Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lapland Lake Getaway

(Newly named lake trail, Olavin Uni, 2018)

Bill's interest in the events surrounding the dedication and naming of the new lake trail at Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center led us to return to Lapland for the second time this season.  The fact that the resort still had two feet of snow and excellent skiing after rain and 50 degree weather was a draw as well.

New owners, Paul and Kathy Zahray, had taken a survey last fall to gather ideas for naming the trail, which had been re-routed to accommodate a few private land sales.  Many respondents had said that the name should honor founder, Olympian, and longtime owner, Olavi Hirvonen.

Olavi and his wife, Ann, considered possible names and chose Olavin Uni, Olavi's Dream.  The resort was indeed a realized dream of Olavi's, but also a dream in the early 1970s, during which his deceased son appeared to tell him that this property was the land he should purchase.

(Plenty of snow at Kota Tupa in March 1994!!)

In 1993, staying in a tupa, or cottage in Finnish, seemed like an unrealistic dream to us.  We had toured the resort off-season and wished we could stay there in the winter with our kids.  Our house was on the market, and unknown new expenses loomed with a move.

New York State worker lay-offs stagnated real estate in our neighborhood, within walking distance of the state office campus.  With reluctance, we took our house off the market. As our decision sunk in, we realized that, if we were not going to move, we could afford a family getaway to Lapland Lake for two nights and three days of skiing.  So began what has become an annual tradition, now totaling 25 years.

( Meredith and Thomas, 1994)
Initially, we took advantage of the March discount.  Even with winter on the wane, snow piled high.  Snow from the roof of our tupa met snow piled on the ground, covering the windows. We could not have asked for a better introduction to Lapland Lake. We parked our car when we arrived and didn't move it until we were ready to leave. Indoors, we read, ate, slept, watched the fire, and studied the trail map.  Then, we skied, and skied some more.

(Olavi demonstrated ski-jouring behind his reindeer, 2000)

Lapland Lake is an idyllic setting, but not every moment was perfect.  There were times when Thomas had had enough skiing, flopped down in the middle of a trail, and refused to get up.   Meredith had ski-binding release issues and threatened to walk down the trails in frustration. I encouraged them to go back to the tupa by themselves, if they needed a break, but they would not return alone.  Before long, they found a hill they liked and forgot their irritations.

The weather wasn't always perfect either, but most years the snow banks along the sides of the road grew to massive heights as we drove from the Capital District to Lapland Lake.

(Bonfire at the lake, 2000)

Special events offered a variety of activities for families. Olavi demonstrated ski-jouring with his reindeer and flew across the lake when the reindeer took off at a gallop, its baby following in the rear.  Bill carried Meredith in a Finnish wife-carrying contest, a game derived from ancient tribal invasions in Finland.   We enjoyed bonfires, marshmallow roasting, and opportunities to try unusual Nordic equipment such as the kicksled.  We even learned a few Finnish words.

(Thomas, Meredith, and Bill on the trail, 2003)

As they got older, Thomas and Meredith chose whether to ski with Bill and me.  They might ski together for a while and return without us to the tupa for a snack.  In the course of the weekend, we all skied all the trails, but Thomas and I would fit in a few extra runs on the black diamond trails, and Meredith would accompany Bill on some of his favorites through the woods by the frozen creek.

(Olavi, with his beloved Piston Bully, 2011).

Evenings brought night skiing to the lake.  We set out after dinner and before dessert.  Sometimes leaving the warmth of the tupa for single-digit cold and darkness was unappealing but we always out went anyway. When we reached the lake, a canopy of stars with a brilliant milky way opened before us.  If the weather were especially cold, the lake might groan and heave.  Other times the light of a full moon blotted out the stars, or, occasionally, clouds covered the sky and we just stood and listened to the silence.  When we returned to the warm tupa, we settled in with a slice of cake or a brownie.

(The woodstove kept us very cozy)

When Thomas and Meredith were out of college, working in New York, they no longer joined us at Lapland Lake.  I was worried.  Would Bill and I be lonely?  The first year on our own, I didn't want to stay in our favorite Kota Tupa where we had had so many fun years as a family.  I made reservations for a different tupa.  We brought less food, spent more time reading, soaked up the quiet, felt far far away from our daily lives, discovered that being by ourselves was okay...and decided that the next year we would go back to Kota Tupa. 

(Kota Tupa forever!)

Over the years, we sometimes saw friends Linda and Ron who stayed in another tupa and shared an evening socializing, or we invited travel companions June and Roger to ski with us and stay overnight in our extra bedroom.

To our great delight, in 2013, Thomas and his wife, Marlie, came up from New York and joined us!  We visited, ate, read, watched the fire, and skied.  Marlie never stopped smiling.

(Virginia, Bill, Marlie, Thomas, 2013)

In this, our 25th year, Bill and I went to Lapland Lake for our usual overnights in Kota Tupa.  Twenty-four inches of snow had fallen in four days making ski conditions magical.  The beauty and isolation helped me process overwhelming issues with my elderly parents.  Bill had a much-needed break from the financial concerns of his workplace.  Even with wi-fi and laptops in our updated tupa, we still felt far far away, surrounded by snow, where we could park our car when we arrived and not move it until we left.

(Olavi in front of the map with the newly designated trail, 2018)

On the trail dedication day, Olavi visited from his and Ann's new home in Columbia County.  Paul and Kathy arranged a short ceremony to honor Olavi, as he unveiled the map with the newly named trail.  A crowd of fans cheered, had cake, and then went off to ski.

Ski conditions were not magical on this day, since the snow, though plentiful, had a crusty surface from the warming and freezing of the previous week. Still, we again enjoyed the deep woods, glides down the hills, and blue sky, at one of our favorite places. 

1 comment:

  1. One of my 3 favorite blogs you have written for too many reasons to write here.