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From a charming hazel grove into a mysterious cave – be surprised by the cape Karkalinniemi in Lohja

Article by Johanna Suomela

Want to get deep in your thoughts and go to a mystic forest? To another world where place and time lose their meaning? Wish to fill your ears with birdsong, sound of the waves and the silent rustle of aspen leaves? Is the green of the hazel bushes and mosses easy on your eyes? Want to taste some natural spring water or maybe descent deep underground? Then come to Lohja! We have all this, and we are close!

In the Lohjanjärvi Lake, the cape Karkalinniemi is a long and slender stretch of land extending southwest. The easiest way to get there is by car. If you are driving from Helsinki, the Turku motorway will carry you smoothly part of the journey.

Even the trip to the nature reserve is an experience. A little gravel road takes you through the cultural landscape, where small farms, meadows, fields and rolling hills alternate. By the roadside, there’s a sign that indicates the end of a public road (“Yleinen tie päättyy”). Don’t worry, though, just take a right turn towards the Karkali strict nature reserve.

It’s early June. A fearless deer is grazing by the road and wonders who is coming here.

It has been an exceptionally warm day for this time of the year: plus 23 C. The heat lingers in the evening, as does the light. A blooming rowan tree welcomes the fried of nature. There’s no-one else around, so we are apparently the only visitors here at the moment.

Nature reserves are normally entirely protected, and they are not publicly open. However, Karkalinniemi makes a difference. You can come to this paradise of hazel groves, if you remember to stay on the designated paths.

Picking berries and mushrooms is not allowed in Karkali, and everyman’s rights are not in force. Making fires, camping and mountain biking is also forbidden. If you want to go swimming, that will be possible only at the designated beach. Please don’t pick any plants or flowers, either.

This paradise welcomes anyone willing to obey the rules of Karkali. It is clear there’s absolutely no littering, too. Please take every piece of trash back with you when you leave. Litter-free backpacking is a must for every self- and nature-respecting person everywhere. Be a smart hiker and leave only footprints behind!

After a hard work day, Karkali provides us a dose of natural green medicine. The strict nature reserve of Karkali is definitely a place worth visiting, as it is one of the finest grove regions in Southern Finland. It is fresh and green everywhere. My restless mind relaxes, and I can almost feel my stress levels going down.

We begin our journey from the right side of the parking lot, and our intention is to walk around the cape counter-clockwise. We have two dogs with us, both of them on a leash. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times in nature reserves and national parks.

Stopping for a drink at the spring

We come across a wooden causeway right at the start of our walk. We have to stop almost immediately at a spring that lies just by the path. The spring is guarded by a tall spruce and surrounded by stones.

Even though there are some needles in the water, I just have to take out my wooden cup from my backpack and taste the water!

I take some water in the cup. The water is completely clear and odourless. It also tastes fresh, and nothing else. It is quite exceptional that in Finland, we can drink good-quality water straight from a spring whereas in many places even tap water is not clean enough for consumption!

The nature trail of Hanski-Hakki, the long beach route – or both?

The size of the Karkali nature reserve is 100 hectares. Protected in 1964, the reserve hosts lush hazel groves, wild moss-covered spruce forests and old pine trees growing on rocky cliffs.

The nature reserve has enjoyed over five decades of peace since the last residents left the place. Most of the evidence of humans is all but covered by nature. Only few stones remain to remind us of the three houses called crofts that used to be here. Old fields and meadows are now forests. The last and final loggings took place in 1950.

The length of the Hanski-Hakki nature trail is over 2 kilometres. Along the cone-marked trail, there are illustrated information boards with interesting facts about nature and animals of the reserve. There are roots and rocks on the paths so they are not accessible, even though the elevation differences are moderate. The path crosses itself a couple of times, and if you have small children who might get easily tired, you can shorten your hike down to half a kilometre.

Along the Hanski-Hakki trail, on the southern edge of the cape, there is a mooring site and a beach. On protected areas, both mooring and swimming are allowed only at the designated sites to protect fragile nature.

Dramatic-looking tree giants are lying down along the longer trail.

On nature reserves and conservation areas, windfall trees can stay where they are. If the tree falls across the path, only a piece of it is cut off to allow passage. Large trees host life even when they are fallen: they provide shelter and food for insects and for birds eating those insects.

The longer trail is marked in yellow on the trees.

