Opp: Swim hiking (July)

Jouni Laaksonen 22.1.2018

Let’s forget snow and freezing temperatures for a while: let’s see what Finland looks like in the opposite part of year, July. July is the hottest month around here, with normally pleasant temperatures like over +20°C. In Finland +25°C is the limit when we say it is very hot, and there are usually several days like that in July. Often some in June and August, too.

July is also a month when there are lots of mosquitoes in Northern Finland. In Southern Finland mosquitoes are not so much a problem, though you do find them there, too. On the other hand the plant life, like tundra flowers, and for example butterflies, are at their best in July. This is also a good month for fly fishing and fishing with spinning rod.

For a hiker it is good idea to avoid wet and dense spruce forests and instead walk in dry pine forests, eskers, or treeless fells, or paddle or bicycle. In these places or activities mosquitoes do not bother much or at all.

For me personally July is nowadays most often a month of nice, leisurely day hikes with my family. We do above mentioned things, or many of them, like walk on top of an esker, through a pine forest to a beach and spend a nice afternoon swimming and relaxing there.

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One of our favourite beaches near home, Vetotaival in Lake Lentua.

 

Combining walking and swimming

One winter we were skiing on our home lake, Lentua. We only had one daughter at that time, and she was sitting in a baby carrier on my back. The sun was shining out of blue sky and we enjoyed the winter day. There is a magnificent beach in place called Vetotaival in the middle of the lake, on a narrow neck of land between two larger parts of an island. We had visited the beach a couple of times by paddling.

We didn’t go quite that far this time, but my wife got an idea: what if we next summer, on a very hot day, would try to go to that beach, without a canoe?

Next July an appropriate day came. It was very hot, sunny day and we got a day off. Our daughter was at daycare and we headed to the lake, without our canoe. From a map we had planned this “coasteering” carefully. This day hike would consist of several different sections:

  • walking less than a kilometer on mainland
  • swimming 100 meters, over a strait
  • walking a bit over one km across an island
  • swimming 200 meters over another strait
  • finally walking three km in a bigger island to the beach of Vetotaival
  • and the same back.

Map of our swim-hike. Zoom in and see closer if you wish.

We took a thick inflatable sleeping pad for each of us, to make swimming over the straits safer. We packed our hiking gear like matches, knife, kettle and lunch, water bottle, towels, some extra clothes and so on in a rucksack that I carried on my back when we were walking. We had also a watertight paddling bag, and that’s where we packed the rucksack when we were swimming. It was towed behind a swimmer, and it worked wonderfully.

Let’s see how this worked:

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We swam over the first strait, Syväsalmi. Then we moved our gear from canoe bag to backpack, and walked across the island. Sandals were great, both for walking in the rocky bottom of the shore of the strait, and for walking across the islands.

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The next strait, Hiekkasalmi, presented a surprise. We walked into the strait, into water, and waited for it to get too deep for wading. But it never did! Towing the canoe sack we walked all the 200 meters over the strait. Water rose near waist, but no higher. This is probably not possible every summer, but this time it happened to be. Map of Hiekkasalmi, the second strait. Aerial image of Hiekkasalmi.

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Now we were in Kotasaari. This is a bigger island with a rather big ridge formation. There was a nice path on top of the esker for a while. You see the depression on left? It is called suppa in Finnish, probably kettle hole in English? It came into existence when Ice Age was ending (about 10 000 years ago). You know how the kilometers thick ice mass melted? Melting water formed huge rivers, and those rivers transported loads of sand with them. When a river ran in a canyon of ice, and finally the flow started to decelerate, a high and steep sand esker was born. Now, here a really large chunk of ice broke free from the ice mass and while the sand accumulated all around and above it, the ice cube stayed icy. For a while. Eventually it melted to water, and when it did, a kettle hole became in place of that ice cube. – Sorry, got a bit winded. History is surprisingly interesting, both what natural phenomena you can see from ancient times, and what cultural history (like deer hunting potholes, rock paintings and so on) you can see along hiking trails. Much more on this later.

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We reached our destination. Naturally the first thing was to go swimming from this great beach. There were no other people, all the 500 meters long beach was for ourselves. Then we built a fire and started to prepare our lunch.

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Vetotaival campfire site. There are thousands of campfire sites like this in Finland. But I said that already on some post?

After a relaxed lunch we retraced our journey back to mainland.

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This is me crossing the last strait, Syväsalmi.

Mostly day hiking means for me and my family walking a shortish distance, or sometimes longer one, to a campfire site, or birdtower, or waterfall, or viewpoint, or whatever. Making a fire is typical, if there isn’t a forest fire warning. Then we head back either the same way we came, or make a loop.

But sometimes it is nice to try something a bit different, too. This time experimenting certainly was very successful and memorable! 🙂

* * *

(On next week’s post we come back to January, and the temperature drops… about 75 degrees Celcius.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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