Prologue: First thoughts about Finnish Way of Hiking

Jouni Laaksonen 4.12.2017

Hello, world! I have written about hiking in Finland for 17 years for my living. 13 books and over thousand pages of magazine articles, in Finnish. Now I thought I’d like to share my thoughts, and try to create discussion internationally. Let’s hope many hikers around the world find this blog. 🙂

If you want to know more about the name of this blog, see here. And if you want to know more about why I’m starting this blog, see over here.

Hiking, or trekking, or backpacking, or hill or country walking, or rambling, bushwalking, tramping – a loved child has many names! – is my favourite hobby, and it has been my profession for those above-mentioned 17 years. In this blog I’m going to write about the similarities and differences about hiking in Finland and hiking elsewhere. And I will also tell about different kinds of treks in Finland’s diverse seasons and versatile nature attractions.

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Jussinkämppä, large wilderness cabin (autiotupa in Finnish) on left, and a Lapp pole tent (kota) on right.

Let’s go to Jussinkämppä, a wilderness hut along Karhunkierros trail. I will explain Finnish wilderness hut system (autiotupa) much more thoroughly later, now you just need to know we have a network of hundreds of open cabins in our wilderness areas and along our hiking trails. And Karhunkierros is the most famous Finnish hiking trail internationally, more about it later, too.

I was doing field research for my guidebook about Karhunkierros trail and Oulanka National Park and I was walking from north to south. I had hiked Karhunkierros twice earlier, and done lots of shorter hikes in Oulanka NP, but during this summer of research I was constantly astonished how there can be so many waterfalls, gorges, lookout points and so on that the regular Karhunkierros hiker knows nothing about. The trail is very well lined, it does cover all the biggest natural attractions, but still, when you know where to go, you only need to step a couple of hundreds of meters away from the beaten path to see new wonders.

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Maybe the greatest view to Oulankajoki river. This viewpoint is less than 50 meters from the marked trail, but if you don’t know about it, you will pass without noticing.

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One of the hidden waterfalls of Oulanka NP. Along the trails there are beautiful waterfalls like Jyrävä and Kiutaköngäs, but to this one you have to orientate yourself.

Calypso bulbosa, fairy slipper, is the emblem of Oulanka NP. I had never seen this rare beauty before, but this summer I knew the right time and had some advice on what kind of terrain to look for. And I saw them. Multitude of fairy slippers, in total in forty different places along Karhunkierros trail, along day trails, and off the trails.

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My very first Calypso bulbosa. It made me kneel.

I stopped to make a dinner in Jussinkämppä, and while I was lighting the wood oven, a youngish woman entered the cabin.

She was from Czech Republic, and while we both made our meals we started to talk. She was quite an enthusiastic about hiking, and we quickly sensed strong togetherness about that. She had already hiked two multi-days treks in Eastern Finland before hitch-hiking to Kuusamo and Karhunkierros. She asked me, what she should see in Lapland, where she was going to continue after completing Karhunkierros.

I answered her in length, and then asked her what she likes about Finnish nature and Finnish way of hiking. She showed me, on her pocket camera, a picture of a bog. The trail in Kuhmo, where I myself happen to live, had crossed a long stretch of wet, treeless bog along duck boards, and she had felt the sky, or the heaven, or maybe she meant both, was so close to her. One fourth of Finland is covered by different kinds of bogs (well, depending on the definition, you get different results, but approximately so). And she told how she was fascinated about the views over lakes that for example Koli hill and Valtavaara hill had offered her. She told in her country there are some ponds, but only one bigger lake. In Finland there are something like 200 000 lakes.

Also she was fond of our vast forests with taiga birds, mammals and flowers. She loved our wilderness hut system.

She told about Tatra mountains, their beauty and how the paths are often quite crowded. Sharp-ridged mountains are one thing missing in Finnish landscape. She was surprised how uncrowded Finnish hiking trails are. If you like solitude and peace, like she did, you do find it in Finland. I don’t recall, whether we talked about midnight sun, but I guess she was impressed with it. Everyone is. 🙂

She was on her way towards Lapland, so she didn’t know yet of the wonders of our far north. And she was walking in June, so she knew nothing of our winters, or aurora borealis.

I had still many kilometers to cover before nightfall, so we did not get a chance to talk about Everyman’s Rights, or our 40 National Parks, or the Finnish system of thousands of campfire sites along thousands of kilometers of trails, with firewood provided by the state, or how the tradition to travel by foot or ski, or canoe, through large uninhabited areas is strong in Finland…

* * *

Now, how do blogs work? I’m total amateur on blogs. There’s already too much text for one posting, isn’t there? I do hope you comment, and come back again! This was the first scratch on the surface of Finnish way of hiking. I’ll go much deeper eventually.

* * *

PS. Finland’s Independence Day is 6th December, two days from now. And this year that day is special, for Finland is now 100 years old. Congratulations! As a birthday present Finland gave itself a present that I myself appreciate very much: Hossa National Park. I attended the opening ceremony 17th June 2017 at Hossa, and I’ll tell more about that empowering day, and about Hossa NP later.

6 thoughts on “Prologue: First thoughts about Finnish Way of Hiking

  1. Hurray hurray! At last! Warm Finnish heart of yours thinks of wanderers from the other parts of the World. Of course, nature needs no translator, but a good guide is a good guide… On this occasion I would like to reserve a copy of your book-to-come. (name idea – Finland’s outback)

    Like

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