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This is what it’s like to walk through the winter forest trails in Koli national park

Deep in the forests of Eastern Finland, there lies a peaceful and unspoiled place. Here, one can find snow that goes knee deep and frozen trees that tower all around. It is totally quiet here, and it is possible to be in harmony with nature while walking through these woods.

This place is Koli National park, and last winter I was lucky enough to explore this snowy realm. I have put together a 12-photo album of this adventure as I make my way to the Ukko-Koli, where one can see one of the most spectacular views in all of Finland. The hiking trail is the forest walk which can be taken from the Koli village (Kolinkylä) to the lookout at Ukko-Koli, overlooking lake Pielinen.

The first thing I was greeted with was fluffy snow peacefully adorning the branches of the many trees. Old spruces and birches grow in these protected forests.

I was sinking knee-deep into the snow with every step, but it made for a more memorable adventure.

There is no better place to be mindful of the surroundings and enjoy the delicacy of nature. Koli has inspired artists for centuries.

A lonely sign could be found along the hiking trail, guiding the way through these mysterious white forests.

‘The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.’ – John Muir

Walking through these peaceful landscapes was indeed very calming and relaxing for the mind.

The walk is also about the little things, such as the fresh cold air.

With every passing minute on the walk, the views get better and better. Even a ski area can be found here.

Then, at last, I reached the summit, where the iconic ‘National view of Finland’ can be found. It was an unforgettable sight. The lake Pielinen lies ice-covered in the distance, as misty clouds cast their shroud over some of the frozen pine woods.

Once, long ago, great glaciers shaped these landscapes. Back then, the land was permanently frozen under glacial ice caps which didn’t melt for thousands of years.

Some of the greatest trees can be found here. They span from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts in what is known as the Main Taiga, the world’s largest ecosystem.

On the way back down, I found a traditional cozy winter cottage with its gates lying open in welcome.

And finally back again at my homely accommodation, Kolin Ryynänen, a traditional wooden lodge.

Above the busiest motorway in Finland is a hauntingly beautiful secret – the backwoods of Karnaistenkorpi

An unexpected journey awaits those who come to this place. A fairy-tale forest exists above a section of the National Road 1, running from Helsinki to City of Turku.

Karnaistenkorpi has a well-marked nature and story trail and lean-tos by the ponds. The trails look like figure 8, and you can choose whichever distance you wish to hike. There are two starting points for the trails that are equipped with outdoor toilets. They are marked in this map under the name “Paikoitus”. The address of the parking area is Suoniementaival 30, Lohja.

A shorter trail of about 3.5 kilometres is available starting from the parking area next to the Kisakallio Sports Institute. The trail goes around two ponds and lean-tos and comes back to the starting point. This trail is suitable for families and for those who wish to take things easy.

The story trail begins also from this parking area. One of the many things that may come to you as a surprise is the silence. Although the motorway is close, it runs inside the bedrock which effectively blocks out the sounds of traffic. Nature is also quite special here: beauty everywhere and forest as from a fairy-tale. Soft green mosses and towering spruce trees make you feel you’re safe here.

The story trail runs clockwise. It rapidly leads to the shore of a small pond. The bank is a little marshy. When we visited the place, the winter was on its way, and the pond was partly frozen. However, the sun was still warming us up nicely. We smelled smoke coming from somewhere and understood that there must be a lean-to nearby.

Beautiful Labrador tea was growing by the pond. Labrador tea is a common plant on marshy areas, and when you rub the leaves of the plant on your fingers, the scent gets stronger. This is what Finland smells like.

When we got to the lean-to, fire was going, and a father was teaching his son some wilderness skills. We sat down with them. We had picked up some delicacies from a bakery on our way to Karnaistenkorpi, and we also had a small coffee pot with us. As we were hungry, a lunch break was in order.

There is a wood shed near the lean-to, and the firewood is available for use. The firewood was a little damp, so I chopped it into smaller pieces to make it burn better.

The lean-to is located on a very picturesque spot on top of a cliff by the Ahvenanlampi Pond. You need to step off the story trail a little to find the lean-to, but it’s still an easy task.

We found a handy gridiron at the lean-to. We put our paninis on the gridiron to warm them up over the fire, and the water for the coffee boiled in no time. Our little outdoor lunch by the fire was perfect!

The father and his son went on with their hike. We stayed to enjoy our coffee in almost complete silence. You wouldn’t believe it if you didn’t know, but the biggest motorway in Finland runs right below this lean-to!

We also continued our own journey along the story trail. There are 21 control points with information boards along the trail to offer lots of interesting information about local nature. The information boards are in Finnish.

We made good way, and soon were at the lean-to at Sorvalampi Pond. This lean-to is also located on a pretty spot on top of a cliff. Both lean-tos (this and the previous one) are equipped with outdoor toilets and firewood sheds.

Autumn days are not very long, and the dusk was already setting in. We stayed on for a little while longer to look at the last lights of the evening.

The ancient rocks of the region are covered in grooves that almost look like runes. Green mosses and lichens grow on the rocks which makes them look fairytailish.

The trail runs on wooden causeways in many parts. Beautiful cliffs surround the trail on both sides. The causeways have recently been fixed so they are in good shape as the rest of the trail structures.

