THREE ISLANDS, TWO NATURE TRAILS AND  A LILY POND: EKENÄS ARCHIPELAGO NATIONAL PARK IS PARADISE FOR PADDLERS

In partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Mia Sinisalo

➡ Paddling distance 20km
🔥 2 Campfire spots: Fladalandet ja Modermagan
ℹ Area information
ℹ Ekenäs Archipelago National Park
📌 Departure point on the map

Everyone I know has some kind of a ‘soul landscape’ – a landscape in which they feel they truly belong. I know people who feel at their most alive in mountains. I know many, who feel most at peace resting on a green bed of moss or wandering in the woods. My heart beats stronger and steadier than ever when I’m in the archipelago of the Baltic Sea.

Ekenäs Archipelago National Park includes lush coastal inner archipelago as well as more rocky and exposed outer archipelago right up to Jussarö lighthouse. Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is a great paddling location. There’s enough to explore for a multi-day trip, but if you’re pushed for time, a lot can be packed into two days. My friend and I decided on a two day route that took us around three islands.

Planning a three island tour

If you’ve completed a paddling course and want to try sea kayaking for the first time, Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is the perfect place to start. Our three island tour is relatively easy to navigate with a sheltered route but all the atmosphere of sea kayaking – the feeling of distance, wind and waves. If for any reason you need to suddenly get to shore, land is never far away.

Ekenäs Archipelago National Park’s 52 square kilometres is made up of many islands, big and small. We chose the inner coastal islands of Älgö, Fladalandet and Mordemagan, which provided the most sheltered route, as well as services to make camp life easier, such as dry toilets and designated campfire and tent sites. Another thing that helped make up our minds was access to marked nature trails, so that we could go stretch our kayak-cramped legs. A map of the overall area is available for download Metsähallitus’s Outdoor.fi page.

A strong and experienced paddler could complete our three island tour in one day – the route’s length is around 20 kilometres with 4-6 hrs of total paddling time, depending on paddling speed and wind. However, we wanted to paddle at a relaxed pace, spend the night in the national park and enjoy peaceful island life, so a two day trip suited our needs better.

Before heading out to sea, we went to the national park’s nature centre, which is next to the guest harbour, to absorb some of the archipelago vibe. The exhibition, which tells you about archipelago life and nature as well as protection of the Baltic sea, is primarily designed for children, but there is plenty for adults to learn too. Near the entrance you can pick up a more general map of the national park, which we took along as a spare.

A good departure point for a kayaking trip is Sommarö Stranden, which is actually 13km from Tammisaari. There’s a restaurant and a small shop, if you want to have something to eat before heading out or have a last minute panic about having packed enough food. There’s a small stretch of beach, as well as a concrete slope, from which kajaks are easy to launch into the water and you can leave your car at the guest harbour.

The three island tour can be done clockwise or anti-clockwise. Check the weather forecast and wind direction before choosing which way to go. Even though the route follows a sheltered route between islands, the wind can still have considerable impact on your paddling. And if you want to sway in a hammock at night, make sure you check which islands have trees and which side they’re on!

Älgö’s Nature Trail and Rödjan’s fishing hut

From Sommarö Stranden we decided to paddle around Älgö island anti-clockwise, aiming for Rödjan fisherman’s hut and the starting point for the nature trail. We were accompanied by an easterly wind and the island sheltered us for the first part. After paddling for an hour, we stopped, carried the kayaks onto the rocks, had something to eat and drink and went for a swim.

We navigated with the help of a marine map and an app on our phones. My friend had the nature centre’s free area map, which is not detailed enough for navigation on its own, but is helpful if you want a quick overview of where you are in relation to the rest of the national park. Mostly we followed the coast of Älgö, but after the stretch of water marked as Mörnsfärd on the island’s north west side, it makes more sense to go around the west sides of Heimosholmen and Halsholmen.

Even though the coastal inner archipelago is mostly sheltered and relatively safe, remember that you’re still at the mercy of the sea and the elements. The weather and direction of the wind can change suddenly and visibility can drop to nothing. This is all worth keeping in mind even on an easy, relaxed paddling trip. Make sure you always know where you are on the map. The route crosses a few boat channels, so be aware and careful of fast-moving boats and the waves that they create.

