Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

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Shoulder Season Chill Out

Shoulder seasons are interesting time for outdoor activities. An unusual mix of seasonal activities is possible, many things are little more challenging than during “normal seasons” and even popular destinations are usually quiet so you can have the wilderness for yourself.

Shoulder season packrafting trails…

Super-cute little furballs!

N had holiday on the last week of October but as I had some work to do a normal one-week hiking trip wasn’t an option. So instead we did something else. It was rainy and grey with temperature around +6C in the South-East Finland so North sounded like a better option. As we both wanted to visit Husky Center Kolmiloukko (we both had been working there the previous two winters) the North-East* was the way to go. (* In Finnish the are called Koillismaa meaning North-East land even though it’s still far from the most North-East parts of Finland…)

The owner of Kolmiloukko had said we should take skis instead of mountain bikes and we believed him and left the bikes at home but took packrafts instead of skis. Once we arrived at the snowy North-East we started to think if we should’ve taken the skis after all… The first days were spent at the Kolmiloukko catching up, reconnecting with the dogs training for the upcoming season and of course playing with the adorable husky puppies!

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Packrafting at Savinajoki

The main trip of the week was to be a packrafting trip at Oulanka National Park. There are plenty of interesting rivers at the area ranging from small streams to roaring class V drops. As N isn’t that familiar with white water packrafting we chose Savinajoki, a 15km long class I-II river, as our destination. We got the starting point little late and from the bridge it looked like there would be little water and plenty of ice, especially as there were some lake sections in the beginning. Well, it’s shoulder season so ice is part of the game. As are short days. The two combined lead to quick decision of not boating all the way but hiking at an open wilderness hut near the mouth of the river and doing a day trip from there. The hike in turned to be some 6km longer than expected as the last bit of road was not accessible with our car.

With badly packed packs we hiked to the hut arriving in the dark around 17 pm. Short days also mean long evenings so a hut or comfortable shelter is welcome. And so is good slow cooking food and loads of hot beverages. And we had both. Perfect relaxed time in the backcountry. There had been a group of four hikers from the UK at the hut the previous day but during our stay we didn’t see anyone else and had the hut for ourselves.

The next day we started to hike upstream the Savinajoki river scouting on the way when possible from the trail. The 80-kilometer Karhunkierros trail follows the river before reaching its Northern terminus at Hautajärvi and crossing the Arctic Circle. The Savilampi lake at the mouth of the river was mostly frozen but the river was mostly free of ice. The water level was very low, even lower than on average in the late summer or autumn but it still looked quite packraftable.

We didn’t walk all the way up the river but pushed to the river through the snow and forest maybe one-third of the way from the lake. We had some hot tea from Thermos bottle and energy from bars to keep us warm as we inflate the packrafts and put on the secret weapons: Ursuk drysuits. I have no desire to go white water paddling on shoulder seasons without a proper dry suit. N was using my prototype packrafting specific suit which is two or three sizes too big for her so it was little bulky and the neck didn’t seal properly but it was still a way better than only wearing hard-shell clothing.

After breaking few meters of ice we were in the nice flow going down stream with decent speed. We got stuck on rocks every now and then but mostly it was good going maneuvering around rocks and occasional bigger wave. Typical rocky class I-II river with low water but enough water to keep it enjoyable.

The paddling went fast and soon we were at the Savilampi lake and reached the edge of the ice. The ice wasn’t strong enough to support a packraft for pushing ourselves over it but was weak enough to be break under the bow of the packraft when paddling vigorously. This was hard work but I was quite happy as it warmed up my fingers that had gotten very cold during the downstream part. 3mm neoprene gloves are not enough for me with aluminium paddle and temps (water and air) near 0C.

First we tried to break our way straight across the lake towards the hut but that didn’t work. There was just too much ice. After a while we turned towards the Northern shore and were soon walking on top of an esker back to the trail and hut. More real food was cooked, hot beverages were consumed and pancakes were enjoyed. Good time. A top tip for spending long shoulder season evenings at huts is to bring candles! And a book. N had one, I didn’t but would’ve liked to have one.

