Lapland (September 2017): a wrap-up

I have now finished my trip report regarding our week in Lapland last September. My original idea was to go there for the ruska, the colors of autumn. Then I “hired” two friends from France, Sylvain and Alexis, and their first question was: “can we see northern lights?”. So obviously the lights became our secondary goal, one we didn’t really dare believing in given the weather, but which we eventually reached!
As a result, this trip was a real success, and we were all very happy about it.

Please find below links to all the articles I wrote. I’m very happy to hear any comment you may have, or to answer questions 🙂

In this article, I explain some practicalities about our journey. Welcome 🙂

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Piles of rocks and foxfire

After our glorious day in Lemmenjoki, we left with no hurry, and took the southern road to Kittilä. After an hour at high speed on this deserted drive through hills and swamp areas, asphalt gave way to soil and gravel, and we slowed down.

A replenishment stop in Sodankylä later, we were driving south, but soon we turned left.

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Lemmenjoki

Lemmenjoki National Park is the largest national park of Finland. With 2,860 km², it’s just ahead of Urho Kekkonen National Park (where we saw Kuukeli for the first time!) and its 2,550 km². The third one, Pallas-Yllästunturi, is far behind, with 1020 km².

More than its size, though, what strikes the traveller when he arrives in Lemmenjoki is the remoteness of the place. From Inari, we took a road to the south… and suddenly, we were alone. OK, sometimes you see a Hotel sign pointing straight into the forest, or some houses. We stopped before the park to meet Jouni. This was not a period of tremendous activity, but he tried to show us some birds. We saw a Black-throated diver (Gavia arctica) on the lake, and a pair of Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus), but the best was the Siberian tit (Poecile cinctus), a tough cousin to the Great tit (Parus major) so common further south, but inhabiting only northern forests. It stayed high in the pines, but it showed well, and my two friends managed to see it correctly.

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Endure

We are now back to Lapland, for the end of our September trip.

From Rovaniemi, we have driven north, and after 3 days, we have now reached the shores of Lake Inari. If you remember, the weather was not particularly good in the previous days: low clouds were our daily lot, complemented with permanent drizzle and soaked soils. It hasn’t improved.

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A very colourful tapestry

Our journey started in Rovaniemi. We went grocery shopping, then we headed north.
Our first house was to be an AirBnB in Sassali, near Sodankylä. We had a few hours to reach it and still arrive before dusk, so we took our time, and stopped in the Arctic Circle Hiking Area, walking a few kilometers in the forest while miraculously avoiding the rain (well, too much of it at least…).

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Reindeers, Ruska & Revontulet

In September came a long-awaited journey: I traveled to Lapland to witness the famous ruska, the autumnal color bloom. Up there, it’s not only trees that turn yellow and orange: the low vegetation, berry bushes and bog grass alike, takes a different tint, sometimes purple, red or black.

I took two friends from France with me; Alexis and Sylvain were both late sleepers, but talented cooks and enthusiastic sauna-goers. I never expected to eat a home-made pizza in the middle of Lapland, but somehow it happened, and it was delicious! Together we experienced the ruska, the reindeers on the side of the road, the rain (a bit of it, and sometimes more, every day. Like Brittany), and other wonders!
This is only a first peek into this trip, a short mise en bouche, if you will. Like I said in a previous article, I’m really far behind in my picture editing, and so am I in my writing, but I want to talk about more recent things while the memory stays vivid in my mind. So I took the backwards timeline, and am going back by almost two months. Yes, I consider that “recent”. Please bear with me.

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Cold but bright

Now that I’m finished with Hungary, I decided I would post some more recent stuff (Marci will like that :p). Therefore, from now on we will follow two timelines in parallel: the one we’ve always followed, which continues, and a new one, which starts now (I haven’t decided yet whether it would go forward or backwards… maybe both, which would actually make a total of three timelines… :D). Don’t get lost!

Autumn had been quite interesting. No real cold spell, but a lot of rain. Sometimes, it had rained for three days straight, and each morning, on my way to the office, I could see the ditches were fuller and fuller. Last weekend, at last, the skies cleared and the temperature dropped close to zero. I had been forced to postpone an excursion with my friend Mark two weekends in a row, because it was raining all the time, but finally, this was our chance!

I offered him to join me during the morning, but to my great surprise, he said he would join me on my sunrise-seeking trip. We arrived in Viikki at 7.30, long before the actual sunrise time. So we walked to the edge of the reedbed, following paths I now know by heart. I showed him some birds, like this Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing on a wood pole by the side on the duckboards. Well, in the dark of the woods, we could barely distinguish its outline, but we heard it loud and clear!

Leaves fell around us, and I was startled every time one reached the ground. “Is there a bird foraging on the ground? Was there something up there that made it fall in the first place?”. But no, most of the time the leaves had decided to fall on their own.

No crazy hue colored the clouds when the sun came, but the view from the bird tower was nice.

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Before the storm

It was still autumn. Sure, there were fewer golden leaves on the trees, and it was getting colder, but nothing announced the forthcoming storm. I was out, looking for the elusive Siberian accentor (Prunella montanella), first in Vuosaari, then in Myyrmäki. I followed tenuous paths, wandered through secret places, and ultimately found the bird. Oh it was a short sighting, and most of the time I only saw its rufous back, when it fled my approach from one bush to the other. But still, from the distance I saw this wonderful yellow face, and that made my day.

Below are some pictures from these glorious days in Helsinki, in Keskuspuisto, Vuosaari and Honkasuo. I admired the squirrels, in their grey winter coat, cautiously coming near the feeders, or the thrushes, Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and Redwings (Turdus iliacus) alike, feasting on rowan berries, like the Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) before them.

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

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