Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: overnighter

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…

Microadventure with Northern Lights

I’ve heard that routine is deadly so this time, I didn’t go for an overnighter. I went for one these very fashionable microadventures as this time my trip meet the five-to-nine and other criteria. Or it could’ve been a Browernighter as well… But it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is just to get out!

A friend of mine, visited me on Sunday evening to borrow an electronic blinking and beeping super high-tech torque wrench for attaching some accessories to my bike and we decided to go for an overnighter. And soon a plan emerged: leave Monday evening, cycle to nearby lean-to shelter for fire, food, beer and so on and get back home to catch work on Tuesday morning.

I managed to pack everything on the bike and could ride without a backpack! Maybe not big news for established bikepackers with special kit but I only had straps and roll-top bags (and a 9,90 euros beam rack to help). And maybe not big news for UL enthusiasts but I had my winter sleeping bag, three beers, bag of buns, a family size bottle of bbq sauce and so on… I thought all of it was very essential, unlike the Gorillapod I left at home.

Riding was quite chilly but good on the dirt roads in the moon light, and with little help from my new improvised bikelight (Fenix HP10 headlamp strapped to the bike with some p-cord). The ride took only about an hour so I should really do this more often…

At the lean-to we chopped the one-meter logs to smaller pieces, hard work which warmed us a lot more than the fire meters away from the lean-to, as it often is on established shelters…

Sausages were grilled, beers were enjoyed and muffins (this time from a local bakery) with minttu-kaakao followed. The beer of the trip was Founders’ All Day IPA which I saw Mark, the father of Browernighters, mentioning in one of his tweets so I had to give it a try. It comes in lightweight bikepacking-friendly glass bottles (pack inside woollen socks and stuff bottles in the middle of you sleeping bag and fear for the worst…) I also had to drink the beer straight from the bottle as I saved some weight by leaving my cup at home… But it was still very good: crisp and light with hoppy and bitter (in a good way) aftertaste. Recommended, but maybe not for bikepacking on bumpy trails.

Later in the evening I was on the platform trying some moonlit long-exposure shots with the little Canon S90 I had for this trip when I noticed something weird in the horizon…

And yes! Sometimes you don’t have to go all the way to the North to get lucky. Auroras on the sky in South-East Finland!

The light show was quite short, maybe 10-15 minutes but quite intense and lively for one this fas South. It was mostly grey and green but the lights moved vividly and occasionally pillars rose all the way to the zenith. I was, once gain, quite sorry for not bringing a tripod. And also little sorry for not having my EOS 550D. But happy that I had something more appropriate than the camera-mimicking function of my phone.

After the light show it was time to hit the sack. My bag was very warm which was welcome after the long and quite chilly evening. It also helped to balance the lack of full length sleeping pad, although the cushioning on biking shorts also works as a micro-pad under your heels during the night…

In the morning the friend of mine had to bolt to the work and I enjoyed the grey morning with more relaxed pace having breakfast and coffee before heading back home. I checked a couple of pieces of local history (a re-built wooden chute used back in the days to float logs from lake to another, and piece of anti-tank obstacle of the Salpa Line). It was a grey morning but riding was nice as I could choose the smaller and more bumpy trails now that I didn’t have to fear for my beers and sleeping bag.

The autumn is coming to the end again. It’s still lingering there in the form of thick carpets of dry leaves on the trail and in the silhouettes of bright yellow maples but winter… Winter is coming. But I hope to squeeze in few more of these little overnighter before I get on the skis again.

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.

Lake Kuolimo by Canoe

Last week’s overnighter was supposed to be a kayaking trip to lake Kuolimo in South East Finland not far from where I live. The plan was to go with T who has a kayak and I would have rented a kayak from the local club SaiLa just like before… But it turned out they don’t rent kayaks on Tuesdays!  We didn’t let this stop us and instead borrowed a canoe as you got to get your outdoors fix in a way or another.

Lake Kuolimo

Kuolimo is an interesting little (about 80 sq km) lake located in the South-East Finland in the municipalities of Savitaipale and Suomenniemi. It has very clear water (unlike most other lakes in Southern Finland), quite impressive rocky shores and it drains to lake Saimaa via two narrow rocky rapids: Partakoski and Kärnäkoski. According to official information these rapids are unsuitable for kayaking or canoeing but we were able to navigate them with our canoe – though they don’t provide much white water fun. Back in the days the rapids had been cleaned from rocks for floating timber but they have been restored as there is an extremely endangered population of Saimaa arctic charr living in the lake Kuolimo.

There are a couple of established nature trails at the shores of the lake, several lean-to shelter with fireplaces and also some services at the shores of the lake like the Partaranta that offers little pricey but delicious pizzas. And then of course there’s the large village (kirkonkylä) of Savitaipale with abundance of services for outdoors folk passing by. Of course there are plenty of summer houses on the lake shores so there is no feeling of a real big wilderness in my opinion – as is the unfortunate case in most of Southern Finland. But you can always find a nice bay or strait with no visibility to cottages and enjoy the nature around you.

I’d see Kuolimo as a  great destination for a 2-5 days canoeing or kayaking trip. On longer trip you would have time to visit the sights: walk the nature trails, visit the old fortress at Kärnäkoski, etc. and maybe try some bouldering on the rock faces on the shores. I assume there is quite a lot of boat traffic in the summer holiday season so preferably go during weekdays in the early summer or early autumn to get some solitude. Also biking around the lake would make sense, there are even some established bike routes!

