Lapland – Calming Wilderness

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Hetta-Pallas track

“My feet hurt, I don’t want to walk anymore, I don’t like this instant-add-just-water-food, I hate rain, I hate mosquitos; I hate Lapland!” That was what twelve-year-old I thought of my family’s annual week-long summer treks in Lapland.

Now I scrape the very last spoonfuls of my morning porridge eagerly and drink up the coffee where few midges flounder pathetically. The sun is shining already, to be frank, it did not let me sleep at all last night. The midnight sun makes me feel like I should keep going on and on, it creeps into our blue tent and never lies down. Even though it is bright, it is not hot; last night it was less than 10c. We lied side by side in our sleeping bags, only noses peaking out. This morning the sun provides us warmth and promises to keep the sky clear on our last day of trekking.

It had been almost ten years since I was hiking in Lapland. Still, it feels like home. I drove with my parents all the way from South to Lapland, to Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. Our plan was to walk from Hetta to Pallas making detours and getting off the main track. Hetta-Pallas route is a popular hiking track in Lapland, 55 km of nature and beautiful views. However it is not proper wilderness, there is a clear path, good signs and camping is allowed only around the huts. We wanted proper wilderness. Unfortunately, it had been raining so much that going off the main route meant wading in a swamp. We had to change our plan and stay on the track.

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Happy hikers

The first day we started walking it was pouring. The walk over Pyhäkero fell was miserable as the rain prickled like needles, the wind tried to trip us over and the temperature fell close to 5c. The only thing that kept me positive was the fact that the runners who we met (there happened to be an ultra-run event, 55km Pallas-Hetta and 134km Ylläs-Pallas-Hetta, taking place on that day) looked even more miserable in their tight leggings and t-shirts. Although our waterproofs leaked, like they tend to do when they are soaked for hours and hours on end, and shoes were hosting little ponds inside, we were somewhat warm. That night we slept in Sioskuru hut where we hung our clothes to dry.

Rest of the week we had nice weather. The second day we walked from Sioskuru to Hannukuru checking out Tappuri hut and Rumakuru hut on our way. In Hannukuru we relaxed in the sauna that few other hikers had heated up. The tent was inviting after an approximately 15km walk, sauna, swim and instant cheese-broccoli-pasta. The next morning we packed our tent and continued our way to Nammalakuru. The days on a hike follow the same pattern: Eat, pack, walk, eat, walk, camp, eat, read, sleep. The view changes from pine forest to swamps to hills where only dwarf birch grows. No cities, no roads to be seen. No electricity or running water. Little streams replace water fountains and twigs serve as mattresses.

3 days and 2 night would be perfect on Hetta-Pallas route: one night in Hannukuru or Rumakuru and the other in Nammalakuru. We had too much time now that we had to follow the main track, so we walked only ~15km a day and did one day trip to Vuontispirtti from Nammalakuru. Some hikers walked the route in 2 days, others spend 5 days on it. Some were first-timers, others experienced walkers. Some carried feta cubes, kitchen knives and huge water bottles; their backpack must have weighed tonnes. Others were wiser. Dried food and minimal (quality) equipment allow the backpack to be light. There is no need for a clean t-shirt for each day. And seriously, it is ridiculous to haul 5 litres of water to Lapland’s wilderness. Our backpacks weighed approximately 11kg each; easy to carry and pleasant to walk with.

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Some say that Lapland is magnificent and the view from Taivaskero fell amazing. Quiet and peaceful nature is inspiring and camping is an experience. For me, the hills are familiar and comforting. I feel safe while trekking. I feel like I belong somewhere.

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