Jouni Laaksonen 13.8.2018
I’m back from holidays. Boy, has it been a hot summer in Finland! And in many other countries as well, I’m sure. For us who live in Northern Finland temperatures near +30°C are not common at all, and this summer we had several weeks of such hotness. Great time to spend on a beach, but too much for hiking or any kind of activity, in my opinion.
I’m not complaining, though! I will be missing hot summer days in November and January…
However, now it is August. In Finland August is not a popular month for summer holidays. Not due to weather, which is very pleasant, but due to the fact that schools started last week. Every family who have kids are back from holidays, and as everyone gets this habit from childhood, it’s typical to return to work in August even if you don’t have children of your own.
We’ve walked and skied a lot in this blog, so I thought it would be nice to paddle for a change. 🙂 Let’s see what Hossa National Park looks from water level.
Hossa is the newest national park in Finland. However, the area was a popular National Hiking Area for decades before achieving national park status. Hossa has been dubbed as ‘Fisherman’s paradise’ for all that time, and that is certainly true. However, in this blog article I want to say also that Hossa is a paddler’s, hiker’s, skier’s paradise also. And a paradise for a mountain biker and trail runner as well.
A couple of years ago the summer was nowhere as hot as this one was. At the end of August we headed to Hossa with two of my friends. As I’m looking at the pictures now, I see Sami had often a fleece cap on his head. It was not cold, but not a t-shirt weather either. Just perfect for physical activity like paddling.
Starting the paddling week. How do get all our gear into these rental kayaks?
There are many possibilities for a paddler in Hossa. If you like rivers with mildish rapids, you can paddle downstream from Peranka in west, Somerjärvi in north-west, or from Iijärvi in north-east. All of these series of rivers and lakes come together at Huosivirta strait and continue to lake Hossanjärvi.
We are not experienced paddlers in rapids, so we chose rather to paddle more on lakes and less on rivers. On the other hand we are not afraid of some hardships like pulling the kayaks upriver, so we chose some rather adventurous routes.
We rented kayaks from Hossa nature centre and drove to the parking area at Huosivirta strait. I’m not going to describe our route specifically, for all parts of it, like pulling kayaks upstream at Lounatkoski, were not something I want to recommend. No, I’ll concentrate on our feelings and weather, and what routes I do recommend.
Screenshot from Excursionmap.fi. Don’t settle for this, but click this link and zoom as you wish. I marked all the most interesting place names mentioned below. (I’m sorry: I used the Finnish version of the map inadvertently. The English version you find here – but without those marks of mine.)
If you drive, or rather ask for transportation from the kayak renter, to Peranka village west of Hossa, via road number 5, you get to paddle downstream to Hossa for some 40 kilometers.
The first 15 km are river, with about 20 rapids in classes I…II+. In the international rating system for rapids, which is in use in Finland, too, change from class I to II means the rapids classified as II is doubly as demanding as one classified as I. Rapids in class I are easy ones, suitable for beginners. Also class II rapids are rather easy, but you need some experience.
The last 25 km consists of a series of lakes, with short rapids or straits between. River and long and narrow lakes are nice to paddle, for the scenery changes all the time, and wind is not as much a problem as it can be on large bodies of open water.
There are two wilderness huts, Kukkuri and Lavajärvi, along the route. In addition there are four lean-tos and several campfire sites.
We spent two nights in Lavajärvi, and one at Lipposensalmi, which is one of the lean-to’s of this route. At Lavajärvi we among other things explored the huge ruins of a stable, fished (successfully), and fried thin pancakes on open fire. There used to be a huge lumberjacks accommodation building, together with a huge stable at Lavajärvi long time ago. The accommodation building, which I’m not calling a cabin, for it was much bigger, has been taken away decades ago, but the ruins of the stable are still here. The wilderness hut used to be the sauna of the lumberjack worksite.
As we spent two night in Lavajärvi wilderness hut, we enjoyed a late evening paddling on lake Lavajärvi. Full moon!
At Lipposensalmi there’s a nice beach, and a lake on both sides of a narrow strip of land. We woke up to a misty morning, and started our daymarch on a dreamlike, mist-filled lake.
If you want to paddle a longer expedition, you can continue from Hossa along river Hossanjoki to Juntusranta village. In Juntusranta you have paddled some 70 km and tackled some 40 rapids, all of them class I…II+.
This one is paddlable only in the beginning of the summer, or after heavy rains. However, I very much like this river system. First you can spend quality time on lake Somerjärvi. This is almost ten kilometers long, but only a couple of hundreds meters wide lake on the north-westernmost corner of the national park. This remote lake is always quiet and peaceful, although equipped with three lean-tos.
