Lapland, winter | Finland

03.11.2015

I’ve been planning a trip to Lapland for at least four years now. So far, these plans have always failed, but this year it finally became a reality. I decided to visit Lapland in March due the longer days and I was hoping that perhaps there’s more snow. I didn’t have any particular plans, I was just hoping to see some snow.

At the beginning of the trip I was kinda indignant, because there was no snow near Helsinki and the storm that hit Norway in February shook the snowy spruce trees in Finland as well. The more I got closer to Kuusamo, the more snow I could see. There was about one metre of snow. Which was more than a blessing, especially because there was little snow in Estonia during this winter.

White-throated dipper

The amount of snow was a bit agonizing. Walking in that thick snow without snow shoes is nearly impossible. Thanks to snow shoes I was able to walk on high tundra hills and the view that opened over there was breathtaking. Although it was warmer than usual and the storm in February had done it’s work, I was still able to see ‘’tykky’’.

I still remember the first photos that I saw of “tykky”, they were probably made by Hannu Hautala. ”Tykky” is  the Finnish name for the accumulation of hard snow/frost/rime on trees, mostly on spruce trees, on top of some mountains in Finnish Lapland. These areas often experience low cloud cover and mist, combined with moderate winds, so the ice and snow stick to the trees and a thick layer accumulates during winter – especially during the months without much sunlight (which could melt the snow and ice).

Otherwise so cloudy Lapland was filled with sunlight and snowfall, and with sunlight again. The view was enchanting, so I just sat down and enjoyed those colours and the light. It was kinda cool to know, that there might be approximately two metres of snow underneath me. After sitting there for minutes, clouds took over control again.

Yellow Riisitunturi

One of the most memorable things was spending a night in a hut, in the middle of tundra. No electricity, no water, no special amenities. The main reason why I decided to spend a night in this hut was because weather forecast predicted clear sky for that night, so there was a little chance to see Aurora borealis. Aside from drinking some hot peppermint tea and eating some gingersnaps, I constantly had my eyes on what was going on outside.

Unfortunately overcast was too thick, and even though I could see the Moon once in a while, I didn’t see any northern lights. Despite that, it was still quite nice to enjoy sleeping in a hut, that was getting colder and colder with every minute, thanks to the strong, cold wind. No worries, we just had to pile firewood into the stove and everything was fine again. The strong winds tried to knock that snow off the trees, but this time those winds had to succumb. Before going to Kuusamo, I had a chance to see Pine grosbeaks again.

Barn

In Kuusamo, you could find yourself in Hannu Hautala nature photography center. I have to state that I’m not that big fan of him (although I recognize his work) and his ways of capturing moments in nature, they’re not as ‘’clean’’. Besides I was a bit disappointed, cause the exhibition space was quite minimal. Forgetting those flaws, I would say there was a lot to see. It took me about an hour and a half to walk through the exhibition. Photos were beautiful, reflecting the northern pristiness. I would most definately suggest you to visit it.

The temperature was near zero degrees Celsisus and because of that I didn’t have to worry about freezing. I was actually missing those harsh conditions. In contrast to Estonia, Laplands cold air is dry, that’s why it’s more pleasant. Besides visiting wilderness, I had a chance to visit Ruka as well, which you could consider as a tourist magnet. I enjoyed the hiking trails of Oulanka National Park (Oulangan kansallispuisto). I didin’t take many shots there, I just enjoyed the athmosphere, those forests, heights. In a way you could say that I was doing some groundwork, cause I’m looking forward to revisiting that park, I would definately wish to see Calypso flower (Calypso bulbosa) someday.

Kuukkeli

Although I mentioned that I didn’t have any particular plans, I managed to make some during the trip. For example, I wanted to see some grouses and fortunately I saw lots of them. I wasn’t lucky enough to see Willow ptarmigans (Logopus logopus) this time, but nonetheless I saw Northern hawk-owls (Surnia ulula), Pine grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator), White-throated dippers (Cinclus cinclus) and some small kuukkeli, Siberian jays (Perisoreus infaustus).

Unlike Pine grosbeaks, Northern hawk-owls and White-throated dippers, I’ve never seen Siberian jays before. Siberian jays are rather sociable birds during the winter time, who tend to babble a lot. Besides that, they’re also pretty curious regarding people and their movement. But during the nesting they’re more than cowardly. I might say that I enjoyed being in the middle of that babbling.