Jouni Laaksonen 19.2.2018
Right now it is about -15 to -20°C and there’s 70 cm of snow here where I live. In the middle of winter let’s see a glimpse of summer. On the opposite side of the year from February is August, which is a very good month for hiking in Finland.
In the beginning of August there are usually still some mosquitoes left, but not as numerously as in July. Weather is nice and warm, meaning often temperatures like +20°C, sometimes even +25°C.
It is not only humans that walk along Riisitunturi trails…
Favorite way of outdoors?
Ah, the great outdoors! What is your favorite way to head out to nature? Birdwatching or photographing butterflies or flowers? Tying a team of huskies in front of your sled and setting out to snowy landscape? Climbing rock cliffs, or ice walls? Seeking the rush of adrenaline while kayaking in fast-flowing whitewater rapids? Running along forest or mountain paths?
There are so many ways to enjoy outdoors! And all of them good ones. The most important thing is to go out, whichever (non-motorized) way it is.
I am kind of a basic hiker: the most important thing for me is to explore new areas, preferably wild ones. To see beautiful views. If I am not hiking solo, also the company of my friends or family is very important.
As I think about it now, it is not so important for me to see a rare bird or flower, or bear or otter. It is nice to see sometimes one, of course, but it’s not the main focus of my expeditions. It is important, though, to know that animals and plants of wilderness do live in the hiking destination.
To know that there are wolves, wild forest reindeer, wolverines and so on. Animals just have so much better senses than us humans that you rarely see mammals. – But in winter you do see animal tracks on snow, and seeing them is great fun! I think I’ll delve into that subject next week.
Hiking in Riisitunturi NP
So, for a basic hiker like me, the most important thing about the outdoor activity is that it takes you farther along the route. In summer in Finland that means walking, hiking, or if I want to explore a lake or river, I paddle, or I could row if I happened to have a rowing boat. In winter I naturally ski, as you certainly have noticed if you have read any of my earlier posts…
As an example of hiking in August I chose to tell about our family hike in Riisitunturi National Park, and our family paddling tour in Oulanka National Park. These two are situated near each other, and if you should be coming to Kuusamo area, these two national parks are a must for you. Oulanka NP and Karhunkierros (Bear’s Trail) trail are already internationally famous, but Riisitunturi is worth a visit, too. (See a map.)
We headed out to Riisitunturi from the car park just beside the national park border. Two loops perfectly suitable for day hiking start from here (4 and 11 km). As we were walking with our five years old daughter we chose the shorter one.
It was the end of August, it was over 20°C, there were no mosquitoes, a very lovely day for walking to the top of Riisitunturi fell. We ate bilberries along the trail and enjoyed the old spruce forest. Slowly the forest started to fade back and we arrived to the treeless summit.
Riisitunturi is one of the very southernmost fells in Finland, and not very high. But as the top is treeless, you can see far away to every direction. To south you see large lakes, and behind them the rugged shape of Ruka fell, to north you see rolling forested hills.
There is a wilderness hut along the trail, a perfect place to eat your lunch. If it is a sunny day like now, you can build a fire outside, or if it starts to rain during your hike, you can make a fire in the wood stove in the hut and dry your clothes there.
Hiking this Riisitunturi trail is in many ways very Finnish. There is nothing truly spectacular, but the untouched nature combined with well-marked trail and good campfire sites/wilderness huts make for a very nice outing. You forget totally about everyday stress and just plain enjoy yourself.
Paddling in Oulanka NP
Of course sometimes there is something spectacular along the route, too. In Oulanka NP there are waterfalls, mighty whitewater rapids, gorges, rare flowers and so on. I started blogging in December 2017 with a tale from Karhunkierros trail, which winds through Oulanka NP.
This time let’s see another method of transportation in Oulanka. The lower part of river Oulankajoki is a paradise for family paddling, and for anyone who does not seek tough rapids to conquer.
The 25 km stretch from Kiutaköngäs waterfall to Jäkälämutka near Russian border is often paddled in one day, but with our 5-year-old we chose to split the distance to two days.
A paradise, how so? The river flows steadily and helps your way, but there is not a single whitewater rapid that would make your heart thump faster. The river meanders mightily, sometimes between imposingly high sandy banks, often between seductive beaches. There are several campfire sites and lean-tos, and two huts along the route. It is easy to see reindeer from a canoe.
We paddled leisurely along the river, ate lunch at Ansakämppä wilderness hut and pitched our tent near Sirkkapuro lean-to. On the beach of Sirkkapuro we admired rare flowers like Dianthus superbus and Silene tatarica.
Two pics from near Ansakämppä hut: from river level and from the top of the sandy bank. On the map this place looks like this.
Morning porridge prepared on open fire, after sleeping a night in tent. Nice way to start another paddling day.
Next day we ate lunch at Alaniemi lean-to and spent a long time at Jäkäläniemi beach. It was nice to swim and relax in the sun before ending our paddling tour at Jäkäläniemi Lapp pole tent.
There are lots of beaches along river Oulankajoki. Jäkäläniemi beach.
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Next week: Let’s see what kinds of animals make tracks on snow in Finnish Lapland.