In 10 days everything changed: 12 photos of how winter came to Lapland

I live over 150 km above the Arctic Circle. Here it’s quite common to have snow on the ground in October, but this year the start of the winter was unusually sudden. Here are 12 photos that I have taken during the last ten days – see for yourself how winter arrived!

Above: Frosty morning in a swamp in Kittilä (October 11th). Bog bilberry is one of the last plants to have some beautiful autumn colors. Most plants have dropped their leaves by now.

Above: Nature getting ready for winter in Varkaankuru, Kolari (October 13th).

Above: First snow near Pallastunturi, Muonio (October 14th).

Above: Lake Pallasjärvi is starting to freeze (October 14th).

Above: Swimming in Ounasjoki river (October 16th) only 24 hrs before ice started to appear.

Above: Snowy larch forest in Kittilä (October 18th).

Above: Winter is officially here! About 10 centimeters of snow in Kittilä (October 19th).

Above: Forest river is not ready to freeze just yet (Kittilä, October 19th).

Above: A Siberian Tit feeding on peanuts in Kittilä (October 19th).

Above: First sunny winter day 2019 in Kittilä (October 19th).

Above: Same place as in the previous picture, only about 8 hours later. Northern lights and the Moon above the frozen Ounasjoki river (October 19th).

Above: There’s still time before the polar night begins, but its colors can already be seen. This photo was taken early in the morning, but in mid winter this is what noon would look like. (October 20th).

New service for Nuuksio National Park does all the brain work for you – follow the recommendations and enjoy the forest!

In cooperation with Nuuksioon.fi

Autumn is unquestionably one of the best seasons for a visit in the woods and even a short break to the colourful forest soothes one’s soul. They say the closest forest (and national park) is the best forest as well as the most sustainable choice, but in my case there’s some hindrance with Nuuksio National Park. Currently the route selection seems a bit restricted and I’d rather favour treks requiring no car, so that I could leave from A and ramble to B.

Having all this in mind we tried out this new Nuuksioon.fi-service, which apparently would give recommendations for potential routes, services and transportation options in Nuuksio National Park. Time consuming and bouncing browsing on different websites is history, as now all necessary information can be found in one place!

The service asks first what type of visit I’m planning. Good for me I can choose multiple choices: quick visit, reviving visit and trekking. Other options were ’with kids’, ’running in the nature’ and ’biking’. Presumably the service calculates optimal possibilities from its data according to my answers. And the possibilities are wide!

More than 20 routes are introduced and categorized on easy-intermediate-demanding -scale. There are maps for every route, I’m given an estimation for the duration and furthermore there’s arrival information with public transportation. Woah! As we are not looking for a circular trail, we choose to go with the option of starting from Kattila and ending in Nature Center Haltia. Distance is approximately 7 kilometers, which we consider to be just perfect for a half-day trek. Summing up all the things we need and want to do, the transportation, hiking, breaks, lunch and Nature Center Haltia, this is a good plan for the day. There’s all the info we need, so after packing bags we’re ready to hit the road and trail!

September in Nuuksio is glorious. On a Thursday morning there are just two other passengers with us going all the way to the final stop at Kattila. The morning light is alluring and calling us to the trails. As we walk, we thank ourselves and the route suggestions so that we decided to walk towards south.

We see the sun rising in front of us behind the forest, I see the shimmering light in dew drops and adore the mist growing out of lush moss. Today there seems to be a tiny hint more of magic in these woods.

The trail from Kattila to Haukkalampi is versatile and gives a lot of different landscapes for a wanderer. We just can’t pass the newborn chanterelles to the path, and so we become mushroom pickers too. During the day we spot yellow-foot mushrooms here and there and of course we have the urge to pick them too. “The Earth is our Mother, she gives and she takes.” Today she definitely gives.

There’s more than just forest floor to see; we notice rock walls, duckboards, swamp, ponds, and even take a little detour in order to visit the cave by Vähä-Haukkalampi, a place I’ve never been before but have heard stories of. So much to see and marvel on such a short trail!

