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Clare
Clare

Day 8: Kiilopää

When we woke up and stepped outside the apartment this morning, we found the weather was a complete contrast to yesterday.

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The sky was so much clearer and there was no mist at all.

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We had a rather different plan for today. When we rented the snowshoes yesterday, the lady in the rental shop had recommended that we take the local ski bus to a place called Kiilopää where we'd find a lot more snowshoeing trails. The bus was due to depart from a bus stop outside one of the main hotels in town at 09.45.

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The bus only runs from Saariselkä to Kiilopää once a day, returning in the evening. The timetable was a little frozen, but we could just about read it and work out that our return bus would be at 16.50.

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The bus arrived promptly at 09.45. We paid 5 euros each for a day ticket. Around 15 minutes later, the bus deposited us outside the national park entrance in Kiilopää.

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There were loads of different snowshoe trails here, so our first task was to figure out where we actually wanted to go.

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We chose a circular trail of 5.4km called "Poropolku". Mainly because "poro" (reindeer) is one of the few words we recognise in Finnish :) 

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As you'll see in the photo above, the brown sign was pointing us in the direction we needed to go. But all we could see in that direction was a ski run, complete with yellow sign telling people not to walk on the ski run.

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In the end we had no other option but to walk down the middle of the ski run, being careful not to disturb the tracks on either side. And that turned out to be the correct thing to do! After five minutes we turned the corner and found the start of the actual snowshoeing trail.

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Before long we were snowshoeing our way past beautiful snowy trees.

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And we could see the sky beginning to turn pink with sunrise in the background.

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The snowshoe trail which we'd been on yesterday would probably have been possible to walk on without snowshoes.

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This trail definitely wouldn't have been; there was so much snow everywhere.

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The views were incredible but it was a bitterly cold day.

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I had to resist the temptation to remove my gloves to take too many photos or my fingers would have been at risk of freezing.

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It was hard not to take a photo every minute though, especially with this sunrise.

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We passed lots of little trees which were barely sticking out of the snow.

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Though there were still some bigger trees too.

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We hadn't been going for too long but I was already looking quite cold :D

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We crossed what felt like a bridge over a frozen stream.

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We snowshoed a little further past the bridge...

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...and suddenly found ourselves at a fence.

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We had to pass through a gate, taking care to close it behind us. The sign informed us we were entering a reindeer husbandry area.

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We didn't see any reindeer today, though. I'm sure they could have heard us coming miles off with our snowshoes.

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At this point the route began to lead us gradually uphill.

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As we got higher we had a view of a larger hill in the distance, which I think is the Kiilopää fell that the area is named after.

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The colours in the sky were still fantastic :)

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The landscape didn't look real; I felt like we were walking across the icing of a cake.

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As the sun got higher in the sky we had a wonderful view of some trees silhouetted against it.

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We were climbing increasingly high...

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...and the landscape was beginning to look quite barren.

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As approached the top of the hill, we also had a view of forests in the opposite direction.

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We suddenly realised we could see the moon above the frozen trees.

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While in the opposite direction we could still see the sun.

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We were really in the middle of nowhere by this point and we hadn't met a single other person on the same trail. The route was marked by small wooden posts with green tops. Lots of them were covered in snow so that the green wasn't visible but the posts still helped us know where to go. You'll see one of them in the photo below, to the right of the footprints.

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At this point we reached the top of the hill we'd been climbing. There was an info board - we think about local birds - but we couldn't really read it because it was almost completely frosted over.

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The views up here were incredible.

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In every direction!

We felt like we were all on our own in the middle of an Arctic wilderness.

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Probably because we were all on our own in the middle of an Arctic wilderness :D 

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After we'd finished taking photos at the summit, we turned right at the info board, following a clear track from people who had snowshoed before us.

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However, once we reached this frozen tree, we realised that there was no more trail to follow.

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No footprints and no wooden marker posts!

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We decided we'd have to retrace our steps and returned to the info board.

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And then we realised that if we'd turned left at the board rather than right, we would have found a new chain of wooden posts.

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We began to snowshoe towards the first post. The snow was really deep here!

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Even with the snowshoes on, we were sinking quite deep.

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We made it down in the end though and were soon firmly back on the right route.

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We were going downhill now, which was much easier.

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Soon we came across some proper signposts, confirming we were going in the right direction.

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Off we went, now heading back towards the national park entrance.

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We were walking towards the sun now, which was much higher in the sky than it had been earlier.

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The biggest surprise of the walk back was that we saw a bird. Can you spot it in the photo below?!

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It's clearer in this one :) We weren't sure what it was at the time, but having googled it we've worked out that it's a ptarmigan. Their feathers change colour from brown to white during the winter, allowing them to camouflage against the snow. This ptarmigan had a nest below the tree; we saw it disappear down into it.

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We still had another couple of kilometres to walk in the snow.

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We had some more amazing views of the sun through these trees.

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Eventually we made it back to the reindeer fence, complete with another sign asking us to close the gate behind us. The only problem was.... this didn't seem to be a gate!

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Tim worked out that we needed to remove the poles...

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...and climb over.

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Then the poles needed to be replaced!

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Once we'd made it through the gate, the path became a lot easier.

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Before long we were back at the national park entrance where we'd started. There was a restaurant near the bus stop, so we went inside to warm up. And I may have eaten some cake.

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We actually wanted to have a meal, but the restaurant didn't start serving food until 3pm so we had a bit of a wait. That was fine though; we had time to kill until the bus returned for us at 16.50.  And when we did finally get into the restaurant, we had a table with a beautiful view :) 

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We went with burger and fries again, which is generally a safe choice in Lapland (so long as you make sure the burger is beef and not reindeer!).

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While we were sitting there our phones messaged us to alert us to cold weather!

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It certainly felt cold once we ultimately stepped outside the restaurant to retrieve our snowshoes.

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It was completely dark at the national park entrance now.

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We realised we could see the moon.

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Although they haven't come out in the photos, there were lots of stars too.

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We stood at the bus stop and waited for the bus.

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As we did we could see that the sky was two completely different colours; much lighter in the direction to the right where the sun had been setting, and completely dark to the left.

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The bus arrived promptly and took us back to Saariselkä, where we handed back our snowshoes and walked back to the cabin for our final night. Tomorrow is going to be a long day of travelling, with our first flight from Ivalo to Helsinki at 09.15. But it's 100% been worth it to come all this way; we've experienced some truly freezing temperatures, seen reindeer and the northern lights. I don't think we could have hoped for a better trip :) 

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