Friday, 14 September 2012

Central Finland Provincial Trail: Vuosjoki-Pyhä-Häkki

I wake up to a lovely, crispy morning at Vuosjoki shelter. It is nice to finally see where I am, after having arrived here in the dark the previous night. I can hear the Vuosjoki brook right beside me. A nice place for a breakfast outside!
I fill my water bottle with fresh water from Vuosjoki brook. Originally, the weather forecast promised rain for today but there is no sign of rain at all. Alright, I'll continue further north as I hoped to do. The trail signs say Saarijärvi 9.5, Pyhä-Häkki 22. I don't think I'll go any further than that.
The first leg of the journey is about 8 kilometres. It feels so good to walk in daylight through the pine forest. Compared to previous night, there is no doubt about which way the trail will go. I encounter a felling, the first of its kind by the path, and soon a jogger who is accompanied by a friendly puppy. They've been running on the trail and he tells me that they've seen nobody else this morning. It is going to be a solitary walk, it seems.
As usual, the Central Finland Provincial Trail alternates between narrow footpaths and dirt roads, with an occasional hand-made warning sign for cars. I'm sure they are for the briskly moving cross country skiers, not for hikers...
The path becomes temporarily a little wider when it crosses an old field. It seems that an ATV has passed through here. The last of the bluebells are still in bloom.
A small anthill is surrounded by a dense mat of lingonberries as if by a huge garland.  The terrain changes to heathland, and there are more large rocks scattered here and there. I arrive at the start of a dirt road but can't see trail marks at first - except to a side path that leads to Kekkilä which is not my destination. A quick look at the map however confirms that I need to turn to the left for Pyhä-Häkki.
Soon I am accompanied by warm sunlight; the nature is smiling with me while the autumn colours get even brighter. I follow the dirt road for a long time before arriving by lake Kouranjärvi which offers a great place for a bit of rest either inside a kota shelter or sitting in the sun outside.
The picturesque lake Kouranjärvi is very quiet and there is hardly any wind. Koura means 'hand' or 'palm', perhaps something else as well. The shape of the lake doesn't remind me of a hand, though.
At lake Kouranjärvi the path runs very close to the shore and the duckboards make sure that you don't sink your boots into the wet moss. I stop often to eat some blueberries although their taste is not at their best anymore; their best season has been over for some time now.
Saarijärvi 18, Pyhä-Häkki 13. It seems that I am progressing pretty fast, thanks to the well kept route. However, there is still enough time to gaze at the lovely nature around me. Even little things such the colourful leaves on the ground by the path. The duckboards - of which there are plenty - are sometimes a bit slippery so that is a good enough reason to slow down as well.
Another bog, then another dirt road and for a while I can't spot any trail signs or blue paint. However, I keep walking straight ahead and after a while a sign confirms that I'm still on the right track. Quite a bit of felling has been done in this area.
Finally, I arrive at Tiilikka which has been advertised in the trail signs ever since Saarijärvi. Just like in the earlier places, there is firewood available, wooden benches and a shelter. And a well with a hand pump - a chance to fill my water bottle again! Right next door is the large Tiilikka hut which seems like a place that is rented out to groups.
The signs guide me through the front yard of Tiilikka hut to the pine forest. There seems to be an art exhibition of a kind with some strange wooden artwork scattered about, but no information whatsover about the display. Mysterious.
After some more blueberries and winding paths, I find myself very close to Pyhä-Häkki: only 6.5 km to go! If I were clever enough, I would either pay attention to the little symbols on the signs or take a good look at my map. But no. I simply read Pyhä-Häkki and follow the sign, although I had planned to take the shortest path to a certain place at Pyhä-Häkki national park. The shortcut goes via Poika-aho hut, 0.6 km from here... But I end up following the route marked primarily for cross-country skiers... Anyway, it is not much longer.
For a while, I see very few blue paint marks and instead start spotting blue ribbons tied to the trees. The way to mark skiing routes, yes. It doesn't matter, this route will anyway take me to Pyhä-Häkki. There are a couple of deer flys - not many for which I am grateful - but I ignore them and stop to admire the beautiful red rocks next to the path.
Ah, lingonberries. Again. You are not just pretty, but delicious! Just what a hiker needs on a long day.
As the path winds downhill I arrive at the sign of Pyhä-Häkki National Park, one of the smallest national parks in Finland. Finally, nature in its natural habitat and no felled trees.
The pine forest behind me, I meet aged duckboards that are almost covered with soft moss. It seems that not too many hikers follow this trail in the summertime, and when you are skiing, the duckboards are somewhere beneath the snow anyway. The bogland is simply beautiful.
The forests of Pyhä-Häkki allow you to see old trees that you may seldom meet in regular forests. There are e.g. tall pine trees that are hundreds of years old - a rare sight indeed in Finland.
Meandering among the ancient trees is like walking in a fairytale. This is what the woods used to look like before commercial forests were invented. The signs ahead announce: Kannonkoski 25, Kotajärvi 2.7.  I turn left to follow the path that leads to Kotajärvi lake, marked with red and white paint dots on the trees. I totally forget that I was supposed to follow the blue paint for Central Finland Provincial Trail but who cares...
Walking the wide, well-kept paths at Pyhä-Häkki is easy. First up a small hill, then down - and in front of me opens an almost majestic sight: a crowd of proud, tall pine trees and total peace. The path leads me down to Kotaneva mire and its long duckboards. I say hello to the two hikers who are going to spend a night at the nearby Poika-aho hut (available for rent) and they tell me that there were some people at Kotajärvi, grilling sausages by the fire, only a little while ago. I'd better hurry - I've got some sausages with me!
I arrive at a deserted, still Kotajärvi lake. Unfortunately for me, the other hikers I just met on the path must have been the ones grilling sausages earlier - and they were responsible people who extinguished the fire before leaving the place. The ashes are still warm.  Oh well, it is getting late so I decide not to make a new fire but instead walk on, to the National Park gate and parking lot before everyone has left the park for today.
There are quite a few trails in Pyhä-Häkki National Park, each colour-coded. I choose the green route to make a little detour to Riihineva mire, to enjoy the open bogland once more.
Riihineva may get even more beautiful as the autumn matures but for me the scenery with its soft colours looks fantastic already. I have now walked for more than 6 hours but don't feel any rush to get away. However, I have a little transportation issue ahead...
Although the weather is still great, I need to leave the next part of the Central Finland Provincial Trail for another time; should have packed a bit more food in my backpack. The trail between Saarijärvi and Pyhä-Häkki was in good condition and it was marked alright, if not always very well.
My arriving at the gate of Pyhä-Häkki National Park late in the afternoon leaves me with a little problem: it is about 22 km back to Saarijärvi via the road. The parking lot is practically deserted so there seems to be no chance of asking for a lift from someone, and there is no bus service available. I start walking the straight road. Luckily, after about 40 minutes of walking on the asphalt, the fourth car that passes me by stops and gives me a lift. Thanks for the driver for making an exception - because it looked like it was going to rain!

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