Jouni Laaksonen 18.11.2019
I continue with the same topic as last week: how wilderness huts preserve valuable history. That post is an index to this series of twelve posts.
When humankind returned after the latest Ice Age to the area we now call Finland, some 10 000 or 11 000 years ago, they were hunters. Hunting and fishing were the only means to acquire food for many millennia, and when agriculture came to Finland some 7000 years ago, hunting and fishing still remained important.
Even during 19th and early 20th century fishing and hunting were a vital part of livelihood in the more remote parts of Finland. The hunters and fishermen built numerous cabins and turf huts in the forests and fells and lakesides.
And when the hunter built a turf hut for himself in the treeless fell environment, far away from any habitation, he left the door open. Or a fisherman built a simple log cabin for himself deep in the backwoods, he left the door open. Why?
Because he knew how harsh the conditions can sometimes be. Someone may be in trouble, having fallen through ice, or gotten soaking wet in a late autumn rainstorm, and needs the warmth and shelter of the hut to survive. And he himself may some day be sorely in need of the shelter provided by a hut someone else built.
This is how the code of Finnish wilderness huts started to form. The door was left open and you were entitled to use the cabin someone else had built. In return you had to behave well, tidy up when you leave, and empty the water bucket, and acquire some firewood and kindling for the next one coming to the hut.
Nowadays hunting and fishing are very important hobbies, and they provide some extra food to freezers in many families in the countryside, but they are a profession only to a very few people.
There are hundreds of hunting associations in Finland nowadays. Most of them, probably every one, have one or more hunting cabins, but these are locked huts for the association members only.
However, there are some older hunting related cabins that are nowadays used as wilderness huts, for example Riekkokämppä in Hammastunturi Wilderness Area and Riekonpyytäjän kammi in Muotkatunturit Wilderness Area. Both of these are originally built by willow grouse hunters.
Riekkokämppä is a shallow cabin built by a willow grouse hunter in 1961. Riekko means willow grouse and kämppä is the same as tupa, hut/cabin.
This is Riekonpyytäjän kammi and the name translates as Willow grouse hunter’s turf hut. These two tiny huts are not maintained by any official institution. If you want to use the wood stove, you have to collect the firewood yourself – and some for the next comer, too.
There are hundreds of thousands of fishermen in Finland. There are hundreds of thousands of summer cottages, locked up and used by the owner only, and an important pastime during your cottage holiday is often fishing.
However, there are also many older fishing cabins that are open wilderness huts today: Siilastupa in Oulanka NP, Rautujärvi in Hammastunturi Wilderness Area, Lehtosaari in lake Lentua, Laukkujärvi Hossa NP, and many more.
View from the porch of Siilastupa. You can see Jyrävä and the pool below it. This 8 meters high waterfall was a natural obstacle for the trouts that were swimming upriver, and fishing was easy here. Nowadays fishing is prohibited in this pool. General Hjalmar Siilasvuo had this hut built for his fishing cottage during World War II. Nowadays the cabin serves as open wilderness hut along very popular Karhunkierros trail.
Rautujärvi means Lake of Arctic char. There are many lakes with this name in Lapland, this one is in Hammastunturi Wilderness Area. This log cabin was built by the local policeman for his fishing base around 1950s, but for decades it has served as open wilderness hut, and nowadays as a day trip hut.
Photo is taken through the window of Lehtosaari wilderness hut, and the building you see is open sauna. Also Lehtosaari hut and sauna were originally built as a private fishing cabin in 1950s. For decades it has served as an open wilderness hut. Lake Lentua is a beautiful lake in Kuhmo . There are many lean-tos and fireplaces in the islands of Lentua, and this one open hut, too.
Two pics from Laukkujärvi in Hossa National Park. If you click the upper pic larger you can see a skier approaching a dark building: that’s the hut. The hiker is skiing across lake Laukkujärvi. In the lower pic some paddlers are having a break at the same hut. Originally this small cabin was built in 1930s for a fishing cabin. It serves nowadays walkers, mountain bikers, paddlers and skiers as a wilderness hut.
These examples of fishing cabins converted to wilderness huts are maintained by Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland, see www.nationalparks.fi/en/huts. Metsähallitus brings firewood, so all you need to do is to chop the wood and carry it from the woodshed. Remember to chop and carry some also for the hikers coming after you.