After about 2,5 hours of paddling, we reached Rödjan. The journey was about 10 km. By the time we arrived, we were already hungry and also quite tired. At the guest harbour there were a couple of beautiful wooden sailing boats and a larger motorboat at the fisherman’s hut. There were a couple of places for kayaks on the right hand side of the fishing hut, on the beach in the nook of the rocks. After we had already spread out our picnic, we realised that we had picked a bad spot, right in the middle of the nature trail’s starting point!

In the postbox at the beginning of the trail, there’s an interesting information pamphlet that tells you about the island’s history, which you can borrow while you walk. For thousands of years, Älgö lay under continental ice, and then water until the land rose. Seals have lounged about on the low outer islands, which have over time become Älgö’s high rocks.

Älgö’s nature trail has a lot of steep climbs and descents. Along the route you can see many bays which become overgrown, different forest types and Älgö’s inner lake. Only half a kilometre along from the starting point is the observation tower, with a view that stretches out across the national park.

After an hour we arrived back at Rödjan’s fisherman’s hut and thought about whether we should continue to the next island. But the evening was drawing in and the idea of getting into our hammocks felt much more appealing than that of paddling. We found the official camping spot on the left of the guest harbour (looking out to sea). The rays of the evening sun danced on the ferns on the leaves, and water lapped on the rocks. This spot had good places for tents as well as perfect trees for hammocks, so the decision was made quickly. We moved the kayaks to a different beach, hung our hammocks in the trees and had strawberries and cream for our evening snack.

Out into the open via Fladalandet bay and fascinating coves

We enjoyed our breakfast in the sun on the rocks, about 50 metres west of our camping spot. After packing our kayaks, we navigated towards Fladalandet, which was just under an hour’s paddling away.

Even though we didn’t go ashore, it’s definitely worth paddling around Fladalandet! On the northern edge is a natural harbour and lots of narrow bays and coves that go deep into the island which can only be reached by kayak or paddleboard. I recommend going to explore each one, for they are all different and interesting in their own way. In windy weather, Fladalandet’s bays provide many sheltered places to come ashore.

On Fladalandet’s south side, is open sea. If you have time and the weather allows, then it’s worth taking a detour to the outer archipelago, for example via Stora Björkskar. But do check which islands you can land on during the summer on the national park’s general map . Many islands are protected due to nesting birds from 1.4-31.7. If you have experience paddling in the open sea, then reserve an extra day and paddle to Jussarö lighthouse island.

A surprise find on Modermagan

During our trip we stayed in the inner archipelago, and after Fladalandet our third island destination was Modermagan. It only takes about half an hour to paddle between the two islands, which we did easily in a light wind. Over the boat channel we paddled a bit faster. There was a lot of boat traffic around midday on the summer’s day. Being so close to the water’s surface, a kayak can’t necessarily be seen from a fast-moving motor boat, so paddlers need to take responsibility for themselves and be aware of boats.

On the southern side of Modermagan, a bay opens out from the inside of the island, into which we paddled. We got some advice on where to shore from a couple of paddlers coming towards us from the opposite direction. At the base of the bay, behind the last reed bed is a shallow beach, which is hidden by the reeds. If you keep paddling along edge of the rocks nearest the reeds, you will find a place to come ashore.

The bay has sheltered places for boats, and even the tent spots are out of the wind. There’s a nice atmosphere on Modermagan. It’s a laid-back holiday island, where you can stay and swim and enjoy camp life for a second day if you wish. We headed out onto the nature trail, which amused us with its signposts. I don’t know who writes and illustrates these, but thank you wherever you are. The sign about mosquito’s paradise made us laugh.

Both Modermagan’s and Älgö’s nature trails are easy to follow. The Rödjan trail on Älgö is marked with blue pinecone shields and Modermagan’s with white wooden posts. Both trails are quite hilly and demand good basic fitness as well as healthy feet.

Just as we thought that Modermagan’s nature trail had ended, a pond appeared in front of us. I’ve never seen so many waterlilies. Archipelago nature is usually quite rocky and bare, so this lily pond stuck out by contrast. It was as if in a fairytale. The only thing missing was a frog prince looking for his princess. You can also swim in the pond, something that we tried and tested.

