Published: June 2009

Oulanka National Park

Snow tree

Northern Light

At Oulanka National Park in Finland, a forest floor outshines the sky.

By Verlyn Klinkenborg
Photograph by Peter Essick

The next time I visit Oulanka National Park in the far north of Finland, I want to be two feet tall. That way the autumn mushrooms will come up to my knees, and I'll find myself walking in a waist-high forest of heather and lingonberries and crowberries and lichens. At that height, too, the wood-ant nests will tower over me. I will have to keep a sharp lookout for moose and reindeer, it's true.

Not that there's anything wrong with Oulanka at my normal height. Young Scotch pines grow on the slopes like closely spaced lances, and the old ones tower overhead, outgrowing the red of their bark as they age. The long winters and deep snows have trimmed the candle spruces into the slenderest of columns. In summer and fall the quiet northern light flickers on the leaves and the bark of silver and downy birches. This is the boreal forest, the forest that covers nearly all of Finland.

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