The next day was the walk back. We planned to go along a different route following first a 6-kilometer Kanjonin Kurkkaus trail along the canyon of the upper Oulankajoki river and then head to a forest road back to the main road and our car (parked at a local farm with the kind permission of the owners). There had been a proper autumn storm on the area and several fallen trees blocked the trail giving a bit of extra wilderness feeling to the otherwise well-marked and established trail. The river looked awesome and the big rocky cliffs were very impressive. I’ll be definitely back – when there is more water! But I’ll be down in the canyon in a packraft…

Once at the road we had learned our lesson from the first day’s walk-in with the heavyish packs and utilized a packraft as a sled pulling the loads instead of carrying. A great option on easy terrain (like a snow-covered forest road).

Day trip along the Pieni Karhunkierros trail

After the packrafting trip we spent some time at a cottage at Ruka (a fjell with a skiing center) and did a day trip to one of the most famous and frequently visited trails in Finland: the 12-kilometer Pieni Karhunkierros trail. It’s a nice trail following the scenic riverside of Kitkajoki river and crossing the old-grown spruce forests of the area. As it’s very popular trail it’s very well-marked and established and even eroded and worn. Going there during the shoulder seasons has advantages: fewer visitors and the snow covers parts of the infrastructure and erosion so it feels more wild – and you also probably smaller impact as you walk on snow!

We were again on the trail little late and had to hurry a bit to get out before the dark but it was a nice day walk. For me the Kitkajoki river was naturally the most interesting part. As the water level was low the class III Myllykoski and class IV Aallokkokoski didn’t seem too bad. If I would’ve had a dry suit in the car I would’ve been very tempted to drop the walk and paddle the rapids with my packraft. But as I said: no dry suit = no shoulder season white water paddling. And my suit was drying at the cottage.

The next rapid dowstream, Jyrävä, was about as scary as I thought it would be. A rocky nine meter drop with water squeezing between rocky river banks. With low water it didn’t look much easier, only more rocky. Not for me. At least not yet and probably not with a packraft. The rest of the trail was more in the woods with occasional glimpse at the river until the trail crossed the river and ascended up to the forests to return back to Myllykoski rapid.

On the trail I was missing two things: proper gaiters and walking poles. As plan was to spent most of the time in dry suit I didn’t take proper gaiters to accompany my Merrel Proterra goretex mids (goretex mids are great for the shoulder seasons). And as I don’t usually take poles for packrafting trip I didn’t have them with me at all. Both would’ve helped a lot in the snow.

As a conclusion the week was quite succesful: peaceful and relaxed with nice views even though the weather was mostly grey and uninspiring. The little packrafting we did was good and I’ll be definitely returning to the area in summer when the temperatures are warmer and there is more water in the rivers. It’s a great destination for packrafting!

Pedal and Stumble – First Bikepacking Trip

This is a slightly delayd story of my first bikepacking overnighter… The story form the second trip with auroras and everything can be found from here.

I’ve been interested in bikepacking for quite some time and I’ve been planning to buy a decent bike for over a year now. At the end of the summer I stumbled upon a heavily discounted 29er hardtail bike at the local shop and before I even noticed it I was a happy owner of a Ghost SE 2920.

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After few tours around the local trails I had a great chance to go for an overnighter bikepacking trip at Turku with the bikepacking gurus and fellow outdoor bloggers Toni Lund and Peter Nylund. After the trip I was busy guiding so Toni and Peter got the advantage and have already published their trip reports. But those reports seem to be missing some killer duckboards, several stumbles and occasional OTB… (See, I’m not complete newbie as I’m very familiar with the special terms!)

My trip started with a bike ride from home to catch the morning train from Lappeenranta to Turku. For the afternoon the trip was interrupted with non-wilderness related business with Ursuk but at the afternoon I was again on the bike on my way to shop some food for the overnighter. For schedule and logistical reasons Peter came to pick me from the shop and we took a car ride to Kurjenrahka National Park.

It was drizzling at the parking area when we arrived. But that didn’t really matter. I was eager to get going on my first bikepacking trip! We filled our water bottles and soon we were on the move on some very nice trails. Peter said getting to lean-to would take at least an hour. The trails were quite wide going through very green spruce forest with some rocks and roots but nothing too bad. But that was only the beginning…

Yours truly, photo by Peter Nylund.

When planning the trip Peter had asked if I could drive on duckboards. I promptly answered that I could and if not, I would learn. Back in the days I had driven duckboards with a 26″ MTB with 40mm tyres so I was quite confident with the matter. But that was 10-15 years ago and on dry and intact duckboards.

