Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Finland

One Raft, Two Bikes and an Ancient Campsite

The last weekend N and I had a rare overlapping weekend without other projects and an overnighter was soon planned…

I wanted to do some more packrafting and found the Ruokolahden melontareitti, a 110km paddling route with some shelters and fireplaces along the way. As is the case in South-East Finland the route is mostly on the waters of lake Saimaa. But there was also a short river section, Lieviskänjoki, which was of interest for me as a packrafter.

The plan was simple: drop bikes to a shelter at Hiekkaniemi cape, drive to Pieni Jukajärvi lake and paddle 18km along the river and lakes to the shelter, spend the night at the shelter and cycle back to the car on Sunday.

We started the Saturday by dropping the bikes near the shelter and happened to meet some amateur archaeologists who had been searching the area as people have lived and traveled there also on the ancient times some 6000 years ago as the ice sheet had given up the area. The waterways were the natural routes before the time of roads that nowadays, sadly, reach almost every corner of Southern Finland. It was nice to think that we were about to follow an ancient waterway and sleep next to ancient campsite or settlement. There would be also some rock paintings on the way and we planned to take a look, but things don’t always go as planned.

After some more driving we were at the Pieni-Jukajärvi lake and found a good put in to start paddling. Thanks to sleeping in and spending some time chatting with the archaeology enthusiasts we were about two hours behind the planned schedule. But it was only 18 kilometers and we had nearly six hours before sunset and good possibility for a back-wind on the lake so we were confident…

To keep things interesting we had chosen to share an Alpackraft Explorer 42 instead of having separate boats. We hadn’t tried that ever before but it seemed possible. With the two of us and the gear we were probably close to the recommended maximum load of 200 kg and despite being quite big people we did fit in surprisingly comfortably. (We’ve also paddled sections of rivers in a single Alpackraft Llama with plenty of gear but that was far from comfortable…)

The river started as a small ditch but had enough room for the packraft and even a little flow to help us. We passed the first lean-to on our route, populated by a friendly group of men spending quality time in the woods with plenty of booze and car camping equipment. As we were on tight schedule we soon continued on the river taking breaks one at a time while the other was using the paddle as a two-bladed kayak paddle instead of two canoe paddles.

The flow was low and the river was quite densely vegetated, especially under the surface, which slowed us down and instead of the planned 4km/h our speed was around 2km/h and thus the 6 kilometer river took us some three hours leaving less than three to the sunset. As the wind had died we had no hope for packsailing across the lakes so it seemed we’d have to paddle in the dark… It was sort of “all in” situation as the waterway was the shortest route available because of the broken shoreline that was protected and thus without summer houses and roads. And to be honest, a long walk on the gravel wasn’t very inspiring idea either.

So we kept on paddling. 2,7 kilometers across the Lieviskänjärvi lake followed by a short and late lunch break at the mandatory portage around the ruins of an old mill. Then 4 kilometers along the narrow Lieviskänlahti sound. We passed the site of rock paintings in the sunset not having time to stop to search for them and rushed to cross the 6 kilometers of open waters at Muikunselkä and Rajakivenselkä. “Rushed” at what seemed to be 3 km/h as we started to be little tired and uncomfortable in our tiny raft.

It got dark and we had to navigate by the close-by shorelines and the horizon lines against the darkening night sky where stars started to appear. I was cursing myself not checking the time of the moon rise as I had been counting on some moonlight to help us but there wasn’t any available yet. We followed a marked boating lane as it would lead us by the little sandy cape we were aiming for. We paddled without headlamps to preserve our nightvision and to better see the little of the surroundings visible in the distance.

I was getting cold and N wasn’t too keen on paddling on the open lake in the dark.

The latter wasn’t helped by a boat heading to the opposite direction on the lane. We hadn’t seen any boats earlier the day but now heard a boat from the distance and then saw its lights and paddled out from the way towards a nearby island. We continued again, until we heard a second boat approaching. This time we didn’t see any light but heard the boat closing in fast and hastily paddled again out from the way. The boat passed us from a safe distance with high-speed – and without any lights. We decided to take the headlamps at hand to signal our existence and location in case of more boats.

Luckily, there were no more boats and we soon saw the horizon line dropping against a more distant horizon line marking the cape and the end of our night-time paddling. Seven and half hours after the start we had covered the 18 kilometers and were happily ashore on our planned campsite. We wobbled out from the boat with numb toes and stiff feet. To be fair, it wasn’t too bad taking into concideration the time we’d spend paddling in the tiny boat.

We put on more clothes and changed the wet and cold neoprene socks to dry woollen socks and trail runners and started a fire to get warm. Proper packrafting stuff. I noticed I was actually more cold than I had thought while paddling. Something you don’t think too much while you’re concentrated on navigation and making progress… +5 C night-time temps were forecasted and I had been only wearing two thin layers and Anfibio Buoy Boy vest which is not as warm as a typical foam filled PFDs. No wonder I was cold.