We went back to our kayaks, had a light meal and exchanged greetings with some boaters. Afterwards we paddled back along Älgö’s east side. In calm, favourable conditions, the journey should only take an hour and a half.

Our car was waiting for us at Sommarö Stranden. We emptied our kayaks and lifted them onto the roof of the car. With our souls feeling so fully restored and recharged, it felt like in only two days we had experienced two weeks of summer and archipelago.

Translation: Becky Hastings

Taking in the nature in Pyhä-Luosto national park: Rykimäkero trail

➡️ Rykimäkero trail 12–14 km
🕒 3–4 Hours
🔥 4
📌
⚫⚪⚪ Easy route

In my mind the best way to spend a free afternoon is to go outside and enjoy the nature, so this is what I decided to do on a beautiful sunny day. I packed my stuff, prepared my dogs to go on another adventure and headed to the national park of Pyhä-Luosto.

We started at the Rykimäkero parking area and from here we followed the Rykimäkero trail (more information about the trail and how to get there can be found below).

On the trail there is located an amethist mine. If you are planning to bringing it a visit, this trail is a perfect way to get there. But remember to check their website for the opening hours before you make your way there!

By following the trail you will come across different kinds of paths and parts of the forest. One moment your are making your way through the swamp on some duckboards, and the next you are following a dirt road between the trees. But this is what makes the trail so special: the changing scenery makes you experience the different aspect of nature that Lapland has to offer.

During the hike my dogs suddenly got restless. They started sniffing every little leaf and rock that crossed their path, hoping that it will give away the location of the thing that leaves behind a certain scent that they had picked up on. It only took a couple of meters until a reindeer decided to pop out from between the trees. It happens quite often that we come across these beautiful animals during a hike. Sadly, my huskies don’t have the best intentions when meeting these creatures, so we had to move on pretty quickly.

Along the trail there are a lot of shelter places where you can make a fire, enjoy some lunch or just take a little break. Just remember to leave everything the way you found it, without any waste or damage, so we can enjoy these shelters for many years to come!

During one of our breaks a couple of siberian jays decided to give us a little show. They flew from tree to tree and made it look like they were dancing in the sky. Sadly I didn’t have the right equipment to get this photographed. But if you are lucky and quiet, you might experience this as well during your visit!

During my hike there were a lot of ripe bilberries and cloudberries at the side of the trail, so we decided to pick some as a snack and to bring home. My huskies think of the bilberries as nature’s free dogtreat, which makes it a little harder to actually have any berries left to bring home.

Close to the end of our hike we came across the gorge of Rykimäkero. This gorge originated when the rockbed started to tear. It’s a beautiful place to sit down and take some time to admire the power of nature. There is also a shelter, named Rykimäkuru, next to the gorge.

After this our hike came to an end. We were all satisfied by the things we had seen and experienced and can’t wait for the fall colors to start showing. Then we will follow the same trail once again and enjoy the beauty that autumn season gives us.

More information about the Rykimäkero trail and how to get there can be found here >>

I like to use this pdf-map to find my way through the national park. All the shelters and rest places can also be found on this map.

Catching the end of the midnight sun in Pyhä-Luosto national park

➡ +/- 5 km
🔥 1 campfire site
📌 Location on the map
⚫⚫⚪ Moderate

If you visit Lapland in summer you can’t get around it, the midnight sun! It’s an amazing natural phenomenon above the arctic circle that brings us daylight for 24 hours a day during a big part of summer. This is because the sun doesn’t set for a couple of days or weeks (depending on your location).

It’s really special to experience the midnight sun for the first time, my first time wasn’t that long ago! You feel revived and full of energy, especially after the dark and cold winters we have here in Lapland.

Even though the midnight sun is really special, it’s also a special time when the sun will set again, so I decided to take a look at it from the mountains in Pyhä-Luosto national park.

I know my way around the area and the trails and decide to take my favourite hike up the hill, following the Luosto nature Hiking trail ( more information below).

