The crossing of Finnmarksvidda was quite simply magnificent and one of the highlights of the entire trip: The sun was out 24 hours a day, no mosquitos, temperatures just above zero and no wind. Considering the tent I brought, I was extremely lucky, especially regarding the wind. The major part of snowmelt was over, there was practically no snow left and the water level in the rivers was reasonable. I did not have one single, problematic river crossing. I did, however avoid the, in theory, largest crossing: Skaidielva, by taking a detour around Skaidijavre.
I´d start walking in the early afternoon and walk until well past midnight into the magic hour (around 1 am, beware summertime) where the light changes from dusk to dawn with the sun always on the horizon.
Finnmarksvidda may be flat seen from space or on a map, but walking on it, there are many small 50 m hills, making trailless navigation not too easy indeed. I did bring an old paper map, but too late I realized it covered only Stabbursdalen national park. The only landmark my Garmin GPS recognizes in this part of Finnmarksvidda is Skaidijavre. I had not succeeded to find any trails to download before the trip. However, as both the GPS on ut.no and norgeskart worked offline on my iPhone, my GPS only left my backpack when I tried to slot down the easiest way to walk around the trailless northern shore of Skaidijavre. I did notice however, that the actual trail did not 100% correspond to the trail as marked on ut.no, though it rarely deviated more than 100 m, and the markers not always easy to spot.
On a slightly more negative note, one of the blisters I got on the first day had gotten infected. Luckily, having treated many such cases, I know there is no need for antibiotics, just plain washing and as much air as possible, not always easy when walking. However, after a couple of days with extensive “treatment” – ie pausing regularly to air the toe, sleep without socks etc., the infection subsided.
I camped the first night next to Skaidielva, around 15 km downstream from its origin at Skaidijavre, and where it should be crossed when following the E1. But after having heard from what I judged to be reliable sources (two men completing Norge på Langs winter version) that the river was waist-deep, I took an off-trail detour around Skaidijavre. I later saw pictures indicating I could probably have crossed it, which reinforced lesson #1: Never make trail decisions based on hear-say, always assess the area yourself. A rule I followed for the remainder of the trip.
In any case, Skaidijavre is a stunning lake, especially in the midnight sun though I did have to move from my intended campsite around midnight as I was attacked by very aggressive diving birds. I have encountered these attacking birds also on Sørøya and, though I am not sure, I believe they may be called fjelljo. At the eastern end of Skaidijavre I passed two cabins, marked as open, but for some reason they were not. Since I passed right before midnight I did wonder if they were simply locked from the inside by someone sleeping.
Crossing Stabbursdalen national park, the E1 hiking trail does not go down to Stabburselva, the heart of the park, but stays on the plateau. Future dream trip #1: Paddle down Stabburselva in my packraft. Ideally starting from Karasjok and paddle Iesjavri as well on the way.
A days walk or so south of Stabbursdalen I arrived at the first DNT cabin: Bojobæski. Up here in the north all the DNT cabins are no-service, meaning there are no provisions, but otherwise they are of at least a similar standard as seen elsewhere in Norway. Many, including Bojobæski, are locked with The DNT Key, available to all DNT members upon paying a small deposit. Unfortunately, when struggling to unlock the cabin, I realized I had taken the wrong key with me: Instead of my DNT key, I had brought the the key for my old cupboard. As I prefer to have the key for safety reasons, I rang the local DNT section in Alta as soon as I reached a hilltop with phone connection. Turned out the easiest way to get one was to get off-trail at Masi three days further on, take the bus to Alta and get it there. I could then profit from the occasion to replace my woolen pants as well, as it turned out those I had with me were halfway eaten by moth.
When I arrived at Jotka Fjellstue, supposed to be open all year, only a couple of wildlife researchers from University of Tromsø were there. The staff were on a short trip to Alta. Lesson learnt #7: Never rely 100% on remote places to be open, in particular: Don´t eat all your food and count 100% on resupplying in such places. Jotka is, by the way, not that remote and it is one of the major cabins on Finnmarskvidda, right at the western entrance, the last check-point on Finnmarksløpet. Often dog mushing teams spend several months here during winter, witnessed by the numerous dog shoes on the trails in the area.
The area around Masi is heavy reindeer territory and here I met the first person on the trail since Knivskjellodden: A very friendly sami checking the reindeer fence on his MTV. He even proposed a nice campsite, in the between two lakes in the middle of the reindeer breeding ground. The extensive ATV driving in this area is very visible and routes and reindeer fences are often not marked on maps. I took an unmarked trail, which I thought to be the quickest way from Jotka to Masi: In fact, this turned out to be a well-drilled ATV trail following a reindeer fence all the way.
Coincidentally, the day I arrived in Masi was the exact day the mosquitos arrived on Finnmarksvidda. Masi, a sami village is located around 15 km upstream from the massive Alta Dam by the Kautokeino-Alta river. The Alta Dam still well known in Norway for the massive protests surrounding the construction 40 years ago, with more than thousand people chaining themselves to the site. Today Masi is a sleepy village with a grocery store and a Tourist Center with erratic opening hours. It turned out the owners had been trying to sell it for years. However it was open when I passed by and they served both burger and beer as well as rented out huts.
The logistic trip to Alta was uneventful, I got both a DNT key and new woolen pants as well as plenty of food for the remaining two days until Kautokeino.
Between Masi and Kautokeino, the highlight is probably Pikefossen, right by the road and one of the most famous waterfalls in Finnmark. According to the old sami tale a Sami girl herding reindeer was thrown into the water fall in a barrel by her master, because he thought her at fault for his reindeer drowning. She survived, went all the way to the sea in the barrel. married, came back and ultimately forgave him.