Monday, 14 November 2011

Petäjävesi: Syrjäharju trail

When I look down on the Pengerjoki river at Petäjävesi, Central Finland, it's almost as if November was on a mission to kill the colours. November blues in the air. I have taken the Syrjäharju trail, about 8 kilometres north from Petäjävesi.
I am in the middle of the countryside. There are horses in the neighbouring houses, and you can see someone has been riding on this narrow road. I hope the horseshoes nailed on the outbuilding by the side of the road will bring me luck. In a moment, I hear cars approaching; one, two, three,... I lose count. Glad I'm wearing a bright red jacket today because these guys have been hunting, and it seems they've been lucky.
For a while I don't feel especially lucky in the greyish weather, especially because the trail follows a road instead of taking a turn to the woods. Nature trails are often narrow tracks - let's hope that it's not going to be like this for the full 4 kilometres.
However, close to a turn of the marked trail I stop to study my map and take a side step to find a nearby kota (a tipi-like hut made of logs) - and discover a ready-made fire which the hunters have left behind. Did they know I was coming? Thank you anyway! There are just enough flames left for my brief stay for a cup of tea and a snack.
The short stop revives my spirit and I continue the trail much happier. The forest around me looks different than in the beginning of the trail. The ridge area must be getting closer.
In the meanwhile, I can listen to the sound of silence around me. Or my footsteps on the rustling leaves. Is that a blue tit singing?
Finally a sign welcomes me to the left and there is a proper narrow path, my favourite kind. The path climbs up to the Syrjänharju ridge (harju = ridge) which actually consists of a 7-kilometre long area, not just this ridge top I'm standing on right now.
The ridge area is an important ground water source for the region. Syrjänharju has for hundreds of years provided local people not just berries, mushrooms and fresh water; the hunting tradition still continues today.

The ridge got its shape in the end of the ice age about 10,000 years ago. The moss-covered slopes are quite steep! I wish the trail continued on the ridge for a longer stretch. Only too soon the trail turns to downwards to the right and meets the country road again.
Tervahaudat sign greets me after the wide powerline opening. Terva = tar, hauta = grave. In the old days, the locals used to burn tar here, and there are still remainders of those tar burning areas left, although it is not very easy to spot them; if I get it right, the ditches among the trees mark the edges. 
The rest of the trail continues to follow the gravel roads before arriving back to Penkkalantie where the trail starts. The traditional pistoaita fence that surrounds a house by the road is something you don't see in cities. Oh no, the light is beginning to I won't be able to visit the bird watching tower close by in daylight after all.

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