Fall in Love with Hiking -course

Last year, I completed the Rakastu retkeilyyn, “Fall in Love with Hiking”, guide course organized by Suomen Latu (The Finnish Outdoor Association) in Joensuu, and this year I plan to gain some experience in guiding by leading at least one hiking course. In May, we organized the “Fall in Love with Hiking” course for Oulun Latu together with another more experienced guide, Inga. The aim of the “Fall in Love with Hiking” course is to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to safely undertake an overnight hike on a marked trail, together with peers. On May Day, we visited Martimoaapa with Inga and her husband to check out the locations for the course.

On May Day Eve, I drove to the Kivalo parking lot. The roads were clear, and the parking lot was wet and soft, but there was still quite a bit of snow in the forest and on the bog. The weather was warm and sunny. I strapped on my cross-country skis, attached the sled, and set off skiing towards Saunasaari. At first, I followed the hiking trail, but for the latter part of the journey, I detoured across the open bog.

Inga’s group was already at Saunasaari setting up their tent. I pitched my tent next to theirs. We sat around the campfire, had some evening snacks, and as night fell, we moved into the cabin. We planned the course and the route and sharing stories of our hiking experiences.

The temperature dropped to a couple of degrees below freezing overnight, but it wasn’t an issue as it stayed warm enough in the tent. However, I slept rather restlessly, listening to the birds at night and thinking about the course details. The calls of cranes and the bubbling sounds of black grouse were calming.

We enjoyed breakfast by the campfire. Then we packed light gear into our backpacks and headed to Koivuselkä without the sleds. Along the way, we scouted for potential tent sites for the hike, despite the patches of snow still lingering in the forests.

The day was warm, with the temperature reaching 10 degrees Celsius by mid-morning. Walking on the forest trails went smoothly, but the bogs were already soft and wet. We had to zigzag around the bogs to get through without getting our feet wet. There were a lot of birds on the bog.

If I had been alone and had more time, I would have stayed by the edge of the bog for the day with my binoculars, observing. Through my binoculars, I spotted at least a kestrel, a chaffinch, a mute swan, cranes, black-headed gulls, and some gray-backed gulls (unfortunately, I don’t recognize the species), curlews, a greenshank (or some long-legged, lighter-colored bird with a straighter bill than a curlew), a magpie, a raven, a crow, bean geese, a great spotted woodpecker, and a great grey shrike. For the past couple of years, I’ve been learning to photograph birds and identify them from pictures, and now I’ve moved more towards using binoculars and learning that way. It’s difficult to make quick observations, but it’s very interesting and rewarding.

We reached Koivuselkä, although our progress was slow. For lunch, I had Tourmat, and Inga fried doughnuts on the Trangia stove. Oh, they were delicious! I learned the hard way that a camping spoon doesn’t withstand hot oil—it melted. At Koivuselkä, we also scouted for potential campsite locations for the course, but we thought it might be nicer to sleep at Saunasaari if we wanted to go sightseeing at the top of Keski-Penikka on Sunday.

When we headed back, most of the snow had already turned into water, and the streams that had formed were surprisingly strong in some places. At one point, we had to take off our skis and jump over a stream. It was hard to believe that the snow could melt so quickly in just a couple of hours. If we had left Koivuselkä a couple of hours later, we would have had to wade through the bog. It would have been even more challenging if we had brought the sleds. There was also about twenty centimeters of water on some sections of the boardwalk.

At Saunasaari, we changed into lighter clothing, packed our gear into the sled, and headed back to the cars. It got warm skiing with the sled, as it was calm and at least +10 degrees Celsius. It was a pleasant trip and a good reminder of how quickly conditions can change in the bog. On the way back, I took the route via Sompujärventie. The ditches were overflowing onto the road in many places. Even the reindeer came to the roadside to wish us a good journey.

Rakastu retkeilyyn -course

Two preliminary meetings for the Rakastu retkeilyyn, “Fall in Love with Hiking”, course were held at the campfire site in Hiukkavaara, Oulu. For the first meeting, we had set up a couple of tents in advance. The participants also set up a dome tent and hammocks together. We compared the features of different tents and hammocks. During these preliminary meetings, we got to know the participants, went over setting up shelters, discussed hiking clothing, introduced various camping stoves, and explained everyman’s rights. We also reviewed different hiking equipment.

The preliminary meetings were held at the campfire site in Hiukkavaara, Oulu.