In some places, the path branches and might lead the hiker on smaller false paths. If you have a smartphone app with a terrain map or if you can use the map with a mobile browser, that helps you stay on the right route.

The longer western route provides many lovely views to Lake Lohjanjärvi.

Lush groves and high beach cliffs alternate along the route.

The furthermost leg of the long route also takes the hiker to the wetlands.

There are tables for eating packed lunch. One of the tables is located on a meadow in the middle of the nature park. The meadow is kept clear by regularly scything the grass. You can smell the summer in the meadow and see how versatile the flowering is.

On the edge of the meadow, sheltered under the trees, you can sit down and relax on a bench. Although the lilies of the valley surround us with their beauty and smell, we can’t stay for longer but have to get on our way.

We get back to our car, and drive about three kilometres back to the direction where we came from. There’s only one parking area by the road to the nature park. A sign that leaves no room for doubt, points us to the trail that leads to the Torhola cave.

On the opposite side of the parking area, there’s a sign that says “Torholan luola, Torhola grotta”. I think that it deserves to be called a grotto, and not just a “cave”. We head out on the nature trail and remember that this is area is also protected.

The underground realm of Torhola – the largest limestone grotto in Finland

When you arrive at the grotto, you will know. An information board shows you to stop, and on the bench beside it, you can muster your courage or just rest. Impressive moss-covered oak trees stand behind the information board.

We don’t have any other special equipment with us other than a head lamp and rugged shoes. Normally, in places like this, you should have a helmet and clothes that withstand dirt and crawling. Caves also have tight places and passages so that you shouldn’t wear clothes that have hoods and loose pockets that could get snagged. Before you descent into the cave, please remember that you are doing so at your own responsibility.

I am hoping that the grotto of Torhola is so large that even without special gear we can manage, if we are careful. I am a little excited. To be honest, I am a lot excited. I have never been inside a cave? Will it be cramped? Will it be scary?

At this point, you will have no idea what’s waiting downstairs.

We descent into the grotto through the opening on the left. We are now in the “vestibule” or in an antechamber of the Torhola grotto. The grotto consists of three chambers of which this is the first one. I am so excited. What will we find further ahead?
My head lamp illuminates the massive rock walls of the grotto. My goodness what a place! I shout out spontaneously: WOW! This place is so cool and big!

I was expecting a lot smaller and tighter place, but this is awesome and spacious.

It’s also not as scary as I would have thought – actually I want to go deeper.

First impression of the grotto makes me speechless – or makes me want to shout!
No bats in sight, but a spider has her web stretched out for catching lunch.
The hall of Torhola is spacious and the ceiling is high.

We descent further down into the so-called hall, which is the second chamber in the grotto. The walls glimmer in the light what we have brought with us.

The grotto of Torhola is the largest limestone cave in Finland. Water flowing through the cracks in the rock has slowly dissolved the limestone away and formed the cave. It is believed that most of the formation of the limestone grotto has taken place during the last 3000 years. Today, the grotto is not growing in size, as no water flows through the cave anymore. Even it has just rained in Lohja, the floor of the cave remains dry.

The total length of the grotto is 31 metres. Breadth of the cave varies from 1 metre to 6 metres depending on the chamber, and the height from 1 metre to 4 metres.

Glimmering walls of the hall of Torhola grotto.

This place doesn’t feel cramped as the ceiling is high. It is damp, though, and cooler than in the forest outside.

We look around in wonder, and focus our eyes on the furthest corner on the left. If we’d want to make this even more exciting (and had a coverall and a helmet, maybe also gloves) we could go deeper still, into the basement of Torhola. The basement is the third chamber in the grotto. However, we decide that we have seen enough for our first time as cave explorers.

Now I know what it feels to sink into the underground, literally.

Actually, it’s not all that bad.

Outside, the sun has already set. It is time to get back above ground.

There is a big boulder between the vestibule and the hall, but for a person with normal health and sure feet will handle the obstacle quiet easily. Using hands helps.

A steep ascent from the hall to the vestibule.
With good and rugged shoes or boots, climbing up is no big deal.
You can see that even in the vestibule one can stand straight.

When I get to the vestibule, my camera lens fogs up. The air outside is much warmer than the air inside the cave.
After visiting the grotto, we decide to do the whole nature trail. So, we descent steeply towards the shore.

A sturdy rail makes the descent to the shore of Lake Lohjanjärvi safer.

