“You are still here!” Tinnti the boat driver looked at me in mild surprise as I walked up to where he and a bunch of other men were seated on the bench at Kultahamina.
“Where you been?”
“When you come back?”
“Maybe next weekend to go fishing with Aki and Ami, and then in a few weeks I’ll go down south to hike Petronella’s longer route here over Morgam-Vibus. After that I will stay till the end of the season.”
“You come back?” He raised his eyebrows. I felt like I had been spending a lot of time convincing people in Lemmenjoki I wasn’t going anywhere, while convincing the rest of the world that I was going somewhere. Myself, I spent a lot of time convincing that I was neither coming nor going, that I was just in the present. That was hard enough.
“Of course,” I said. “I love it here.”
Tintti shook his head, smiling. “You are the new Petronella,” he said.
I braced myself for his next question, but it didn’t come. Most other times when I had announced my plans to retrace Petronella’s 100+km trek through the wilderness to Lemmenjoki I had been met with a chorus of “Forget-about-it!” or “Alone? You can’t do it alone.” or “No trails, no way!” I knew it was all out of friendly worry, but every time a well-meaning soul shot another piece of doubt at me, I had to fight down my fiery, independent side who was threatening to pack up and start walking solo tomorrow. I didn’t blame them – I had sealed my fate in their minds when I got lost on the fairly straightforward hike to Pihlajamäki. Over the next few weeks, the phrase “but Petronella had a Klaus!” rang constantly in my ears from concerned gold miners.
Petronella ended up at Morgamoja gold claim in 1949 largely because of a man she met on a bus. Klaus Säynäjärvi worked for Hallenberg brick factory in Helsinki, but as an avid geologist, fisherman, and ex-military outdoorsman, he chose to spend his vacation hiking around Lapland collecting rock samples. He had a fiancé waiting for him in the south – they were engaged the previous summer in Lapland, where they had mined the gold for their rings themselves. When Petronella asked to join him as a traveling companion, Klaus easily welcomed her and together they set off on the difficult, iconic trek from near Laanila to Lemmenjoki over the course of 11 days.
This trek had the potential to be the pinnacle of my journey, so I swallowed my pride and considered the general reaction to my plan. Was I capable of doing it myself? Hell yeah. But then again, I had been living in my own head for a long time, and two would be a little bit safer and a lot more fun. I needed to find a Klaus. Where could I find a rugged outdoorsman in under a week to make the trip with me? I couldn’t think of anyone who had time off from work to spare, could handle themselves in the wild, and with whom I’d want to spend 11 days. I gave up looking and went to the river instead.
And that was where Klaus 2014 found me.
I was sitting in an Adirondack chair near the water in Saariselkä, playing ukulele after lunch. Headed south to Tankavaara eventually but with no idea how I would get there, I had decided to take my time and enjoy the rare sunshine. My eyes were closed and I was deep into a rendition of “Return,” the song I wrote for the gold mining community. When I opened them, I saw a figure and a dog sitting a few meters away. The song ended, and I was surprised to look up again and find them still there.
We chatted for a while, and I was offered a ride to Tankavaara, which I accepted. An hour later, I opened an email.
“I really don’t know what made me walk to you…” it began, “…when you turned towards me and I saw your face there was something that made me stay.” It went on to describe a downright hard year, a need for an adventure, and a gut feeling. “If you don’t like me walking with you at least I can meet you on the way? I think I have to do this journey also, even if you wish to do it with Petronella.”
I believe that things happen for a reason, and have never been one to ignore a gut feeling. So, it is with great joy that I announce my companion for my upcoming trek:
Her name is Annukka. Klaus is a woman. Welcome to 2014!
Once I accepted her into my journey, things fell into place in an uncanny way. Annukka is 33 years old. Klaus was 33 years old. Annukka is bringing her dog, Jooperi. Klaus and Petronella hiked with a dog named Penj. Because of Annukka’s work schedule, we moved the trip two days later than anticipated, putting us at our halfway point on September 11th: Petronella’s birthday. (We are having a 91st birthday celebration for Petronella with cake and champagne on the Kuttura bridge the morning of the 11th – send a message if you want to join!)
Measuring in at approximately 110 kilometers over 10 days with bushwhacking, river crossings, haunted cabins and plenty of other adventures we don’t yet know about, Annukka and I have our work cut out for us, and I don’t think we could be more excited about it! If all goes according to plan, (which it never does) we will arrive in Lemmenjoki by my 28th birthday. She will return home to her family and I will remain in Lemmenjoki until the end of the season.
At one point, Annukka expressed concern over the responsibility of living up to Klaus’ image. What if she didn’t act like Klaus did? What if the legend didn’t go as it did then? “I’m not a geologist, you know…” she wrote. I was starkly reminded of my struggle in the beginning of this adventure to understand that Petronella and I were two similar but different people on two similar but different journeys. It took time for me to find my own voice, to take ownership over my journey. It was with my own voice that I answered:
“Show up with every fibre of the awesome woman you are, pain and struggles and joy and enthusiasm, all of it. I promise to do the same. If we do that, there’s no way we can fail.”