TRAVELOGUE: Geocaching takes friends to northern Finland

Joyce Smith, left, and Katey Kelly stand on a bridge over the Muonio River, which separates Sweden and Finland. The two friends spent several days on a geocaching vacation 140 miles north of the Arctic Circle in July and August.

Joyce Smith was in search of an adventure. She found it this past summer — 140 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

She and her friend, Katey Kelly, spent several days exploring the northern reaches of Finland on a geocaching trip. The two developed a passion for the outdoor recreational activity three years ago through backcountry horseback riding.

In geocaching, participants use global positioning system coordinates to hide and seek containers. Or, as Smith’s husband, Wayne, described it: “Crazy people going to they don’t know where, looking for they don’t know what, and when they find it, they don’t keep it.”

Needless to say, Wayne didn’t go on the trip.

“It’s a great, inexpensive family hobby,” Joyce Smith said of geocaching. “It’s something the family can do together, and then they can track where they’ve been. You learn geography and reasoning. It’s just a wonderful thing and you meet other people.”

Smith said she learned about the “Mega 2013 — Adventures in Lapland” event online and, with Kelly, jumped at the opportunity. They climbed the highest mountain in Finland and geocached across the country, including on an island where Finland, Sweden and Norway meet.

Smith said she was struck by several similarities between northern Finland and western Colorado: mountains, forests, biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and summer mosquitoes.

Names: Joyce Smith and Katey Kelly.

Hometowns: Mesa and Grand Junction, respectively.

Where did you go? Muonio, Finland, and other locations.

When did you go? July and August 2013.

How long there? 12 days.

Best meal? The very best meal was our first night there. We had the most awesome mushroom soup. The reindeer also was good.

Best deal? The Harriniva Holiday Centre. The lodging price was greatly reduced because we were part of the Mega Event. And they reduced the cost of whitewater rafting. There also was a reindeer farm and they provided transportation to it.

Best time to visit? It depends on what you’re looking for. The most popular time for tourists is winter because they go there for the Northern Lights and the sled dogs. The best time for summer-type activities is early August and September after the mosquitoes are gone and when the 24-hour daylight is shortening but before the total darkness of winter.

One travel tip you’d offer? Enjoy doing your homework. Delve into it. We bought a book called “CultureShock! Finland.” We researched the geography, culture, climate, politics. We had to because it’s called the forgotten country. It’s not a place a lot of people have been, and it’s difficult to find information about.

Did you recently go on a memorable vacation? We want to hear about it — the sights, the food, the travel tips — so we can share it with other globetrotters and those thinking about hitting the road. Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and include a photo of yourself on your trip.


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