Dear Finland,

You welcomed me in my mother’s tongue, celebrated my twenty-second birthday with fervor as if you were the patient matron witness to the previous twenty-one, enveloped me in stoic bonds of silent solidarity, fed me and housed me. You revealed to me a most incredible and harsh beauty, an unfathomable stillness that left the breath meant to swirl within my lungs frozen.

al lake

Crossing Alempi Akujärvi

This trip, this adventure planned to traverse your frigid shoulders has only managed to graze one singly. We suffered at your mercy, fumbling with our stiff  fingers, stinging from pink and tender skins  for days until we grew calloused to your climate. You froze our breath in our nostrils, our sweat in our boots, our dinner on our spoons. We pressed until we crested, able to wake a thrilled audience to your deliberate blue transition, your slow drag of morning. We became efficient, swift. Melding ourselves into you, we woke with you, slept with you, experienced you as silently as you us, and we accepted contentedly all that you had to offer up of your surreal heart.

The view from our door.

The view from our door

After completing 9 short days and 120 KM of our proposed 40 and 400 KM, I watch your fells and frozen lakes and shivering leafless birches whip by from an expensive bus seat with the ache that something, someone, beloved is growing perceptibly unreachable. Snow gleams clinging to the high branches of stiff pines.  It is as if we have discovered the existence of a magnificent secret, as if we have just glimpsed the heart of something too great for words, too large for us to wholly comprehend, something that we have been subconsciously lacking from our beings all this time. We watch this environment that has been our home pass away, destined for lesser parallels.

Breaking down camp

Breaking down camp

It is bittersweet. It feels as if  this thing slowly drains through the cracks between my cupped fingers. It has left its taste on my palate, an awareness of a brilliance that I knew not before, something to hunger for. A new appetite for another adventure.

Please note there is an in depth trip report and more photographs pending.

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Goodbye, America and Thank You.

Before I free the sails, I must send my sincerest gratitude to all of those who provided me (and Alan) with aid, encouragement, advice/experiential knowledge, patience and distraction. I hope I will be able to refrain from an intolerably dry list of names:

To the kind folks at Mountain Trails, Gene, Lydia, Arthur, Diane, and Rowdy the Dog, in Winchester, VA for special ordering things, patiently answering the same questions for weeks, organizing trips for equipment test runs, lending me personal equipment to test before making purchases, consulting, advising, distracting me with delightful IPAs from the local pub during proposed “staff meetings”, allowing me to spend almost as much time in the shop as they do; sitting, reading, knitting and entertaining my favorite Rowdy the Dog; and for providing invaluable encouragement and support. Please note that no list could adequately thank these folks.

Matthew Wikswo for his unfathomable analytical capacity, incredibly warm hearth, and for his utilization of his position of power for the greater good.

The folks at Shenandoah Bicycle Company in Harrisonburg, VA for providing service excellent enough to make the one hour shlepp for any bicycle needs. I hope they like ginger snaps.

Tim Gyovai at New World Pasta in Winchester for a mind blowing, ultra informational tour of the local pasta plant, not to mention sending us off with more pasta than we could carry.

To Mike Goff, Bob Green, Bob Peak, Maria Baker, Petar Krastev, Evgenii Zemskov for enthusiastically acting as pro bono consultants.

To Bryan and Deb Simon for their comprehensive research for our first aid needs, for sending us a box full of supplies and for cooking us a delicious dinner in their beautiful home.

To the people employed by the Fayetteville Public Library who did everything within their power and then some to obtain the multitude of obscure text I required during the research process.

To Darina at Quickstartbulgarian.net for giving me access to a great six lesson audio/visual program to help build a foundation for the Bulgarian language as well as lessons on Bulgarian culture. Aside from spending time with Bulgarian speakers, this program has been the best thing I have run across in my research of the Bulgarian language.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation for their important roll in the facilitation of connections between those who travel to the far corners of the earth and those who require information from paths less traveled.

To Dave and Linda Lay at Linda’s Mercantile who have been more than accepting and supportive of my transience as an employee, and who worry about me while I am gone as they would their own daughter.

To the sweet face of the manager of my personal shipping department for his infallible optimism and charm.

To his wife for her level head and brilliant problem solving skills.

To Alan, for being a pillar of infallible strength and patience; for planning, researching and organizing; for being not only willing but also excited to spend 40+ days of one-on-one time man hauling across frozen lands with one very inexperienced skier; and for being the best friend a girl could ever have.

laaaaa

With love, farewell.

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