Quick update. Below you can see the actual route of the Year Outdoors-project. You can find a larger image in the Gallery section. Total distance is a bit over 2500 kilometres. The outcome corresponds surprisingly well to the original plan. Only major difference was due to COVID-restrictions in late winter. Since I wasn’t allowed to cross borders freely as in the normal situation, I couldn’t ski from Abisko to Northern Norway. Instead I went to the official border crossing station in Kaaresuvanto and continued to “quarantine” myself in the wildernesses of northern Finland. Fortunately the restrictions were lifted in June and I was able to spend the summer in northern Norway as originally planned.
Because of the altered route, I missed a wonderful chance for serious ice fishing in the rich waters of Norway. Of course I fished also on the finnish side but the catch was quite modest. However, I managed to get some fish to enrich my dinner every now and then as the following video, shot on the good old “Straightened Hook Lake”, demonstrates.
Five stories about the trip were published in the finnish outdoor magazine Retki, last of which a few days ago. We ended up on the cover!
13.8.2020 Oulu, Finland
About a week ago the journey finally ended when I arrived the village of Kiberg on the shores of the Arctic See in Northern Norway. After 366 days of adventure I ended up in the same place where I started the whole crazy thing. I was of course happy about reaching the finish line. Besides happiness I also felt fatigue and sort of sadness for leaving the great outdoors behind me. Cold rain and wind accompanied my arrival and kept the atmosphere quite chilly. Bursts of emotions were not seen or heard. No surprise there as the journey had been far more important than the destination. I waded around a little in the sea water and then rushed to the bus that I almost missed. As the misty lands of the Varanger peninsula went past the window my head felt empty and heavy at the same time. The only clear thought was gratitude for completing the journey according to plan and surviving it in one piece.
A few words about the months that passed after the last update. Living the springtime in the wilderness was an unforgettable experience! After the temperatures finally rose to summer readings the nature started to change astonishingly fast. Migratory birds appeared, the snow melted and rivers and lakes flooded. Wherever you looked, you would see some sort of life. Besides nature, I also enjoyed the sun and warmth like never before. At some point I started walking instead of skiing and had a joyful grin on my face for days despite heavy rain and long skis on my shoulder. The springtime was definitely the greatest experience on this whole trip.
Just before midsummer eve the border between Finland and Norway was reopened after the lockdown due to Coronavirus. I was able to return to my original plan to spend my summer in northern Norway. The last season of the trip was a mixture of walking, fishing and simple outdoors life that I enjoyed very much. I caught a lot of trout and arctic char which kept away the hunger that is usually present more or less. And I also got to stay in peace as I met exactly one fellow hiker in the wildeness during the summer!
After the trip it was nice to return home. Now I’m slowly integrating myself back to the society. My head feels still somewhat empty and staying in a populated area still feels just temporary. As if I would soon pack my backpack again and head to the wilderness just like a dozen times before. Furthermore, it is still difficult to see the journey in one big picture. I suppose time will set the numerous bits of memories in their correct places.
Although life in the wilderness is now over, the project continues. Writing and photo editing keep me busy and my thoughts still wander around the Nordic wilderness. I shall write more and add some photos here as the work progresses.
6.5.2020 Näkkälä, Finland
Two months have passed since the last update and a lot has happened since then.
From Kvikkjokk I continued my journey along Sarek and Padjelanta national parks to the swedish-norwegian border and roughly following it to Abisko. The journey took 22 days and it was the most demanding period so far. During that time there was maybe one or two nice sunny days whereas heavy wind and snowfall seemed to be endless. I spent many days taking shelter from the storms and reading my three novels. In fact, I read each of them three times from cover to cover. Despite difficult conditions there was no gear failure or any other problems. Everything went just fine and according to plan. Well, almost everything. Because of bad weather conditions, I did ice fishing only for a couple of hours and caught only a 3-inch arctic char. I let the poor fellow go free.
In Abisko I experienced quite a surprise. Without me knowing anything, coronavirus had turned the world upside down. I carefully considered how to continue my trip so that I won’t help the virus spread further. I also considered quitting for a moment. Eventually, I decided to continue the project although I had to make some adjustments to my plan. Now it seems that I’m able to live and hike in the wilderness for the whole year.
From Abisko I skied about a month to Näkkälä in Enontekiö, Northern Finland. During that time it really started to look like springtime. After long winter and those tough weeks in the mountains life below the treeline felt easier and more comfortable than ever. What’s even more delightful, it just keeps getting easier. Finally I dare to dream of summer!
Soon I must also start preparing for the fact that one not-so-distant day this adventure will end. Today is day number 277 so less than a hundred days left. Next time I will be in front of a computer updating this site in august. Then I’ll already be back home and Year Outdoors- project is done. How did it come to this? The adventure that a few months ago seemed never ending is after all about to end.
In Näkkälä I changed my heavy winter equipment to much lighter gear. Soon I will once again continue this journey. For years I have dreamed of being in the wilderness in springtime to see how forests become free from snow, ice cover breaks in rivers and lakes and life returns. Now I’m finally able to do that. There’s still a lot of snow and heavy flooding is expected so I’ve got some soggy days ahead of me. Soggy but certainly unforgettable!
