Thursday, 23 February 2012

Snowshoeing at Koli: Ryläys

One of the most beautiful hiking trails in Northern Carelia is located in Koli, Lieksa. In the winter the Herajärvi trail (60 km total, as of 2011) offers special challenges so I'm quite happy to do only a small stretch with my snowshoes. My eyes fall on Ryläys which can be reached from the roadside parking area close to Jero lake. It is already afternoon but there should be enough daylight left!
We've got a good map with us, plus I've hiked here in the summertime, but I'm relieved to see footprints by other snowshoers. It has been snowing somewhat during the past days and we're now sure to be on the right track. Earlier today at Ukko-Koli, we spotted two snowshoers returning from a longer trip and I'm pretty sure they've come this way.
The trail enters the beautiful white forest. It is a pleasure to walk in the shade of the tall, snow-covered trees. The blue trail marks can be seen in places, but if nobody had walked here before us, it might have been more difficult to stay on the trail because the well-worn path underneath is of course totally covered in snow.
Mörkövaara hill is guarded by a large, dead standing tree, and behind it you can just about make out the Koli landscape. However, the snowy weather means that visibility is limited so today is not the best day for admiring the Koli scenery.
I wonder if that is Mäkrä, one of the Koli hills, in the distance? I feel like I'm looking at a black and white photograph.
The branches of the trees are under a heavy load; the snow pulls everything down. In places, either I need to bend my head down or be ready to accept a shower of snow from above. It doesn't take much for snow to fall down by itself, either.
The woods are filled with nature's art, curvy, soft, white sculptures. When I look around me, the virgin snow carries no animal footprints. I reach the spring (lähde) by the rocks but it is totally covered in snow as well, and no wonder: the water was last tested to be undrinkable. Better carry your own drinking water in this area - unless of course you want to melt it from the snow, this time of the year!

The trail to Ryläys is fairly easy, with only one steep ascent just before arriving there.
When we reach the small bog next to Ryläys, the landscape is dreamlike, and perfectly still. The signposts and the map are covered with snow and frost. Entering the log shelter, the guest book confirms that two snowshoers have spent the previous night here. Thank you for opening the trail for us!
From the log shelter, there is a 100 metre climb to the top of Ryläys hill on which there is a wooden observation tower. The tower may look worn out but it is in fine shape, and it is at its most beautiful when covered with frost.
I take off my snowshoes and climb up to the tower. Snow, snow, and snow all around me. The colours are scarce: I see only different shades of white and grey, and can hear nothing but the sounds of silence, and the wind that carries the lightest of snowflakes with it.
Some years ago, when I visited Ryläys in June, I remember listening to another hiker's tale of his adventures here in wintertime, on snowshoes. He was unlucky and caught fever during his hike, and it was really cold weather, which didn't sound so great, but still his story left me with a wish to come here on snowshoes. And here I am!

We take a break at the log shelter, enjoy some tea and sandwiches before heading back. It would be nice to make a fire, as usual, but unfortunately it is getting late (considering the weather conditions) so we need to get moving.  We can hardly see the track when we get down to the bog. The snowfall continues steadily...

A wood grouse takes off right next to the trail and me. I can only hear it, but don't see it; my beanie almost covers my eyes. This bird is the only other living soul besides us on the trail just now. I chose Ryläys trail to avoid the crowds today and definitely got that right!


  1. Very nice. Very peaceful. Reminds me little bit of time I spent in Northern Maine (Caribou) USA - except instead of snowshoes, I had mukluks.

  2. Snowshoes can come in very handy when there's plenty of snow... I'd never even heard about mukluks, had to google the word to know what they are!
    In Finland, the warmest lightweight footwear for winter is felt boots (huopatossut).