Monday, 11 February 2013

Laukaa: Multamäki nature trail

Multamäki nature trail can be found in Laukaa, close to Peurunkajärvi lake in Central Finland. The easiest route to the start of the trail is via Spa Hotel Peurunka (few kilometres north from Laukaa): drive past the spa hotel buildings and follow the road towards  Finninkylä and further until Multamäki. In the winter you may find the private road to Multamäki closed - and the nature trail (luontopolku) sign can be seen right next to the gate. If you are lucky, you may even be able to park by the side of the road - if there isn't too much snow!
I am equipped with snowshoes which proves to be a clever choice because although there is a snowmobile track at the start of the trail, it is made for cross country skiing and not for walking, and very soon we need to part anyway; the nature trail takes a sharp turn to the left and I see virgin snow ahead. The yellow trail signs lead me to the official start of the Multamäki nature trail with a map depicting the route. It seems that no one has stopped here for a snack for quite some time!
This seems to be one of the best marked nature trails in Jyväskylä area - thanks to Laukaa municipality which seems to take excellent care of such routes! 
As is typical on nature trails, there are quite a few signs with more information about nature along the way. However, the snowy weather has covered practically all of them and even if you brush the snow off, the text (in Finnish) is hardly legible because you'd need to scrape the ice off as well. I'm not in the mood for doing that with my woollen mittens! Also, typically these guides describe things that would be easiest to discover when there is no snow on the ground.
So, my walk in the forest is simply a pleasure walk, enjoying the beautiful scenery, the shapes covered with pure white snow, examining footprints and guessing who or what has gone past. Those could be the footprints of elks...
If I wasn't wearing snowshoes, I might be tempted to try a different route but now there's no stopping me. Straight ahead! Anyway, only few meters away I find a fresh trail of another snowshoe walker who makes my going even lighter in the powder snow. I climb up the hill and soon the nature trail again joins a wide trail made by a snowmobile. Careful... But there are no cross country skiers in sight.
Step by step I reach the very top of Multamäki hill, the highest point of the trail. Multamäki hill is part of the original so-called Struve Geodetic Arc (#46) which was measured and marked in the mid 19th century in different countries. There was a survey triangulation station for quite a long time but the last wooden station from 1980 is long gone; in its place is now the kota under which the original plaque still exists.
The view from Multamäki hill is lovely; I am now at 211.4 meters above sea level and lake Peurunkajärvi is about 105 meters below me. Besides the kota (which is the only place where you are allowed to make a fire here on top of the hill) there is also an open shelter for enjoying a snack outdoors. There are quite a few footprints on the snow so this seems to be a pretty popular place.
From the top of Multamäki hill, the nature trail continues down towards the lake, along long and steep wooden steps that are totally covered with snow. Should I take off my snowshoes? No way! I step off the steps and partly slide down the steep hill in the snow, falling down only once...This is so much fun!
When I get down to lake Peurunkajärvi I could even take off my snowshoes because there have been so many other visitors to the shelter - the path in the snow would be so easy to walk on. I can't see anyone skiing on the lake but there are a couple of ice fishermen!
I arrive at exactly the same time to the open shelter as one of the fishermen comes there for his break. Once again, I get to sit in front of a ready made fire and enjoy the moment with hot tea from my thermos flask. Another fisherman joins us and says a shy hello. The fishermen seem surprisingly quiet but soon I find out why: we don't share the same language. Unfortunately, I don't speak Russian so I can't ask whether they've had any luck fishing.
After the relaxing, quiet break by the lake I walk up the hill to finish the trail that goes past some tepees - a surprising sight in a Finnish forest but I suppose they are there for children's camps that are sometimes held at the nearby Multamäki recreation centre, owned by Laukaa municipality. After I've passed the Multamäki centre's buildings, the nature trail sign guides me to join the snowmobile track for the remaining 100-200 meters but I step off it, not wanting to leave my snow shoe prints on a trail that has been made for cross country skiing.

As usual, many trails that are used by walkers for 3/4 of the year when we don't have snow, turn into cross country skiing tracks in the winter. I try to avoid such tracks when I go for a walk and the best way to do it is to wear snowshoes which allow you to walk anywhere - but it may be frustrating if you see that the lovely, hard and wide track is unused when you are stepping deep in the snow. If you ski in the traditional style, there would be room for both skiers and walkers side by side on the track made by a snowmobile, but those who ski fast use ski skating technique which requires the full width of the wide track...  So, unless you are skiing yourself, it is best to stay off the skiing tracks whenever possible, and walk somewhere else.