After Pallas-Ylläs and Kilpisjärvi, our autumn adventure in Lapland took us to Pyhä-Luosto National Park, further south and east, near Kemijärvi. I was eager to return after a single night spent there 3 years before, with friends from France. This time we had 4 nights, so plenty of time to explore more!
The national park spreads along a range of rugged fells. The road goes along the eastern side, linking the two ski resorts of Pyhä and Luosto, but the western side is an untouched landscape of primeval forest and peatland. We caught a glimpse of that wilderness from the top of the hills and during our last hike, and it made me want to see more! Mostly we stuck to the easily accessible parts of the park: we climbed to the top of Ukko-Luosto (Old Luosto) via a 600-step staircase straight into the slope, we walked at the bottom of Isokuru gorge and on the boardwalk that crosses the Tunturiaapa mire.
The fells impressed me like they had impressed me on my first visit. In the rather flat scenery of southern Lapland, they looked like piles of rocks dumped there by antique giants, a long long time ago. The slopes are steep and look dangerous, but the view from the top was inspiring. At the visitor center and along the trails, we learnt about the formation on the land, how melting glaciers cut through the fells, creating the deep gorges of which Isokuru is the most famous, how frost split the rock and gave birth to the immense screes… informative and exhausting was our stay, for we walked up and and down many times!
Ukko-Luosto, with views on the western side of the park
Into the primeval forest
From Luosto, we climbed on the fell’s shoulder and went down behind it, into the realm of old trees. The forest was fairly quiet, with most of its denizens gone far south already, but one bird gave a show for us. It was a Eurasian three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), the second one we encountered that day. As we were walking, I caught a glimpse of movement ahead. We stopped, for less than ten meters in front of us was a gorgeous male foraging on what we believe was an aspen tree. The three-toed woodpecker is not a species I see very often, so it was already a good sighting (the second one that day!), but the really exciting part was that the bird was low, barely a meter above ground. Of course, I had my wide-angle lens mounted on the camera, so I just slowed down and enjoyed the show… but after a moment, I started to think that it might be possible to take good pictures! When I started the process to change lenses, I fully expected the woodpecker to fly away, but to my surprise it stayed on its tree, very low, moving around it in search for food, completely oblivious to our presence.
It was one of the few amazing wildlife moments of our trip.
Rowan berry feast
Amazing as well were the sessions I had with the hungry birds in the gardens of our accommodation, a holiday park named Kuukiuru (the moon lark), on the shore of the Kemi River. There, thrushes, waxwings and bullfinches enjoyed a feast of ripe rowan berries from a number of trees all around the property. Thrushes proved difficult to approach, but the others let me close on a few occasions. My favourite one was the young Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), pinkish-grey like a female but without the black cap: it ate and ate without paying attention to me, even when the other bullfinches flew away. A friendly chap, though I hope it lived long enough to learn prudence.
That concludes my series on our trip to Lapland this September. If you missed the previous episodes, click here to have a look at Pallas-Ylläs and Kilpisjärvi 😉
Planning a trip to Lapland (in any season)? If you’re interested in nature, I would warmly recommend the Crossbill Guide on Finnish Lapland, for you will learn a lot about the natural history of the region: geology, botany, wildlife… a great read! Unfortunately I ordered it too late and received it only after we came back from our trip, but it explained a lot of what we saw, and it’s a good reference for future endeavours up north 🙂
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