The summer evening is warm and calm, and the sun is setting.

Glancing to the lake past handsome black alders, we enjoy a complete silence. Not a soul is afoot, not even the elusive and endangered elaterid called Pseudanostirus globicollis, found only in the region of the grotto.

We continue walking clockwise on the nature trail through a sloping grove, where white and wych elms grow – among other attractive hardwood species

The end of the nature trail in the reserve rises upwards, but only moderately, being much easier than the one with the guard rails.

We are back on the road and the parking area. My heart is pumping rapidly, but in a good way – I feel invigorated!

It is quite something that we can experience this kind of adventure less than an hour’s drive from the capital!

Life’s little adventures don’t necessarily take an entire day, because there’s a lot of light available in the summer.

More information and links:

There are wooden causeways along the trail, and in some parts the terrain is rocky, so unfortunately it’s not suitable for baby carriages.

Visitlohja.fi

Karkali Strict Nature Reserve

Torhola Cave

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

The paradise of Ramsholmen

Article by Johanna Suomela

For years, at the time when the wood anemones are in perfect bloom, I have travelled to my cottage passing the Town of Ekenäs and the grove paradise of Ramsholmen. I have always dreamed of stopping by the grove to marvel the breath-taking beauty it offers in the spring. I am happy, though, that I have not done it in passing, because Ramsholmen deserves a proper and unhurried visit.

The 55-hectare forest park of Ramsholmen is made of three adjacent areas: the cape of Hagen and the islands of Ramsholmen and Högholmen. A wide bridge leads from Hagen to the island of Ramsholmen. In Högholmen, there is a narrower and longer bridge. Going along the beautiful bridge over the cane grass-adorned river bed, we embark on a trip to see how spring in the grove paradise looks like.

Getting warmed up in Hagen

I have my trusted travel companion Jetsu with me. He is a Labrador retriever and he’s fond of everything outdoor. He is on a lead, because we are in a nature preservation area.

In the unlikely event that some dog-owner does not remember this, there is a sign to remind them that it is mandatory to have pets on a lead. Having pets secured ensures the nesting peace of birds and protects other wildlife as well. We had to pose by the sign for the first photograph.

To guide the travellers, there is also a signpost by the wide gravel road of Hagen, nicely covered in moss.

Today, we are walking with our senses open. We stop, look, listen and sniff. Both of us. Although the small town of Ekenäs is only a stone’s throw away, suddenly it feels that we are in a different world altogether.

It is so quiet and peaceful that you could almost hear things growing. Only birdsong breaks the silence. A bird expert could probably name all the singers, but I recognize only a few.

Ramsholmen is still ahead, but I am already in total awe. They’re everywhere – the wood anemones – as far as the eye can see! These are the provincial flowers of Uusimaa.

The grove paradise of Ramsholmen makes my head spin way before we even reach the actual place.

In addition to the wood anemones, Hagen has two old villas, built in the 19th century. The other villa, painted yellow, is located at the southern tip of Hagen. If we kept walking along the southern shore of Hagen towards the east, we would reach the camping ground of Ekenäs.

If we wanted to stay overnight, the Tammisaari Camping ground would be the closest possible site for setting up a tent, because camping is not allowed in Ramsholmen.

The island of Ramsholmen is also accessible

After a short and easy hike, we come to the bridge that leads to Ramsholmen.

I cross the sturdy bridge with my canine buddy. The paths on the island of Ramsholmen are smooth, wide and hard-surfaced.

This place grows greener and greener by the day. It allows access for almost any type of unmotorized vehicle; a pram, wheelchair or a bicycle for instance.

We see many people of all types and ages: there are people with children enjoying nature; single people exercising with their headphones on, people listening only birds, and people with dogs.

What connects all of them is nature. They have come here to feel better and to reduce stress, and what would be a greater place than this green oasis!

I would have no problem of spending the whole day and enjoying life here; the nature of Ramsholmen is so unique. I could sit down on a bench for rest, or go for a picnic. There’s also a beach in case it gets hot or if I want to go for a swim.

Are you really hungry, but didn’t bring any lunch with you? No problem, because the beautiful centre of the Town of Ekenäs is only a little more than a kilometre away. There you can find all necessary services.

Enchanting little bloomers of Ramsholmen

The wood anemone and other beautiful flowers in the grove bloom early in the spring just before the trees come into leaf. This happens because there’s plenty of light to reach the forest floor. When the trees are in full leaf, the amount of light on the ground is reduced.