Darkness fell gradually further and further into the forest. Luckily, we didn’t have much distance to cover anymore, so we just enjoyed the beautiful backwoods as long as there was light.

My imagination got wings when the darkness settled in. In the dark everything looks different.

Oh, I wish the trees could talk! These majestic spruce trees are way over a hundred years old. They have witnessed the cycle of life in the forest. Their roots are strongly embedded in the ground, and they are not easily moved.

Eventually, we had to leave these fairy-tale forests behind. We got into our car and drove home, but we will be back again someday – so magical was this place! Maybe next time we will sleep in the lean-to and listen what secrets the old spruce trees might share with us in the night.

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

“Only the birch trees gave away the fact that we weren’t in the Greek archipelago” – a hike at Iso-Melkutin lake

“What an unbelievable place”, enthused my mountain-biking obsessed colleague, when he heard that we were doing on a Digitrail-tour around Iso-Melkutin lake. A moment later he pedalled back to ask, ‘So you’re going on a digi-what? The app could have easily been sold to him, even though it’s free from the app store.

My colleague’s statement clearly came from the heart. Further investigation showed that he was quite right: About an hour and a half’s drive from Helsinki, right next to Räyskälä airfield, is said to be one of Finland’s hiking gems: the Melkutin backwoods with its protected ridges and beaches, and the crystal clear Iso-Melkutin lake.

But would I go so far as to call it unbelievable?

The village of Räyskälä seemed quite lively, even though it felt like travelling back a few decades. The old buildings were built in an even more traditional way than the traditional ones right next to the main road, and the village shop was from the same period. In the corner of the field was a potato pit. It was now a café, which would be open until three o’clock. We could definitely make it there for a visit, as it was still only morning.

The starting point for Loppi’s Digitrail route is at the western corner of Räyskälä airfield, next to the road called Tauluntie. The large car park was full, even though the summer had already made an exit. There were your usual enthusiasts with tents on their backs, mountain bikers, divers (?!) and then us, who paid no attention to the large signposts pointing in all directions. We were now relying on our mobile phones.

From the Digitrail app’s three options, we chose the middle one, which was approximately seven kilometres long and classified as medium in terms of difficulty. The theme of the route was Lake Iso-Melkutin, its origins and the flora of the area. As we progressed along the route, bite-sized chunks of information about the nature types found on ridges popped up on our mobile phone display, from typical plants to rarer features of the area. The most interesting was was the theory surrounding the origins of the lake that was at the centre of it all.

According to the map, the route is shaped like a balloon; at the beginning and the end of the trail we journey out and back along the same path for about a kilometre, and the rest is around the lake. If we forget to follow our progress on the screen, the GPS stops working or the satellite dies, getting lost in the vicinity of the lake would be quite difficult.

Of the three aforementioned risks is the only one that’s likely is the first one, as the locator is accurate and monitors all progress on the map without any delay. The graphics on the map are simple, the app is easy to use and is full of interesting possibilities. The map, sorry, the phone, can be held in the hand either in the direction of travel or you can fix the locator to move with the map. And, best of all, if the hiker gets lost on the route, the app remarks politely:

“Don’t get lost! It looks like you walked past the path. A little adventure won’t hurt as long as you don’t get lost. ”

Digitrail application

The highlight of the trail awaited further along, but the start of the trail was already calming our restless minds. We step into the light-filled, gently rolling terrain of dry coniferous forests….

And then dove deeper into a young spruce forest…

We wove between swampy ponds and the lake. The path is narrow at the start, but widens as we go along.

And thank goodness it does get wider; as this is where we come to the edge of Iso-Melkutin lake. My colleague was right: the view is not from this country. The lake shimmered vivid and bright with visibility several metres in depth. Only birch trees on the beach revealed that we hadn’t gotten lost with our mobile phones in the Greek archipelago.

On the shadow side of the lake the colour was close to a dark emerald. Such clear, humus-free lakes are rare in our country. There are more of them in the north, but in the south they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The shore of Iso-Melkutin is mostly unbuilt – thanks to the shore protection program – and the mostly sandy and gravel-based. You can swim almost anywhere, although the best spots are on the northern shore of the lake. The official bathing places along the route can be found on the eastern and western ends of the lake. The first of these is also equipped with two lean-tos, a campfire site and a dry toilet.

According to divers, there are piles of rocks at the bottom of the lake as well as an underwater ridge. The lake is said to have formed during the melting phase of the last glacial period, when huge ice blocks were buried inside the glacial sand. When they melted, they created big pits in which water was left behind. The deepest part of Iso-Melkutin lake is 27 meters.

Another result of the ice-age is the esker ridge, which gives the lake its peculiar shape. The ridge pushes to the surface at three points to form long and narrow capes. The western-most ridge almost separates Iso-Melkutin lake from Vähä-Melkutin lake. The strait left in between, at only a few meters wide, is ceremoniously crossed via the Samoyed Bridge.

The middle point, the couple of hundred metre-long and approximately fifty metre-wide Nappilahdennokka peninsula, almost separates Nappilahti bay from the lake. The peninsula was not on our route, but we just had to go there. The application also understood what the hiker needs, and didn’t suddenly shout at us for taking a detour.