Here are high-resolution photos of some information boards along the way if you’re interested in the details.

Click for a larger high-resolution version!

Click for a larger high-resolution version!

Showers, sauna and other luxuries

After shopping and a coffee break followed with some heart-in-my-throat rally driving by T we made it alive to our starting point at Luotolahti in the North-East corner of the lake. The original plan was to kayak around the large headland of Suomenniemi but as canoe is slower than kayak we adjusted the plan slightly. Quite soon after the sunny start the rain returned and we were able to enjoy occasional cold shower every now and then through the whole day. For some reason rain is much less of a problem when in a kayak – especially as I didn’t take any waterproof trousers as the good old ultra light style requires…

First we paddled trough the long narrow strait of “Luotolahden Kapia” which is quite impressive place with its rocky shores. When we got on the more open waters we decided to head to Partakoski for lunch at restaurant at Partaranta. We had a rare case of tailwind so we tried some sailing and got nice speeds of 7km/h or so but the sail rigged from cheap hardware store tarp could use a little upgrade… If I’d go canoeing regularly I’d definitely sew a sail for my canoe!

The route to the lake Saimaa down the Partakoski rapid includes three sections of rocky and narrow swift water but to our surprise those were quite easy to navigate with the canoe. They required active maneuvering and slow going but provided actually fun little challenges but were unfortunately very short. The maneuvering was rewarded with pizzas (13 euro each) and beers (small beer 4,50 euro) at the restaurant terrace were we watched the weather roll in again with a thunder in the distance and heavy rain surrounding us.

Last section of Partakoski seen from the bridge.

As the rain didn’t seem to be going anywhere, we decided to take the initiative and started to paddle away from it. Plan was to paddle about one kilometer on the lake Saimaa and then paddle up the Kärnäkoski as high as possible and to portage back to Kuolimo. There is an old mill and a bridge with quite small passage under it with the bridge being the only sensible option to portage. We were able to paddle up to the mill quite easily but when closing to the bridge I had to jump out from the canoe and push it upstream wading in very fast mid-thigh deep water while Tuomas was paddling and steering in the front. This was actually quite easy as the canoe offered some “cover” from the water and a support to lean against. We made it trough the little hole quite easily and were back at lake Kuolimo.

Kärnäkoski, the mill on the right, the bridge on the left.

For the night we decided to paddle to a lean-to located on the Western shore of Lehtisensaari island (quite a big island of about 3 sq km that used to have permanent settlements). While the way to the Southern tip of the island was quite nice and relaxed the weather decided to throw in one more challenge for the day: rain rolled in again and after passing the tip of the island we were faced  with strong wind from the West generating big waves that properly rocked our canoe. (No photos of this as I was too busy paddling…) We paddled close to the shore enjoying the rollercoaster and finally reached the lean-to.

The plan for the evening was to luxury camp with some gourmet food and an improvised tent sauna. The cold showers during the way were not that luxurious but the camp proved good: The wind settled a bit but still kept the mosquitoes away, rain didn’t return and we even got a proper sunset. We reshaped the fire-place to serve as a sauna stove and started to heat the rocks while preparing dinner: bruchettas (btw the WordPress Proofreading suggest “brunettes” here but we didnät have any with us…) with Spanish style tapas and red wine for starters (as tested on the previous trip), salmon fillet cooked  on a piece of wood in the glow of the fire and grilled veggies as main course (with more cheap red btu still no brunettes…) followed with Irish Coffee and marshmallows as dessert. This time even the cream made it and was easily whipped by shaking it in a Nalgene bottle!

Notice the improvised-on-site cooking equipment.

After the proper three course dinner it was time to improvise the sauna. There were some slightly charred tree trunks at the shelter and we had a big tarp with us and these combined with the seats around the pimped fireplace and some pack straps made a cozy yet very functional sauna for two. (Caution! If you build an improvised sauna, remember to put out the fire properly before covering your stove with a fabric, otherwise carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or other nasty fumes may get you!) As the wind kept to bugs away there was no need to pitch the tent and after the sauna, swims and beers we retired to our sleeping bags under the lean-to.

We slept long, prepared breakfast on the camp fire with no hurry and feeling lazy (all that cheap red?) decided to just take the straight route back to Luotolahti. The weather was good with sunshine and only a slight breeze. On the way back to Luotolahti we found some nice rock by the water and Tuomas decided to try a bit of bouldering but not having climbing shoes quickly changed the sport into swimming. (Caution! This is fun but check the spot thoroughly before jumping or falling into the water from any high places!)

Towards the end of the trip the wind picked up again and we felt cold so we had a coffee break with roaring fire at the lean-to in the Luotolahden Kapia strait before arriving back to the car. On the last bit we saw seagulls apparently trying to fend of something in the water: The birds didn’t mind us floating only 10 meters away but kept diving and hovering above the reed next to a little islet… Maybe there was a snake swimming to the nest?

After admiring the airshow for long enough we paddled the last strokes back to our car and headed home. Another jolly good overnighter!

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PS. As usual, more photos in my gallery.