I suddenly hear a low buzz. Where does it come from? Looking up, I can see where: many hardwood trees of the grove bloom before they come into leaf, and numerous busy bumblebees are doing the best they can to pollinate as many flowers as possible. Those chubby little friends are keeping busy!

Ramsholmen is renowned for its wood anemone. But there’s more.

Along the numerous paths and trails in Ramsholmen, there are wooden posts with numbers on them. By following the numbers, you can spot at least these trees and plants: wych elm (Ulmus glabra), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), black alder (Alnus glutinosa), mountain currant (Ribes alpinum), red-berried elder (Sambucus racemosa), bird cherry (Prunus padus), fly honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum), European larch (Larix decidua), English oak (Quercus robur); the highest elm in Finland by the dance hall, white elm (Ulmus laevis), hazel (Corylus avellana), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), small-leaved linden (Tilia cordata) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).

One of the other tree species that’s found plenty in the grove is the Norway maple (Acer platanoides). It too blooms early in spring.

Looking back down towards the ground, I see some yellow wood anemones (Anemone ranunculoides) in the midst of the white ones. I have rarely seen the yellow species, perhaps this is the first time ever that I have come across them?

With white wood anemones, Ramsholmen is also sporting the yellow ones.

Suddenly, I see blue everywhere.

Although the fumewort (Corydalis solida) is one of the first flowers to have started blooming, they are still looking so beautiful!

Even after the anemones have stopped blooming, the grove doesn’t rest. The paradise grove is teeming with life. A group of other plants is waiting for their turn, such as herb paris (Paris quadrifolia) and the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris).

When the ostrich fern begins to flaunt its feathers, Ramsholmen starts to resemble a lush jungle. That I would like to see. So I have to come back in the summer.

The leaves of herb paris are working their way up through the anemones.
The ostrich fern is fluffing its feathers ready for summer.

The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is too almost ready to spring up. In a matter of days, it will be spreading all over the place, both physically and in scent.

It seems, though, that the bird cherry will take the first place in the competition of which plant smells the strongest. It will most likely be the first one to pop open its inflorescence.

The bird cherry is about to bloom as well.

A rank outsider takes the race of bloomers in the early spring. The first runner-up will be the Norway maple. I don’t remember ever looking the inflorescence of the ash tree so close. Oh my goodness the beauty of it!

The inflorescence of the ash is as pretty as a pearl.
The hazel has done most of its pollinating.

Högholmen is a wilderness-like natural sanctuary a stone’s throw away from Ramsholmen

Whereas the island of Ramsholmen is easy to walk on, the neighbouring wild Högholmen is a different story altogether.

A beautiful, long and narrow bridge is leading to Högholmen. Someone has left two bicycles waiting by the bridge. That is a smart thing to do, because Högholmen is no place for bikes. The narrow, in some places root-covered paths, are unforgiving and would turn to mud when it’s wet.

We decide to take our trip counter-clockwise around Högholmen. The path is leading to the jungle-like grove.

The wooden causeways suggest that this place must be quite wet when it’s raining. Along the way, there’s also a small bridge to cross.

After the wild grove, the path begins to go upwards, and more and more coniferous trees appear. Finding their way through the rocky ground, the roots of the trees have made the trail very uneven.

A rare gem: a single-room apartment with all the amenities?

We are admiring the view on the cliffs of the southwestern tip of Högholmen.

On the cliffs, there are many dead trees still standing upright. If we were to stay longer, this would be a perfect place for watching the sunset.

There are many black marks on the cliff. That means that someone has made a fire here, which is not allowed. It should be remembered that making an open fire is not a so-called everyman’s right. Campfires are only allowed on designated campfire sites. Other than that, you will always need the landowner’s permission.

The ornate dead tree of Högholmen

On the southeastern slope of Högholmen, the coniferous trees give way to deciduous ones once again, and the trail becomes easier to tread. The only exception is a fallen dead tree that cuts the path.

Fallen trees have their own and important function in the ecosystem and in preserving the biodiversity. Trees offer hiding places for insects and food for birds.

There are benches in Högholmen, too. Although just simple plank ones, as you would expect to see in a place like this, they still offer good resting places.

Sit down for a while and look around to catch the fleeting spring.