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The duckboards at Kurjenrahka were different. They were wet, worn, decayed, sometimes broken and often offered 4 inch of driveable width, few inch gap and another 4 inch of drivable board. The gap was just big enough to fit my 52mm tyres and slow me down. Slow me down really fast. And the wet and broken duckboards made sure this also happened every now and then.

It shouldn’t go like that… Photo by Peter Nylund.

And there were plenty of these duckboards on the way. I’m sure Peter, who was driving ahead, didn’t see me faceplanting into the bog but I guess the going was slow enough that he offered to switch bikes and I could drive with his Surly fatty. And the fatbike was great! The extra rubber on the tyres was especially welcome on the duckboards but the ride was generally smoother and stable and the bike felt more capable, and maybe even more suitable for beginner than the 29er.

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After one and half hours of pedaling and stumbling (I think I saw Peter also put his feet on the ground once so it must have been pretty demanding trail…) we arrived to the Vajosuo shelter in the twilight. Toni wasn’t there yet so we made a fire and got started with hot drinks.

2013_09_27_9999_1200Later Toni arrived and we had a great evening chatting, drinking and eating by the fire. It’s always awesome to meet with like-minded people and fellow bloggers in real life, and especially in wilderness settings. Peter had the gourmet food (and beers) you’d expect from a wilderness guide student and Toni had the minimalistic stove setup, some freeze-dried food and plenty of water, as you’d expect from a competing extreme cyclist… I had the proven Brovernighter combination of grilled sausages, buns and blue cheese. And naturally, a beer as well.

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After midnight it was time to retire to our sleeping bags as we were going to have an early start. I slept in a Madtree Core hammock, sheltered from the drizzle under a Rae tarp. I’ve been testing this setup for a few nights now and it’s very light, very minimalistic but also functional setup. More of it later after some more testing.

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After short but good night’s sleep I woke up to a blaze of fire that Peter had already lit (as you’d expect from an aspiring wilderness guide). After breakfast it was time to head back to the car the same way we came as Peter had to go to work and I had a train to catch. This time I drove all the way with my own 29er, scooting most of the deadly duckboards. The going felt actually little easier already so it really was a steep learning curve. And it still is. That’s the joy of adding new components to your outdoors hobbies!

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Peter showing how it’s done.

After a while in the car listening to quality extreme metal I quickly found myself carrying my bike (and a full-sized Subway sandwich) into the train to return back to Lappeenranta.

Thanks for the great trip guys! And now I want a fatbike even more than before…

Packrafting with Autumn Colors and Auroras

Less words, more photos.

Packrafting the Reisaelva in Reisadalen. The last day of the one-week tour.

The last week I was guiding a one-week packrafting tour from Kilpisjärvi (Finland) to Reisadalen (Norway). Unlike the last time I was there, we had good luck with really good weather, nice autumnal colours (ruska) and auroras almost every night.

The trip started from Kilpisjärvi where we followed the Nordkalottleden near the Kuonjarjohka hut for our first night. There were some footwear problems that lead two of the clients do most of the tour in more or less improvised footwear. But apparently neoprene diving booties with double socks are good enough for hiking with heavy rucksack over the mountains to Norway… I had some though clients with great moral.

After a cold night we continued with perfect weather to Meekonjärvi where we inflated the packrafts and got on the waters. This is the most packrafts in one place in Finland that I’ve ever seen. Scenery was beautiful and water level very low.

The little clouds we had the previous evening quickly made way the sunrise and a cloud inversion over the lakes. We continued with rafting going down the Poroeno river which had very, very low water level. After enough of the rocky rapids we decided to switch to walking and headed towards North-East off-trail. Still perfect weather all day.

The fourth day started with thick pea-soup mist that quickly changed to blue skies and just as quickly turned into cold drizzle with wind and thick cloud cover. Luckily the clouds broke and the sun returned in the afternoon once little further on the Norwegian side of the border. Even though I say it myself, the navigation on this off-trail sections went very smoothly. We decided to push little longer than planned and ended up camping in the tree line on the slopes of Jierta fjell.

The fifth day was short: traverse the slopes of Jierta, descent down into the Reisadalen canyon/valley/ravine and follow a trail to Nedrefosshytta hut. A luxurious hut on Finnish standards with sauna and everything. Long afternoon and evening to relax after the initial longer days: good food, a bit of reading, sauna and swim in the river with auroras later in the night.