The beginning of the trail isn’t that scenic but after about 10 minutes the views are only getting better by every step you take. The trail can be quite steep and rocky but it’s totally worth it once you see the view.

During the hike I could just hear the paws of my dogs making their way through the bushes and over the stones just making their way to the top with me, not knowing what was waiting for them.

Once me and my dogs arrived at the top we took some time to rest, get some treats and enjoy the view and sounds of nature while waiting for the sun to set.

Once the sun had set we made our way back down through the same trail that brought us to the top while keeping the beautiful views in our minds. And realizing that winter is just around the corner again. Then we can enjoy the beautiful Northern lights at the exact same spot.

 

Information about the national park, how to get there and the trail can be found here.

I personally use this map! The trail I followed (until the top is reached) is called Luosto nature Hiking trail 18km, green colour.

 

 

 

Must see! The Secret Jewel in the Crown of Helsinki – Rhododendron Park of Haaga

If you are in Helsinki in the beginning of June, you really need to go to Haaga. Or if we are honest, it is worth to come and watch from a distance.  Rhododendron park of Haaga is just unbelievable.

I still remember when I found this place for the first time. When approaching the park I felt a pleasant scent that kept intensifying with each step.  When I was in the park, I thought: “People do not believe that in Finland we could have such parks”.

I closed my eyes and opened them again. It was like another world. I do not remember ever seeing anything like it. The place was filled by so much beauty that I was overwhelmed. In every direction my eyes could see huge rhododendron bushes blooming all at the same time.

The park was built when the University of Helsinki plant breeding science department crossed rhododendron varieties in the 1970s.  Now the place is a secret jewel in the crown of Helsinki. The park is also internationally unique. As many as eight acres of the area has nowadays nearly 3,000 rhododendron species. Beside rhododendrons, there are a whole bunch of azaleas in the park. Most of the bushes is 2–5 meters high.

You really need to see this park. Pictures show just a small part of the beauty when coniferous forest greenery is painted with new purple, white and pink shades.

If you want to experience all this, you need to have a perfect timing. Rhododendrons bloom for a short time, usually in the first two weeks of June.

You can on a criss-crossing the park paths and boardwalks through the rhohos and have a close view. The park also has viewing platforms from which you can admire the floral splendor also from above.

What?
Astonishingly wonderful 8 hectare park full of rhododendrons

When?

Usually the best time is two first weeks of June

Where?
Laajasuontie 37. 200 meters from Huopalahti station between the roads Paatsamatie and Eliel Saarisen tie.

On the ice of Päijänne National Park

We wanted to spend a night outside and took some time to figure out where to go. We got an idea to walk on the ice and find a small isle to spend a night. We would have a great view around us from there. Päijänne is a large and long lake, where there are lots of small and a bit bigger isles. During the winter, some people ice skate or ski on the ice of Päijänne all the way from Lahti to Jyväskylä (136km) in one or two days.

Screen shot: retkikartta.fi

We soon got some ideas about where we would be heading to. Also, we figured we should use pulks (small toboggans) for getting our gear to place X easier. Some of us had skis or skates but not everyone, so we decided to walk there, with spikes on our shoes.

I bought spikes and a simple cheap pulk, which i modified a bit. I have Osprey Transporter 60L bag, and for the cover I used my bigger backpack rain cover. Found some hooks and shock cord, all done in 30 mins.

Woke up at 7am and packed all that was left. Got my small Savotta MiniJäger backpack, there I packed all the food etc. 9.30am I was on the road, heading to Tuulos, where I’d leave my car. My friend Jani picked me up around 12. Coffee break at the local mall, then we had a one hour drive to Höysniemi parking. My car isn’t in great shape, for example my exhaust pipe is broken, so most likely it would have been  ripped off on the forest roads….

Before 2pm we were there, Joonas arrived about an hour later and found us from Pitkäniemi.

The weather was perfect! We all got our sunglasses, snow blindness avoided! There was some snow on the top of the ice, but it was easy to walk. Some 10-15cm piles sometimes, and we (or I) got a bit scared every time we heard a cracking sound… The weather had been really warm and a bit rainy too, so the slush was frozen a bit and broke when we’d step on it. But the ice was about 25 to 35cm thick. No wind, even though the forecast had told us about 5-6m/s winds.

