AUTUMN IN THE ARCTIC: MOONSCAPES AND NORTHERN LIGHTS Summer comes and goes. And then September arrives as does the day when I finally get to return to Kilpisjärvi. Though my time in the south has not turned me into a hiker, I long to revisit the sights that I fell in love with in the winter. And, having brushed up on my knowledge of birds, I'm still hoping to spot a falcon or an eagle of the non-crow variety. As it's too early in the season for snow, snowmobiling is out. Getting to remote places by foot is also impossible as I have little time, no equipment, and no reliable guide. As I have the sense of direction of a Q-tip, hiking solo would be ludicrous even with more time and the right gear. But, Lapland is the land of stories, legends, and many innovative businessmen who can fulfill wild dreams at a relatively reasonable cost. So, on my second day back, I myself being whisked away by Cessna seaplane towards Lake Pihtsus on a mind-bogglingly beautiful flight over to a strange, moonscape-like world where only the sturdiest, smartest plants survive. Following the journey, I experience a number of firsts: staying overnight in a cabin with no electricity, eating freshly caught and expertly prepared golden trout and roe, tasting reindeer steak, walking more than 25 metres to the "powder room" with millions of stars singing their quiet tunes to me. And then, just as I am over-wowed by it all, the crowning Northern Lights appear and begin to dance to the music of the stars, showing me the way up, up, making me wish I could follow. Later, on a daytrip up the coast of Norway, I finally see my first eagle, and my joy knows no bounds. HAPPY HIKING The morning of my first hike to Lake Pihtsus arrives, and I'm pleasantly surprised. As I cross over piles of unstable, sharp rock formations, I'm so very glad that I invested in a pair of comfortable, sturdy shoes with ankle support as parts of the marked trails are straight out of Fear Factor (family edition). But even so, all the effort is more 58 BLUE WINGS MARCH 2009 than worth it to get to where I am going forward, towards the Pihtsusköngäs waterfall and beyond, towards yet more breathtaking views. As I walk further, I begin to suspect that I've forgotten something. After another hour the suspicion becomes a certainty: I have nothing to eat or drink. I end up drinking water from a lively creek (flowing water is safe to drink, and delicious, to boot!) and eating handful after handful of tasty ripe crowberries, which are like tangy blueberries. The next morning I'm back in Kilpisjärvi, preparing for my hike around Saana Mountain. This time I remember to pack along sandwiches, water, and coffee in a thermos in my backpack, which is of the small, lightweight variety that comes with chest straps to keep it in place. I even take an extra pair of socks, a fleece jumper, and a pair of longjohns, as a short hike can turn into a long one, and even the most gorgeous day can turn into a raining cats and dogs affair when you least expect it. But perhaps going up north with no expectations in terms of the weather I am of the philosophy that there's beauty in any type of weather has pleased Mother Nature. For once again, she keeps smiling her sunny smile at me day in, day out. HOLIDAYING IN THE WILD I can whole-heartedly recommend going kayaking or canoeing in the calm, crystal clear waters of Lake Kilpisjärvi, and for daredevils, venturing down rapids of Enojoki or Lätäseno river is a real thrill. Businesses can reward their employees and clients with tailored action-packed incentiveholidays in the wild. Hunters and fly fishers can hire a real guy's kind of wilderness guide to take them to the birds and beasts, and the fish they wish to catch. Avid hikers can test themselves to their hearts' content. The rest of us will certainly find views that will alter our souls, free our minds, and teach us about life. Some of the most gorgeous views are simply right next to the main roads across the border in nearby Norway, as well as in Finland right by Lake Kilpisjärvi, near the hotel and cabin accommodation and on the well-marked nature paths. The bright yellow, red, and orange colours of autumn as the leaves turn (ruska), paint the landscapes glorious and happy. And on the final evening as I sit on the porch of my cabin overlooking Lake Kilpisjärvi, I find myself thinking that autumn has painted me gloriously happy, as well. Finnair flies nonstop to Kittilä and Rovaniemi several times daily. The distance from Kittilä to Kilpisjärvi is 280 kilometres, and from Rovaniemi to Kilpisjärvi is 425 kilometres. LEFT: Autumn shades of ruska, the turning of the leaves. TOP RIGHT: A small waterfall in the Pitsus River. BOTTOM RIGHT: Fishing on Lake Pihtsus for Arctic Char.
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