About immediately after we got on the shore the moon rose behind our back lighting the scenery. Soup, toasted sandwiches and hot chocolate tasted very good. Actually, even better than the cold beer. I spend some time taking photos of the moonlit mist on the lake before retiring to the warmth of my sleeping bag, once again sleeping on the thickest airbed I’ve ever taken on a trip: the packraft.

I woke occasionally to admire the misty moonlit lake and later the sunrise over the waters but always fell asleep after a short glimpse at the scenery. No ghosts of ancient travelers or hunters bothered our sleep. After sleeping in late the day was started with porridge and local lingon berries, smores (we were too tired to eat them the previous evening) and grower’s cup coffee (Quick verdict: Good coffee but little pricey and the trash would be a problem on longer trips.)

I hadn’t spent much time planning on lashing the gear on my bike and thus ended up with just some gear on the beam rack and most of the odd but lightish kit in my trusty HMG Porter pack. After some iterations and re-lashing I was good to go for the 30+ kilometers back to the car. I had sketched the route roughly on map by following the smallest continuous roads back to the car. I hadn’t payed any attention on the contours and was surprised by the amount of hills on our route. There were plenty. It made good training but would’ve been more fun with less equipment on the back… No surprise there.

We took it easy admiring the forest, rocks and ponds on the way following small winding gravel and sand roads up and down towards East. After a lunch break and couple of hours of pedaling we were back at the car and soon on our way back home for pizzas and beverages. A weekend well spent, though not exactly in the way we I had planned.

The small river provided an interesting adventure and the scenery on the lakes was good with plenty of rocky shores without summer houses or forestry roads, thanks to the conservation areas. The paddling route is worth another visit but next time I’ll take a kayak or canoe and paddle most or all of it. In my opinion packrafts just aren’t much fun on long lake crossings, though this time the darkness gave it a special twist keeping it interesting. But if I have to do extended lake paddling with a packraft the two person variant is a viable option: it’s little faster, you can take breaks in turns and easily socialize while paddling. I’d love to try the Alpackraft Gnu for trips like this. Maybe I’ll just have to buy one…

Special thanks for the Packrafting Store for the equipment I had in for testing!

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Footnote on photos: In addition to my trusted combination of Canon EOS 6D body and the EF 24-105 4 L IS lens I also took my old and nearly forgotten EF 50 1,8 lens and it was great fun to use it in the dark with a Gorillapod. I should keep in mind that DSLRs are systems as the name says and not get stucked using one lens only. It’s not good for inspiration. Now I found myself looking for reasonably priced high aperture lenses around the 24-35mm range. Any suggestions?

Packrafting at Kymijoki

A couple of weeks ago I was guiding a packrafting course at Kymijoki and had great time first alone and then with a nice group. Packrafting seems to be almost always great fun.

I went to the river a day ahead to check the water level and scout the rapids I’d been paddling only with considerably higher water level. I got at Kuovinkallio shelter, my starting point and shelter for the night, little late but was on the waters in 15 minutes after parking the car. I paddled around the area wondering the low water level and polishing plans for the days to come. Except for the roar of the water it was silent and even the roar was somehow soothing.

During the hasty start I had forgotten to take my headlamp and had decided I should stop after the sunset to have enough light for the short walk back to the shelter and to set the camp. Paddling alone in the maze of islands was so fun I ended up getting out an hour after the sunset and took an adventurous shortcut back to the shelter through the dark forest without my headlamp…

I met a local fishing supervisor and outdoors man at the shelter and had a great chat with him about the life by the river, local hunting and fishing and so on. After he left I started preparing late dinner and enjoyed the dark and silent surroundings under the stars. I fell asleep on my packraft thinking I should probably do solo trips more often…

The next morning I met the group on a breakfast at Aholan Lomalaidun and soon we were on the shore getting to know the tools for the weekend. The plan was to paddle to the nearby lake for starters but the headwind made our upstream paddling efforts useless. But as everybody had some previous paddling experience we changed the course and headed downstream for some swifter water. The day was spent learning basic techniques for moving water and at the end of the day we walked and paddled upstream back to Ahola for dinner and some self-rescue training with sauna as a reward.

The next day we paddled and floated again down the river, doing some training on the way towards bigger rapids. Despite the very low water level (it apparently hit the all time record low on Sunday) there was still plenty of waves and excitement on the Martinkoski rapids. There is sort of a “water guarantee” on Kymijoki, there’s always something for almost everyone, even enough to cause an involuntary swim…

On the way back we had the wind on our back and one of the group got a chance to try his Windpaddle Cruiser sail. Even with very light wind he was as fast as I was paddling an Explorer 42 as a solo boat with quite some effort. Sails do make sense and Packrafting-Store is now stocking them as well! After the hard paddle against the current it was time for good-byes.

It was a good course with a nice group. And at least one new packrafter was born on the currents of Kymijoki which makes me super happy. You can find Erkki’s blog post (in Finnish) here and some videos here and here. There will be more courses in 2015 for sure.

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As usual, some more photos in my gallery.

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PS. Remember the First Finnish Packraft Gathering!

