Well , I thought, there's a challenge.
Toni Lund emailed to say he'd be coming up to Rovaniemi and wanted to go on an overnighter with his fatbike while he's in town. That meant I needed to find a trail challenging enough for Toni, with a shorter "on-foot" option for me, and one that ideally starts and ends in the city centre so he could bike without additional transportation. I set myself the additional challenge of making the route through the city follow as many green trails as I could find through the strips of woodland running through the city.
Let's see how I did...
There's a old trail running north-west from Mantyvaara to Pohtimolampi. At 27km, it's a little too long for an evening walk, but I'm pretty sure Toni can connect with it from the trails running through the city, and then do the first section out to Mellalampi. As some of the trails are unmarked, when Toni arrives we met to discuss the route, and I gave him my GPS with the track loaded and ready to go. We agreed to set off the next day. I'd leave first around 4:30, and he'd follow later on the fattie, around 7:00pm.
On the day, the weather forecast confidently promised unbroken sunshine for a couple of days to come, and after looking at the sky to check, I decided I could leave the raincoat behind this time. My friend Maria said she'd join me for the walk to exercise her two labradors (Molli and Finnish Hunting Champion Kina), and with packraft loaded for some evening paddling, we set off, dogs raring to go in the continuing heat of an unusually warm weekend.
I hoped Toni would enjoy the route I'd planned. My intention was to offer him plenty of varying, interesting terrain, even if the distance was not so long. There would be sandy trails, easily ridable paths, wet bits, duckboards, mires, some navigational challenges, and a few unridable rocky sections.
The main unridable section soon made an appearance, and turned out to be a little longer than I remembered. I had a feeling Toni would be cursing me under his breath later.
Still, as a reward for completing this difficult bit, there is a lovely section through tall flowers that is easily ridable, and quite unusual for these parts.
Typically, you never meet anyone out here, but today we almost stumbled upon a woman crouching in the flowers with two dobermans and some kind of corgi thing. We waited as she headed off without so much as a by your leave, disappearing somewhere along a hidden path neither of us knew about. Now we're going to have to come back and find out where it goes. I can't stand an unsolved mystery.
Next up, the mires and duckboards section of Toni's Adventure Route.
I just want to point out that I could have left the backpack and/or packraft in Maria's car where she'd parked further up the trail, but it felt like cheating. One must carry one's burdens to fully enjoy the "getting there" part, and while the packraft-loaded
was definitely heavier than I've become used to, it was quite comfortable. (I did, however, leave the beers in her car, to be picked up later as I passed).
The dogs were having a great time, although why they had to pick the wettest, muddiest part to play in escapes me. Thanks Rufus.
The trail is due to be renovated in 2014, I read. That's good because in places the duckboards are in pretty bad condition, so much so that I decided to send a text warning to Toni. The last thing I wanted was for him to fall off into a mire or get a puncture on a nail in the middle of mosquito territory. I had a feeling the rocky section wouldn't be the only part where he was cursing my name. I also had a feeling that the short ride would take him a little longer than he anticipated.
After negotiating the duckboards and small islands of trees between the mires, we arrived at one of my favourite spots in Rovaniemi, where pine forest and sandy soil combine to limit the scrub growth, making it easy to explore freely, and opening up vistas deep into the woods.
There are piles of old, dead branches scattered around here and there. Every time I see them I think
that would make excellent fuel for my BushBuddy.
This time I came prepared. Voila!
Although I often come here to walk Rufus, it's amazing how easy it is to lose your sense of direction. I've been walking here on a cloudy day, thinking I'm heading north, only to discover later I was heading south.
The area has a very wild feel, and consequently isn't very popular, although I've found some places where bushcrafters have been hanging out. Perhaps this was one of their victims:
After collecting up the beers, we ambled through the forest towards Mellalampi, my destination and planned campsite for the night.
There are a few places on the shore of the small lake where people have set up improvised campfires, but very few spots suitable for pitching a tent. On previous trips I'd noted one nice flat spot a little further along the shore, so I headed there.
Maria left with Kina and Molli after I'd set up the
, and I set about making a fire to get rid of some of the bugs which were a bit annoying, driven into a frenzy by my heat and perspiration.
I happened to look up and see Rufus running off after Maria. I shouted after him to come back but my voice echoed around the forest and over the lake, coming back at me from all directions. No doubt Rufus couldn't tell where I was, and after a few minutes I became a little anxious as, to put it politely, he's not the smartest dog when it comes to following his nose.
I sent a message to Maria asking her not to leave and keep an ear out for him, but then after five minutes or so I caught a glimpse of a nervous dog running back along the shore. This time, when I called him, he seemed to hear me, and figured out how to get back. Sometimes he's smarter than I think. Not often though.
I got the
going with my colelction of perfect twigs, and snapped a few photos while my Blå Band meal slowly rehydrated into something resembling Thai Chicken.
Mushrooms always make me think summer is just about over, and the occasional yellow and red leaf only reinforced that impression. I really should get a decent book on mushrooms.