At the eastern end of the lake, we came across a third peninsula, Tokholmannokka: half a kilometre long and narrower than the previous ones, reaching almost to the opposite shore. It’s hard for the human mind to resist these formations, so we detoured here too. A snag had snapped conveniently fallen right next to the path, forming a bench parallel to the headland. We sat for a moment and sighed in both directions. On the opposite shore, there were still two nameless peninsulas. Let’s see if we actually do make it to the potato pit for coffee.

Luckily, on the opposite shore, our route took us to the top of the headland, so we followed along. The narrow ridge turned out to be a base for divers and a hiker’s paradise. The adjacent Melkuttimentie road makes it easier for divers to get their equipment near the water and also makes it possible for the smallest hikers to get up on their own steam. At the tip of the peninsula a lean-to with seating platforms has been built along with a campfire site and dry toilets. And did I already mention, the scenery is spectacular!

Next to the lean-to there are steps down to the lake that have been built by volunteering divers.

As the route continues, the lake mostly stays at least in your peripheral vision. Occasionally we deviate from the immediate shore, sometimes looking at the lake from above. There are plenty of hills on the trail’s western side, but none of them so steep as to make the hike impossible if you were of average fitness. You do however have to raise your knees over rocks dotted along the path and over thick roots. For this reason I wouldn’t do this trail by mountain bike, but about twenty mountain bikers who crossed our paths were clearly of a different opinion.

On the north side of the lake, the trail follows steep and dry slopes typical of the area. Snow disappears from these areas early in the spring, giving room for unique plant varieties. On this slope, you can find the rare and therefore protected, Pasqueflower with its blue buds, which has been named the official flower of the Kanta-Häme region.

At the end of the lake tour, the path widens, eventually filling the whole hill. We were approaching the lake’s other swimming beach, which has attracted people for centuries. And it is no wonder, because its bottom is pure gold … sand, and it continues as far as the eye can see.

Three o’clock came and went, and we were still sitting on the lakeshore. We missed our coffee, but nevermind, we will definitely be coming back!

You can download the app here.

Häme Nature Center on a map

*DigiTrail is a mobile application that works in nature like a navigator and thus lowers the threshold to explore nature areas. The application guides the traveller in the woods, shows nearby services and attractions. In addition, it provides interesting information, for example, about the history of the region and can be used to activate its users with different themes, such as forest related sports and cultural content.

Article: Heli Heikkilä

Photos: Tomi Pohja

Translation from Finnish: Becky Hastings


The Ice Age sculpted the spectacular Lohjanharju Esker and made it the top destination for modern-day backpackers

In Lohja, less than an hour drive from Helsinki, rises the majestic Lohjanharju Esker. It is the perfect location to enjoy what nature has to offer. It’s right by the city, and the trails are easy.

Several marked outdoor trails criss-cross the Lohjanharju Esker. Their lengths are from 1 to 6.5 kilometres, and they are accessible with prams as well. Amongst these wide trails there are many smaller ones that will lead the traveller to the mystic forests and to the land of the fairies. Although the esker is a fascinating destination all year round, in winter the trails will become skiing tracks where walking is prohibited.

A natural starting point for a trip to the esker is by the Neidonkeidas Swimming Hall (Address: Runokatu 1). If you come from the centre of Lohja, it is recommended that you take the path that starts from the Kasarminkatu Street, goes up the hill and joins the other trails running parallel to the slope. If you come by car, you can leave it at the parking lot of the swimming hall. There is a stairway beside the swimming hall leading down to the trail.

It is one Sunday in December. I am standing on top of the esker. The ground is still free of snow, but the sky is covered in clouds. There’s still some light at noon. I can hear the noises carrying from the city, and I look around me. I have come here to investigate the tracks of the last Ice Age, and I wonder how the landscape looked back then, almost 10 000 years ago. I still hear the noise, but now it is different. Where a moment ago the rooftops of the city were, now are the swelling waves of the ancient Yoldia Sea.

Behind me, the glacier stretches further than the eye can see. The rivers that are born deep under the ice are transporting massive amounts of sand and gravel, which will slowly accumulate into a border moraine. That long mound runs hundreds of kilometres, following the edge of the glacier, and reaching from Hanko to Lohja and via Lahti, all the way to Eastern Finland.

This ancient landscape is clear in my mind when I start my journey on the trails of the esker. At first, the forest around me is open. Tall and robust pine trees reach up to the sky, and their tough bark spells dignity. I am walking the path downhill. I can spot colourful old wooden houses between the trees. Further away, there is the glimmering Lake Lohjanjärvi, spotted with small islands.

For a while, I follow the wide outdoor trail, but soon I choose a narrower path. At the bottom parts of the esker, dense spruce trees create a dusky effect.

As I go along, I notice the large rocks appearing here and there between the trees. Compared to these rocks, the trees are youngsters, albeit hundreds of years old themselves. These rocks are called erratics, and they are testament to the unimaginable forces which were at play during the Ice Age. Along its way, the moving ice sheet chipped off enormous boulders and carried them even hundreds of kilometres away.

I stop beside one of these boulders to stroke the moss growing on it. The moss is like goblin’s hair. With a little more imagination, I can discern a wrinkly face on the rock. Actually the wrinkles are a result of the Ice Age, too. Along with the larger rocks, the ice also carried smaller pebbles and stones that grinded on the larger ones and created these creases.