It’s turning into an international event with participants coming also from abroad. It’s turning out to be quite popular event and if you have even slightest interest in packrafting I think it’ll be a blast! So, if you have the time on 3.-5.10.2014 and have or can get a raft, make sure to be there! With only one portage the route we’re planning is doable even with a PVC pool toy but for th best experience I’d recommend a real packraft. If you don’t have one, you can rent one from Backpacking North or Packrafting Store.

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. 😉

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.

Summer Solstice Solitude

Another overnighter trip report! Sorry, if you are getting bored. I’ll try write about kit/gear/stuff later, and of course finish the posts about the past winter. But for now, trip report it is!

My original plan was to spend the festive mid-summer weekend, Juhannus as we call it, working and I really didn’t have any other plans for the weekend. But things change. And when I found I had no work to do I though of it as a possibility to consume less and be more outdoors. Suits me.

As the weather forecast was good I quite quickly came up with a nice trip idea I named “summer solstice solitude”: borrow friend’s kayak, paddle around the western Pien-Saimaa area and search for a tiny islet to spend the shortest night of the year. I even borrowed Hilleberg Soulo tent to have a free-standing tent with a small footprint to fit on the tiniest of rocky islets.

I got on the waters a bit after 17:00 after a substantial energy level boosting in the form of meat pastries stuffed with additional ham and egg (local specialty called “vety”) with my brother at the Lappeenranta harbour.

The weather was gorgeous and the kayak glided nearly effortlessly across the calm waters. Going was good and I felt confident even though this was my first time on a solo kayaking trip.

I had some small islets in mind but I soon found that I was a month or two late booking my place for the night as angry seagulls had already booked all the nice little islets. And of course most of the bigger islands were littered with summer houses, now occupied with people spending the mid-summer weekend in the traditional Finnish style: cottage by the lake, friends, sauna, barbecue, big bonfire and getting drunk.

With less seagulls and little lower water level this would’ve made a great camp!

As I wanted to have a bit of solitude and an island of my own I kept searching.

After couple of hours of kayaking my feet started to fall asleep. The borrowed kayak was a little bit too tight fit for my well-trained bottom so I decided to have a little beer break and get the blood flowing again.

I continued paddling towards some small islands that had looked promising on the map but found them to be very densely vegetated, not meeting my idea of small rocky islet. So I kept paddling as the going was good and the evening was beautiful.

At one point I decided I should camp by 20:00, then it was 20:30 and finally it was well past 21:00 before I decided to settle on nice rocky cliffs on a bigger island. It wasn’t exactly according to the plan but the island didn’t have any summer houses nor could I spot any on the shores in the horizon and the camp was on a cool spot with great views so I declared it good enough.

There is always something especially appealing in camping on top of a high place!

But immediately after getting ashore I noticed I would not be alone for the night: There were ants. A lot of ants. As it was late I decided to stay anyway and quite soon learnt to come along with the ants. As long as I stayed relatively still they didn’t actually climb on me or bite me that much but when moving around they got into my Croccs and started biting my feet which wasn’t very nice.

I pitched the tent, took a swim and lit the disposable grill I had brought to celebrate the mid-summer.

The longest day of the year ended with a sunset worth of the special day and after dessert the nearly full “super moon” rose above the horizon. All this made good photos but the cool evening also brought in the bugs so I retired to the shelter of the tent. Instead of counting sheeps I counted over 30 mosquitoes on the mesh of the tent door before falling asleep. (Which didn’t actually take that long.)

I slept well, as I usually do in the outdoors, waking to the pesky alarm that I had set for 3.20 am to catch the sunrise. What was I thinking setting up the alarm? After a quick look it was apparent that the sunrise would’ve required walking over the big rocky hill to the other side of the island so I didn’t bother and got back to sleep.

Later in the morning I woke up and started preparing breakfast and packing kit. I burnt my porridge on the canister stove (I’m too used to cooking it on fire or wood stove.), snapped my spork (Well, it had already lived for about two years.), got bitten by the ants and started to think if it was going to be a good day at all…

After the morning chores I gathered a bit of confidence and set on the waters. I re-checked a potential climbing rock on the shore for future deep water solo efforts. (Thanks for fellow blogger Lauri for  the term.) After getting out from the shelter of the island it was evident that I’d be enjoying headwind for the rest of the day. Going was still okay but not nearly as fast as the day before. There seemed to be also more boat traffic than the day before.

Climbing?

At one point my legs had gone past the numb phase into hurting-quite-a-lot-and-going-to-spasm-soon phase and I hurried to search for a decent place to have the first break of the day. Learning from the previous I later took couple of more breaks before arriving back to the harbour area and nearly got tipped over because of a boat speeding past me under a small bridge. Nice. Luckily I just got splashed over and didn’t even have to do any ninja moves to stay upright and dodge a bridge pillar near by. After the little drama I got back to the kayak shed and called it a day.

I got the bit of solstice solitude I was looking for but I have to say I find outdoors activities more meaningful when done with friends to share the experience.

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As usual, some extra photos can be found from my gallery.