It was amazing to see so far and walk there, where we last summer were in a boat! Walking on the snow covered ice, which had no marks of other people. It was a snow desert. Colors of Finnish flag, blue sky and white snow.

Our pulks worked really well, I was happy. Also the spikes were really necessary.

Soon after we arrived to Pitkäniemi, we found out that the forest on our right side had blocked the wind. But it didn’t bother us, since the Pitkäniemi lean-to was a bit deeper in the forest and the trees gave us a good cover.

Wind drawed great piles and drawings into the snow. Light frosty snow danced and flew around us. It was so beautiful….!

We were not sure if we are going to stay there. We had asked about the current firewood situation via Päijänne National Park Facebook site, and they told us that Kelvenne has none. Unfortunately, Pitkäniemi had none either…. Only some sticks etc that someone had been carrying from the forest.

however, after some discussion, we decided to stay there. Jani disappeared to get some firewood from the car. A bit later he called for help, because he had taken one dry and long log with him. So I walked to help him and pulled the pulk full of wood.

The Sun was going down fast, so we went to enjoy the golden moment… Beautiful! Wind was blowing light snow, and the colors were amazing… It might have been cold, but my heart and mind felt really warm.

Blue tones got more deeper when the Sun went behind the horizon….

It was time to prepare the dinner, everybody was really hungry. Bacon, potatos, vegetables… I got a couple of good steaks and made some smashed potatoes. It was a good eatin’!

A couple came to greet us, and decided to sleep in the lean-to. They had fatbikes and they were cycling around Päijänne. They ate something too and went for drive again for awhile. It was fun to see their lights moving far away.

It was time to enjoy the starry sky. We did see a lot of them… Big dipper, Orion and it’s belt etc… They were bright. Also the milky way was above us, we could see it barely. I need to buy a DSLR camera again! This time I only got my LG G4 phone and Fuji X20 camera with me.

So we got some ideas and played with some long exposures, light painting etc. They came out pretty good!

We had fun on the ice and at the lean-to. Good stories and jokes, great food and so on. It was a bit cold but the wind was dying slowly, so the small breeze here didn’t bother us anymore.

It was time to go to sleep. I had my 4x4m DD tarp with me, so I had lot’s of room. This time I had chosen the Ticket hammock: it fit’s well with my Cumulus Selva 600 underquilt. Took some time to get all warm, felt a bit chilly on my back at first, but slowly everything was warming up. Snug as a bug. Warm and toasty inside of Savotta Military bag. Temp went down to -10’C.

Woke up 7.30am, and it was still dark. Wait, I need to get out from the bag where I was totally buried… Oh wow, it’s a beautiful morning! The tarp was a bit frosty inside, but everything was dry.

Niko opened my tarp so I could see the view. I didn’t want to get out from the warm bag….

We all had had a warm night and we all had slept well. The wind was gone, but so was the morning sun.

Only big cloudy sky was saying goodbye when we headed back to our cars. It started to snow also. We had a coffee break at the Tuulos mall and said goodbye until next time.

It was an awesome trip and thank you all! Not sure if we can enjoy these kind of weathers this winter again. Spring is coming slowly, so other adventures calling.

More photos from Päijänne : pixabilly.1g.fi

Here is a video from our trip too :

Thank you for reading!

Snowshoeing in Puijo forest in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Snowshoeing in the city at Kuopio? The answer is Puijo!

Sometimes you get lucky and can find just the thing you are looking for very close to you. We chose Kuopio as our destination for a winter weekend mostly because it offers plenty of great winter activities within a very short distance from the heart of the city.

Puijo Tower at Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The city’s famous landmark Puijo ridge with its iconic Puijo Tower is less than 3 kilometres from the city centre. However, Puijo is also a haven for nature lovers: it is among the oldest nature conservation areas in Finland, having been established on Puijo ridge already in 1928.

We had already had a great time kicksledding on Lake Kallavesi, straight from Kuopio’s passenger harbour. Next, we headed up to the Puijo hill for a bit of snowshoeing.