PS: My video of an otter that I saw in January in Muddus national park got some publicity in finnish media: https://www.mtvuutiset.fi/artikkeli/eramaassa-vaeltanut-erno-saukko-todisti-kaiman-erikoista-menoa-se-liukui-hangella-kuin-aalto/7779358
1.3.2020 Kvikkjokk, Sweden
It has been a while since the last update. Today is the 211th day of the trip. The journey has taken me from Kaaresuvanto through Kiruna and Jokkmokk all the way to the village of Kvikkjokk at the border of the Sarek national park. Less than half of the trip is remaining and soon I will start heading back north. The inevitable end to this journey is starting to loom in the horizon.
Since Kaaresuvanto things have been rolling on smoothly. The only major setback was a nasty flue that kind of ruined my Christmas. Otherwise I am really happy about the way things have turned out. I had the toughest days so far in the fjells north of Kiruna and the most relaxing days in my two weeks winter camp near Jokkmokk. Since december the winter has been surprisingly mild. The lowest temperature is still -29,3 degrees recorded in November. My hiking gear has endured surprisingly well. The only significant problem was the breakdown of my food thermos which have already been replaced by a new one.
The coldest and darkest days of winter are now over. The sun is back radiating it’s wonderful warmth and light more and more each day. Accordingly, life in the wilderness gets more poleasant every day. Sunglasses have already become a necessity. After such dark months it is great to be able to eat breakfast without a headlamp. Similarly, after setting up camp there is still light for a little sightseeing or photographing trip.
In the forests the snow has become deep making life there quite laborious. For me that is not a problem since from Kvikkjokk I will ascend to the mountains for the next two months. There will be long days of skiing and my trusty tent will feel like home more than ever. Hopefully there will also be some sunny days and time for ice fishing. As thoughts of spring, melting snow, flowing water and nature awaking back to life are starting to get more and more frequent, the thing that I’m awaiting the most is catching some fresh fish!
17.11.2019 Karesuando, Sweden
107 days and 800 kilometers of the year-long journey is done. I have wandered from the shores of the Arctic Ocean along the most remote regions of Northern Finland and Norway to the banks of the Muonio river between Finland and Sweden. During that time warm summer slowly turned into colorful fall and further into cold winter days. Since the beginning the Sun has shown a little less of itself every day. Soon it will be totally gone beyond the horizon. Fortunately, only for a little while.
So far everything has gone according to plan. Summer and fall were enchanting time in the midst of continuous change of the surrounding nature. It was also great to live the arrival of winter although, being quite early this year, it challenged the light gear that we had in our backpacks. Thus, the last 18 days leg from the village of Lisma to Karesuvanto was the most challenging so far. It was also one of the most interesting intervals in the wilderness for me ever. That’s what this journey is all about, new experiences!
Although merely less than third of the journey is behind me, I already have stories and tales to tell for ages. My memory cards are packed with so many photos and videos that I can’t go through all of them during my stay in the supply points. Also the writing has taken some of my limited time in the civilized world. In the coming issue of Retki-magazine 10/2019 there will be a story about the first three months of the journey. Unfortunately this will be only in Finnish. I have added some photos from along the way to the gallery.
Now the nature of this trip changes dramatically. Apart from the first three weeks, this has been a two-person hike. From Kaaresuvanto I will continue alone. It will probably take some time to adjust myself to this new situation. From now on there’s no one to look after me and to cheer me up. I’ve got to get up from difficult moments and soft snow by myself. Another change is that I will continue with full winter gear. Goodbye backpack and short skis, welcome sledge and long skis!
After a few days of rest and maintenance I will head towards the vast wildernesses of northern Sweden. Besides amazing nature experiences, there will also be interesting challenges ahead as the snow is still really soft and the sunlight gets even dimmer. There’s gonna be some exciting days!
1.8.2019 Logistics center, Ranua, Finland
All the preparations for the Year Outdoors-project are complete and the long journey is about to begin. Huge amounts of food and gear are packed in plastic or cardboard. Full backpack is waiting on the doorstep. My regular citylife is stuffed in a small warehouse. Soon phone and internet are also put away for at least a few months. It feels strange to have so little to worry about.
I feel calm and peaceful although I’m facing a year of drifter’s life with little knowledge of days, weeks and months to come. Not to mentions the huge decrease in the material standard of living. However, a hard bed, dirty clothes and occasional hunger, cold and loneliness are a small price to pay for such a great nature experience. Furthermore, I get a chance to live a whole year the way I want, where I want.
After years of planning and training and time consuming preparations I have finally reached this strange point. Of course I haven’t reached it alone and therefore I want to thank all the people that have been helping me along the way.
The first story about the project will be published in the Finnish outdoor magazine Retki number 8/19, unfortunately only in finnish. I’ll see if I can later write a summary in English.
Everything’s ready and there’s no hurry to anywhere anymore. I’ll be soon in northern Norway starting this adventure. Before that I have to enjoy sauna as much as I can since it might take a long time to get another chance!
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