I walk alongside the esker for about 2 kilometres to the nature preservation area of Neitsytlinna to find a strange, tall mound. It is made of sand and moraine, but how, no-one has been able to tell. I climb up the steep slope and stop again to gaze at the scenery. The slope feels even steeper going down, and I almost lose my foothold. The mound is surrounded by erratics and smaller stones that have been honed smooth by the waves of the Yoldia Sea. Here is an ancient shore, now covered by forests, mosses and lichens. I feel like being at a geological art exhibit when I stand in the shadow of a giant, rugged boulder.

As I am ready to return, I will choose the paths higher up the esker. They will run in the open pinewood forests. I start to look for a suitable place to have my break. Can’t go backpacking without some lunch, can you! At the upper part of the esker, roughly halfway to the trail, there is a picnic table and a campfire site. I will not stay there, though, for I spot a fallen tree a short distance away. It is so inviting that I will sit on the trunk, take out my thermos, pour myself some tea and grab a sandwich.

It’s getting darker, when I return back to the place I started from, at the swimming hall. Today, the Sun didn’t favour me with his presence, but when the skies are clear, it is nice to time your trip to the esker so that you can come back just before the sunset. That way you can have the icing on your esker cake by looking at the breath-taking evening sky spreading above the lake.

Article and photos: Kukka Kyrö

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

See also:

The stunning Liessaari Island in Lohja

Visit Lohja

Evo recreational area’s Digitrail route: mobile phone app guides you on the trail and gives forest yoga instructions

Evo, a village in Häme only a couple of hour’s drive from Helsinki, is best known in Finland for its highly recommended recreational area as well as the country’s oldest forestry institute. This Digitrail route* helps us explore both.

I did however already have a guide of my own, as I managed to convince my father, who graduated from the institute almost 60 years ago, to join me. This meant that there was guaranteed to be a healthy dose of forest knowledge, my father’s hilarious (for him) stories from his student days as well as a brisk progression through landscapes which were straight out of a Finnish forest industry textbook.

The Digitrail routes start from the Evo Centre, which was built as part of the institute to serve as the approximately 5000 hectare state-owned recreational area’s information centre. The campus area was built in the middle of three lakes, on a narrow isthmus.

From the Digitrail app, we chose the middle route which followed the running track towards the west and was then made up of two consecutive loops, about seven kilometres in total. Part of the journey is out and back along the same route.

At the start of the journey we were introduced to some ancient trees that were well over a hundred years old and around three metres tall. Their tall, thick trunks stood straight and with few branches, the way that trees are supposed to stand in an educational forest.

The Evo Forestry Institute specializes in teaching the multiple uses of the forest, so alongside economic values, it emphasizes the non-economic values of forest nature. When the lakes and the college were behind us, an impressive landscape opened out before us. In the old-growth forest, the beams shone with their absence; the trees grew as slowly and twisted as they wanted, leaning against each other until they finally fell down.

These kinds of free-growing forests are now rare, precisely because of the productivity dilemma surrounding forests. However, they maintain biodiversity by enabling habitat for many rare species of fauna and flora and are therefore valuable conservation and hiking areas. The atmosphere in the old-growth forest is something quite different than in the commercial forest; dusky and unhurried. The only one who might bother you here is the spider with his webs, and even he can’t always be bothered.

Even the creek had had enough of flowing and decided to stop. As a result, water flooded onto the trail, and saturated the land, which came as a small surprise to the trees that had managed to grow as tall as man. They had no option other than to give up.

After a few kilometers of wandering through the old-growth, we changed landscape again. Lush, spruce-dominated mixed forest made way for rugged dry terrain. The pines still stood strong, but grasses were sprouting all over the place.

The land’s rolling form started to become predictable, but before that Syrjänalunen forest pond and the lean-to on its shores provided a moment of rest – if one wanted to take it. Behind the lean-to and the dry toilet were split logs, a wide wooden mallet and metal blade bolted to a wooden chopping block, an ingenious way to split wood. Chopping wood was so easy and fun, that our hike was in danger of being abandoned.

With it being the end of August, the evening was starting to approach, so we left the opportunity to enjoy a small sense of achievement for others and continued our journey. On a steep, sandy slope there was a sign about the nature conservation work that is done in the area for the endangered habitats and the species that live in them. The forest had been felled, but plenty of seedling trees had been left on the slope.

On Evo Forest Institute land, the forest is regenerated by simulating small, controlled forest fires. The earth gets nutrients from the ash, and the fire makes room for fast-growing plants that later humbly make way for the stronger ones, after nourishing the soil. But for now they’re permitted to flourish for a little while.

The path narrows and starts to twist towards the Syrjänalusenharju ridge. The forest becomes darker and pine trees make way for spruce again. The map used by the app has described the steeply rising ridge in front with two elevation contours, which is quite modest, as this land formation created by the ice-age rises to 170 meters above sea level. The whole of the Evo area is located higher than its surroundings, making it a watershed, but the climb from the bottom to the top of the hill still looks about 80 meters.

The top of the ridge is probably the narrowest I’ve seen. The slope descends steeply on both sides and the hiker needs to keep his wits about him for about a kilometre.

