The next step is Kilpisjärvi where I will meet Piia. At this point I don’t know exactly how many kilometers I have to hike until there. Marie decides to end her journey this morning since yesterday was painful for her and she doesn’t think she can make it until Kilpisjärvi. We share the food, pack the camp and it’s time to say goodbye. It feels weird to think that I will be hiking alone but I’m really looking forward to it. Marie seems happy about her trip and that is all that matters.
I guess that the distance that I have to cover until Kilpisjärvi is 120 km and I have three days so that should be easy to do.
I begin the day a bit faster than the previous day but not in hurry, I’m pretty confident that I will be there in time. Next I will go through the Reisa National park, which I heard is a beautiful place. The landscape is totally different. I come across some hills with trees and real grass and it seems that I’m heading south. The trail is now obvious, just two times I end up at the summit of a hill without any clue about where the trail goes. Fortunately there is not much vegetation on the hill so it’s easy to spot the trail from there.
The sun is shining and I really like the landscape but that is about to change, as I come in sight of Raisjärvi. It starts to rain pretty heavily and the lake in the distance seems really close but in fact it’s not. The swamp and mosquitoes make sure that this part takes me some hours. I’m really soaked now and it’s pretty cold. My foot hurts a lot so I stop for a few minutes at the lake to put it in the icy water.
My aim is to sleep in the park and since I planned it that way, even if it’s cold, there is no way I’m going to give up.
After a few more rivers, swamps and mosquitoe clouds, I’m in the park. I set up my tent for my first night alone. I like to be alone as well. I’m happy that Marie was with me at the beginning because I am often too hard on myself and I could have compromised the trip by going crazy fast too soon. But now I have built some muscles and except for my foot that is pretty painfull, everything is ok.
The sun wakes me up as well as the heat which is a pretty nice feeling because it means that all my gear will be drying. I hate packing my stuff wet, especially the tent. The ambiance is better now that the weather is good. I know I have still a few kilometers before reaching the Raiser’s canyon. I will go through the deepest part of this canyon before turning south in Finland direction.
This canyon is amazing though the trail is exhausting since it goes up and down all the time but the river is strong and beautiful and framed by two impressive walls. It’s a paradise to walk there, or at least that is what I think at the beginning. It is about to change. I take my lunch just after a bridge that I’m happy to see. After lunch my body has some trouble to keep going. I change radically my rhythm and my body seems to need some time to adjust so I lie down some minutes in order to recover. I feel really tired and feel like I don’t have any energy left.
After a small nap I hit the trail in direction of Saraelv, the turn which will lead me to the Finnish boundary. I have no idea about what is the distance since I don’t have any maps. This day is what I call a-never-ending day. I try to keep a good rhythm in order to reach Saraelv today but I have now been walking for five hours and I still don’t see the turn. I finally reach it during the evening, exhausted. I have been walking really fast for so many hours and I just reached Saraelv so either I didn’t go so fast or the distance was quite long. I would check the distance afterward and understand, I did more than 50 km that day when I thought that I did just 30 km.
The area is not really good to set up a tent since there is no water at all and it’s really steep. I finally find a spot and dig under some big rocks to find muddy water that I filter with some tissue and boil. That was the hardest day of this trip as I had the feeling that I would never reach Saraelv. That is the kind of day that you laugh with your friends about some months later but when you are in it believe me it’s not funny. Well the landscape was beautiful and it wasn’t rainy so I still enjoyed it a lot.
Today is supposed to be a bit shorter than yesterday and my goal is to reach the Finnish boundary. The difference with the previous day is that for the first time I’m in the mountains. I have 700 m to climb before the boundary, which is nothing in France for a one day hiking but after a week of hiking and 50 km the day before it might get a bit hard.
The way up is amazing once again, I have a lot of time to look around as I’m walking really slowly. I woke up early to allow me to be slow but still cover a lot of distance. That’s the way I usually hike. I try to keep 8 hours in the tent for resting. Then I add one hour in the morning to eat and pack and one hour in the evening. It gives me 14 other hours to hike with about one hour of rest.
It is pretty nice to be in the mountain even though it’s a bit harder. There are many incredibly cold creeks to cross and usually my feet are totally frozen when I reach the other side. That is why I carry extra shoes for river crossing, I don’t really think that it’s safe to cross such creeks bear feet. Indeed after 10 seconds you don’t feel your feet anymore and then it might be hard to walk on the slippery rocks if your feet are paralysed. With shoes it’s a bit easier.
There is a cabin at the boundary and when I enter I meet two Americans who have a map. I take a look and see that Kilpisjärvi is 70 km away, a horrifying realization. That is really bad news so I decide to go on for a few kilometers in order to reduce a bit the distance that I have to cover tomorrow. I stop in a cabin where two Finnish people have a hard time understanding my way of hiking. In Finland lightweight hiking is not really popular and they would rather go with a 30 kg backpack and carry beer, fishing rod and everything to enjoy their hike. It took them 3 days to reach this cabin and they have hard time believing that I’m gonna be in Kilpisjärvi tomorrow and before 17h.
I take a shower in the frozen lake beside the cabin and in order to do that I have to break some ice to access the water. I see the people in the cabin watching me. It is 3 degrees outside, the wind is blowing and I’m breaking ice and then standing in the lake washing myself. No privacy here!
My plan is to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning in order to have time to cover the 50– 60 km until Kilpisjärvi. Well now that I’m writing that it does sound a bit crazy but that day it didn’t even cross my mind.
I wake up at 3 o’clock, take my breakfast and hit the trail. I know that this day will be hard. I have to keep a really high speed if I want to be in Kilpisjärvi in time. That is a good challenge. The trail is really easy to follow and the lanscape absolutely amazing. The light is unbelievable at this time and gives beautiful colours to everything surrounding me. I’m able to keep a really good speed without forcing too much. That is a good sign.
The ambiance reminds me the French Alps and especially the highest part of it. The trail goes by some high altitude lakes and as I go down, some vegetation surround the lakes, just beautiful. The feeling is pretty good. I climb a pass, see other ones at the horizon and reach them a few hours later. There are more and more people on the trail as I go down, especially beside the lake at the bottom of the highest mountain in Finland. There people take a helicopter from a small airport, sleep in a fancy cabin, climb the summit and take the helicopter back. Weird way of doing it for my opinion but why not.
The day goes really fast but my legs get a bit tired as the Kilpisjärvi lake appears to me after a last pass.
I arrive at Kilpisjarvi at 16 o’clock, take a small shower and go to the bus stop where Piia arrived 1 hour later. I can’t say that I’m in good shape at this time, but at least I’m there in time, which is a nice feeling. We set up the tent close to Kilpisjärvi as the rain is lightly falling.