At Haukkalampi there’s Cafe Silva, where we decide to have a break. Obviously we didn’t just accidentally find it, but it was introduced with opening hours by the online service, so we knew in advance that there would be no need for thermos coffee this time. Morning has turned closer to noon, and some cars have found their way to the parking lot. I’m rather happy we decided to take the bus instead.

Haukkalampi-pond is like a mirror and even the sun is shining the low temperatures require a warmer jacket for the break. There are some rental canoes and sup-boards on the shore and it would be very tempting to gracefully float on the surface. Next time, perhaps.

We are well over half way to Haltia and lunch buffet. It’s surprisingly fun and perhaps a little luxurious to hike with very light equipment, as we decided to use the catering services instead of carrying our own snacks.

After we’ve left Haukkalampi behind other occasional hikers can be seen on the route. On this part of the route there are a few tough and steep hills. Luckily a couple of stairways have been built to make the walk more convenient. At the north end of lake Pitkäjärvi we stop to admire the smooth, glimmering surface again.

Rumbling hunger sets the pace for the rest of the journey and finally seeing Haltia below us feels plainly great. The lunch buffet is plentiful and we take our time relaxing and cooling off on the balcony.

After lunch we still have time to get acquainted with the current exhibitions at Haltia and we spend some more time exploring other possibilities for a visit in the future. Fatbike rentals would be awesome for the next time, and we immediately check the possible 15 km trail from Haltia to Northern Nuuksio. There’s also chance to accommodate in a Tentsile-skytent right next to Haltia in the summer time! Perhaps next time we take a new angle to Nuuksio either from air or from the saddle of a bike.

Photos: Antti Huttunen

Would you like some plätty? This is how you bake and enjoy traditional Finnish campfire pancakes

The most loved delicacies in Finland are unquestionably open fire pancakes. They are not just any pancakes, they are plättys. To enjoy your openfire plättys in the best possible way, you should have good company and plenty of time – no one should prepare or eat plättys alone or in a hurry. It’s just not right. We’ll show you how it’s done.

To make best possible plättys, start by taking a stroll in the nature with at least one good friend. Enjoy the fresh air of the forest, listen to the silence. Pay attention to all the small details: the colors of the moss, the shapes of the trees, the ambiance surrounding you. Can you smell how pure the nature is? Take a good walk: the more you walk in the nature, the better your plättys will taste. This works really well especially when the weather is a bit misty, cold or even snowy or rainy.

One good thing about plättys is that you can prepare the dough at home and just take it with you in a bottle. This makes it very easy to start baking plättys after your refreshing stroll in the surrounding nature.

What you need:

5 dl of milk
2 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon of salt and sugar
2 dl of wheat flour
2 table spoons of oil

To prepare the dough, just mix everything together and let it rest for at least half an hour. That’s it!

You need also:

Matches and a knife
Firewood
A frying pan and a spatula
Frying oil
Strawberry or raspberry jam

Finding a good campfire spot is relatively easy in Finland. Now remember, even if one is allowed to enjoy our beautiful nature rather freely, making a campfire is not an everyman’s right. This is why you should always find an actual campfire spot to prepare your plättys. In national parks there are plenty of good and ready-to-go spots that even have firewood waiting for you! When visiting Helsinki, the nearest national parks are Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi – both less than an hour’s drive away from the city center and also accessible by public transport.

A typical Finnish campfire spot in Nuuksio national park. There’s firewood in the shed.
With the bucket one can get water from the lake to put out the campfire before leaving.

Now, it’s time to make a fire. I hope you brought some matches and a puukko knife with you? Take some firewood from the shed and use your knife (be careful!) to carve little pieces of wood that are easy to kindle. Light the fire and wait for a bit so that the campfire is burning well and ready to prepare some delicious food.

Take your frying pan and put a dash of oil on it. Place it above the fire and let it get hot.

Now it’s time to fry the first plätty. Pour some oil and then some dough from the bottle on the hot pan – not too much, plättys are supposed to be quite thin. Wait for a minute or two and try turning it. Now, don’t worry – the first plätty always goes wrong and looks hideous. This is an essential part of the tradition. The good news is that it still tastes really good!