The theme of the route is forest yoga, and stretching instructions appear on the phone display while up on the ridge. I try them out because the spot was worth stopping at. My dad sits on a rock, one of many which feel as though they have been placed alongside the path for exactly that reason. He already knew what Evo had to offer, but I was not prepared for such a fantastic views. Time just stopped…

… But the sun was continuing to set, so we continued on our journey. We descended the steep slope, sometimes holding onto the trees for support, and ended up in the armpit of the ridge, in the lush and rocky grove of Hautjärvi lake.

Expectations were high after everything we had seen up on the ridge, so after surviving the dense grove, we were glad to come across the exceptionally beautiful swamp scenery of Karvalampi. Duckboards varied in width from one to three, and some were in good condition whilst others were partly submerged. Long grasses reached over the boards and sometimes over the walker. Despite the dry summer, there was water on the surface and it was clear! Rarely does the swamp come so close!

The clarity is because Karvalampi swamp’s source is a spring. On the swamp’s south eastern edge, water breaks through to the surface from the side of the ridge. Water is drinkable and keeps cool throughout the summer.

And again the landscape changed. This time, we wove through kettle-hole terrain. The birth of the kettle-holes is as fascinating an ice age story as the birth of the ridge. For a long time trolls and spirits were suspected as being the culprits responsible, but these traces were actually caused by blocks of ice left buried under the sand.

Finally it was downhill to Evo Forest Institute. At times the route went along a forest truck road lined with plentiful long grass and thick aspens, and other times along a narrow path through the spruce forest. Tall spruces show an example to the younger ones, standing snags tell their own story and the huge cypresses on the edge of the clearcut area look lost, but stand firm and resolute.

You can download the app here.

Häme Nature Center on a map

*DigiTrail is a mobile application that works in nature like a navigator and thus lowers the threshold to explore nature areas. The application guides the traveller in the woods, shows nearby services and attractions. In addition, it provides interesting information, for example, about the history of the region and can be used to activate its users with different themes, such as forest related sports and cultural content.

Article: Heli Heikkilä

Photos: Tomi Pohja

Translation from Finnish: Becky Hastings

Ruostejärvi recreation area is a hit with the kids, particularly with a fun new mobile app to guide you on trails

In cooperation with HAMK

If you’re hiking in the Häme region, north of Helsinki, you can take advantage of the fun Digitrail* mobile application that guides you through the nature trails. The idea of the application, developed by Häme University of Applied Sciences, is to work like a navigator on a particular trail, encouraging people to get out and explore nature.

There are five trail networks on the app, which we test in this new article series. We were now at the first app location that was ready for trial, which was the Ruostejärvi Recreation Area on the Häme Lake Highlands, in Tammela.

There are three route options for all locations: easy, medium and challenging. The starting point for each is the Häme Nature Center.

Photo: Tomi Pohja

This time we chose to test the easiest trail. On this route we could go investigate the kid’s all-time favourite, the cable boat!

I left any other maps behind, and we decided to just find our way using the app. Your position is shown on the map as a blue dot and the trail as a purple line with destination points show as map symbols. So off we went!

Photo: Tomi Pohja

First, we made our way through a dark and dense, spooky spruce forest, along an easy gravel path. Under the close-knit branches, even on bright summer’s day like today, the forest was dim. It was like being in another world.

Our journey continued. Next appeared a smaller path down which we were supposed to go. Summer was giving its best, pampering us with warm rays, but the mosquitoes were thankfully nowhere to be seen. A tree that had fallen over the path, which could have been an annoying barrier in other circumstances, now provided a perfect seat for a little rest. But only a little one, as the adventure must go on.

Moments later, the path came to the lakeshore, where it followed the lake until it reached the highlight of the trail, the cable boat. When I said that this place is perfect for kids, the next sight just confirmed it. Right at that spot there were four of them fishing with a rod and line.

Before we could even say hello, two boys already volunteered to help us over.

It didn’t take long for the boys to hoist us over. We exchanged a few words with them and then carried on our way.

After the cable boat, the path curves to the left, to the beautiful duckboards that take you to your final destination, a peaceful campfire spot. We sat there for a longer while. Taking refreshing sips of water, we relaxed in our surroundings, aware and present.

In fact, I’m not even sure how long we stayed, so our relaxation exercise did its job. Now in front of us was the other half of the journey, the same route back, at least up to the gravel path. From there we chose another fork offered by the app, which took as along the shore back to the nature centre, arriving right next to the swimming beach.

The app did its job well and delivered exactly what it promised. The path was excellent for children to walk along: suitably short, mostly easy to walk, but also a hill and some more uneven terrain that develops balance and motor skills. The fallen tree and the cable boat were the highlights.

Our testing continues, and in the next sections we will explore the DigiTrail further.

You can download the app here.

Häme Nature Center on a map

  • *DigiTrail is a mobile application that works in nature like a navigator and thus lowers the threshold to explore nature areas. The application guides the traveller in the woods, shows nearby services and attractions. In addition, it provides interesting information, for example, about the history of the region and can be used to activate its users with different themes, such as forest related sports and cultural content.

This is what Wine in the Woods is like – The new wine tasting experience in Helsinki coming up next summer!

For wine enthusiasts the combination of food and wine is familiar. But is there even more to explore in the tastes of wines combining with other scents? That question Antti Huttunen, the founder of Finnish outdoor media Retkipaikka and co-creator of Back to Nature tv-series, wanted to examine more. He wanted to bring together two themes that are important to him: nature and wines. This is where the idea of a forest wine bar came from!