In true Brovernighter™fashion, I fished out my
to accompany the meal. The Thai Chicken wasn't half bad (much to my surprise), and the 66 went very well with it (sharp, refreshing, pleasantly hopped - Finland's top "supermarket" beer at the moment, in my opinion).
I took along a couple of books as I knew Toni wouldn't get there until at least 9:30pm, so I thought I'd have plenty of time to enjoy the silence and relax. Of course, that didn't happen. The numerous mosquitoes and
required constant vigilance over the fire to keep them at bay. And the changing light always keeps me transfixed.
I really should learn not to take a book on short trips. I only ever read them on rest days.
9:45pm and Toni's still a no-show. I decided to give him a call to check he wasn't in a swamp or anything. He said he was probably near, and would be along in a minute.
Knowing I'd soon have a guest, I rustled up a steamed muffin using the BushBuddy and
. As the water bubbled away, I heard a couple of gear-change CLUNKS coming from the forest.
Toni had arrived just in time. The muffin was ready! This could well become a regular trail treat, as the weight-to-pleasure ratio is very acceptable.
Toni seemed to enjoy the ride, although he encountered a lot more mosquitoes in the mires than I had earlier.
One of the main reasons I'd picked Mellalampi was because I'd calculated that the campsite would give a good view of the sunset. With a few light clouds on the horizon, it was looking good for some spectacular evening skies.
I encouraged Toni to take the packraft out for a paddle, partially because he hasn't tried it...
...but mostly because I thought it would make a nice photograph!
Fortunately my evil plan succeeded and I managed to get the shot and still appear to be altruistic.
After we'd stopped messing around in the water, the lake became mirror calm.
The perfectly clear reflection transformed the world into a Rorschach sunset, or perhaps something Donald Trumbull might have dreamed up.
I think we probably snapped about 500 sunset photos between us, but I'll keep it limited.
As the night closed in, the skies turned slowly from orange to a lurid Haglöfs pink.
As we snapped, we enjoyed a
- one of the few stouts made in Finland, and the only one (as far as I know) available in the supermarket. It's a okay stout, but the roasty malt could use a bit more body than a 4.7% beer can manage – it feels a little watery/oily. Acceptable, but it's no
– my personal benchmark.
As we sipped, only the bugs moved; the air was warm, the water still.
With the sun below the horizon, it was time for bed. I was trying out the new Therm-a-Rest sleep system – a Zephyr top bag with a NeoAir XLite mat. It's been designed for tossers (smirk) – those of us who roll around in our sleep, moving from side to side.
I have to say (well, I don't "have" to say, but I will) that it worked surprisingly well, but more on that at another time.
As I lay down, I became aware that there were many more mosquitoes around that I'd noticed outside the tent.
I heard what seemed like thousands of them buzzing around behind my head, between the inner and fly. As the wavering whines passed from left-to-rigt and back again, it sounded weirldy like an insect version of
oblique references to 2001 in one blog post!). So that was my serenade to sleep.
On top of that, during the night, it started to chuck it down with rain. You remember the bit from the start when I said the forecast confidently predicted sun for days to come? And the bit after that when I said I'd left my raincoat behind? Well, that had me a bit worried for the morning, especially as the rain didn't seem to be letting up, and my
isn't exactly waterproof.
You can imagine how well I slept.
In the morning, the rain slowly started to taper off. At least the SUL3 got a good testing (quick summary: don't be lazy – get out of bed to tighten the stake outs when it rains during the night on silnylon), and fortunately I wouldn't get completely soaked on the way back.
My lovely collection of special wood for the BushBuddy was soaked though, as I'd forgotten all about it, so I asked if I could borrow Toni's
to get some coffee in me
Even with the light rain, it was a pretty morning. My favourite rock in the area looked lovely in the subtle mist.
We packed up, snapping one last photo before heading back home.
I led Toni on a short cut back to a road, so he could get back to his family without doing the duckboard waddle all over again.
It required some landscape negotiation, but saved a bit of time.
Soon, Toni was on his way toward an encounter with a reindeer and a hearty breakfast at the hotel.
Meanwhile I took the duckboards, all the more treacherous now they were wet.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and every leaf a droplet of water.
I pass another of my favourite rocks. I should probably write a book about the rocks of Rovaniemi. Maybe titled, "Rocks I Have Known."
My legs got pretty drenched from the vegetation, but my good old
are quick to dry, so it wasn't particularly bothersome.
As I reached the end of the trail, I passed by the
. So many letters, so little time...
It's the German Shepherd Dog Association Training Ground, for the curious. Almost as many letters in English, but with helpful spaces for the hard-of-seeing.
Beyond the training ground I saw the water tower on top of Korkalovaara, cunningly disguised as a Sámi kota. Can you spot it?
I know Toni cycled by the tower on the route yesterday. It'll be interesting to see his photographs and take on the trip, and see Rovaniemi from a different perspective. It was a great little overnighter, so I hope Toni enjoyed it as much as I did!
Thanks, Toni! See you at the Rovaniemi 150!