Reasons for wilderness huts 5/12: patrol cabins for border guards

Hiking in Finland
Jouni Laaksonen 20.1.2020

(I’ve been busy finishing my two next books, and therefore I’ve lately had no time for blogging. I’ll tell more about the books soon – though both are in Finnish.)

(And, this post is part of a twelve post series. See index here.)

Finland is situated between east and west. Our neighbors are Russia, Sweden and Norway.

Hiking in Finland

Map: open data from National Land Survey of Finland 01/2020.

The border between Finland and Russia is closely guarded on both sides, and it is strictly forbidden to cross the border other than at certain international border crossing points. Moreover, it is totally forbidden even to go near the border. There is a border zone with approximately one to three kilometers width on the Finnish side of the border, and a wider one on Russian side, and you cannot enter the border zone. The zone is clearly marked on maps, and there are yellow signs marking it in the woods and fells. If you want to know more, see raja.fi.

Entering Norway is completely different. If you are hiking in Northern Finnish Lapland and want to cross the border to Norway, you can do it wherever you wish. Assuming you don’t carry a gun, and you don’t have a dog with you, or something to declare in the customs. Halti hiking trail makes a shortcut via Norway for a couple of kilometers. I’ve several times hiked across the Norwegian border for example from Vätsäri Wilderness Area, or to Tarvantovaara Wilderness Area.

The same easiness applies to Sweden, but a hiker can’t really walk into Sweden from Finland. There is a wide river between the countries all the way.

Border guards

In the old days border guards patrolled especially the Finnish-Russian border, but also the other borders by foot: by walking in summer and autumn and skiing in winter. There were border guard station spaced some 30 or 40 kilometers apart all the FIN-RUS border long, and between them patrol cabins.

Nowadays the border guards use modern technology, both sensor and camera wise, and by using motorized vehicles. In summer a hiker can meet border guards driving all-terrain-vehicles and in winter snowmobiles.

Thus the old patrol cabins have mostly become useless for border guards. Some of these cabins are nowadays open wilderness huts, some have been sold to reindeer herding co-operatives, and they act as reindeer herders’ huts (locked or open, depends), and so on.

By the way, meeting a border guard patrol is usually a nice thing for a hiker. The border guards are a bit nosy if you are near the border, they ask who you are, where you are heading and so on. This is partly because it’s their job to know who moves near the border, but also because they are an important part of the rescue service. So, if something untoward happens to you, it’s only good that you chatted with border guards a couple of days ago and told where you are heading. 🙂

Also they know the terrain and conditions completely, so you get good advice if you ask.

I tell some memorable examples of meeting border guards here and here.

Examples of old patrol cabins

Urho Kekkonen National Park is situated next to Russian border, and there are good examples of old patrol cabins turned to open wilderness huts: Saiho, Peskihaara and Kiertämäjärvi.

Hiking in Finland

Saiho wilderness hut provides room for four hikers nowadays.

Hiking in Finland

Peskihaara wilderness hut has room for 5-6 hikers. This cabin is exceptionally warm even when it’s really cold outside.

In Kainuu province for example Särkkä and Hämeaho are situated right next to the border zone. They used to be patrol cabins, but they are wilderness huts along a hiking trail now.

Hiking in Finland

Hämeaho open hut is situated right next to the border zone of Finnish-Russian border. It has room for four hikers.

There are old patrol cabins also along the Norwegian border. Both Halti wilderness huts, new and old, and Saarijärvi wilderness hut along the Halti trail are examples of these.

Hiking in Finland

Saarijärvi hut has both open and reservable side. There’s room for ten hikers on both sides.

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