We also planned the overnight hike in more detail. We let the participants choose between the route from Hangassalmenaho to Koivuselkä and from Saunasaari to Kivalo. They chose Saunasaari because of the views from Kivalo and the lesser need for backpacking due to this route. The warm weather had been persisting for a long time, and there were forest fire warnings in effect. It also seemed like the dry weather would continue, so we prepared for the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to make outdoor fires during the overnight hike.

The first part of the journey to Saunasaari was muddy and soft.

On the morning of May 26th, we carpooled from the Oulu area to start our overnight hike. The day before, Kemin Latu organized the same “Fall in Love with Hiking” course on the Hangassalmenaho side. We met up with the course group at the Kivalo parking lot, hoisted our backpacks onto our backs, and practiced adjusting them. The beginning of the trail, about two hundred meters along a winter road, was muddy and wet, likely from a forest machine passing through. Right from the start, the participants got to experience maneuvering from one tussock to another with their backpacks on. Someone in the group remarked that the rest of the journey felt easy after that.

With a few stops along the way, we arrived at Saunasaari and immediately started preparing lunch. The course participants got to try out camping stoves in practice, many for the first time. It was nice to have several types of stoves with the group, so we could also compare different models.

We set up our tent camp in the middle of the forest, but still near to the hut.

After lunch, we moved twenty meters towards Koivuselkä to the place where we will spend the night. The place was drier than the Saunasaari’s hut, but the hut was still close. We set up our tent camp in the middle of the forest. There were a lot of mosquitoes, and impossibly big ones, but they weren’t terribly swarming yet. One participant slept in a hammock and the others in a tent.

When we finished the accommodations, we lightened our packs and set off on a trip to fetch water to Koivuselkä. In Koivuselkä, we filled our camp at Lauri’s departure. Drinking water from the spring was also a new experience for many. The water was clear, good tasting and cold. We had a snack at the campfire place and in the hut we discussed the rules and practices of wilderness huts. When we returned to Saunasaari, we decided that it would be good to take a little rest and we each went to our accommodations to rest.

We fried pancakes for dinner.

In the evening, we gathered at the campfire site for the evening meal. We fried pancakes with gas, and at the same time, the course participants got to try handling an ax and making kindling sticks. We also went through how to make a campfire and how to use the fireplace. However, we didn’t light the campfire because there was a wildfire warning. Everyone liked sleep after a long day.

Everyone had a good night. Everyone had been able to sleep, at least for part of the night. I myself woke up a few times and stayed to listen to the sounds of birds at night. It was quite a concert throughout the night. During the breakfast break, we discussed the planning of the hiking trip and after that we started to break down the camp and pack the bags.

Even though carrying the burden was heavy, the positive spirit of togetherness helped to cope.

We walked back to the cars at the Kivalo parking lot, lightened our packs and ate a little snack. The weather was warm, but windy. We moved the cars to the Jääkärikämppä parking lot. We share maps to the course participants, from which we learned together how to find direction using a compass and how to read map markings. We stopped by Jääkärikämppä wilderness hut to fill water bottles from the spring and I briefly told about the history of the place. Then we left for the last stage to go up towards Kivalo’s hut.

Keski-Penikka’s rock field was amazing, but the wonderful views were worth the challenging journey.

The first part of the route to the Kivalo observation tower is a relatively easy, wide path, although the climb is quite steep. The large rocky field on top of Keski-Penikka surprised the course participants and even more surprised when it turned out that the route goes across the rocky field. We walked slowly and with careful steps. The wonderful scenery crowned the difficult trip and the lunch was delicious. After returning to the car, we said a wistful goodbye to each other. We concluded that the trip was a success and the spark for camping remained smoldering. The goal of the course had been completed.

Finally, I have to complain a little here. There were fire keepers at several campfire sites even though forest fire warnings were in effect throughout the country. One passer-by threw a cigarette butt directly on the ground, and another group left the bonfire smoking and sparking in the windy weather. We shut off the fire after them with water. It was really sad that I had to prove this kind of behavior in the middle of the camping course. There had already been many forest fires due to dry weather all over Finland in the same week.

Step one of lighting a campfire is to check that there is no forerst fire warning in effect in the area. When the forest fire warning is in effect, making fire is only allowed in chimney-covered, covered fire places and in the hearths of cabins, with special caution. In Martimoaapa area, the fireplaces of the desert huts and the chimney fire place of the open shelter in Järviaapa are available during wildfire warnings. In other campfire places, open fires are prohibited. The campfire must always be extinguished well, regardless of the weather.

Translated via ChatGTP

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