Trail signs at Puijo, Kuopio in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

We parked our car at the car park closest to Konttila Farm and grabbed our snowshoes. The map of Puijo paths indicated clearly marked paths and when we arrived at the signposts, we saw to our surprise that we would have been fine even without snowshoes: the paths were well trodden.

Puijo forest in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

However, very soon we abandoned the marked trail and set off to find our own way in the gorgeous, snowy forest wearing our snowshoes. The great thing about leaving your own footprints in the snow is that you can’t get lost – you can always see where you came from and retrace your steps, if necessary.

Snowshoeing in Puijo forest in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The fir trees of Puijo have enjoyed peace and quiet for decades, thanks to its status as a nature conservation area. We started heading towards Satulanotko.

Snowshoeing at Puijo, Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Every once in a while we stopped to gaze the trees above. Suddenly we saw something colourful behind the tree trunks: a trail runner following the path closest to us. We preferred a slower pace.

Fallen fir tree at Puijo conservation area, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

There is absolutely no logging at Puijo conservation area. However, sometimes trees happen to fall down naturally, just like this poor fir tree fellow.

Snowy fir trees at Puijo conservation area, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Suddenly we heard a strange, creaking sound pretty close to us. It took us a while to locate its source: a fallen tree had got stuck, leaning against another tree, and whenever the fir tree swayed even a bit in the wind, the contact made it sound like a creaking door.

Other than that, it was almost totally quiet. Although we were so close to Kuopio city and the distance to the closest roads isn’t great, we could hardly hear any cars through the dense forest.

When you are snowshoeing, you don’t usually need to worry about getting cold. However, when the temperature is about -18 °C, you soon get a craving for a hot drink. We turned our faces towards the beautiful winter sun and began walking back, towards Konttila Farm.

Konttila Farm, Puijo, Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

You just can’t miss Konttila Farm – it dates back to 1770 and when you enter it, it feels like you are stepping back in time. The farm is open all year round and welcomes visitors to its café and nature & guiding centre. Konttila Farm is open most days until 6 pm.

Cafe at Konttila Farm, Puijo, Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

We left our snowshoes outside and stepped into the main building. Hot chocolate? Yes, please! We began sipping our delicious cups of hot chocolate and just enjoyed the moment, listening to the fire start roaring in the traditional old fireplace.

I wonder when I will dare to try the cross-country skiing tracks at Puijo…

Konttila Farm on the map

Read next:

On a one horse open sleigh at Puijo, Kuopio

The Lakes Are Calling

Over the last few months I’ve been fairly busy with things other than photography, but never too busy for an occasional trip to the water. The Finnish lakes have once again been calling my name and spoiling me with moments of tranquility and a feeling that makes me appreciate life in the greater sense.

I always feel as though something is pulling me into the forest or towards a lake and that I have very little control over it (help?). So in connection with what seems to be a loss of free will to some degree, I have managed to get a few photos over the last few months. Below are some more scenes that Finnish nature has been so kind to bless me with.

Above: A sunset over lake Pyhäselkä in Joensuu, Finland. The weather was windy and clouds were moving through the sky fairly quickly.

Above:​ An ice fisherman leaves the frozen lake after a fishing session. This photo was taken after some heavy snowfall that left all rocks on the shore completely covered.

Above: A splash of sunlight to end the day off spectacularly.

Above: Trails of snow leave interesting formations over the lake.

Above: A maze of snow coating the icy lake surface. This was the first time that I had seen these types of interesting shapes.

Above: Another very long exposure shot with fast moving clouds.

Above: Another shot of the sun hovering over waves of snow. Goodbye for now, my warmest of friends.

Wishing everyone in Finland a great and fun-filled winter. Don’t forget to catch the sunsets!

www.jasontiilikainen.com | Instagram: jason_tiilikainen

Starting Vuori-Kalaja trail at Southern Konnevesi National Park

Step into the winter wonderland: a winter walk in Southern Konnevesi National Park

Sometimes you just get an urge to get out of town, to go somewhere really quiet, with only few people around you. And if it’s winter time, what could be better than to be surrounded by the whitest snow, breathe the purest air and share the moment with a friend… So let’s go and visit one of our national parks!