You could also study the little leaves of the rowan, or the modest inflorescence of the mountain currant. Or explore the lilies of the valley which grow so abundant that you could find them with your eyes closed – so strong is their scent.

Rowan
Mountain currant (Ribes Alpinum)

On our way back to Ramsholmen’s side, we stop and log a geocache by a bridge crossing Blindsund. The cache seems to require some serious maintenance.

While we were having an adventure in Högholmen, the sun had gone hiding behind a curtain of clouds. It is the night before May Day (also called Walpurgis Night) and many people have arrived in Ramsholmen to celebrate the event.

We spot a yellow dance hall still in use during the summer months, and the forlorn remains of a summer theatre that was built over a hundred years ago. Nature is slowly claiming the land back, and trees are growing between the rows of benches.

On the side of the wide main trail, there lies a weird-looking rotten tree. How would that seem through child’s eyes? A dinosaur, crocodile or perhaps something else?

We have explored Ramsholmen back and forth and over again. My sport watch has tracked almost seven kilometres. Could have been lot less if we’d been just taking a straight route.

What does spring in the centre of Ekenäs look like?

Spring evening at the centre of Ekenäs might look interesting. Actually, on our detour we get an unforeseen bonus: Sargent’s cherry (Prunus sargentii) is blooming pink like crazy next to the former town hall which is also brightly coloured yellow.

The old town hall of Ekenäs is beautiful. Although the sign for tourist information still exists on the corner of the building, the actual information point is elsewhere. It is located 120 metres from here in a pretty red wooden house, in the same place where the EKTA Museum is.

The current town hall is handsome, too. It used to be an old psychiatric hospital, and the town spent 8 million Euros to make it the new administrative centre. Only the facade reminds us of the bygone era; everything else is new.

The sargent’s cherry is one of our most beautiful ornamental trees.
The Ekenäs Nature Centre in the north harbour is waiting for the summer. Some early bird has already come to queue up.
The traditional summer restaurant Knipan in the harbour is built on top of stilts.

The old centre of Ekenäs is idyllic. Too bad that the EKTA Museum on the Kustaa Vaasa street has already closed. Had it been open, I could have asked the tourist information agent for some tips for my next visit.

Next time, I will walk through the oldest pedestrian street in Finland, the Kuninkaankatu Street. After doing some window-shopping on the small boutiques, I will head to the narrow alleys of the Old Town that was founded in the 16th century. Many of the narrow alleys running between idyllic wooden houses have been named after artisans.

After having walked through the Hansikkaantekijänkatu (glovemaker) street and Satulasepänkatu (saddlemaker) street, I will eat a tasty and unhurried lunch, taking in the atmosphere of this lovely little town with all my senses. Then, it is time to head out to Ramsholmen to see how it looks, smells and sounds like in summer.

I am thinking how privileged we are to have four seasons, and how our nature is so diverse. And most of all, how each one of us can enjoy it freely.

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

Read more:

Visit Raseborg

Visit Raseborg on Facebook

Ekenäs Old Town

Experience the thrill of a treasure hunt in Raseborg – from the castle via a suspension bridge to the channel

Article by Johanna Suomela

What outdoor activity both young and old can do without having to be extra fit to do it? What can you do 24/7 and 365 days a year both in the city and in nature – for free? What activity has a goal, provides experiences and gets the lazy-bones moving? What is a hobby you can start with just a pen and a phone?

Some of your friends may already have tried it and gotten hooked, but you might not be familiar with it. You have probably heard its name, but the mystery surrounding it has kept you on your guard. But fret not, this microadventure and treasure hunt called geocaching is immensely popular all over the world!

So let’s go to Raseborg with our professional guide Stacy Siivonen! Stacy has been searching for treasures for 6 years now in 19 different countries. If you don’t know what geocaching is about, don’t worry – Stacy will explain it.

How to start geocaching?

Most important gear is an open mind. In addition to that, weather- and dirt proof outdoor clothing, good shoes, a smartphone and a pen. If you have a true GPS device, that’s OK, too, but a GPS-capable smartphone works fine as well. You might also want to take gloves and a flashlight with you, because some of the caches are hidden in quite imaginative places where you don’t necessarily want to blindly stick your hand into.

This game is played on www.geocaching.com. You can access the cache data when you register on the site. When that’s done, just download a geocaching app for your smartphone, activate the GPS function in your phone, and off you go to search for your first treasure!