The next day we did a day-hike up the Reisaelva river to Imofossen waterfall. The trail up to the waterfall was interesting but easy enough without backpacks. The river looks great further up from the hut except for the narrow canyon closer to the (definitely not boatable) waterfall. I think the canyon might be packraftable… I would just need skilled company, some climbing gear to descent in and then a big commitment to run it down… After the day trip we tidied the cabin, lashed rucksacks on the packrafts and headed down stream in search of a perfect gravel bar camp site. And we found one.

Later in the evening it turned into even more of a perfect spot with good company, camp fire and auroras dancing above the canyon walls.

The last day was an enjoyable, lazy rafting down the river with good flow and enough water despite the almost record-low water level. We visited Mollifossen on the way, admired eagles flying above us and finally arrived to our pick-up point just to find out the road was closed due a damaged bridge. But luckily, packrafts are easy to carry that extra mile…

It was simply a splendid tour. On tours like this it’s easy to love my job.

This was the last guided packraft tour I’ll be doing this year but if you’re interested, I will be offering more the next year!

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And if you would like to see more photos, there are plenty more in my gallery.

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Packrafts for the tour were from Backpacking North. If you need a packraft, support a local business and rent one from here.

And if you need a guide or just good company, you know who to ask from. 😉

While I am Away

Here are some photos and words from an overnight trip with N the last weekend.

When this post magically appears online I’ll be on my way guiding a one-week packrafting tour from Kilpisjärvi (Finland) to Reisadalen (Norway). You can follow our tour over Social Hiking. The tracking is based on SPOT 2, of which I wrote a longish review, so don’t be worried even if the tracking stops or disappears. It’s just the SPOT…

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But now, the overnighter!

We hadn’t been on an overnight trip (or anything longer) with N since early June so it was about to time to change that and as the weather was beautiful and forecast good we headed to a lean-to (Luotolahdenkapia) by lake Kuolimo near some impressive rocky shores. The start was delayed a bit and we walked along the Orrainpolku trail mostly in the dusk twilight occasionally spooked by Black Grouses (Tetrao Tetrix) taking on their wings from the nearby trees. The views were beautiful also in the dusk.

At the lean-to N started to prepare food (mushroom soup with bacon, onion and forest mushrooms picked on the way) and I started to get familiar with the Madtree Core hammock. We had late but great dinner with some red followed with steam-baked chocolate cake and quality beer by the BushBuddy campfire (real open fire was prohibited because of the dryness).

After midnight I retired to the hammock while slept in the lean-to. I didn’t pitch the Rae tarp to be able to enjoy the starry skies but at the first hint of dawn twilight I was awoken by rain starting to fall on me and quick decision was to gather the gear and go into the lean-to instead of applying the tarp. So sorry, no photos of the Madtree goodies. But don’t worry I’ll write more about them later.

We slept in, prepared breakfast on the BushBuddy and as the weather got better back-tracked a bit to see the nice views in the daylight. Then we walked the rest of the 10km trail loop back to the car visiting another lean-to and picking some mushrooms on the way.

It was a nice little trip. I believe there are more local overnighters to come in the future since I decided to invest on a new bike (a Ghost SE 2920, for the bike geeks out there) which should bring a great twist to these little trips close to home.

PS. Some more photos in my gallery if you’re interested.

Bike, Hike, Paddle – Pöyrisjoki Trip Report

Pöyrisjoki and Ounasjoki watershed

Pöyrisjoki river is often listed as one of the four great wilderness rivers of Finland. Like the rest of the great wilderness rivers (Lätäseno, Näätämö and Ivalojoki rivers) the Pöyrisjoki in situated in Lapland high over the Arctic Circle as that’s where’s most of Finland’s wilderness and free-flowing rivers are. The Pöyrisjoki river flows South from Pöyrisjärvi lake through the Pöyrisjärvi wilderness area to Vuontisjärvi lake and later joins the Ounasjoki river. The Pöyrisjoki river is about 60km long (some references state the river being 43km in length but the 60km is closer to reality) and drops over 110 meters on the way with rapids ranging from class 1- to class 4. It was the destination of my main trip of the summer.

Vuontisjärvi lake, the end of Pöyrisjoki river.