There are 40 national parks in Finland; five of them are located in the province of Central Finland. To the south of Jyväskylä, there are Isojärvi National Park with its wooded hills and valleys, and Leivonmäki National Park with its easier marsh and esker terrain. The other three are north of Jyväskylä: about an hour’s drive takes you either to the old forests of Pyhä-Häkki or to the lakes and hills of Southern Konnevesi National Park, while the northernmost Salamajärvi National Park with its wild forest reindeer, pine woods and bogs adds another hour to the journey. All of these national parks are best reached with a car.

Our day trip destination was chosen based on my previous trips to Southern Konnevesi National Park: we would easily manage the trail to Vuori-Kalaja campfire shelter and back in a few hours, even with the limited daylight hours of late December. After parking our car at Törmälä we saw – to our delight – that there were already footprints on the snow-covered forest road towards the start of the Vuori-Kalaja trail.

Walking the Vuori-Kalaja trail in winter

There is no winter maintenance on the forest road so in this season be prepared to first walk 1.5 km from Törmälä to the (summer) parking area from where the Vuori-Kalaja trail begins.

I had packed two pairs of snowshoes in the car just in case, but the path trodden in the snow seemed easy enough to walk without them. We just added garters to protect our boots from snow and started following the narrow trail. The forest around us was simply magical.

Inspecting trail information at Vuori-Kalaja

After inspecting the trail information at Kalaja parking area we stepped onto the Vuori-Kalaja trail. From this spot it is only 900 meters’ walk to Vuori-Kalaja lean-to and campfire site.

Winter wonderland: snowy forest

That’s when we really felt like stepping into the winter wonderland! The snow covered birches, alders and firs all around us were simply amazing. Nature’s own sculptures!

Vuori-Kalaja lean-to in winter

Once we’d arrived at Vuori-Kalaja campfire shelter our first task was to make a fire and luckily, there was plenty of dry firewood available. Oh, where are my matches? There!

Campfire at Vuori-Kalaja shelter

A campfire is always a treat, but especially on a winter trip.

After the fire was happily burning, I stepped to the shore of the frozen lake and admired the snowy view: Kalajanvuori (Kalaja hill).

Kalajanvuori hill, Vuori-Kalaja

The snowy, steep cliffs on the opposite shore of lake Vuori-Kalaja were impressive in their almost black and white glory. There is something special about a winter landscape that lacks all the vivid colors of the other seasons: a certain serenity. Everything stands still, all is calm.

As the winter had until now been fairly mild, I knew that it wouldn’t be safe to step on the ice and walk across the lake to the cliffs (the ice just wasn’t solid enough yet) so it was better to stay on land rather than risk it. Time to take out the thermos flasks, sandwiches, and did someone mention a slice of cake?

Coffee break at Vuori-Kalaja shelter

We were already sipping our cups of tea and coffee and digging into the cake when we heard voices from behind the shelter.

Three young men with big backpacks arrived and sat down for a bit of rest before heading back to their car. The brave trio had spent a night sleeping outdoors at another campfire site in the national park. Wow! Yes, you can go hiking in the woods also in wintertime if you’ve got the right gear – but for some of us, just a day trip is quite enough…

Walking in the winter wonderland at Southern Konnevesi National Park

However, soon it was time to head back to the car and return to city lights, and enjoy the last minutes of winter magic in daylight before the drive home.

Hiker at Southern Konnevesi National Park, Central Finland. Photo:Upe Nykanen

The dusk was already beginning to fall when we met the next winter walker, a young hiker with impressive looking gear, carrying also a pair of snowshoes. Just in case – to allow him to walk where there was no trail! The serious hikers were going to the woods while we city girls were leaving…

I wonder if we should try winter camping next time?

Directions: how to get to Southern Konnevesi National Park

Map to Törmälä parking area | ETRS-TM35FIN -coordinates  N=6941195.000, E=485582.000
Google Maps: Konnekoskentie 552, Rautalampi

Map, lean-to shelter at Vuori-Kalaja

This article has been previously published at visitcentralfinland.com.

The polar night is not pitch black, it’s magically blue! See what Kaamos actually looks like

While walking my son to school yesterday morning we noticed a peculiar phenomenon – the Sun was rising!

