2019 Trip – Day 4

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
67.9 km 12.6 km/h 30.2 km/h

A much colder start with a low of -28 °C when I was feeding the dog’s their breakfast but another sunny day which warmed up to about -5 °C by the afternoon.

I headed over in the direction of Saija and on the way decided to turn south on the disused railway line. I was hoping to find a trail which would lead me to the area south of the river which I have never managed to reach. It turned out that this was a very bad idea!

After a couple of km I found a track going the right way but it just looped back to the railway. So, I pressed on. After about another km I saw some sort of dip in the trail ahead. As I got closer I decided that it was a bridge, but wasn’t concerned as the snow mobile tracks I was following clearly continued across and up the other side. Unfortunately, when I was almost upon it I realised my mistake. It was one of those railway bridges which isn’t solid and just consists of a line of sleepers with big gaps between them like a huge cattle grid!

Scene at bridge crisis with wheel dogs rescued.

I stood on the brake, but by the time I stopped, all of the dogs were on the bridge and in serious trouble. Most managed to climb onto a sleeper and balance whilst shaking with fear. The drop though the gaps was about 3 or 4 m to a snow filled stream. I quickly put in the anchor and rushed to the rescue. My biggest concern was for Kattla who had almost completely fallen though a gap and was supported only by his harness and front feet. I pulled him up and managed to lead him to safety. Then I started to retrieve the others working towards the leaders.

I then had the problem of what to do with the dogs I rescued. I could just let them run free, but they might try to re-join their friends on the bridge. I therefore used some of my spare lines to fix them to the back of the sledge.

Collecting the dogs was difficult as the sleepers were covered with compressed snow and therefore quite slippy. The gaps were too narrow for me to fall all the way through but I was worried that I could easily break a leg if I fell. To make matters worse, some of the dogs were too scared to move and I had to carry them.

As I was working on retrieving the leaders two snow mobiles arrived. The driver of the first spoke English and said that there were three such bridges on the line. I turned the sled and started to re-attach the team with the driver helping by holding the leaders in place whilst I did so. I then started back the way a came very grateful that no dogs had been hurt and revising my view that it is always safe to follow where snow mobiles have been.

I resumed my drive towards Saija and took my usual route via the ski trail. Sadly and most unusually the trail had not been swept for the last few km. I then joined one of Saija’s trails north for a few km before cutting across to the army road to return south to the ski trail. I was just thinking about how the army road had been built during WW2 when I noticed the sign below. Sadly, I don’t know what it says but will update the blog once I have a translation.

Sign beside the army road.

As I approached the Saija trail again I hear a load rumbling noise and then in the distance I saw a huge machine which turned out to be the one which makes the ski trails. It appeared that Saija were paying to have their already perfectly serviceable trail upgraded to billiard table standard. I found my way over and had the delight of driving on the virgin trail before Saija had a chance to use it!

Driving on the virgin Saija trail.

I then made my way back the way I had come and collected my bag from Jänisvaara.

Finally I made my way back to the farm making the mistake of taking a route via the Tilsa road. Loggers had clearly on just swept this and with almost no snow it was both very fast and difficult to control. I was most grateful that Buddha took the command to turn off it as I would have been unable to put in the anchor to guide him or even reliably stop on the brake.

I got back to the farm at about 1800 and was given a lift to the Hotel Herkko on Taivalkoski to have a night back in civilisation.