Arctic Circle Magic

We’ve had a couple solid days within the arctic circle and we’ve been enjoying the slow pace of no longer traveling from point A to point B. Our luxuries include sleeping in, cooking meals, plus marveling at the enormous amounts of snow…

Monday as we traveled north we stopped at an Arctic Zoo in Ranua; how can you skip visiting the northernmost zoo in the world? Once we had bundled up appropriately we took off for our 2hr self guided tour. There were many beautiful animals and the zoo seemed to allow plenty of space for the larger animals. I’m not a huge zoo fan, but there were rescued/rehabbed animals throughout and it seemed like a well maintained property. The owls were my favorite exhibits, they are so majestic! I loved watching them just glower at us while not being even slightly disturbed. Marty has a unique whistle he would use to get their attention, several other tourist appreciated his whistle and would ask him to do it again so they could take photos. Besides the owls my other favorite animal was the wolf (though it made me sad to see them captive). They were handsome as they made their rounds through paths along their perimeter, their natural strength radiated from them. At the polar bear enclosure they were just lounging in the snow, cuddling together. We enjoyed watching them for a bit… and then I felt like I needed a Coke. Lol Finally, we headed out to finish the journey to our cabin in Sweden.

Our host Benko and Lilly (she gave us an American name because it is easier for her guest to pronounce) have been wonderful!Benko greeted us our first night at the road because we were unable to find the cabin, he showed us in and gave us a brief overview of the house. Lilly visited us yesterday and took us on a tour of the property; they have many acres, multiple homes/buildings handed down through their family. Besides the sauna in our cabin they have another larger sauna a short walk from our cabin, as well as hut by the river where you can build fires to heat/cook and be close the the outdoors to watch for northern lights– called a Kota (grill hut). She even taught us a few Swedish words! Benko’s family is originally from Finland and one of the buildings (now a workout room) was his fathers that they moved from Finland to Sweden.

Our cabin is a bit older, it was Benko and Lilly’s first home here on the homestead. After Benko’s mother passed away they moved into the primary home and have begun renting out this one and another on the property. The cabins first floor is open concept (living room/kitchen), one bedroom, has wooden (very creaky) floors, a WC downstairs and a loft bedroom with the sauna/shower upstairs. All essentials are provided so it’s very comfortable. I believe our only complaint is that after having smart TV’s at the last few homes this one has basic cable, so there are only a few channels in English and the internet is weak… With only 7 hours of daylight we enjoy relaxing around the television in the evening. The cabin is also heated by a wood stove in the garage below our cabin; Lilly showed us how it worked yesterday as well her prized motorcycle. She enjoyed harassing us over our Harleys without a reverse while her Suzuki has it all; we truly enjoyed her company and getting to know her yesterday.

While relaxing most of the day yesterday we made a large pot of taco soup to keep us warm this week, heated the kettle throughout the day for hot tea or hot chocolate, read or watched movies on laptops/iPad and dozed off and on. Last night we went down to the hut by the river and built a large fire to relax around. There are beautiful reindeer pelts to sit on, moose antlers over the door that Lilly shot for food one year, and a few windows to watch for northern lights through. The Kota (grill hut) is very cozy, but we found it more difficult to keep warm than we imagined. Per Lilly’s advice we started the fire several hours before we planned to sit down there, and went back and forth for a few hours stoking the fire. Benko provided lots of wood for us to burn so we kept stoking it for heat, the wood is very dry and burns quickly! The design of the hut keeps the smoke flowing out so there was not even a slight scent on you when you leave, we loved the design! While sitting around the fire staying warm we watched a downloaded move on the iPad and passed around a jug of hot chocolate. Finally our bums wore out so we headed back to the cabin around midnight. Clouds rolled in and snow had been falling for a few hours so the northern lights remained illusive.

Early this morning there was a break in the clouds and I saw very slight movement from the northern lights. Per the app and website I follow for tracking they were decently strong in our area but the clouds proved to be an issue. I stared for a while trying to make sense of what I was seeing (at 4am you’re not sure if your eyes are working or not) and finally ran to wake up Marty. By then the clouds had begun shifting again and he wasn’t able to to see much.

Today we are looking forward to snowshoeing and Nordic skiing around the property. They have a loop route with a moose stand we can climb for better views. Benko told us about their moose and reindeer when we first arrived and stated that they are afraid of humans and run (and that they were not like our moose in the U.S.)… after learning more from Lilly we now understand they run because she HUNTS! They also have a sweet dog who’s name translates to “Cougar”, she hunts with Lilly and was injured in a hunt last year. There was a 12-14in stick kicked into her by an angry mother moose after Lilly shot the smaller moose for food. After 2 different vet visits, antibiotics and 2 surgeries Cougar is now doing well and has a battle wound to prove her ferocity!

The magic of the snow is catching, Marty and Brea are beginning to see my addition and wonder to it. As the snow fell gently last night it began erasing all of our foot prints and impressions recently made on the paths. The new snow glistened in the light and made everything sparkle. You can actually see the distinct difference of each snowflake when you look closely so we all marveled at them for a bit. Brea and I each enjoyed jumping into snow drifts or off of the shoveled paths… the snow is waist deep and fluffy! Since it is so dry here the snow doesn’t pack well like at home so snowballs are nonexistent and we haven’t seen any snowmen. Lol

Farväl,

Marty & Charity

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Finland, here we come!

Hello 2018, what a year you are going to be! 2017 was a whirlwind of travel for me and a serious health scare for Marty, but we survived and are excited for the opportunity to continue our life journey together.

Short recap of 2017 — I took on a beast of a contract that helped me grow in my career and also allowed me to meet some awesome new folks; but was a bit of a bear. Thankfully it finished in December and as new opportunities present I look forward to finding another challenge. Marty had a stroke back in May which caught us all off guard and made us realize our mortality. Thankfully, he has mostly recovered and has no significant side affects. As we wake each morning we thank the Lord for another chance to enjoy this life we’ve been given. When your mortality slaps you in the face you begin to remember what life should be about — love, family, friends and pure joy. Martys daughter Brea was married to her best friend in November and we are happy to welcome not only another family member to our circle, but his entire sweet family. It’s been one heck of a year with the ups and downs, but at the end of the year we snuggled up close to each other with our 4-legged kiddos and thanked God for another year and wonderful memories that trump all of the tough times.

This year we are excited to embark on a month long exploration in Europe! LIFE IS TOO SHORT! Last year I kept promising we’d do something epic when I finished my busy contract, so, here we go! First stop, Finland!! I’ve dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights so Marty and I and his daughter Brea are off to hopefully see them and play in the snow. We’re excited to have Brea join us for the first leg of our trip in Finland and Sweden. Here we come reindeer!!

When we start looking for our next adventure we mostly start by seeing how far my travel points get us or what flights are cheapest to our top destinations. After seeing pictures from a friends trip we randomly decided to see how many points it would take us to fly to Iceland… it wasn’t bad, the points will stretch really far. There, how simple was that? After an awesome trip to Utah before Christmas and a natural hot spring we’re also excited to visit new countries and enjoy their winters (something we don’t really get in N.C.).

As our trip progresses I hope to keep family and friends update via this blog, so if you’re interested, check back and see what’s going on! Also, follow my instagram @memoriesnotstuff if you want the journey through pictures.

Peace out USA, we’ll see you again soon, but we’re excited to explore new countries and meet new folks along the way!

Xoxo,

Charity & Marty