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Nature Day Report

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Nature Day Report

Not much to report on the Nature Day activities, it all went pretty much as expected. We made a short bike trip to a nearby laavu at Jäniskoski and good times were had for the few hours we spent there.

The weather on Saturday was a little on the gray side and only +5C (41F). But we made a fire for warmth and at least it wasn't raining or snowing. Eventually ten people made it for the "event", such as it was. Snacks included the very traditional Finnish sausages, plus sandwiches, chocolate, marshmallows, coffee, tea, and whatnot. A fun little picnic with great people and good surroundings.

Cooking sausages by the open fire

I realize I've mentioned "laavus" before, but haven't properly explained them. A laavu is a kind of lean-to shelter for hikers, fishermen, cyclists, cross-country skiers, and pretty much anyone who wants to enjoy the outdoors. They're completely free to use and in Finland we have something like 10000 of them scattered all around the country. Most often they are built next to rivers or lakes.

The majority of them are open-air (like below), while some are built into a full circle with a door you can close to ward off the elements. That one is called a "kota". Amenities usually include firewood, an axe for chopping it, and an outhouse toilet. They're maintained by the government, or in some cases a county, the boy scouts, a fishing association, or some other organization or group of volunteers.

So it's quite awesome to be able to rely on this network of lean-tos. Whenever I'm touring in Finland, I tend to use them for camping even though I have a tent with me. It's much easier and safer to make a fire in one, plus the bike and other gear stay dry even in a downpour.

Hanging out at the laavu

I suppose this concludes my very modest duties as a Finnish nature ambassador. There are two more Nature Days remaining, but the next one is on June 17th, and by then I'll be cycling somewhere in Norway. Although perhaps I should aim to be some kind of an ambassador for the entire world's nature on this trip? With the way things are going, it looks like natural resources could use all the protection and help they can get.

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One Week until Finnish Nature Day

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One Week until Finnish Nature Day

So I didn't mention this yet, but in addition to a cyclist and a photographer, I'm also an ambassador. Of sorts. Let me explain.

You see, this year Finland celebrates its 100th birthday. Among countless other events and occasions, one of the ways we celebrate our independence milestone is by having four Nature Days throughout the year. These are special days when all Finns are encouraged to go outside and enjoy our wonderful free nature, that we are fortunate to have so much of.

Quintessential Finland, from lake Saimaa (June 2014).

Somehow I was chosen as one of the ambassadors to these Nature Day events. Mostly because I had the crazy idea to cycle into all 39 Finnish National Parks a couple summers ago and blog about my adventures and mishaps. (Photo gallery)

The first Nature Day was to celebrate winter on Feb 4th. That time I organized an event with my friend Olli Järvenkylä. Who also happens to be a fellow nature ambassador, because he had the crazy idea to spend 100 days outdoors in one particular national park and blog about his adventures and mishaps. Together with some fellow students from the Sámi Education Institute, we spent the day outside building quintzees (snow shelters) big enough to sleep in. I made a quick little video of the activities that you can watch here.

The second Nature Day for spring is a week from now on Saturday May 20th. This time the plan is to gather some people for a simple bike trip to a nearby laavu (a Finnish lean-to). That date happens to coincide with the last official sunset before the midnight sun period begins, so it's quite likely we'll be sitting by the fire and frying sausages well into the nightless night.

Sausage á la Finlande. Fresh from the open fire, as it ought to be.

This was last year's version of the last sunset of spring.

So if you are in Finland - or anywhere for that matter - I warmly recommend taking your bike out for a little field trip on that day to celebrate Finnish - or anywhere's - nature with good friends and good food.

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