If you are in an urban environment, you can do fine with just a regular map. However, when you step from the “concrete jungle” into the real one, a smartphone app is needed. The geocaching app will use up your data plan, so please make sure that you have a sufficient data plan with your mobile operator to avoid any unexpected charges. There are about 60 000 geocaches in Finland, so you will not run out of them very easily.

If you are going abroad for geocaching, please download the map of the target region for offline use while you are still home. Also, if you are planning to spend many hours anywhere looking for the caches, consider also taking a power bank with you.

Stacy has a pen and GPS device with her, so let’s get moving!

Stopping at the Snappertuna Church

Map

We are heading towards the medieval castle of Raseborg, to perhaps the most spectacular castle ruins in Finland.

But on the way there we just have to stop at the Snappertuna Church which was built in 1689. The yellow church stands on a stately spot on top of a hill, calling us to come closer.

We admire the church from the outside and walk around it. To our disappointment, the church has no geocache, even if it could have. Many of the churches do.

During our short stop, Stacy finds two suitable places for a cache which are such that they wouldn’t cause so-called “geo-erosion”.

A responsible geocacher knows what the so-called “everyman’s rights” are. He/she also knows that where there are rights there are also responsibilities. One of the most important responsibilities with geocaching is that the caches are put in places where they don’t cause unreasonable wear and tear on the environment – that is, geo-erosion.

Another very important principle is to respect the rights of the landowner and people living near the cache sites. Caches must be placed so that they don’t disturb anyone. Obviously, laws must be obeyed, too.

The Raseborg Castle

Map

Our geocaching trip proceeds to the ruins of the Raseborg Castle. However, calling them “ruins” doesn’t really do them justice. This place is a lot more than a pile of rocks and dilapidated walls.

Although it is not known for certain, what the castle has looked like in its glory days, the castle facade has been restored to show what it could have been.

It is early spring, and the morning sun is shyly reaching with its rays towards the castle. Surrounded by a sea ages ago, the smooth glaciated rock is now a foundation for the castle.

In its time, the castle served as a centre of government of the West Nyland and as a military base. The castle has also overseen trade and seafarers on the Gulf of Finland.

In the 1450s and 1460s, life here was thriving. When the City of Helsinki was founded in 1550, Raseborg started to lose its stature. And when the beer cellar collapsed, things started to look really bad. The castle was abandoned in 1558, and it was left to rot in peace for over three centuries. Not until the 1880s, the value of the castle was realized again, and the restoration efforts began.

We pass an old swing hanging on the branch of a tree. Very insta-credible.

Frozen slush crackles under our feet as we tread on.

A flock of jackdaws takes wing from the castle battlements.

They won’t fly very far for our sake but circle back to where they started from.

We notice that a fluffy friend with long ears has been by the castle hopping here and there.

In the summertime, the Raseborg Castle hosts many different events like the Midsummer Festival, Medieval Fair, different concerts and Swedish theatre performances. The castle is administered by the Parks and Wildlife Finland (Metsähallitus), but it is for rent for those who wish to throw their own party in these historical surroundings!

We don’t see any other people yet, but we do see nature, which is present in the spring, too.

We like this peace and quiet. It is good that the muggles aren’t around to see where the caches are. You cannot reveal the location of the caches to outsiders, because if you do, the caches might get lost – get muggled.

The types of geocaches

We know that this particular cache can be found also in the winter, and that it’s not located inside the castle. Facts about the history of this place can be found in the preliminary information about the cache, as in many other caches in historical places.

Every geocache has its attributes that determine what type of cache it is. Those attributes are saved in the geocaching site an in the geocaching app. The attributes may contain information about things that are allowed on the site – for instance if dogs are welcome or if you can make a fire. The attributes can tell you also the means of transportation with which the cache can be reached – like by bicycle, horse or snowmobile.

The attribute will also define the conditions related to the location of the cache; for instance if it can be found in the winter also, is any swimming required, if you have to climb, perhaps be aware of the cows – or to behave discreetly. Some caches might even require teamwork or a 10 km hike.

The cache attribute can also contain information about any equipment needed to find it, such as parking fee, boat, flashlight or an UV light – or snowshoes. Some caches can be high up in the tree and require some serious climbing. If there are evident dangers such as poisonous plants, dangerous animals, ticks, abandoned mines, crags or rock slides involved, the information about them is provided.

