Lemmenjoki is the biggest national park in Finland. Its area is 2850 square kilometers (or in the Imperial system, half a million football fields, or about 50 Manhattan Islands). Because I chose to visit here, I only cycled about 30km on my first day. But I wanted to start slowly anyway, to remind myself that there’s absolutely no need to hurry.
I spent the night by a quiet little lake in the northernmost part of the park, surrounded by old pine trees. The road was within earshot, but there was practically no traffic. There were no paths and few signs of humans except for an old ring of charred stones. The bones of two reindeer were scattered here and there. By a wolverine, perhaps.
It was actually not my first visit there. I found the campsite by chance last August on a one-nighter bike trip. My tendency to sleep in late is widely documented, but on that particular occasion I happened to wake up before sunrise at 4am. It was quite fortunate, because that morning was perhaps the most beautiful one I’ve ever witnessed. A purple sky turning into a golden yellow as the sun rose, with fog rising from the water, and perfectly constructed spiderwebs becoming visible by clinging dewdrops twinkling in the undergrowth.
However, at this point in the northern summer, the midnight sun removes the possibility of sunsets or sunrises. And the cold water doesn’t provide correct conditions for fog. I only took a few photos and spent a nice quiet evening relaxing, eating, and thinking about what lies ahead of me.