According to Luonnonvoimaa.net website, the Central Finland Provincial Trail is marked north of Saarijärvi so I hope that will help me also when the darkness falls. This is a test! The blue paint marks on the trees are a promising sign. It feels weird that summer is really turning to autumn already, with the leaves changing colour from green to yellow. Very soon I hit a proper trail sign (Saarijärvi / Tiilikka) and learn that although my real destination is not Tiilikka, that is the way to follow.
The leaves on the trees are not the only ones changing their colours. It is early stages yet but you can already spot some ruska, which is the word in Finnish that describes the wonderful world of autumn colours. Willow herbs are slowly turning flaming red. However, there's also something edible that's red right at my feet: lingonberries! They taste so good.
I keep an eye on mushrooms as well but either someone has just been here to pick all the edible ones or I'm just not lucky. Anyway, I had better walk briskly and not step off the path too much tonight.
Narrow footpaths in the forest are my absolute favourites but this time I truly appreciate the trail being used also as a skiing track. It means that it will be easier to see where the trail goes also when it gets darker, and not so easy to take a wrong turn.
The trail crosses a dirt road, gets back to the forest, hits another opening and leads me past the thin, tall spruces. Again, a dirt road, into the woods, and suddenly I realize that darkness begins to fall. For real.
There are more and deeper shadows around me and I tread more carefully. Hello, headlamp, you'd better come out. Can't read the map without it anymore. And where have all the trail marks gone? I don't know exactly where I am, thanks to the map's scale, but have a pretty good idea anyway. Should I take a left or a right? I'd love to catch a sight of a blue trail mark, really!
After a moment's hesitation, I make my choice. The willow herbs are making fun of me. You think this is a path? It is, actually. On my left, there are some lights from nearby houses, good, and... A spot of blue paint on a birch. Thank you. It seems that the rest of the hike tonight will be an interesting one!
It is both fun and exciting to be traipsing all alone in the strange woods at night. I remember certain nights from my teenage years and roaming the woods with other scouts, and always finding the way to the place where we were to camp for the night. Why shouldn't I find the way now. My eyes get more and more used to the darkness and I can discern the straight route also with the help of the gap between the treetops.
Suddenly I see a flash of light far ahead. I instinctively switch off my headlamp - what, are there other people? - and stop to listen. There is only silence. It was just a car passing by. However, for the remainder of the path I choose to walk in the darkness, preferring to arrive by the road unannounced.