Maybe the second one turns better, or the third one at least. Fry each plätty one or two minutes each side and add some oil to the pan every now and then.

When you run out of dough it’s time to eat! Some people put sugar on their plättys, others eat plättys covered with strawberry jam. Raspberry jam is also a good choice! One can use fingers or a plate and a fork for example. And, if you’re really, really well prepared, you might even have some whipped cream or ice cream to put on your plättys!

After finishing meal, please make sure that you leave the campfire spot nice and clean. Should there be any rubbish, put it in a garbage can (if there is one) or pack it in a plastic bag and bring it with you away from the nature. Also, if there’s no-one else, put out the campfire before leaving. Let’s be thoughtful and keep our beautiful nature clean!

Enjoy plättys with us – let’s prepare them together!

Did all this sound a bit complicated? No worries. You can book a plätty experience and we’ll teach you how to make them! Come with us to the beautiful national park of Nuuksio, right next to Helsinki, and enjoy the prepapring of plättys as well as the surrounding nature.

Waiting for northern lights

As the nights get darker, northern lights can appear again. One night I was waiting for them with my friend. According to the forecast there should have been an amazing light show coming up due to a G2 geomagnetic storm. The auroras should be so bright that they could be seen even in Helsinki, and we were in Lapland! However, the sky was getting cloudy…

Internet and social media are full of beautiful photos of northern lights. However, photographing or even seeing them is not always a peace of cake. Clouds are the biggest problem. Great job if you’re in Lapland and it’s winter – your chances are really good. That’s why I was very optimistic that night.

We made a campfire on our yard and started waiting. The radio was on and we made some tea. But the clouds were coming and I started to wonder if we’re going to see anything at all.

Around 10 pm I took the first photos of the sky. I didn’t see any northern lights yet, but if there’s any light in the sky, the camera can see it even when the naked eye can’t.

And there certainly was something going on.

This was a good time to check that the camera settings were ok for some serious aurora shooting. Maximum ISO and F value, shutter speed about 5 seconds… and focus to infinity. Let’s try with that.

As I was adjusting the camera settings, the sky exploded – but only for a few minutes.

To the naked eye it did not look this green. As I said, cameras can see more than we can. That’s why photographing the auroras is so much fun, it feels like magic!

Before I knew it, the show was over. Reality check: it was way too cloudy.

This is how it can go sometimes – the nature decides whether we can see auroras or not. But nevermind, we had had a great evening anyways!

Would you like a cup of campfire coffee? This experience is a must when you’re visiting Finland!

Imagine sitting by a campfire, enjoying the wild silence of the woods around you. You can smell the freshness of the forest as well as the soft smoke coming from the campfire. You feel safe and relaxed. It’s time to have a cup of campfire coffee. Campfire coffee is one of the most Finnish things ever. Everyone must experience it when visiting Finland, no matter if it’s summer or winter.

To make campfire coffee you must have certain type of coffee grounds that are made especially for making coffee over campfire. Every grocery store usually has this “pannu” or kettle coffee from at least one brand.

You also need fresh water and a metallic coffee kettle that has no plastic parts. To enjoy your campfire coffee in the most Finnish way, also make sure you have a traditional wooden cup or kuksa with you (read more here). A Moomin cup is also acceptable.

Then you must make a fire. In Finland there are lots of maintained campfire spots, and one must not make fire elsewhere without the permission of the landowner. In national parks such as Nuuksio or Sipoonkorpi (both right next to Helsinki) there are dozens of good campfire spots with ready-to-use firewood. Be economical with the firewood – there’s no need to make a huge campfire for preparing campfire coffee.

When the campfire is ready, it’s time to begin. This is how you do it:

Measure one litre of freshwater into your coffee kettle.

Place the kettle above the campfire and wait for the water to boil.

When the water is boiling, take the coffee kettle away from the fire and measure two decilitres of coffee grounds into the kettle.

