Friday, 2 November 2012

Central Finland Provincial Trail: Pyhä-Häkki - Tulijärvi

It is early Friday evening at Pyhä-Häkki national park gate at Saarijärvi, Central Finland. The parking lot is deserted except for my vehicle until another car stops there for a couple of minutes and then leaves after checking out the place - nothing to see here now? I pick up my backpack and have a look at the route map. There should be about 2 hours of daylight left. 
I choose to follow the Tulijärvi trail, marked with white paint. It will eventually take me to Central Finland Provincial Trail's blue trail marks that also lead to the northwest, towards Kannonkoski. It is only a couple of weeks since I followed the very same path in the opposite direction when hiking from Saarijärvi to Pyhä-Häkki. I soon arrive from the forest to Riihineva marshland.
Riihineva marsh opens wide and is as quiet as can be. I can only hear my own footsteps against the dry, grey duckboards. No need to step aside and let others pass... There isn't even a bird in sight.
Just before the "paved" trail changes to a regular footpath it reminds me that this season has been rather wet. I really hope that any duckboards ahead won't be very wet because walking on slimy wood would make my progress pretty slow especially after dark.
Leaving the open land behind, I continue along the worn, wide path. Numerous hikers have taken this route before me, most of them on a day trip in the national park. Quite a few rocks have been uncovered underneath their feet...
I stop to admire the red peat moss by the path. Even if most colours in the nature are fading at this time of the year, with the leaves already having mostly fallen down and getting brown, the moss isn't giving up. Besides, its shape reminds me of Africa.
A small brook meanders under the trees, as silent as it can. I feel like I am the loudest creature alive in the forest, hearing the rustle of my jacket and goretex pants. Perhaps the other creatures around me don't think so.
As it such a short while since I last walked this very same route, albeit in the opposite direction, it feels a bit funny to be here so soon again. Of course, passing a route once doesn't necessarily make it familiar ground. At the next marsh, I wonder about the straight channel right next to the duckboards - until I realize that it must be where the duckboards were at some point previously, until it became too wet.
Tall fir trees tower above me. I reach the signposts that I was looking for: it will be only 3.2 kilometres' walk to Tulijärvi shelter. This is good news because it isn't dark yet which means that at least part of the way will be easy to hike.
On the left side of the path I get a glimpse of Kotajärvi lake. Last time I stopped at the other end of the lake where it is possible to make a fire - there is plenty of firewood. As it is so late in the day there is no point in making even the tiniest detour and have a snack. It is such a small distance to Tulijärvi, after all!
There are quite a few tall, barkless snags by the side of the path. So many forests these days are commercial forests where you can practically never see them so I feel priviledged to meet so many right here. 
Walking in these woods left to grow wild is so easy that you could call this a luxury. The ground is flat and it would be easy to walk anywhere without a path underneath my feet. In my mind I compare this to the (worst) commercial forests which have met their end at final felling. Replanting after that usually requires manual work but many forest owners prefer to use machinery as much as possible. With mounding, the landscape changes most because it means that an excavator scoops a hole in the ground and the seedling is planted on top of the mound next to the hole. Add to that the tree stumps, branches etc. left to rot and the area is very easily unwalkable for a long time. Compared to that, this is a paradise.
The route continues marked with white paint and blue ribbons, although I am leaving behind the Pyhä-Häkki national park. The blue ribbon confirms that I am on Central Finland Provincial Trail towards the north. It seems that light is beginning to fade slowly.
Whether the reason is the fading light or something else that distracts me but for some reason I don't open my map here and automatically follow the "stronger" trail, turning to the left. It is so easy to see that Pyhä-Häkki national park is behind me because my (untrained) eyes spot enduro motorcycle marks on the ground. Without them, the path would be excellent but the tyres have made the trail muddy.
What is this? Another National Park sign at the sharp bend? Wait a minute... Finally, I take out my map and realize I should have continued along another trail and not turn here. However, there are also white paint marks on the trees so this is a bit confusing. Sigh. I won't bother to turn back because I will be able to rejoin the Tulijärvi trail very soon if I just continue walking.
In the fading light, I follow the path straight to Rahelampi pond, my boots sinking into the soft mossy ground by the shore. Just a quick view before getting back to the proper trail; again I meet a Pyhä-Häkki national park signpost. I turn back, take a sharp turn left and follow a path close to the shore. Seeing the white trail marks descending from the right in the distance is a lovely sight - I am once again back on the trail.
The path takes me through heather-covered ground and I am thankful for the trail being marked with white paint which is very easy to spot in the dark even without wearing a headlamp. The next sign reveals that I have walked about 5 kilometres from Pyhä-Häkki and it's only 18 kilometers to Kannonkoski, the next village. That would be tomorrow, right?  In the dusk, the narrow path reaches a road and I meet the next trail sign. Only 0.5 kilometers to Tulijärvi shelter. Almost there!
I walk down a tiny road and guess that my destination is only few steps away although I can hardly see a thing. A headlamp is indeed a necessity at this time of the day - or night. I've spent the last two kilometers wondering if there are any others at the shelter and how great it will be to make a fire there...  The shelter looks pretty good and I take off my backpack. Next: make a fire. However, an unpleasant surprise is waiting for me - there is absolutely no firewood in the shed. This is a first for a long time! The guest book reveals that I'm not the only one who has experienced the same... 

I switch off my headlamp and start adjusting my eyes to the darkness. After a while I start to discern something, but it is already so dark that it is impossible to see the lake Tulijärvi right next to me unless I go to the shore. It is ironic. After all, the lake and the shelter bear the name Tulijärvi - tuli means fire. Fireless lake, I would say! What should I do? I don't fancy spending a night here without a fire. Unfortunately that means... A walk back to the car at Pyhä-Häkki.

Darkness surrounds me as I walk back to the nearest road. I could return via the same path but I choose to take a different, slightly longer route (7-8 km) instead, walking along the roads. It will be easier now that there is so little light. Suddenly I see a light flash on my right, in the direction of the path that I took to come here. Apparently there are one or two other hikers approaching the Tulijärvi shelter. Hope they will enjoy it more than I did! I switch off my headlamp and walk fairly briskly in the dark, under few stars, passing only few houses on the solitary road. A different Friday night anyway; it seems that I'll continue along the Central Finland Provincial Trail to Kannonkoski another time :)

No comments:

Post a Comment