If you’re interested in the Ounasjoki watershed, there is a great information page about it at www.ounasjoki.fi. Unfortunately it’s in Finnish only but the map with white water classifications is very informative and you can easily translate the short descriptions of rivers and rapids. Please note that even though there are GPS coordinates for each rapid we didn’t find them completely accurate so normal caution is still needed when traveling on rivers.

Proksinkurkkio (class 2), one of the many shallow and rocky rapids.

The plan

After packrafting the spectacular Valtijoki-Poroeno-Lätäseno continuum in 2011 and not having done much packrafting in 2012 (but still some) I was looking for a proper wilderness packrafting trip for this summer. A friend, fellow wilderness guide and generally awesome outdoor’s guy Antti was also getting a packraft this year so we decided to do a trip together. After some planning Pöyrisjoki was chosen as the destination but unfortunately Antti was too busy in early summer for us to raft it in the spring flood so we had to go in late July and just hope for enough water…

Because of schedule restraints a fast (and lightish) approach for the trip seemed appropriate as we had four days for the 140+km round trip. The plan was quite simple:

– drive to the end of the paddling section (Vuontisjärvi), a very long drive from the South
– bike from Vuontisjärvi to the end of the road (Näkkälä), 60km
– hike from Näkkälä to the lake (Pöyrisjärvi lake), 20+km
– paddle the river from the lake to the car, 60km

Ugly but illustrative: grey = bike, green = hike, blue = paddle.

Ugly but illustrative. Grey = bike, green = hike, blue = paddle.

After paddling we’d pick up the bikes with the car. The Pöyrisjärvi wilderness area would make also great bikepacking but because we had little tight schedule we decided to bike on the road to save some time and as we didn’t want to paddle big white water with bikes on the packrafts we leaved them at the end of the road. But interesting options exist for the interested and skilled.

Bikepacking perfection?

Day 0 – Very early start

One of the schedule restraints was that I was working for the weekend prior the trip. This meant I had to pack a couple of days in advance and travel with extra luggage, especially as the forecast was on the wet and cold side. As my work ended around 2.00 a.m. on Sunday morning Antti came to pick me up and we headed North. I mostly slept the first half of the long drive to North and Antti also had to take a longish nap to stay awake which lead us arriving to Vuontisjärvi quite late in the evening despite our early start.

As it was late and we needed to sort the kit one more time, we decided to spend the night at Vuontisjärvi. The river flows down to the lake Vuontisjärvi by a little public beach and there is a rental sauna and an open “kota” shelter that we happily utilized. Gear was tweaked and packrafts tested. I was especially interested to test the new Anfibio Thigh Straps I had installed just before the trip and hadn’t tested them yet. They were awesome! (More on them later as a separate post…)

The evening was relatively cool and mosquitoes very few so we slept really well in the shelter.

Day 1 – Hard biking and great walking

The morning was beautiful: sunny and warm. I was slightly worried about biking with a 20kg backpack so I strapped the packraft to the handlebars and paddle to the frame to lighten my load. After this my HMG Expedition felt actually quite good. I was even more worried about Antti’s backpack: he had quite a lot of kit stuffed in and strapped around his 40 liter Hiko Trek Backpack. But as Antti’s backpack for an approach hike of a climbing & skiing trip to Kebnekaise the last autumn had got the better of a 40kg scale – before adding telemark boots and skis on top of it – I was convinced he knew what he was doing…

After gathering the wind blow river notes from all over the beach we started pedaling. We were both riding slightly too small 26″ MTBs sporting a clip-in pedals, and we were having trail runners. But it was all good and we were eager to get going.

After the first 20km of biking we arrived to the town of Hetta and had a break at the local bakery. Antti was starting to feel his saddle little too well so we tried to cushion it with my PFD.

After turning towards North we had a thickening cloud cover,headwind and something that felt like a constant uphill… Clouds and wind were welcome to keep us cool but headwind and uphill neglected the effect quite well.

The seat cushioning didn’t work out too well and to save Antti’s ass we improvised a rack from paddle and straps to take some of the weight. It worked surprisingly well but failed couple of times towards the end scattering the kit on the road side…

After some reindeer dodging we arrived to the end of the road at Näkkälä. We chained the bikes into a tree, had lunch, repacked our rucksacks once again and headed towards the hills. It was still cloudy with a breeze and little on the cool side. No bugs. Walking was great and we decided to take a high route on the hill tops instead of following the ATV trail.

