Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Pien-Saimaa

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.

Barbecue Doesn’t Fit in a Kayak

For the last two weeks or so it has been a full on summer here in Finland. Temperatures have been close to +30C, there hasn’t been much rain (at least in the South-East) and everything is green and blooming. Well, mosquitoes are not green but they seem to be booming as well… This all means it’s about the time to start summer outdoor activities and that’s what I did. Here’s a trip report from the season’s first kayaking trip.

Usually I don’t do that much overnight trips, I prefer longer periods spend in more remote places than overnighters enable. But when the weather and company are good there’s absolutely no reason to turn down an overnighter. So I went for one, and later for another and now I’m planning a third one… But this post is about the season’s first overnighter.

I haven’t been kayaking for a while. I actually like kayaking a lot and happen to be a qualified kayaking instructor and even live at the shore of the largest lake in Finland with little wild land but plenty of water… So I guess I should do more kayaking but as I have a packraft I can’t afford a kayak at the moment. But when a friend bought himself a kayak and asked me to join him for a test trip I decided quickly to rent one. In addition to businesses, in Finland many clubs of Suomen Latu rent canoes, kayaks and equipment and also offer guiding services. I rented the kayak from local Saimaan Latu.

We started the trip from Myllysaari in Lappeenranta where I picked up the rental kayak from the club’s fine kayak shed. The plan was to circumnavigate a largish island called Kirkkosaari, spend a night in a shelter on the way and return back to Myllysaari the next day.

We started late in the afternoon in good weather: warm, sunny but windy enough to keep it cool and add a little extra challenge for crossing the more exposed areas. Water was probably around +18C so there was no need for a drysuit, which would’ve probably caused a heat stroke anyway. Short underwear, nice button-up shirt and cap was all that was needed – and of course a PFD.

There were also nice shores without summer houses, with a wilderness like feeling.

We paddled, paddled some more and then kept paddling. After some three hours in the boats we had very late lunch break on rocks sheltered behind a nice island. No bugs, no wind, warm sun shine. Could it get any better?

The wind was slowly dying and the going was getting better with air cooling and lake calming down. After the break we soon reached the lean-to we had originally planned to use but decided to go for another hour as the conditions were so nice. It was perfect on the lake: warm, sun low in the horizon, no wind, calm waters, tranquil atmosphere.

I guess we could have kept paddling for quite a long time in the lovely conditions but we had agreed a meeting at the next lean-to. We had a problem as we wanted to have some quality grilled food but open fires were banned due the dryness and we couldn’t fit a proper barbecue in the kayaks… As a solution we called cavalry to the rescue – with a barbecue!

After some 25km of kayaking we met N at a lean-to shelter easily accessible from a road. And she had brought barbecue with her! Evenings’ program was mostly grilling, eating and trying to not mind the mosquitoes. The lean-to is located in a nice spot on a riverside near the lake shore and the area was populated with birds and mosquitoes and we even saw a beaver in the river.

Exploring the river upstream past the shelter.

The big lump under the bridge is actually a beaver!

Around midnight N left as she had work the next morning and we pitched my Hilleberg Anjan 3 to shelter us from the bugs. I slept well trough the night and to my surprise didn’t wake up being too hot in the morning. Rolling up both ends of the tent makes it quite well suited for hot weather as well. My friend Tuomas was traveling light without a sleeping pad and said the night had been somewhat restless…

After breakfast and coffee cooked on Bush Buddy wood burning stove it was time to set on the waters again. The conditions weren’t bad but not as good as the previous evening: it was warm but cloudy, there was a headwind and forecast was threatening us with rain. The stiffness in my upper body reminded me that I hadn’t been kayaking for a while before yesterday but the headwind helped to warm up the sore muscles.

Because of the headwind we decided to take some 5km shorter route and do a little portage. After a few hours we reached the portage in rain (Notice the photos missing as it was raining?) and easily carried our kayaks on the other side. Mosquitoes and rain didn’t encourage to have a longer pause so we just continued paddling untill the rain ended and we could have a lunch break on the waters without the bugs.

Later we had a proper break on a small island enjoying snacks and watching train of barges sail past us. We paddled past islands crowded with summer houses of varying size and shape.

The town silhoutte was visible in the horizon for the latter half of the day but it took some time to get there… As we closed the town and harbour area we zig zagged trough the archipelago and found an interesting shipwreck before finishing the trip. The second day turned out to be some 27km and took little under six hours with breaks.

The trip reminded me that it would make a lot sense to own a kayak when living next to lake Saimaa but I guess I’ll stick with the rentals for now but I’ll be definitely kayaking more this summer!