Then just wait for about ten minutes – the campfire coffee is now preparing itself. You can place the kettle next to the campfire so that it stays hot. Some people add a small amount of cold water into the kettle at this point, believing that the coffee gets ready a bit sooner. Whether this is true or not, who knows – every Finnish hiker has their own style of preparing campfire coffee.

The coffee is ready when all the coffee grounds have sank to the bottom of the kettle. You can test this by pouring a little coffee into your cup and see if there are any coffee gounds coming out. If there are some, put the coffee back to the kettle and wait for a little longer. If not, the coffee is ready to drink!

No coffee grounds coming out – this coffee is ready
Enjoy!

Does this all sound like a whole lot of effort? No worries! We can prepare some delicious campfire coffee for you and your friends. And to make things even better, we’ll also make some campfire pancakes and teach you guys how it’s done!

Autumn is coming to Lapland – this is how it looks, sounds, feels, smells and tastes like

Autumn is about to begin in Lapland – there’s already some beautiful autumn foliage to be seen. But autumn colors are not the only sign of the summer being over. Autumn in Lapland smells like fresh rain in the forest, tastes like berries and sounds like singing swans. You can also see the beautiful starry sky of Lapland for the first time in months. Here are nine signs of nature that tell you autumn is here!

Misty mornings

Autumn is the time of beautiful, cold and misty mornings. You want to get up early so that you won’t miss them!

Nights get darker

This feels very special especially because in Lapland the sun hasn’t set for months. So when it finally does set and the evenings get dark, it feels truly amazing. You can see the stars for the first time after spring, and even some auroras can soon appear!

Autumn foliage

The first ones to begin turning red are bilberries. Make sure that you have a camera with you when you go outside – this is something truly amazing.

Berries get ripe

Bilberries first, then lingonberries and soon also cranberries – they are waiting for you and they are delicious! Thanks to the everyman’s right, anyone is allowed to pick berries in Finland. Just make sure you treat nature with respect and leave nothing behind! Do not litter!

Fresh smell of rain

Who wouldn’t love the smell of a refreshing rain in beautiful nature. In autumn, this smell is at its best. Each forest or swamp has a wonderful smell of its own.

Time for some mushroom picking

Like berries, you can also pick mushrooms. If you’re lucky, you’ll find delicious porcinis or chanterelles!

Chanterelles

Swans get ready to leave

The whooper swan is the national bird of Finland. But they can not stay here for the winter. In autumn you can hear them singing in the wilderness, as they get ready to leave.

Thunder storms appear

Especially in August it’s possible to see and hear some amazing thunder storms and rainbows in Lapland.

Reindeer get handsome again

This might come as a shock, but reindeer get really ugly in the summer when they moult. In August they start to look very handsome again, and the males also have huge beautiful antlers.

P.s. We advice you not to approach male reindeer especially in September, as they can get aggressive during this period of reindeer’s rut.

24 hours in Kökar

Kökar is a tiny municipality in Åland. It has only about 240 inhabitants. To get to Kökar one has to take a ferry either from Långnäs (main island) or Galtby (Korpo). The journey in both cases takes about 2,5 hours.

I spend 24 hours on this beautiful island surrounded by the waves of the Baltic Sea.

Here’s what I saw.

Above: Heathers are purple, junipers are green – and the sea is blue. In Kökar this is a very typical view.

Above: It was a beautiful summer day so we went for a morning hike to this beautiful hidden place.

Above: A grass snake came to say hello. Grass snakes are completely harmless.

Above: We found this beautiful secret lagoon and went for a swim.

Above: This is what I saw underwater. There were lots of jellyfish but they are harmless.

Above: There are also forests in Kökar.

Above: Look at those colors!

Above: We also went to see what the local flea market looked like. It’s not everyday you find a seafront flea market.

Above: Buildings in Kökar are typically red and quite small. Looks really nice.

Above: Local dog admiring the sunset.