Once off trail and on the hills there was a real sense of wilderness and adventure, especially as we didn’t have any maps with us. (Yes, yes, it’s bad. Don’t do it.) But navigation on the hills was easy, and we had a GPS as a back-up. There were ripe cloudberries, a Golden Eagle soaring above the horizon, heards of reindeers and good scenery. Some of the best outdoors moments for me this summer.

Golden Eagle, first time I’ve seen one at Finnish fjells.

Reindeers, I’ve seen plenty of them on Finnish fjells.

Antti, you can meet him occasionally on the Finnish fjells.

From the top of Jierttisvaara we spotted a possible camp site by one of the little lakes (Jiertisrovanjärvi). As we descended down the cloud cover broke and sun started to shine. Swim, fishing and photography followed. In the camp the bugs started to get up to annoying levels but eased out a bit after the sun set and air got little cooler.

Day 2 – The beauty of lake Pöyrisjärvi

The next morning was hot! The clouds and breeze were gone and sun was blasting from a clear blue sky. A morning swim was needed and breakfast was had walking in circles (to keep the bugs away from you mouth) instead of sitting in the now sauna-like tent. We packed up and headed to the ATV trail as we wanted to check the open wilderness hut by the lake. We knew the trail would take us there so we didn’t need to use the GPS.

The ATV trail was an ATV trail but still quite a nice one as the tyres had broken the surface soil and revealed the fine sand. We walked barefooted all the way to the wilderness hut enjoying the fine soft sand and occasional easy water crossing.

At the hut we had lunch and checked the likely launching site for packrafting: A perfect shallow and long sandy beach! As the lake was mirror calm, sun blasting and water in the shore was relatively warm (+15C?) we didn’t bother to start paddling quite yet  but continued the barefoot walking at the water’s edge towing our gear in packrafts. There weren’t even bugs to bother us!

Even though the conditions at the time were heavenly we had a grim reminder that it’s not always the case: A boat with police officer and specially trained dog was out on the lake searching for a body of a man drowned in a storm a week earlier. A group of four man had gone to the lake with a boat in stormy weather and capsized. Two younger man had been wearing PFDs and managed to swim ashore but two older men had drowned. A serious reminder that one should always respect the water and the weather.

All good things come to an end and so did our beach walk. We jumped into our boats and started paddling towards the Eastern corner of the lake and the river. Going was good and according to the GPS we were paddling around 4km/h with little help from a gentle backwind. Once at the river we found another perfect beach (which would’ve also made an awesome camp site). We took a swim and spent some time admiring the grayling swimming in the river. The fish were not in a mood for catching Antti’s lures so we set our packrafts on the river and started paddling.

Quite soon we arrived to the first rapid, a class 1- Laulunivat. Easy in a way but rocky and shallow. After some paddling the 1+ Suomaniva followed. Again rocky and shallow. Then a long flat section followed. But paddling the flat felt actually quite good. But mentally I had been prepared for faster and more splashy going. We were happy that we hadn’t done the dry suits as we were toasting even in our normal clothing.

Good camp sites were scarce along the river but there was a nice little meadow at Proksinkurkkio. We pitched tent and changed into our Ursuk MPS dry suits as Antti wanted to test his packraft in the class 2 Proksinkurkkio.

There started to be a very unpleasant amount of mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums so we paddled down the rapid with head nets on… The rapid was quite long but again very rocky and shallow. It was easy run but as avoiding all the rocks was impossible it was also little frustrating: No matter what ninja moves you pulled, you’d hit a rock more often than not.

After the rapid we did some more testing with the Alpacka Gravity Grip and Anfibio Thigh Straps. Both enable incredible control compared to unrigged packraft making bracing actually possible and useful. We also tested wet exits and found them easy as always.

The paddle is not in the bottom. Antti testing bracing with the Gravity Grip.

Antti testing wet exit with Gravity Grip.

But as the rapid wasn’t very inspiring we returned back to camp after the run. Antti was dying for some fishing (he hadn’t caught any yet) and while he went back to the rapid I wandered around the camp eating cloudberries and picking some mushrooms (Leccinum versipelle) for a side dish. As long as I maintained a good pace the bugs stayed behind my back and I managed without a head net.

