Friday, 11 November 2011

Petäjävesi: Karhunahas gorge

Petäjävesi is about 30 kilometres west from Jyväskylä in Central Finland. When you travel some 20 kilometres north from Petäjävesi, to the woods almost on the border of its neighbour community Multia, you can enjoy a lovely, short walk to Karhunahas gorge.

Karhu is 'bear' in Finnish, and ahdas, or ahas in local dialect, means 'narrow' - in this case a tight spot. The area was a favourite among the local hunters in the old days. The gorge was named after a bear hunt which ended there successfully for the hunters but not so well for the king of the forest.

A well-kept but narrow trail guides me through the forest, with the usual duckboards in the places where the ground is more wet. I soon reach the Karhunahas gorge and stare down at the dark water; careful, not too close to the edge of the cliff. You never know what mysterious creatures might be lurking down there...
Another trail, marked with red paint, leads me round the gorge - about 700 metres on Karhunpolku, A Bear's Trail. Although bears still occasionally walk the woods also in this region, the risk of meeting one by chance these days in a Finnish forest is minimal. Usually they try to stay clear of people and go quietly away if they notice humans close by.
The air around here is so pure...You can tell that also by the Usnea (lichen) hanging from the trees. The bigger it grows, the cleaner the air.
The path turns back to take me to the other side of the gorge. A tiny house? Does somebody live here? Not anymore. Many many decades ago, this simple hut gave shelter to the man attending the mill which was located on the mill stream only few steps away.
The weather-torn shingles on the roof have barely made it until now, and the abandoned house can no longer guarantee for anyone to stay dry inside. And I definitely wouldn't light a fire in the fireplace, the chimney cannot be safe anymore.
I stop to admire the beautiful mill stream which now runs wild, with water falling down in splashes. The trail climbs upwards to the top of the cliffs and crosses it a bit further upstream.
After a little while, a surprise waits for me behind the corner, oh well, behind the trees! I step off the winding path to gaze in wonder at the white/brownish foam gathering on this stretch of the stream. Where on earth does this come from and what is it? Surprisingly, the foam seems linger here, as if there was a natural filter, and when the water reaches the Karhunahas gorge, it seems perfectly clear again. Good.
Looking at the quietly impressive Karhunahas gorge, I forget the foam... The beginning of this trail is on the other side which means that I will soon sit down for a quiet snack. Actually, not so quiet; finally, other walkers arrive - a large family group, with children and adults enjoying a day trip in the nature.
Some of the adults stay behind to make a fire for the coffee, while the rest continue to follow the same trail as I did. The firewood is kindly provided by the local Töysänperä village community free of charge (if you carry it from the parking area) but some idiot has stolen the axe used for chopping wood from the laavu, the shelter, which is guarded by a wooden bear sculpture. Apparently the thief wasn't afraid of the bear's revenge - but maybe it will come...

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