Even only 15 minutes in nature can make you feel relaxed.

Wine in the Woods starts in the Northern Gate of Nuuksio, an area right next to Nuuksio National Park. Nuuksio is the closest national park to the capital of Finland, Helsinki. It is easy to access even by local transport and it takes only around 45 minutes to jump from the busy metropolitan city to the calming nature and forests.

Karoliina Kaski, the guide of Wine in the Woods, welcomes our group in a lovely setting surrounded by countryside. We take a small walk around the historical buildings and take a look of the old stone stairs that once lead to the mansion of this area.

As we go deeper into the forest we start to connect our scents with the nature. Living in a busy city environment can make us nervous and disturb our minds, but nature can offer the opposite. It has been studied that only 15 minutes spent in nature can actually lower your blood pressure.

We take time for each sense to get attuned with the nature. How does the forest look like? What sounds do we hear, or, when we close our eyes, how does a small rock feel in our hands? It is incredible how strong our sense of touch will become if we close our vision and hearing!

After approximately 15 minutes we will enter deeper into the woods and will pass a wooden sign which tells us that we are now entering the nature’s own dining area: Wine in the Woods. We see the area with wooden benches with paddings, and sommalier Tero Pullinen, who welcomes everybody.

As a welcoming drink we get a glass of sparkling wine, which is also to calibrate our taste buds for the actual products of the wine tasting. There are five different red wines to taste and examine. Tero tells us about the wines and how they are connected with the nature.

Wines and Finnish woods have actually more in common that one would think at first! They both are living entireties and have many different layers. They are at constant change and when they meet each other you can find completely new sides from both wines and nature.

“The wines have a chance to return to nature, from where they have come, where everything is equal and where instead of strict restraint and control, constant change is present and embraced.”

We talk about our experiences and observations about the wines and nature. The atmosphere is comfortable and there is room for discussion. Even if one had no previous experience with wines or wine tastings, this nature’s surroundings will make this experience effortless.

The experience in nature with wines takes two hours. After the tasting the program itself is over, and everyone can choose how to continue their day. Maybe take a small hike in the National Park? Or, it is also possible to enjoy a forest themed menu, if one has reserved it in advance.

Wine in the Woods is a wine bar in the middle of forest and Antti explains how these several chosen spots in nature had to be presented to the authority in order to ask permission to serve spirits. In Finland the alcohol law is strict and you will need a permission for every place, restaurant or event that serves alcohol. Happily ever after the Wine in the Woods wine tasting got its permission and the next summers luxury outdoor experience is ready to happen!

Antti is happy for the positive feedback given by the test audience after the pilot-tasting. The Wine in the Woods experience is recommended for everyone who loves nature and wines. It is also a great opportunity if one wants to enjoy the nature but not necessarily in an exercising way.

“The taste and smell of a wine can take me into the middle of the forest, to some particular spots: under the shade of spruce branches, onto the warmth of the rocks, or amongst the lush foliage of the birch. I find this fascinating and want to give others the chance to experience the same – and a little more. I can’t wait to see what kind of experience we can offer you. Welcome!” -Antti Huttunen

If you are a nature lover who enjoys the tastes of wines or you want to experience something completely new, check out the web store here where you can reserve your place at the Wine in the Woods experience next summer! It is also available for group booking or you can purchase a Wine in the Woods giftcard!

Frisbee golf for the whole family in Västerby – with forest ponds and idyllic rural landscapes

In partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Sanna-Mari Kunttu

Frisbee golf (also known as disc golf) is an affordable hobby for the whole family that combines socialising with being active outdoors in beautiful surroundings. The Västerby frisbee golf course offers challenges and thrills for beginners as well as the more experienced.

Forests, rocks and idyllic countryside are all part of the Västerby frisbee golf course.

Three different ability levels at Västerby

Your fingers take an expert grip on the disc, your body twists in the middle and your mind is centered. The frisbee leaves in one controlled movement coming from the whole body. The disc curves gently between the trees and glides towards the metal basket, but falls short of the goal and onto the ground. On the next throw, the disc jangles into the basket. You jump for joy at your success and make a note of your score.

National championship level frisbee golf player, Susanna Virtanen, shows how to throw. Next up is her son, Niko Virtanen. Frisbee golf is the hobby of the whole Virtanen family. They have actively toured all of Finland’s frisbee golf courses, and are now in Raseborg (Raasepori) at Västerby, which is about 1,5h drive from Helsinki. According to Susanna Virtanen, it’s one of Finland’s best frisbee golf courses because of its diversity.

Susanna Virtanen shows how a frisbee is thrown.

Västerby’s course is right next to Tammisaari, only 3 km from the city centre. There is parking by the sports hall for those arriving by car. If you don’t have a car, there are buses from the Helsinki area or from the centre of Tammisaari. Then at Västerby it’s less than kilometre by foot to the course.

The course is maintained mainly by volunteers belonging to the local organisation EIF Disc Golf. Virtanen is one of them. However, the course is for everybody to use and remains completely free of charge. For this reason, Virtanen hopes that everyone makes sure that they leave the course tidy and in good condition.

