Jouni Laaksonen 18.5.2020
This is the tenth post of a twelve post series. See index here.
The earlier nine reasons for building timber cabins or turf huts deep into a wilderness are quite clear. Cabins for reindeer herding purposes, for digging gold, for fishermen, and so on. This post gathers together some of the other, unrelated reasons that are not covered by the earlier posts, and neither by the next two posts.
Picking cloudberries is one of these more extraordinary reasons. Can you pick forest berries in your country? In Finland picking berries from forests and bogs is part of Everyman’s Right: it is allowed to everyone, regardless of who owns the land. (There are some small exceptions, like Strict Nature Reserves, where the regulations are severe, and even picking berries can be forbidden.)
There are many great-tasting wild berries growing in Finland. The most picked berries are blueberry (bilberry) and lingonberry. In our family we collect several bucketfuls of both of these every autumn. It is routine-like: unless the summer has been somehow extraordinary, you can expect to be able to pick the amount of blueberries and lingonberries you wish to, and quite easily.
Now, cloudberry is another matter. Usually there aren’t that many cloudberries to pick. Filling even a liter or three liter container can require a lot of searching. But on some years there are a multitude of these mysterious orange berries, and that can make you crazy. Your bucket is already full, and you know you won’t need any more for the winter, but still, the bog in front of you is orange with the berries. You just have to pick more, and more… 🙂
Well, that happens rarely. For me it has happened just once or twice.
The best areas for picking cloudberries are in Lapland. As the distances are great, there are some turf huts that have been built near some of the best cloudberry bogs. The family who built the turf hut came to pick the orange berries in the heat of July, and spent several days picking and picking, sleeping in their turf hut.
This turf hut in the middle of a vast bog, in Paistunturi Wilderness Area has been built as a shelter for cloudberry pickers, but it is open for every well-behaving hiker, too.
Nowadays the importance of getting these priceous and vitaminous berries is not as important as it used to be, and there are all-terrain-vehicles, and so some of these turf huts (kammi) have been left open for decades. I’m not giving locations this time, however.
Finland is a land of forests. As wood products are very important for Finnish economy, much has been done to make pines and spruces and birches to grow even faster. One method has been drying bogs to forests. To some extent this has succeeded, but on the other hand a great amount of natural bogs have been lost. Bogs are an important habitat to many species, and when you dig deep ditches throughout the bog, these species cannot live there any more.
I’ve already told about several kinds of wilderness huts related to forest industry: lumberjacks cabins (including cabins built for timber floaters) and cabins for fire guards. There are many examples of these kinds of huts. However, I know only one wilderness hut that was originally built for ditch diggers: Iso-Saukkonen wilderness hut.
When I first came to the hut, I was thrilled to see delicately carved year markings in the timbers of the hut. For example year 1934 was carved beautifully. When I stepped inside, I began to anticipate this hut was no normal wilderness hut. The walls were blackened, and there was a pile of black stones in the corner. This must have been originally without a chimney! Nowadays there is a normal wood oven, though.
Iso-Saukkonen wilderness hut is a sympatethic timber cabin.
After the hike I made some telephone calls and at last found a man, who had knowledge. Iso-Saukkonen hut was built in the depression of 1930s as accommodation for ditch diggers. The state provided work for the unemployed, and one kind of work was digging ditches into bogs to turn them over to forest.
One piece of history of Finland is the Jäger movement. When World War I started, Finland was still part of Russia. A movement started among young Finnish men. They wanted to achieve military education, to help Finland to fight itself free of Russia, to an independent nation.
This education was available in Germany, the enemy of Russia. The young men first had to travel to the western shore of Finland, then to Sweden, and then continue to Germany.
The young men had to operate in utmost secrecy. Certain secret lodgings along the most common routes were established. Many of these were cabins in the middle of forest. One of the cabins acts now as an open wilderness hut: Kivalon jääkärikämppä. Or, in fact the original Jäger hut in this location was destroyed, but in 1994 a new timber cabin was built in remembrance of the Jägers.
Kivalon jääkärikämppä acts nowadays as a day trip hut. There’a also a lean-to next to the hut.
A war is never a good thing, but there’s a happy ending to this story: Finland declared itself independent nation in 1917. We are a 103 years old nation now.
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In the next post in this series we’ll finally make it to huts that were originally built for hiking purposes. 🙂