, and blogging in person rather than through the filter of social media. I hope we get a chance to go again soon.
You can follow Jaakko's adventures on his blog at
, and don't forget to check his guided trips. I have half a mind to join him in Sarek this winter. I hear he might be serving muffins!