Antti had luck with the graylings and so we had two dinners: first a full pot of couscous and then fried mushrooms and grayling. This was welcome as we had found our standard dinner a little too small. After the dinner it was well past midnight and time to sleep. Even though the day had been hot it cooled down quickly in the evening.

Day 3 – A boring river

The wake up on the third day was one of the most unpleasant I’ve ever had while camping.

I woke around 6.00 a.m. with very dry mouth and feeling little weird. The sun was hammering out tent from the clear blue sky again and it was quite hot so I thought that to be the reason. Few minutes later I felt very nauseous and had to bolt out from the tent to vomit. Not the most pleasant of wake ups, specially with the hordes of bugs eating you alive at the same time! After emptying my stomach I had some water and went back to the shelter of our tent. I was still feeling sick and soon had to go out again.

All sorts of thoughts were going around my head: A food poisoning in the middle of nowhere? I was very sure of the mushrooms I had picked but what if I was wrong? Would this be the end of the trip? What would be the best way to get myself out from here? Float down? Walk out? Call a pick up?

After some time Antti woke up as it was too hot to actually sleep in the tent. I told him the situation and that I needed some time to recover before being able to continue. Antti was feeling okay and decided to go fishing while waiting. After couple of hours of carefully hydrating and resting I was starting to feel better and we had breakfast, broke the camp and continued down the river with the hordes of bugs following our packrafts. I was still feeling little week and let Antti lead the way.

Note: I’m very positive I picked the right mushrooms, but… Most or all of the mushrooms of the Leccinum family require thorough cooking to be edible. This is something I knew even at the time and I thought we had done it right but apparently we hadn’t. I got, in my opinion, quite a strong reaction but Antti had just a slightly upset stomach. But even a mild case of food poisoning can be dangerous, especially in the backcountry. So, always be carefull with mushrooms and remember to cook them in a proper way!

There were some technically easy but again very shallow and rocky rapids to navigate. Occasionally they were fun but quite often they started to feel just like work: avoiding all the rocks was impossible and sometimes pushing with paddle and hands was required to get over rocky ledges. But we still run every meter in the packrafts. There were also long stretches of flat water that were not very entertaining, especially as it was a hot day, we had plenty of bugs and I was still feeling weak after the mushroom episode…

Rocky and shallow at its worst.

Late in the afternoon we passed by some cottages and meet the only person on the way from Pöyrisjärvi to Vuontisjärvi. The older local lady was spending time at the cottage and picking cloudberries. We had a little chat floating by ans she said that the water level was about 0,5 meters higher than usually as the summer head been very rainy. We were very happy for the rains as with half-a-meter lower water level we would’ve had to walk down most of the rapids.

It’s a paradise for Grayling fishers!

We paddled some more flat sections and couple of easy class 1 sections, of which Purnunkoski and Lumikoski had adequate water level to be actually fun and not just plain rocky. We camped at the mouth of the Lumikoski. I pitched tent, took a swim and sheltered myself from the bugs inside the tent continuing the re-hydration process. Antti went to do some more fishing and prepared the dinner. This time it didn’t include mushrooms!

Day 4 – The best bits saved last

As our camp spot was shaded by the brich we were able to sleep long despite the merciless sun and also enjoyed the breakfast in the tent sheltered from the bugs. We had high expectations for the last day as there was bigger and more difficult white water to come! We were both feeling good and the morale was high despite having a longish lake-like section to cross.

The “lake” turned out to be very shallow and dotted with small islets and vegetation with occasional views to the hills so it was actually very nice. I noticed I had forgotten my sunglasses at the camp but as we had been coming down stream for an hour, I decided to manage without instead of the laborious upstream paddling or bushwhacking up and down the river banks.

The faster section started with the normal shallow and rocky stuff. Safe and relatively easy with a packraft but not very rewarding boating. The class 2+ (3) Pahtakoski started to be already proper fun: enough water not to hit the rocks all the time and some big waves and little drops/slides.

The lower (and the better) half of Pahtakoski (2+).

Pahtakoski (2+) from a different perspective.

After Pahtakoski we arrived to the main course of the day: the Kuirinkurkkio rapid (4-). The rapid starts with a short fast flowing slide with some waves next to a bit of undercut rock (class 3). Then follows a calm pool section followed with two options: left branch is a narrow but pretty straight forward swift run (class 3+) and the right branch is a proper 1,5 meter rocky drop with a bit of hydraulics (class 4). We scouted the rapid and were little intimidated by a broken canoe in the forest after the last drop.

