Sunday, March 16, 2014

Northern ExposureOne

Grant & I headed to northern Finland for February break.  We both enjoy the cold weather and when you're 250 km above the Arctic Circle, you're pretty much guaranteed to have cold weather.  We flew to Helsinki then on to Ivalo which is the northernmost city where FinnAir flies.  It's a vacation area, but don't worry, it wasn't packed with people.  Finland has lots of land and not many people.

The first day of cross country skiing
You can see the two grooves that they groom into the trails for  cross country skiing.  The area we stayed had over 250 km of cross country ski trails.  We didn't use them all.    

A view of the ski trail through the forest.

The Finns take their skiing seriously and make it very enjoyable.  There are warming huts and bathrooms at different points along the trails   Some of the trails are lit to allow skiing during the winter days when the sun never comes up.   Our inn was right on the main trail.  It would host "snowshoe dancing" from 2-5 every afternoon.  People would ski to the inn, have lunch and then dance to a live band for a few hours before skiing home.  
This was one of the tougher sections of the trail.  Downhill with a curve.  We both did it four times with a 75% success factor for each of us.  

The other hazard on the trail was the dogsled crossing. ….

…...which we actually had to wait for one time.  
We skied all week and only saw one reindeer.  And he wouldn't even give me a good picture; all I  got was his butt. 
Even skiing in the deep forest can't keep a teenager from his phone.  

Note the depth of the snow when you went off the trail.  And this was a year of well below average snow fall.  

One of our favorite activities was the town's toboggan hill.    It was 1.2 km long and very icy and fast.  The sign at the top warns you that " The slope is long and demands concentration".  It also demanded a lot of stamina to climb 1.2 km back up the hill to go down again.  

The "toboggans" were not built for full sized people.  They also suffered from a lack of  padding. Your rear end felt every single bump in the run.  
Grant demonstrates the hand steering technique.  
A view of the top half of the hill

We also went ice fishing one afternoon.  Here Grant's drilling the hole -- the ice was almost 2 feet thick.  
But even at that thickness it only took about a minute to drill the hole.  

Fishing can be boring if the fish aren't biting…..and ice fishing is no exception to that rule.  No fish were harmed in our expedition.  

Grant tried a variety of position to stay comfortable 

I don't think he was actually sleeping, but...

At the end of the afternoon, the guide encouraged us to splash water on our faces.  He said it would feel warm.  

We took a snowmobile expedition one evening to see the Northern Lights.  It was a beautiful, clear sky.  We could see satellites crossing, millions of stars and the Milky Way galaxy, but the Northern Lights never came.  Every other nights were cloudy so we'll have to go back next year.  All the locals had an app on their phone that predicted the chances of seeing the Northern Lights -- it would even send a text message when there was a spectacular display.  

We also did all the typical snow stuff like snow angels,  


and burying Grant in the snow

They tried to mine gold in the 1800's but the quantities were too small.

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