North of the Arctic Circle

The sun is shining from behind one of the many scattered clouds in the arctic sky above. I am sitting on the log railing of the porch of our little rental cabin. Dogs are wiped out from all the car rides and hikes and the current heat so instead of roaming around or chasing each other in the yard, they are just sacked out on the deck next to me, except for getting a tad riled up by the occasional passing boat.

When we packed out bags and dogs and foods into the car last Sunday, the weather was far from being nice. Not exactly bad down in Helsinki, but getting worse as we advanced towards the northern parts of Finland. Maybe a hundred kilometers from Oulu it got downright stormy. We were going to stop at Vaskikello to admire the nice bells and have some dinner, but as it went, we ate in the car and waited for the worst to pass.

The evening at Kempele was nice and almost like sunny. No more rain, let alone storm. We crashed for the night in a crappy yet tidy motel that accepted our dogs too and continued our journey in the morning after a meager breakfast at the neighboring gas station.

Just like the previous day, the storm front was long and narrow and exactly above E75, following its course. We got some rains before arriving at Rovaniemi, but there while the dogs and I were waiting for Husband to do some shopping at the Prisma there (the last big supermarket on the way up north), a thunderstorm hit the area. Meggie was in sheer terror, panting and trembling for the whole time.

As we continued our drive north past the Arctic Circle line, towards Sodankylä (and the last Lidl on our way), the weather started to clear up ever so slightly, with a faint promise of sun instead of rain. It was cloudy and cool at Luosto where we made a little excursion out of our route, just to walk a bit, but at least we remained dry.

Our cabin here at Vuotso is a really nice one, small but compact and cozy. The dogs are a bit nervous in it, not really feeling at home, but managing. Like little babies. Need to be watched over while they’re eating and such. Plus, they need to be lifted up to the sleeping quarters because of the steep stairs they can’t manage on their own. That right there is a nightmare for Timmy who does not like to be lifted at all in the first place.

On the first evening here I made some guacamole, entrecôte souvlaki and skewers of onion, peppers and tomato. We popped a bottle of bubbly and later on a bottle of red wine as Husband set out to grill the skewers and souvlaki in the fire pit. Our vacation had started.

Our first day here dawned cloudy and cool. We slept in, made breakfast ever so leisurely – warming up karelian pies in the oven and brewing some espresso on the Bialetti – and set out to Ivalo to scout out our surroundings a bit. I went to the local S-market there and discovered an actual coffee shop there.

I ordered two regular cappucinos to go and was astounded to get the smallest cappucinos I’ve ever seen anywhere, for pretty much the same price as a regular proper size cappucino is at home, down south. The coffee was good, mind you, the one that we ended up sharing with Husband after I spilled the other one all over the trunk of our car. Heavily overpriced though.

On our way back to the cabin we got off the main road in Saariselkä and drove to the top of Kaunispää. It’s a tourist trap, but since we’re not exactly gonna hike up any of those mountains, er, fells, I figured it would be cool to at least drive up one then. There’s a rather big souvenir shop up there and I got some gifts for the teens and found the most beautiful amethyst ring that I’ve been dreaming of since. Just not in our budget right now.

Yesterday we woke up relatively early and after the breakfast we packed some lunch in a backpack and started our day trip up north to Inari and then on towards the western border for a small hike in the beautiful scenery of Kevo natural park. We did a short pitstop in Ivalo and a longer one in Inari where we took turns in scouring the inventory of the shop there. Husband found a nice new knife for himself, I a lovely silver “Lapland Risku” necklace for myself.

Up there in Inari there is a little water plane airport with a sightseeing plane just waiting for customers. I was walking around with the dogs for some time while waiting for Husband to pick his knife, thinking that if we didn’t have our dogs with us, I’d have been interested in going for a sightseeing flight. It is a bit restrictive to travel with dogs.

Once we got to the Sulaoja parking lot the sun was hot on a mostly clear sky. We changed our sandals to trekking shoes and set off on the trail. I have been hiking there once before, when I was fourteen years old and went on a 4-5 day hike with my dad and godfather. Kevo, even the southernmost parts of it, was as awesome as I remembered.

Hiking further into the natural park you would find an amazing ravine (nothing like the Grand Canyon of course, but our Finnish smaller scale similar kind of place) and about two days hike into the area there is Finland’s biggest (I think) waterfall. Again, not exactly the Niagara falls, but worth seeing anyway. I remember camping quite close to the waterfall, watching the midnight sun and thinking that life up there is pretty awesome.

Yesterday we did not venture further than approximately one kilometer into the park, walking a trail of two kilometers total. We didn’t see the best of the ravine, just a hint of one. Obviously, no waterfall either. We did however pass the biggest natural spring in the country. The spring is underwater, at the bottom of a pond that lets out into a brooke, and the water on the surface is like jade, with a really peculiar hue. The spring I had not seen before.

Today we didn’t drive far, only about forty kilometers north to Laanila where we walked approximately one kilometer to an abandoned gold mine – to be exact, it was in action for only two years in 1902-04 and no gold was ever found there – to look aroud a bit, and then back to the car. We had lunch picnic by a little brooke next to the info parking area and I walked in the stream a bit to get some photos.

Last night, or even the one before, the skies were clear and there would’ve been a chance to see the midnight sun again. Last night I was asleep at that time, the night before I did actually venture outside around midnight after finishing my book and before going to sleep, but our cabin is in a spot where the sun goes behind a pine forest around ten, so no midnight sun here for us.

On the second evening here we warmed up the sauna and enjoyed some “löyly” and chilling on the deck while munching on fennel and lamb sausages grilled on the rocks, in the sauna. Yesterday evening, after returning from Kevo, we grilled a ranch entrecôte in the fire pit and had some red wine and mozzarella salad with it.

Traveling with dogs, you can’t exactly pick and choose a restaurant and eat out every evening, but I believe we’re eating better than we would in any restaurant anyway. The only thing missing is some fresh reindeer meat. We’ve seen plenty of them walking around, on the road, in the wilderness, but it’s not slaughter time now and there’s only frozen meat in the stores.

Now the firepit is blazing again with a bonfire happily dancingw, producing coals for us to grill some blue cheese burgers to go with guacamole. Two full days left of this Lapland vacation. I could easily be happy here for a longer time. Vuotso is the perfect location, this cabin is secluded from the tourist zones and just the nicest little cabin. Yes, I would very well like it here for a couple weeks longer.

[More Lapland pics in Flickr]

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