Finland – Oulanka National Park (Little Bear Trail)
Date: 27 January 2018
Distance: 8 miles
I’ve been struggling with how to describe Oulanka National Park, where I have been staying this week. The National Geographic website says it is ‘a rather remote upland region of North Ostrobothnia and Eastern Lapland, along the Russian border’. That’s geographically accurate (Russia is just 20km to the east, and the Artic Circle 40km to the north), and includes some excellently Finnish sounding names, but it doesn’t help with conveying how it looks in the depths of a Nordic winter. White? Certainly. Awfully snowy? Yup, that too. But there’s so much more. The light here is very soft: one of my fellow snowshoers today described it as making everything pastel. Which is true – except for the trees, which are tall and (where they aren’t coated in white) dark and menacing. It’s also quite magical.
Anyho, hopefully the photos will convey some of the wintertime wonderment of the Pieni Karhunkierros (Little Bear) 12km trail that I happily snowshoed today, with some new outdoors buddies, in what I am told was a very respectable time of four hours. Trust me, in this weather (a balmy -10C today) you don’t want to hang around to admire the scenery in too much detail. There’s something about frozen hair and tingling fingers – despite multiple layers of gloves) that suggest it’s not a great idea.
I’ve quite taken to this snow shoe malarkey this week, and will definitely do it again if the chance arises. Took me a while to work out how to walk up snow covered steps (on tip toes: it’s QUITE the calf workout), but I love how easy it is to walk down steep inclines in them – so much quicker and easier than it would be on vertiginous slopes in walking boots. It comes highly recommended by me… and it’s even better if you can follow it up with two hours hopping between a sauna and an outdoor hot tub!