Useful links for you who wish to visit Kökar:

Ferry timetables and fares

Ålandstrafiken: Kökar

Visit Åland

If water is your element, Lake Lohjanjärvi is the place

Article by Kukka Kyrö

A gentle giant lies next to the centre of Lohja, an hour’s drive from Helsinki. Lake Lohjanjärvi is the largest lake in southern Finland. A maze of numerous islands and coves offers places to explore for several days. The lake is the heart of the city of Lohja, and as such, efforts have been taken to ensure accessibility for as many people as possible. If you are a water person, you can hire an accessible fishing boat with a fishing guide or rent a canoe or a kayak or even a paddleboard.

📌 Lohjanjärvi on a map

Kayaking adventure on Lake Lohjanjärvi

The air is fresh and soft after rain. I am getting my red kayak ready at the equipment depot of Aquapro Suomi, a few kilometres from the centre of Lohja. I fix the kayaking route map to the net on top of my kayak, and secure a water bottle next to it. It is Saturday morning. The city is still sleeping while I get inside the kayak, put the spray deck in place and set off to the lake. My kayak glides effortlessly on the dark water. Even the lake seems to be still asleep, hardly managing to make even small waves. Following the shoreline, I paddle towards the city centre, admiring how green the beach vegetation is now in May.

Nature of the shores and islands of Lake Lohjanjärvi is marvellous. Temperate climate and calcareous soil make the plants grow exceptionally well and versatile. For example, different species of orchids and hardwood trees thrive here. The largest island of the lake is Lohjansaari, the home of the famous Oak of Paavola, which has deservedly received a title “The most beautiful tree in Finland”.

After paddling for a few kilometres, I land ashore the Hevossaari Island, on a small sheltered cove. There’s a lean-to, and a strange birch tree, also leaning over the water. The cove has a shallow, sandy bottom, which makes coming ashore easy even for an inexperienced paddler.

Hevossaari lean-to

I am soaking my feet in the cool water. The water glimmers invitingly in the rays of sun shining through the clouds. Too bad that I didn’t take my swimming suit with me. It would have been so nice to go for a little swim.

Lake Lohjanjärvi is a large and reasonably deep lake, so it warms up slowly. However, by July at the latest, it will be crowded by swimmers. Although the water in the lake is dark due to humus, it is still clean and safe to swim. However, sometimes in the summer, there might be blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in the water. Then it’s not advisable to go swimming, because some of the cyanobacteria are toxic. If you are unsure if it’s safe to go in the water, please ask Lohja travel service centre.

From the Hevossaari island, my journey continues along an inlet called Ämmänperse which roughly translates as “Old Woman’s Arse”. What a name! For some bizarre reason, Finns have given many places names which will not be printable here. Cane-grass around my kayak is high. As I paddle along the passage, a single mallard appears beside my kayak, guiding me away from its territory.

In the early summer, nature of the lake is especially sensitive. Birds are starting to nest, and some of the fastest ones already have their hatchlings. Nesting places should be left alone completely at this time of the year. When you are planning to go ashore, try to use places that are intended for campers and have a campfire site, trails and an outdoor toilet, if possible. Nature likes it.

Finland has unique so-called everyman’s rights. They ensure that everyone can enjoy nature, but in addition to the rights, the hiker also has obligations to cause no harm to animals, plants and nature in general.

My next stage is the Kaurassaari Island about 1 kilometre away from here. It also has a lean-to which paddlers and such can use. The lean-tos of Hevossaari and Kaurassaari Islands are owned by the city of Lohja. They have campfire sites for which the city delivers firewood for the summer. Making fire is allowed only at these designated sites, and if the forest fire warning is in effect, you can’t make a fire even at these sites.

Making coffee in a pot and roasting sausages by the fire are age-old camping traditions for Finns. Some believe that it’s not camping if there’s no fire. If you want to ensure that you’ll be able to make a fire, consider bringing your own firewood, because at popular campfire sites the firewood sometimes runs out. Please note that you can’t take any kind of fallen trees to make a fire. Although it might seem logical that there’s no harm taking dead wood, dead wood still has an important role in maintaining biodiversity: many rare species in the forest are totally dependent on rotten and decaying wood.