One frisbee golf course is made up of several fairways, in other words, tees (from which you throw), goal baskets and the game areas in between. Västerby has two full length, 18-hole courses. The A course is for amateurs and the length is 1684 metres all together. To complete it, you should set aside a couple of hours. The B course has been the competitive course for the national championships – it’s more challenging and longer at 2356 metres. Some fairways connect the A and B courses. As well as these courses, there’s a children’s course in the area that’s less than a kilometre long with 9 fairways. However, there is nothing to prevent beginners from trying more demanding courses.

Beginner course on the top of the rock.

On the south coast, the snowless period is long, so the playing season at Västerby starts in the early Spring and carries on long into the Autumn due to mild weather. Frisbee golf can also be played in winter, but you have to take into account the cross country ski tracks that are made in the area at that time of year.

‘In the winter, you can find your disc more easily by sticking a long piece of gift ribbon on it, so that the ribbon floats on top of the snow even when the disc has sunk into it. You could also put a small LED light on the bottom of the frisbee so that you can find it more easily in the dark’, suggests Virtanen.

Västerby’s fairway 11 on the competitive course on a mystic Autumn morning looks inviting.

In addition to Västerby’s courses, the following can be found in Raseborg:

  • Karjaa 18-hole: good for beginners. You can go around the track quite easily with a pushchair or pram.
  • Pohjankuru, Competition Centre: 18-hole, challenging forest course in stunning surroundings
  • Tammisaari, Skogny: 18-hole, forest course near the sea, good for beginners
  • Tammisaari, Bromarv, Görans Frisbee Centre. 18-hole, private course, but all players are welcome.
  • Tammisaari, Snappertuna: 6 holes as part of Snappertuna school. Good for beginners.

You can find more information about Västerby’s courses and many other courses in Raseborg on the website: www.visitraseborg.com.

Diverse fairways and idyllic surroundings are Västerby’s calling cards

Västerby’s courses are amongst the best in Finland. The reason is the diversity in the landscape and the charming scenery. And there’s something for everybody! After the first fairways you get to throw in a lovely park environment under the oak trees.

The third fairway under oaks.

The next fairways are on pine-covered rocks and the hilly terrain bring challenges to the thrower. Some of the course has been planned to cleverly make the use of the land under the power lines.

Fairway 12 goes under the power lines over some magnificent rock.

When descending the rock, the forest transforms from a mix of birch and pines to a mossy-floored spruce forest right to the edge of Lillträsk lake. Many have lost their frisbees in water, as one of the fairways goes over the pond. Although the water of the lake looks tempting enough to swim in, it’s not worth diving in after your frisbee. The lake bottom is soft mud, in which you can get stuck. Therefore it’s recommended that you continue your game with another frisbee.

Lillträsket.

Again it’s time to climb higher up onto the rock, which treats us with an open view. Far above the forest canopy rises Tammisaari’s new water tower.

You can see far from the open rock.

The B course fairways continue from the rocks onto the field fairways, which have been called Finland’s most beautiful. And not without reason, for the most idyllic countryside view opens out in front of the player. The fields are framed with old multi-trunked oak trees.

Västerby competitive course, fairway 14.

The A and B courses are connected by a moss-floored spruce forest, after which you are almost back at the starting point. While going around the course it’s impossible not to notice that you are surrounded by some really good berry and mushroom picking terrain.

What on earth is frisbee golf?

In recent years frisbee golf has become more known and grown in popularity. New courses are being built all over Finland. According to Virtanen, the sport’s popularity lies in the fact that it’s easy to get started, and costs next to nothing. You can buy a frisbee for about 10 Euros. Also, frisbee golf can be played by almost any age group, regardless of differences in skill level. With 18 resting points along the way, the journey doesn’t seem too long or boring for even the smallest children.

To explain simply, the aim of frisbee golf is to get the frisbee in the goal basket with as few throws as possible. After the first throw from the tee, the next throw is taken from where the frisbee stopped. When the disc ends up in the basket, the fairway is played and you move on to the next one. The winner is the one who completes the course with the least throws. If you don’t want to compete with others, you can compete with yourself and the course. Fairways and the whole course have their own par-number, which tells you the ideal result. Just the satisfaction of a good throw is rewarding.

The metal basket acts as a frisbee goal or ‘hole’.

Throwing a frisbee is all about technique and doesn’t require good fitness. However, as you go round the course, you get free exercise without even realising. Above all, frisbee golf combines the pleasure of being active outdoors with socialising with other players. Frisbee golf also lowers the threshold to head out into nature. The aspect of being active in nature is also emphasised by Virtanen. Västerby’s fairways are mostly in the woods, and natural obstacles such as trees, rocks and waterways, are an essential part of frisbee golf.

The water obstacle of Lillträsk lake has been overcome!

A frisbee is all you need to make a start, but if you want to dive deeper into the sport, there is plenty to learn and frisbee golf has its own tricks and techniques. Just as in golf a variety of racing clubs are used, frisbee golfers use different discs that have different flying properties. The sharp-edged driver is ideal for long throws and the approach frisbee or the mid-range with its more rounded edges is more accurate. Nearer the goal, a thicker disc called a putter is used.

Frisbees from left to right: putter, mid-range and driver.

Virtanen gives some tips on typical beginner’s mistakes to avoid:

‘Your first frisbee shouldn’t be a far-flying but technique-wise challenging driver. Your enthusiasm for the hobby may be cut short.