Nothing human and natural will be strange for the geocacher. Like in life, in geocaching also everything is possible. Some caches can really be in dangerous places, so you will certainly need to have common sense and patience. And this is why geocaching is a modern type of adventure.

The size of the caches varies from tiny ones about the size of a fingernail to huge. The biggest caches could be the size of a small house. That said, the most common size for a cache is a watertight box that can hold a pen and a log book.

Difficulty of the caches and their location as regards to the terrain is rated from 1 to 5 stars. The cache of Raseborg Castle has a rating of 1.5 stars for both. It has received 69 so-called FP (Favourite Points) from advanced cachers, which means that 69 users have considered the cache to be good and worth hunting.

And it will continue to be so after our visit as well – a veritable treasure trove. Stacy drops a heavy bundle of so-called “travel bugs” into the box. The travel bugs – as the name suggests – travel with the geocachers from one cache to the next. The travel bugs are marked with an individual tag which allows them to be tracked on the geocaching website. One travel bug wants to move around ice-hockey rinks, another wants to travel to Lapland and back.

A pen is mightier than the sword: if you don’t sign the cache, it doesn’t count

The most important thing in geocaching is that you remember to sign the log book when you find the cache. Unless you don’t sign it with a handle you have registered at the geocaching website, you cannot tag the cache as found. Here, the rules of geocaching are ruthless. Stacy will sign the Raseborg log book with her own cacher handle.

I am admiring the majestic castle. No longer the sound of swords echo from these walls. It is so silent that you can hear the water drop from the castle roof gutters when the sun rises higher and higher.

The castle footbridge is closed with a gate during the winter, so we will not be going in.

The castle will open again on the 1st of May. We would love to come back then, and go for a walk on the Love Path, which is a half-a-kilometre-long path leading to the Forngården Folk Museum. At the Folk Museum you can see how people used to live on the farms in the archipelago.

After a visit to the Folk Museum, lunch might be in order. The tourist cottage Slottsknekten sits next to the castle and has been offering services for travellers since 1893.

In the summer, you can sit down on the terrace and enjoy local delicacies at the restaurant and café of Slottsknekten, admiring the view that opens up towards the Castle.

From the end of June to the end of July, the next stop from Forngården would be Classic Garage Café. In addition to the delicious bakery products there is something extra for the eyes as well – especially for those who love old cars.

But now, when it’s still spring, we’ll just have to do without pastries and automobiles. So, on with the adventure!

Near to the castle, there’s also a so-called multi-cache which consists of several stages.

Stacy is figuring out the coordinates of the cache hint, only to come to a conclusion that we will not be going after the multi-cache at all today. It would seem that to find even the first stage we would have to tread in deep snow, and who knows how far the final stage would be.

So, we cross over to the other side of the Raseborg River and continue our adventure from there.

DNF from under the bridge

Although the caches are sometimes in exciting and possibly even dangerous places, you must have a sensible approach to this hobby. Don’t put yourself (or others) in danger, and don’t do anything illegal.

The next cache should be under a small road, hidden somewhere in the structures of a bridge over a troubled water. Under the bridge, there is a steeply declining stone pavement, and a cold and treacherous current runs right under it. To be able to safely look for the cache and not fall into the ice-cold water, you should have a proper rope with you. As we don’t have one, all we can do is say DNF! That means “did not find”. Actually, we couldn’t even start, because our shoes were too slippery, and there was no point in hurting ourselves.

Nevertheless, the scenery is rewarding, so the trip here is not a total waste. We pick up few aluminium cans someone has tossed on the side of the road. As you know, aluminium turns to dust relatively slowly…

By the way, there’s this great geocaching trend called CITO, which is short for Cache In, Trash Out. In CITO, the cachers clean the place of the cache from any harmful material and take the trash out. Or, they do something else environmentally friendly before establishing the cache.

The suspension bridge of Raseborg – The essence of geocaching

Map

Stacy tells us that “Geocaching as a hobby is at its best when it motivates people to move and takes them to new and awesome places which they would not otherwise see.” She says that there is a suspension bridge in the island of Skärlandet, 10 kilometres south from the city of Tammisaari, and it’s well-known by the geocaching community. It can be accessed by taking a ferry from Skåldö. OK, but why haven’t I heard about it, and neither has Google? Are you kidding me?