Living in Finland teaches us from the birth that winters are long. Not because of the cold and snow but because of the long darkness.

Kaamos is a Finnish word for polar night. It’s a beautiful word and we do not have that many of those to begin with.

But what is it?

Faint glimmers of light paint landscapes to vistas of beauty. (Liesjärvi National Park, Southern Finland, January)

Kaamos or polar night occurs when the night lasts more than 24 hours. In southern parts of Finland where I currently live even the darkest day still has few hours of light in. But most of the time dark clouds veil the sky.

While living in Rovaniemi (that’s at the edge of Arctic Circle) the days were even shorter. And as a student spending the “days” at the University of Lapland I went days without seeing any kind of daylight.

December, photo taken around noon, Olos fell, Muonio, Lapland (Northern Finland)

Above the Arctic Circle the long night gets even longer. In Utsjoki (the northernmost municipality of Finland) kaamos lasts a little over fifty days. Imagine living in a place where it takes over a month to see any ray of light.

Samoyed dogs looking at river Teno in Utsjoki. This is what noon looks like in the northernmost parts of Finland during polar night.

It would seem that Kaamos is the source of stereotypical Finnish melancholy. It might very well be at least a part of that but it is also the source of much that is beautiful. You might have heard the saying that “it’s magical”. That is quite likely the most accurate impression anyone can give.

In Lapland kaamos mostly looks blue. Christmas eve (noon) in Sodankylä, Lapland, Northern Finland.

Polar night is a phenomenon that is hard to grasp in the current age of electric light and busy city schedules. It might sound banal but it is something that must be experienced.

Sun rising for the first time after polar night in Kittilä, Lapland.

At first it does not seem like that big of a deal. The night goes on and on. But the more you think of it, the more you feel of it, the more you begin to understand the grandness of it. It makes you feel small. And it makes you understand the vast scale of space and how multitudinous the Earth is.

The beauty of Kaamos can be found everywhere if you are willing to look. (Kangasala, Southern Finland, January)

And in that long night, in the wilds of Finland, it is most likely that you will witness the magnificent Northern Lights. In Finnish they are called Revontulet – a word that can be loosely translated to “Fox’s blaze”. And there are a lot of stories about what they are. But we’ll leave that to another time.

Auroras above a reindeer fence in Utsjoki during polar night.

So if you have heart for celestial phenomenon like Solar Eclipses I would recommend you to visit Finland during Kaamos. It will be an unforgettable experience!

Come to the dark side, we have lightkayaks

Repovesi is one of Finland’s most popular national parks in the summer time, but when winter arrives, there is hardly anybody. November is perhaps the least popular month to go in the nature. That is why I believe it is the best time to see familiar places in a new way.

In November, the day in Finland is short. When the weather is cloudy, there is almost no light.

That’s why we were in Repovesi in November. We wanted to find a different view to it. To experience a familiar place with a new twist. We also wanted to test an idea to fill an Orukayak with bright LED-lights and see what happens.

Tony from Tentsile Finland prepared the kayak. I tried to make a fire, just because of security. In less than 15 minutes the angular box was transformed to a real kayak. In this point we read through the plan. Let’s fill a rickety kayak with the electrical equipment, and then go to paddle on the over-frozen water. After it gets dark, of course.

On the water you are as close to the nature as possible. Now it was the last chances this year. A few days later, all lakes could be frozen.

We walked to the shoreline. The snowy forest that we passed was illuminated by the kayak. It was so beautiful that we needed to stop for a couple of times just to shoot some photos. Even I had had some doubts in the morning, but now I had a feeling that all the effort is surely going to pay off.

Now it was time to put the kayak on the water and jump aboard. I was amazed. The sight was something incredibly beautiful, way finer than what I had imagined.

The only colors in nature were black and white. Calm water and the reflected image in the middle of the silence.

The kayak glided silently. The moment was so perfect, that it felt almost bad to break the surface of the water with a paddle stroke. This moment was not for the busy ones.

The bright light made the darkness surrounding us feel ever deeper. The water surface reflected light. The darkness was filled with magic. Light in the darkness is an unforgettable experience. Long live the darkness!

May the forest be with you.

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