Throwing styles and holds are also varied: spinning, palm-throwing, throwing rollers under obstacles, and ups for crossing. You can ask the clubs about the prices of courses or work days out, if you want a guided game for your own group. Of course, you may also find some tips from Youtube videos, but you’ll only learn the technique by practising.’

Top left: Putter hold. Right top image: power grip (backhand). Left bottom: fan grip. Right bottom view: forehand

‘There is no wrong way’, reassures Virtanen.

‘What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.’

So, go and try frisbee golf with the whole family – even if only to spend time outdoors and enjoy the scenery of Västerby’s course!

If frisbee golf is not your thing, just come and enjoy the view!

Caption: If frisbee golf is not your thing, just come and enjoy the view!

Read more about Raseborg:

Ekenäs Archipelago national park is paradise for paddlers 

Fiskars’ mountain bike trail network is fast gaining a reputation

Dagmar’s spring park – a beautiful nature reserve by the sea

 

Translation: Becky Hastings

Spending Time With Autumn

September was amazing and October has thus far been greatly rewarding. Autumn has kicked in, and in my opinion cannot overstay its welcome. Last month I managed to see the northern lights for the first time ever, right here in Joensuu and right above the city. The sunsets have been dramatic and the stars bright. Also, the fog has crept in and turned the routinely visible into the unknown. It’s official, this time of the year is now my favourite.

Here are some moments that I’ve been happy to capture:

Above: Waves crash against some rocks on the shore of Lake Pyhäselkä, Joensuu. The cloudy weather can often bring powerful, dramatic skies to a sunset.

Above: This is a place that I just can’t get enough of. This little island sits just off the shore from Kuhasalo in Joensuu. It’s perfect for if you’re looking to take a good picture. On this particular day the clouds were dramatic, the sun bursted through them and illuminated the island. I also found the green colour on the rocks to be a great foreground interest.

Above: My very first time experiencing the aurora. I went out looking for it, but it was only on my way home that I was treated to a show that I won’t forget. This is not the most amazing photo of the northern lights, but the moment will stay with me forever. The photo was taken in Joensuu, with the church near the centre of the image.

Above: On certain clear nights, the milky way is out to light up the night sky, possibly giving you that feeling of insignificance but simultaneously making you feel immensely grateful to be part of it all.

Above: Onkilampi is a great little lake/pond in Kontiolahti. Every time I go there, this old jetty seems to draw me in. It has a lot of character and appears to have spent its time with many visitors before. This photo was taken on a windy day at sunset.

Above: Another sunset shot on the shores on a lake in Joensuu, Finland.

Above: My second time with the northern lights. I was absolutely amazed at the show I was given. This photo was taken in Kontiolahti.

Above: Autumn has brought with it many different colours. The orange, yellow and red flora starts pop-out and introduce itself in a very bold manner, creating some interesting scenes to take in. Kukkosensaari offers much forest to explore.

Above: Birches lined up in the fog.

Above: A tree in the fog. Finland has been giving me some amazingly foggy scenes to appreciate.

So there you have it. Autumn has so far been fantastic here in Finland. With such a variety of things to see, it makes me wish that winter could somehow delay itself for a little while longer (and I think winter is awesome too). Every day seems full of things to appreciate and photographic opportunities to take. So see you out in the forest and remember to take your camera with you when you go! The Finnish nature is waiting for you 🙂

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Jason Tiilikainen on Instagram

This is what I saw as I walked 500 meters into a dark, silent, frozen forest

I live in a small village in the middle of Lapland. In fact, most people who live in Lapland live in small villages. That’s because there are almost no proper cities here at all, above the arctic circle.

And because there are no cities, there is no articifial light, but lots and lots of darkness in winter. But during this darkness, the sky can sometimes set on green and purple fire.

Last night I left home around 7 p.m. and walked into the forest next to our house. I had no headlamp or flashlight with me, as I knew that after a few minutes my eyes would get used to the darkness. There is a bit of snow on the ground, which helps to see the path. Also, the Moon started rising.

After having walked only about a 100 meters, I saw the first flames in the sky.

I sat down and looked at the auroras dancing above me.

In the dark forest full of pure silence, I could hear some soft and distant rustling. At first I thought it was the aurora making that noise, as they are known to make some weird sounds sometimes. But then, as I sat there thinking about it, I realized that what I actually heard was the nearby lake freezing. The temperature was well below zero.

I stood up and headed forward. I wanted to see the nearest swamp. And boy, was it beautiful.

I sat down again, this time next to a small pine on the edge of the forest. I didn’t want to walk on the swamp, as it might not be fully frozen yet. It was safer to stay on dry ground. I was wearing enough clothes so I didn’t feel cold at all, even though I was sitting in snow.

I could still hear the sound of the freezing lake. Then I heard a little snap behind me. I still don’t know what it was, but probably it was just a freezing tree. Trees can make popping sounds when it gets really cold. It’s such an interesting experience to walk into a dark forest in winter: you can even hear the trees.

I texted my husband that everything was ok and that I was be heading home now.

In a Finnish forest there’s really not much to be afraid of. Reindeer and moose are not dangerous, and wolves, wolverines and bears do not come anywhere near you. Most finns know this and that is why we love to spend time in forests, enjoying silence, pure air and sometimes also auroras.