A warning sign?

But despite the canoe we felt confident and decided to first run the thing. While one was paddling, the other one was providing safety from the shore with the Anfibio Throwbags, and the camera! The upper part turned out to be easy and fun, but short.

The upper part of Kuirinkurkkio (3).

Then we proceeded to run the lower left branch which was again fun and fast but also short and quite shallow (basically just a water slide) on places. Not much options there: just avoid hitting the rock wall on the right and enjoy the slide.

The start of the lower left channel of Kuirinkurkkio (3+).

I wanted to try also the bigger drop and as I managed just fine Antti soon followed and we run the drop some six times all together trying different lines and styles. The Kuirinkurkkio would be very demanding, if not impossible, for long vessels. But for a short white water kayak or packraft it is a good run – as long as you know what you are doing!

The lower right channel of Kuirinkurkkio (class 4).

More of the good stuff…

…and some more.

After lunch by the rapid it was time to continue. The class 2 Kirkkokurkkio has some nasty undercuts but with packrafts and the flow we had it wasn’t really a problem. We were little lazy and didn’t bother to scout it by foot but run from eddie to eddie scouting a section at a time from the boats. Same followed at Laakakurkkio (2+). The drop and hydraulics mentioned in the river notes were not bad at all with the flow we had. The rest of the rapids were again shallow and rocky but this time also quite fast and long. They would make great boating with higher water level.

The start or Kirkkokurkkio (class 2). Later there is a big undercut rock wall on the right.

More rocky, splashy and shallow stuff.

After the second to last rapid we had two options: either to paddle couple of kilometers of mostly flat river or pack the rafts, bushwhack to a nearby trail and walk to the car. We decided to boat all the way. The boating wasn’t actually too bad. Going was laborious, as flat water with packraft tends to be, but the spirits were high and we were almost done.

With thunder roaring in the distance a big sandy ridge with the familiar tree silhouette appeared and we arrived at the beach. We enjoyed the warm drinks reserved at the car and felt good. 140+km in little over three days.

Quite soon Antti left to get the bikes, I spread our gear drying in the sun and started to walk from house to house in search for the key to the rental sauna… Finding the key proved little difficult but the friendly locals helped and we happily paid a whole three euros per person for the sauna! Th only little set back was the rain that arrived when I was heating up the sauna – with all the gear spread around the beach…

I had requested Antti to visit the grocery on the way and the evening was spent with sauna, grilled sausages and some more beers. The last night in the shelter turned out to be the worst of the trip (save for the wake up of the day number three): the shelter was hot after the warm days and us having a fire going, mosquitoes were plenty and hungry and the night was restless…

Next morning an early start was required for Antti to pick her girlfriend from airport and for me to catch Mark Roberts of Backpacking North for a Brovernigther but that’s a different story…

Note on the water level

There is no official water level or flow measurements from Pöyrisjoki but if you’re planning a trip to Pöyrisjoki the measurements from Ounasjärvi (a lake draining to Ounasjoki above the Pöyrisjoki) and Ketomella in Ounasjoki (downstream from Pöyrisjoki) might be helpful. During our trip the water level at Ounasjärvi was around 287,1m (discharge 3,5 m^3/s) and at Ketomella 261,9m (flow 25 m^3/s).

The long flat water sections are paddlable around the year at any water level but as the rapids are shallow and rocky, I think majority of them would be not be paddlable with lower water level or at least they wouldn’t be any fun. On the other hand, we found all the rapids expect Kuirinkurkkio to be easy with this water level (and Kuirinkurkkio wasn’t difficult either, just exciting) but with higher water level the nature of the rapids may change dramatically and they may become difficult and even dangerous.

If planning a trip with canoe, kayak or some other boat the special characteristics of packraft are also worth noting: Packrafts are very agile, don’t need much water and are very stable which makes constant rock contacts more irritating than dangerous. For a longer vessel the flat sections will be more fun but the rapids will be more challenging or even impossible.

I hope to return to Pöyrisjoki one day, but probably only for the lower half (as packraft enables hiking in were ever you want to) – and definitely during the spring flood!

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As usually, more photos in my gallery.