For many, the pull of seeing the Northern Lights is the only reason to venture this far north. In Finnish Lapland that was to be an unspoken wish that I was keen to have fulfilled, but was certainly not the only desire on my list and nor would it matter one bit if it didn’t come true.
We had planned to spend time snowshoeing in Urho Kekkonen National Park as well as visiting some other hiking trails in and around Inari. This would be scratching the surface when it comes to visiting this area, but one has to start somewhere. I think it’s best to leave an area with unanswered questions and a strong will to return.
Late March and the conditions are well below freezing but with longer days and the sun high enough in the sky to give you bright views across the landscape and plenty of blue skies.
We would be on snowshoes to cross the terrain and this proved to be a mixed bag when it came to results. The powder snow had not yet formed a hardened crust and was exceptionally deep in the valley forests. Up on the fells things were much better but it was slow progress lower down. I know next time skis will be used.
Finnish Lapland is a bushcraft paradise and experiencing it in winter conditions is challenging but not uncomfortable if done right. However it is in the process of being in an environment when things are not so easy that make a return trip even the more earned. For seeing a landscape only in one season is like reading half a book and in Lapland there are 8 seasons, so much more detail to be felt and witnessed. The chances of adventure seem limitless.
The flora was fascinating, with the highlight being a chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) in the wild. Sadly way out of reach atop a birch. This most enigmatic mushroom is one of the reasons I will return to seek out another specimen. I also spotted Fomes fomentarius commonly called horses hoof fungus on another birch. These trees this far north have visibly thicker bark and plentiful shedding layers that just beg to be collected and put to use lighting your fire. It is not only birch in these forests with pine needle tea making a great wood person’s drink, but late March is not necessarily the best season to harvest as there are no young tips as of yet.
Moving through the forest here the birches start to get shorter and more curly in appearance as they grow almost horizontally to protect from the harsh conditions that start higher up. It all gives way to barren fell, made all the more bleak with its winter cloak. On a summit of one of these fells one can see into the heart of a great expanse of wilderness, one that is full of nature. What better way to get down again than by snowshoeing. It can be fun, when the conditions are just right on a descent you can run down the slope with each step cushioned by the powder.
Lapland is also home to inherent risk without the correct equipment and experience one can quickly become unstuck. A low of -20°C along with full white out conditions were two of the most memorable moments.
I think being outdoors with an open mind and no expectations are a good blend. Nature can force you to change plans on the spot so being flexible both in body and mind is vital for happiness on the trail. I mentioned this unspoken wish to witness one of the most magical sights, the aurora. I was lucky enough to get a viewing. First very faint and partially obscured by cloud and then fading away into nothing. Was that it?