One of the pearls of Hossa is the thousands of years old rock painting site called Värikallio (~Colorful cliff). You can admire the triangle-headed man shapes and other red drawings from your canoe or from a walking platform.
The upriver of river Somerjoki has eight rapids. All of them are easy, class I. However, if the water level is low, like it is on high summer, these rapids are so shallow you cannot paddle them. More probably you need to pull your kayak/canoe downstream.
Note that you can easily make a sidetour to lakes Ala-Ölkky and Julma-Ölkky from river Somerjoki. Julma-Ölkky is a canyon lake, one of the most imposing in Finland.
When you reach lake Laukkujärvi, you have only good times ahead of you. We spent a night at Laukkujärvi wilderness hut and started a leisurely day back to our car at Huosivirta.
One of the easy rapids in the downriver of river Somerjoki.
Or, it was leisurely when you think of the short journey and nicely changing views along the series of lakes, and the easy but just adequately thrilling rapids. Not so leisurely if you consider my wetness… I needed to visit the strand a couple of kilometers downstream from Laukkujärvi, and and when stepping back into the kayak in a not so easy shore I tipped my kayak! My excuse is that I had problems with my aching back, and thus I was very stiff. Well, my mistake.
I paddled the next mile or so very fast. The weather was mild, so I was not getting cold, but still it was nice to change a dry outfit at Puukkojärvi wilderness hut. We had a slow lunch, and because my clothes were drying in the warmed up cabin, we got the perfect excuse to take a nap.
Lunch break at Puukkojärvi wilderness hut.
I really like this part of the river. There is a maze of small lakes, which make you read the map. The ridges around the lakes rise high and steep. And the rapids between the lakes are easy but fast enough.
For more specific paddling route descriptions for these rivers see nationalparks.fi.
If you don’t want to shoot any rapids, but rather paddle on lakes, do start from the northern end of lake Pitkä-Hoilua. If you want only a short outing, paddle to the halfway of lake Pitkä-Hoilua and then pull your canoe/kayak over the lowest spot on the ridge on your right. The spot has been used by fishermen for centuries, and it is clearly visible.
On the other side of the ridge is lake Ala-Valkeainen. The lakes and streams in Hossa are very clear, but the series of three Valkeainen lakes is the best in this aspect. You can clearly see perch and other fish swimming many meters below your canoe.
There’s a wilderness hut on the northern shore of lake Ala-Valkeainen. Enjoy a lunch and return the same way. 5 km altogether.
But if you are up to a bit of adventure, and have two days, do explore more. Pitkä-Hoilua, long and narrow lake, together with lake Kokalmus, form letter J. Paddle all of this. At the end of J pull your vessel upstream the narrow and short stream running from lake Ala-Valkeainen.
From the wilderness hut pull your canoe upstream to lake Keski-Valkeainen, and after paddling over it, pull your canoe up to lake Iso-Valkeainen. The stream you are pulling/paddling your kayak up right now is called Muikkupuro. The lean-to next to this crystal clear stream is one of the most beautiful campfire sites in Finland.
There are three rental huts on the northern shore of lake Iso-Valkeainen, rent one of them.
On your way back you can take the shortcut over the ridge separating lakes Ala-Valkeainen and Pitkä-Hoilua. All of this makes 15 km of paddling, and a bit over 400 meters of kayak pulling.
I had a magical evening stroll, if you can call paddling a stroll, on lake Pitkä-Hoilua. The sun was just setting behind the steep ridge and I spent a long time listening to quietness and watching the colors of sundown. Then I tried my luck with the fishing rod, and got a pike.
Evening at lake Pitkä-Hoilua.
We spent a night at Ala-Valkeinen, and pulled and paddled our kayaks to one of those rental huts at Iso-Valkeainen. We had rented the hut for two nights, and on the rest day we walked to Värikallio rock painting site, which I highly recommend.
Part of Värikallio rock paintings. Our ancestors painted these some 3500 or 4500 years ago. Can modern technology produce a paint that lasts as long?
Perfect month for hiking
August is a very good month for hiking and paddling. There may be some mosquitoes left in the beginning of the month, but not as many as in July. And along August they disappear completely. The temperature is often around +20°C, and August is not a rainy month.
I mentioned fishing above, but in August there are many other things to eat from the nature, too. Blueberries (or bilberries) you will find in any forest, and if you are lucky, you may bump into a raspberry bush. The season for mushrooms is starting. At least the first ones, like Chanterelle, and different kinds of Boletus have usually risen up. However, be absolutely certain you know what berries and mushrooms you pick! There are poisonous ones, too.
I haven’t chosen next week’s topic yet, but I promise I try to write a shorter article. 🙂