Opposites week 51, part I

Jouni Laaksonen 18.12.2017

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Ski tracks in Pallas-Yllästunturi NP show magnificent scenery.

Day hiking in Pallas-Yllästunturi NP, Paljakka and Sipoonkorpi NP (December)
vs.
Ski touring in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area (December)
vs.
Celebrating new Hossa NP (June)

There is many kinds of hiking. Sometimes it is nice to face challenges, but often it is wonderful to take it easy. To enjoy beautiful scenery during day and return to a luxurious cabin for the evening.

If I was coming to Finland from abroad in midwinter, what would I do? I would head north, to see experience snow, space, quietness, aurora borealis. But if I was in Finland for the first time, I would stick to ski tracks, not head into trackless wilderness (like in Opposites week 49)

Or if I came to Finland for a work-related meeting or something like that, I would probably be in Helsinki region. In that case I would go walking to one of the nearby national parks.

 

2 x north: Pallas-Yllästunturi NP and Paljakka

In December there is plenty of snow in Northern Finland, but in Southern Finland there often is not. Here I’ll tell about three day hiking family holidays in midwinter in different weathers.

When our firstborn was three years old, we rented a cottage with luxuries like electricity, water closet, sauna and kitchen just beside Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, on shore of lake Jerisjärvi. We parents spent all the week by skiing different tracks. Or rather, one of us skied at a time, the other stayed near the cottage with our daughter, who was learning to ski, or enjoyed a toboggan slide, or played with snow.

The variety of ski tracks is considerably shorter in midwinter than from mid-February on, but there was still plenty to choose from. Some days we drove first to Pallas or Ylläs and skied there, but often we just started skiing from the yard of our cottage, into the snow-laden national park. The temperatures were mild, something around –10 or –15°C.

There are thousands of kilometers of ski tracks throughout Finland. Cross-country skiing is often seen only as sports, a way to sweat and improve your physical fitness. But when the ski track takes you to a fascinating scenery, and you plan your ski trip so that you can enjoy a lunch by campfire or in a wilderness cabin, you get a very nice day hike! This is the case with most of the ski tracks in Northern Finland, and sometimes in Southern Finland, too.

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Mustavaara wilderness hut in Pallas-Yllästunturi NP. A wilderness hut is a perfect place to enjoy lunch in the middle of a skiing trip. Location of Mustavaara hut.

Next year we rented a similar cottage in Paljakka ski resort. This time temperature was much colder, around –30°C, but we enjoyed the ski tracks. Paljakka is famous for the crown snow load that decorates spruces into unbelievable shapes.

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Crown snow load along ski tracks in Paljakka. Our 4-year-old had learned to ski, but it was very cold and her outings were short. This photo was taken approximately here.

 

South: Sipoonkorpi NP

Next year we spent the Christmas in Helsinki area with our relatives. In Southern Finland it is always a mystery, shall the Christmas be white or black. This year there was no hint of snow. It was cloudy and grey, and a heavy drizzle was falling from sky, but nevertheless we wanted to go for a hike on Christmas Day.

There are two national parks just beside Helsinki–Espoo–Vantaa metropolitan area, Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi, see a map. Nuuksio is extremely popular and Sipoonkorpi increasingly popular – but not at a time like this: out of any season and poor weather. Also we were hiking outside marked trails this time, so it was no wonder we saw no one else.

I had spotted from a map a giant’s kettle in Sipoonkorpi National Park and we decided to walk there. The forest was very wet, streams were flooding, but we had gumboots and good raingear and were not too much disturbed by the weather. And we found the pothole made by Ice Age.

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In Finland there are plenty of different kinds of tracks Ice Age has left. One peculiarity are giant’s kettles, potholes in bedrock.

As the saying goes, there is no bad weather for hiking, just bad clothes or wrong attitude. 🙂

(I am still too eager about this new thing, blogging, that I’m postponing my plan to post once a week. On Thursday more about challenges in winter backpacking.)

 

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