I am again going on my yearly hiking trip with my friend, and want to share this experience with you. Experienced hikers already know everything I am about to say, but this is meant for all the first-timers, so they know what to expect. We are going three weeks from now, but I already know from experience what to expect. It will be good! As an example, I will tell you how our hiking trip was last year when we visited the very same place where we are going this year too.
We start from Helsinki railway station with the night car train to Kolari (1 000 km north from Helsinki). Then we drive to Kilpisjärvi (järvi = lake), which is in the most north-western corner of Finland, bordering to Sweden and Norway (1 300 km from Helsinki). The target of our hiking trip is a Norwegian mountain area 30 km to the west of Kilpisjärvi, a large and stunning area with snow-topped mountains. And how do we get there? Well, we walk there through the wilderness. There are no roads, houses, or people. After you step over the main road (the only road) in Kilpisjärvi and take a few steps further, the wilderness starts. The only way to move around is by walking. We are now at our starting point.
I put on my hiking shoes. Gosh, I did not remember they were so heavy and clumsy. And the backpack then. After 50 hiking trips into the wilderness of Lapland, we certainly know how to stuff and load our backpack. Max. 20 kg it is. Yet, for some reason, our backpacks always seem to weigh 25-27 kg. So also this time. Well, you always have to include a six-pack of beer and a little whisky. But it does not feel so bad when I lift the backpack on my back. It feels good to be on a hiking trip again.
After 300 meters, I notice that I am already all sweaty. Well, If you carry an almost 30 kg backpack straight upwards along a mountain, you sweat, don’t you? After 5 km, I start paying attention to how sore my shoulders are from carrying the backpack. I am not used to this yet. My shoulders are already aching. I wonder if I will be able to sleep at all next night. It feels that bad. We still have 8 km to go today. Back at the train in the restaurant, when we had some beers, in our minds we flew like birds over the mountains. Now, we can barely walk 1,5-2 km per hour in this rough terrain. We do keep pauses, but we have to walk on; otherwise, we will not reach our destiny tonight. Many are the moments when I think “who was the darn idiot that got the idea to come here in the first place”.
Finally, late in the evening, we get to our destiny, tired and exhausted. Every single muscle is aching. We put up our tent and start the fire. Then we wash in a mountain stream. Please put on the cold water, let it run for five minutes, and you get some impression of how ice-cold the water in the stream is. And you have to go in pretty deep. How can you otherwise wash? God, what an ordeal. I would not wish this for my worst enemy.
But I do know from experience that washing in the ice-cold stream is worth all the hardship.
Because, after the washing, when you are clean and fresh comes the first “really good feeling”. No tiredness or pain anymore. The scenery around us and how good we feel are like made in heaven. Now we sit by the fire and roast our sausages. We have a beer and some whisky drinks. Our minds are as relaxed as the surface of a completely calm lake. Not one single negative thought enters our minds anymore. This is just the very reason why we came here. And from here on, it only gets better, day by day.
Every hiking trip includes some exciting experiences. The next day we are upon a one km high mountain. Snow-topped mountain peaks everywhere, as long as you can see. How can the world be so beautiful, we think. We enjoy the moment and take a short nap up on the mountainside. When we wake up, there is a thick fog. You can barely see two meters ahead, and there are steep mountainsides around us where you can fall hundreds of meters if you take a wrong step. Does anyone remember the way we climbed up here?
No! Well, no problem. We stay put where we are, so no-one falls down the mountain by accident. We put up the tent by a small mountain stream, light a fire, and relax. After all, why not. We drink a whisky, or maybe two. This is an excellent place to be, I mean, a perfect location: no houses, no roads, no people, no nothing for tens of kilometers. We are entirely on our own. We finally feel one-to-one with nature. We can almost hear the wilderness talking to us. This too is why we came hiking, to experience this feeling. I do not know how you could feel better than this.
The next morning when we wake up, the fog is gone, and we can find our way down from the mountain, and then continue up the next mountainside. The next day I slip and fall into a creek and get soaked. No problem, my clothes will dry up as I walk. And so our hiking trip goes on. Every day a little better. But after five days we are out of food, out of whisky, all our clothes dirty and shabby, so it is time to go home. When we hike back to Kilpisjärvi, all I can think of is how nice it will be to get into a hot shower. However, when we get to Kilpisjärvi, we first go to a café to have a coffee and doughnut. When we enter the café, I pay attention to how clean and orderly everything is. I can feel the pleasant smell of the perfume from the lady at the cashier’s stand. She is looking at me with her eyes wide open. Well, why not. I am an experienced hiker who just has returned from the wilderness; I probably must be looking a little like Indiana Jones, I think.
Then I pay attention to another strong smell, like a dead rat, and I notice that this smell is coming from me. Even though we have washed every day and changed clean underwear, my hiking jacket and trousers smell of five days of sweat, dirt, and smoke. I look into the mirror in front of me, and my skin which I thought would have a tremendous suntan after five days in the sun, had, in fact, a greasy yellow look. On top of this, I had a five-day stubble, because I had not shaved. So I looked like a genuine drunkard who had slept the whole last week in a ditch.
No wonder the cashier lady was looking at me with her eyes wide open. I probably don’t look like Indiana Jones after all. Well, you must just overcome these kinds of hardships, I think. After a coffee and doughnut, we head for the showers, where I stay for over 30 minutes. Then we have a pizza and a cold beer. Then another cold beer and then suddenly, as if by magic, all the hardships of our hike are forgotten. Only the memories of the beautiful sceneries and wonderful moments and experiences we had are left. What a fantastic hike we had, we think. Once more, it surpassed all our expectations. And so, in our car on our way back home, we already start planning our next hike to Lapland.
It will be a good hike. This hike will take place three weeks from now.