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reindeer

First Stop: Lemmenjoki National Park

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First Stop: Lemmenjoki National Park

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.

All the photos in this post are from my previous visit in August.

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Change of Plans

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Change of Plans

Right away from the start I stayed true to my principle of allowing last minute route changes, as only a few kilometers into my trip I already decided to make the first adjustment.

I had decided to cycle through Karigasniemi, but there are two ways to get there from Inari. One is an easy paved road that had been my main choice, while the other was a quieter gravel option. Just when I was about to pass the junction with the latter, I remembered that’s the one that passes through a portion of Lemmenjoki - Finland’s largest national park!

For the first few legs of my journey, these guys will be a common sight.

You see, somewhere in all the fuss and kebabble of finishing my studies, starting a business, hanging out with friends, packing and moving out, and all the other preparations, I’d forgotten what the trip was actually about: Nature - especially national parks and other nature destinations and reserves. How could I not visit the nearest one?

So I took an early exit off the main road.

From past experience I know it will take a few days to get mentally adjusted to a life outdoors. At home I honestly spend too much time online or at the computer, and it becomes a powerful habit to break. Therefore in the beginning of a tour the mind still wants to check email and Facebook messages and other such nonsense. I don’t actively miss those things, it’s just a habit.

So to steer my mind I found it helpful to focus on my surroundings instead, I tuned in to the sound of birds, tried to spot reindeer in the forests, looked for the occasional cloud on an otherwise clear sky, or the way sunlight fell between the trees.

Staying a little more present will become easier quickly, but for now it requires some work as I get fully comfortable with my new life.

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