Friday, 9 March 2012

Imatra: Risuniemi nature trail

Risuniemi nature trail is on on the border of Imatra and its neighbour community Ruokolahti in South Carelia, and not too far from Finland's border to Russia either. This seems to be a quiet spot; the car park hasn't seen a snowplough all this winter.  However, once we reach the trail map on the snow-covered square, the 2.5 km route seems perfectly clear.
The previous snowshoer must have been here a couple of days ago at least, but at least he or she has been showing the way and it is nice to follow a ready made path for a while. There are 26 information boards on the trail in Finnish, telling about the nature along the route.
A fallen tree is blocking the path that follows a small road but that's ok. It is easy to go round it wearing snowshoes. The forest around the path is mostly coniferous but there are also lots of bare, leafy trees.
The trail crosses an estate that was originally owned by Gallén family. The buildings have been torn down already but there are still signs of human life in their old back yard. What remains are a couple of old cars, well, parked at the back yard. To rot. The Ford Anglias and a Cortina remain there to show that cars don't rot that easily.
Amidst the other trees there are a couple of beautiful Siberian larches, the oldest of which was planted back in 1921.
The path winds into the forest, then back to the edge of the yard where some small-leaved limes have taken over; two of them are resting peacefully on the ground, and the others are reaching high above. What's the sound? Ah, it's a black woodpecker!
A snowmobile has also tried the trail, making the snow way harder beneath my feet. As we reach the lakeshore, the snowmobile trail continues onto the lake while we continue on foot on the shore. A Finnish spitz is enjoying a leisurely jog on the ice, as much as the cross country skiers are enjoying their late round on the lake.
The nature trail information board at Saunalahti tells us that there used to be a saw mill around here: Immola Saw Mill. It was closed before the Winter War that began in 1939. All is quiet on this front - and the snow-covered lake is bathing in the late afternoon light. We follow the red trail marks back into the forest.
This is a sure sign of the spring being on its way: the snow is no longer pure and white but it is dotted with needles and tiny branches fallen from the trees. The golden sunlight shines through the evergreens, makes patterns on the crust of snow. We advance step by step onto the tallest ridge and then descend back to Lake Saimaa.
The information board number 17 says this is a scenic spot and you can also make a fire here (with landowners's permission). There are a couple of benches under the snow, and the even without the huge Stora Enso paper and board mill on the shore opposite there is a view here. Anyway, it is a place for a bit of rest. Or it would be, if it weren't so late in the afternoon... There's no chance for us to make a fire and stop for a snack.
Just think about this in the summertime, a beautiful lake; just block out the steam or smoke from the paper/board mill. The trail continues along the lakeshore and there is a very nice looking cross country skiing track there...
Towards the end of the trail I can feel exhaustion stepping in. The crust of snow breaks beneath my snowshoes, but I know that had I been here in the morning, after a very cold night, it would have carried me easily. I manage only seven steps, not consecutive ones, without my snowshoes falling in. This time I would welcome poles, but as usual, I don't have them with me...
The sun is almost down. The trailmarks lead us to a signpost that says E10, marking the European Long Distance Path! So this is where the E10 goes, between Ruokolahti and Imatra. We're only a short distance from the starting point of Risuniemi trail, and keep following the red paint marks on the trees. Underneath our feet there is now either a narrow trail or a a little road. I can well imagine how beautiful it is here in the summer...


  1. Looks like a really nice hike. I clicked on the European Long Distance Path link - what a great thing!

  2. There are so many hiking trails around us! E10 Long Distance Path actually runs through Koli area as well so I've recently stepped on two different sections of that trail, totally by accident.