My trip continues with a little stroll in the vicinity of the lean-to in Kaurassaari Island. Old spruce trees creak in the wind, when I walk to the western beach of the island. There, the mighty Lake Lohjanjärvi opens up. So far, the islands have sheltered me from the winds as I have paddled on my route, and my kayak has faced only moderate waves. Now, I can see whitecaps rise everywhere on the vast open section of the lake called Isoselkä.

As the name suggests, Isoselkä is the largest open water of Lake Lohjanjärvi. On Isoselkä, lies the deepest point in the lake. Called a cryptodepression, the deepest point is 23 metres below sea level, all the way to a depth of 55 metres. For a lake, that kind of depth is admirable. I wonder what kinds of fish lurk beneath the waves. Are the biggest fish there, in the deep dark of Isoselkä?

In Lake Lohjanjärvi, there are over 30 species of fish. Especially sander – or pike-perch – is a coveted fish for many fishers, but also perch and pike are common. The biggest sander caught from the lake so far holds a story that seems pretty far-fetched, but it’s true. The sander was about 15 years old, a little over 1 metre long and weighed about 12 kilograms when it met its match in the form of a fishing boat. The boat collided with the fish, and the collision was so hard that the fishermen thought they’d hit a sunken log. The event has been documented for example in a Finnish daily newspaper Ilta-Sanomat.

As I gaze towards Isoselkä, I see dark clouds building up. Rain is coming, so I get back to the lean-to to eat my lunch and start packing up my kayak. Wind is picking up, and the rain clouds are looming ever closer, so I decide to turn my kayak back towards the place where I started from.

Dark clouds follow me as I paddle briskly back. Ripples swell up to bigger waves, but I am glad that the wind is blowing from behind, giving me much needed assistance. The sky is almost black and blue when I arrive. First drops of rain fall on me as I pull my kayak ashore. As soon as I have started driving back home, it begins to pour. Nature gives me another demonstration of its strength. First, peaceful and serene as ever, and now – completely different.

Tips to experience Lake Lohjanjärvi by water

Canoe and kayak rental: The website is mainly in Finnish, but they also provide service in English. The equipment depot is located a few kilometres away from the Lohja bus station.

Fishing trips: TheraFish. They arrange trips for first-timers and more advanced fishers as well. The Day offline trip takes you fishing on the lake and hiking in the coastal forests. TheraFish is specialized in arranging accessible fishing trips, and they have seats for wheelchair users on the boat.

Stand-up paddleboard rental: Cafe Aurlahti, located by the Lohja city centre. For a more “uplifting” experience, try the flyboard!

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

The tree of life – the enchanting oak of Paavola

Article by Tomi Pohja

Have you ever heard of the word Yggdrasil? If you have read fantasy books, delved into old Scandinavian mythology or maybe seen the movie Avatar, you would have come across references to a large and mysterious “tree of life” in one form or another. Then you may have wondered if those kinds of trees really exist. They do.

📌 Parking area for the oak of Paavola: Pietiläntie 23, Lohja

Growing in Lohja, the oak of Paavola reaches for the sky, spreading her branches over a large area and taking the spectator to a place known only from fairy tales and fantasies. I have been visiting the oak at least once a year, because I can’t get enough of it. I have lost count of how many times I’ve made the journey to see the fabled tree. This is one of those times.

Estimates say that the ancient oak is over 300 years old. It grows in Lohjansaari Island, about an hour’s drive from the centre of Helsinki. Driving to the island is an experience in itself, and visiting the site where the tree is, only adds to it. Green landscapes follow one another, and time goes fast by.

We turn from Hankoniementie to Lohjansaarentie. After some old railway tracks by the roadside, the road is lined by countless fields and orchards. Then we move on to Jalassaari Island and after that we cross the bridge to Lohjansaari Island. We can feel that we’re getting close to the oak of Paavola.

There is a boat launching site by the bridge of Lohjansaari Island.