But today, I will witness with my own eyes that world is indeed different for geocachers. In summer weekends, you would have to line in to get to the ferry of Skåldö, but now there are only a few cars, and we get there quickly as if we were driving.

The starting coordinates direct us to the recreation area of Kopparö into the beautiful nature of the archipelago. We move on to find out what the suspension bridge of Raseborg with a FP rating of 13 really is!

We find the place where the path starts. Someone else besides us seems to have taken the path recently – someone other than a deer. Deer, according to all the tracks, seem to be in abundance here. The sun is shining, and the path runs in a beautiful forest. Snow has melted from small spots here and there, and quite soon it will melt from all over.

I step off the path onto a small cliff. Lovely spring is already here!

About 600 metres from the start, I shout out aloud.

Wow! There it is – a real suspension bridge of which even Google is aware! Yet.

We make our first contact with the suspension bridge safely from ground level.

It seems quite reliable…hefty utility poles on both ends, and strong-looking cables to hold the bridge.

I climb up the high stairs – only to come back down and muster some more courage.

I guess there’s no helping it. I just have to do it. With my own responsibility of course. It would be a shame to leave the cache unfound just because I’m afraid of heights. Besides, this bridge is not that high anyway. Little quirky, though. The deck is tilting little to the left – could I fall off?

Having mustered enough courage, I step onto the bridge. I hear an ominous creak, but Stacy reassures me that it’s just because the bridge is frozen. The handrail is low, and I am really afraid to cross the bridge. After all, this bridge is something different from the bridges in our national parks in general. Making slow progress, I grab onto the handrails, staying as low as possible.

I am across! And didn’t even have to swim!

My personal geocaching coach Stacy is yelling me instructions from the other side.

What a feeling when the cache is found! The log book is jammed deep inside the jar, refusing to come out. Look at this muggle logging her first cache! When I finally get the teeny-weeny notebook in my hands, the lid falls down. Next to go is the resealable plastic bag. Gust of wind snatches it from my fingers.

To my luck, the flight of the bag stops onto a branch in a nearby tree and I manage to get it back where it belongs. Phew, this is exciting!

“Travel both directions at your own responsibility! “

This is it. Geocaching at its finest. Excitement and experiences!

Geocaching motivates to move year round. It will take you to new and exciting places that you probably wouldn’t otherwise see.

It is true – without geocaching, I wouldn’t have found this awesome place!

I sit down to the other end of the suspension bridge, happy with myself. Success feels even better when the view is so great. For the whole length of the bridge. Right here, right now.

To the cache of the fateful Jomalvik Channel

We have been geocaching for hours, but still decide to check one more cache on our way back. So we drive to the fateful Jomalvik Channel.

It feels that not even a race car driver could drive through the channel – that’s how narrow it looks.

Although Stacy’s GPS data seems to be valid, and the cache hint is supposed to be on the level, we just don’t find the cache. We seem to be blind as bats.

The accuracy of the GPS varies from 3 to 5 metres, but we don’t find anything where we’re supposed to. I am glad that there’s no-one else around who might wonder what the cache is going on.

“This goes to show how important it is to maintain the geocaches. If the cache is not found, it’s probable that it’s not there in its original location and could use some maintenance.”

Although we logged another DNF, the day in beautiful Raseborg has been awesome, to say the least! I have seen many new and wonderful places and learned a lot as well.

It has been exciting and a little scary, too, but I have to say that this is very addictive. On my next journeys, I might even stop “for a few” as they say. Not for a cold beer, but for caches! But, who knows…

This world-wide treasure hunt called geocaching is so dope! Just give it a chance!


Epilogue

After our day in the realm of geocaching, we find out that the exciting suspension bridge is on the Kopparö Nature Trail. The trail is marked with yellow markings, and it runs partly inside a nature preservation area. The trail will end at the beach of Stora Sandö where there’s a campfire site and an outdoor toilet. The length of the trail from the Kopparö Harbour to the campfire site of Stora Sandö is 3.2 kilometres. When you want to go and conquer the suspension bridge, you should leave your car at the parking area of Kopparö to keep it out of the way. If you ask from the restaurant in Kopparö, they will gladly point you to the right direction and even give you a map if you need one. More information about the services in Kopparö, go to www.kopparo.fi (only in Finnish).

The opening hours of the Raseborg Castle and the Slottsknekten are shown at www.raaseporinlinna.fi. There you can find valuable information about other services at Snappertuna and about accommodation services as well!

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

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