Along the way to the island we have been transported to another world. The sounds of traffic or the city don’t carry here. Instead, the air is filled with the song of at least half a dozen different birds. At this time of the year, the symphony of natural sounds is almost overwhelming.

Soon after crossing the bridge to Lohjansaari, we see the first signs pointing to the oak of Paavola. There’s a nature trail of about 1 kilometre leading from the parking area to the oak. Some might mistake a huge oak growing by the parking area for the oak of Paavola, but that’s not “The” oak. The one and only oak of Paavola is growing deeper in the forest.

Parking is free, and so far there has been room for cars every time I have visited the oak. This time I can see few other cars as well.

On the other side of the parking area, there is an old school of Lohjansaari. It was founded in 1898, and the last classes were held in 2014. In 2018, a café called Ö Cafe was established on the premises. Currently, it’s open on weekends and during the summer. During our visit, however, the café was closed.

If you are planning to come here for a coffee, please check for the opening hours. Please also note that the schoolyard is private property, so if you have no business there, don’t trespass.

The nature trail starting from the parking area goes up to the cliff in front of the school. Already during the first few metres, you get a glimpse of the diverse vegetation that exists on the island. Smaller oaks are also growing in intervals along the path.

Stopping for a while to admire the beautiful colours of the red campion.

After the cliff, the path goes deeper into the deciduous forest, giving us some relief from the heat of a sunny day. Oaks, linden (lime) trees and hazels surround us when we walk on the path, having no worry of getting lost off the trail.

There are also 15 information boards along the trail with facts on the flora and nature of the region. If you take plenty of time to stop on each checkpoint, you’ll get the most of it. Unfortunately, the information is provided in Finnish only.

The 8th information checkpoint says that cones and nuts are important food for many animals.
There are several nesting boxes in the trees, and many birds are indeed nesting, by the sheer sound of them.

A little before the oak of Paavola, the trail turns into a wooden causeway. This is one of my favourite legs along the trail, since I’ve always found wooden causeways somehow intriguing. I feel like rolling on without effort.

On the left, the dense grove of oaks, lindens and hazels gives way to birch trees for a while. This place is at its best in the summer, when the shades of green mix with white, providing a simple but beautiful colour palette.

Eventually, the causeway ends and the path splits in two branches. One of them leads to the oak of Paavola, and the other to the last leg of the nature trail. We are obviously taking the one to the oak.

The path branches off towards the oak of Paavola and to the final section of the nature trail.

When the deciduous forest finally gives way entirely to spruces, we know that we are close to our destination. A little while ago, we saw lilies of the valley and ferns, but there is also a lot of wood horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) around the oak. We haven’t even noticed that we are walking faster now. The oak is clearly pulling us towards it.

I clearly remember how I felt when I first saw the oak of Paavola. At first, I couldn’t believe that it was true. Then, I acknowledged that the tree was actually there and started measuring the height, breadth and girth of it with my eyes. Still, everything about the tree defied belief. Finally, I was so mesmerized by it that I didn’t want to leave its presence at all.

If I remember correctly, this is the sixth time already I’ve been here. However, I still feel the same as on the first time. Standing in the middle of a clearing, on top of a mound, the oak is one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen.

The oak has been so popular that to protect its delicate trunk, roots and other vegetation beneath it, causeways and a fence has been built. According to some estimates, the oak of Paavola is over 300 years old. Some oaks can live up to a thousand years when they are left alone. This tree is protected by law as a natural monument. Moving on the area is restricted, and climbing the tree is strictly forbidden. You must also stay on the paths. Littering and firemaking is also prohibited.

It is not exactly sure how old the oak is, but it is old nonetheless – and beautiful.

The oak of Paavola is so huge that it seems to defy laws of nature. Its limbs reach as far as 10 metres from the main trunk, and its height is about 12 metres. One of the most prominent features is its girth: almost 5 metres. The roots of the tree are in many places visible above ground. By the looks of it, the tree must have been a place of worship during the centuries. However, it’s only a speculation.

There’s something unreal about the moss-covered limbs overhead and the rays of light shining through.

We spend a while in its splendour. Then, it’s time to get back to the crossroads of the nature trail. The oak has nourished our hearts and minds.

After the crossroads, the trail continues as beautiful as before. We slow down to enjoy the atmosphere and wildlife as long as possible.

The scenery changes completely after a few hundred metres. Here is the fruit orchard Fruticetum. The path turns to the right, running alongside the orchard fence for a while until it goes back into the forest. In addition to the birdsong and fantastic flora, the smells feel almost tangible. Air here feels really clean.

Before we get back to the parking area, we spot a dead old oak – impressive as well.

Instead of getting back home, we head to the beach. We have packed our swimsuits and some lunch with us. The heat of the day and almost cloudless sky demand a dip into the clear waters of Lake Lohjanjärvi.

We turn right from the parking area, which is the opposite direction where we came from. The signs by the roadside tell us that it’s about 2 kilometres to the beach. After a while, we see another sign saying that there’s only 1 kilometre left. Eventually, the road ends on an iron bar and to a small, unmarked parking area. We leave our car in the shade of the trees and continue on foot down the gravel road towards the beach. There are also few other swimmers enjoying the hot summer day.

Dipping into the lake in water which is nice and warm, crowns the day already filled with experiences. Fording on the sandy bottom was nice, and swimming was easy. There is also an outdoor toilet and information board on the beach. On the board, you can see how clean the water is and when the water samples were taken.

We packed up our things and headed home. Any trip to Lohjansaari Island is different each time, but always as rewarding. The oak of Paavola is an exceptionally beautiful tree with enormous presence in itself, but the total experience with the lake scenery and nature trail is always more than the sum of its parts.

In addition to the oak, there’s a lot more to see and visit, like the café Ö Cafe, the apple wine farm Alitalon omenaviinitila, the old estate of Martinpiha and the antiquities and green room Antiikki ja viherhuone Elegans. This makes sure that when you’re planning for a trip to the oak of Paavola, you can see much more!

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

A Shockingly Good Spring

Spring in my opinion always feels very short in Finland. One minute it’s snowing and the next there’s green everywhere. I’ve been happily taking photos on the lake shores again now that the ice has thawed away. Old and familiar rocks have popped up and have been happy to model for me once again, their stoic expressions unchanged since last autumn. I have also been incredibly fortunate enough to capture some amazing photos from the first storm of this past spring, a memory that I will never forget. Below are some photos from spring.

Above: Out of the winter and into spring. This photo was captured during the early period of spring when the lake had not yet completely thawed. I was so happy to see some nice reflections again in the lake. Things were beginning to wake up and slowly come to life.

Above: A cloudy and windy day in the beginning of May. There were still a few days of snow during that month.

Above: Golden reeds at golden hour along a lake shore in Joensuu.

Above: A fine art landscape from a lovely sunset here in Joensuu. I’ve been happy to get back into these kind of simple Finnish landscapes. The water is always so clean and inviting, despite how cold it can be at this time of the year.

Above: The start of a stormy night. The clouds moved with power and showed their dominance over the evening sky. This photo was taken shortly after sunset. I decided to stick around just in case I could be lucky enough to photograph a great storm.

Above: This was from the same stormy night as the previous photo. The storm came right over me and I was so lucky to capture one of my best images of this year. The timing could not have been better and I was extremely satisfied to capture these two lightning bolts in one photo. This was the first storm of spring and an incredible experience to be a part of. I cannot get over the wonders of nature.

Above: Another photo from the stormy night.

Above: The green has returned! It’s amazing how quickly the scenery changes around this time of the year. This is just a simple image of some birch trees here in Joensuu. It’s gotten even greener since then.

Now that summer is here, the endless nights are here too. I look forward to spending late nights and early mornings exploring in the Finnish nature. It is a blessing to be here and every day brings new possibilities and new sights to see. It’s time to grill, sauna and swim 🙂

I hope that you all have a fantastic summer and enjoy the beautiful Finnish nature!