I was apprehensive as i drove along the long tarmac road leading up to the National Park turn off. I'd been driving for nearly an hour, so i knew i was close. In the distance i spotted the park sign telling me to go left along a dusty track. I turned and immediately heard a different sound from the tyres. The popping and crunching of small stones was emphasized as i sped along at a faster speed causing a dust screen that Batman would have been proud of. I didn't care, this track was only built for one car and i didn't want to get caught up with another coming the other way. As i drove along i noticed that they had made some improvements from the old bumpy potholed track i used to know. Every now and then there was passing spaces placed in the track, i relaxed and eased off from the accelerator. My apprehension grew more as the track took me into the parking area. I found a spot, parked up and sat for a little while. I hadn't been to a National Park for nearly a year now and i was keen to get going but i was nervous about the amount of people that was here. The car park area was quite full, and i was concerned about catching something bad. Finland and the rest of World was going through a very serious time, the Corona virus. The residents of Finland have been placed under quarantine for the last two months by the Finnish government, meaning that people's movements have been restricted, and any bars, clubs and restaurants are closed from April 3rd 2020 until June 1st 2020. A limit of 10 people can gather at any place but no more, so a very high number of workplaces are shut down. This and many other laws were put in place to slow down and prevent the spread of the Corona virus and to safeguard the resource capacity and resilience of the Healthcare system throughout the country, and to protect the people, especially those who are at more risk than others. I'm pretty sure all of you know about the Corona virus, but if there are some who are still unsure, you can read about it here, from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare https://thl.fi/en/web/infectious-diseases/what-s-new/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-updates/coronavirus-covid-19
I got my backpack out from the back of the car and strapped it on. It weighs quite heavy i thought considering it's only a 42 litre pack, albeit a full 42 litre. I locked the car doors, adjusted my pack with a shrug of the shoulders and a cinch of the belt and started walking towards the park's entrance. I felt good.
It was a warm day, around 18c with a slight breeze and no bugs. I walked to the top of the path and turned left at the signpost. The sign said 6 km to Tiilikanautio, from there i will walk on another kilometre to Uiton Kämppä and then another half a click to Venäjänhiekka camping area, where i will setup my hammock for the evening. If i had turned to the right at the signpost, i would be heading 1.6 km to Koseva, which boasts a beautiful lakeside campfire, a toilet, woodshed and an open sleeping cabin, that will sleep 2 people or 3 if someone sleeps on the floor in the middle of the wooden bunks. The open cabin is used a lot, and especially in the Winter and Fall time. Inside beside the sleeping bunks is a cast iron stove used to heat the cabin and cook some food or hot drinks, this is especially nice for Winter skiers to rest themselves or warm-up and possibly sleep-in overnight. For me though i wanted a longer hike, and i needed to go in the other direction. There are 2 camping areas to pitch your tents or hang your hammocks, one is at Koseva as mentioned and the other is at Venäjänhiekka, both are in opposite directions.
The trails in Tiilikkajärvi are really quite short, in-fact the total length of the tracks are only 20 km. This is why it is so popular with the day hikers and couples with young children. In general the trails are easy to walk on, and they run alongside both sides of the lakes and up and over the eskers. As written from the Nationalparks.fi website. 'The park's lovely lakeshores include the beautiful beach of Venäjänhiekka (Russian Sands), whose name relates to the 1595 Treaty of Teusina which divided these lands between Sweden and Russia. An old border stone in Lake Tiilikkajärvi still bears a crown and a cross symbolising the two countries. A sandy esker ridge formation runs through the lake, adding to the varied natural scene. Slow down, relax, and enjoy a refreshing dip in the lake.'
Here are some images i have taken of Tiilikkajärvi from past trips:
After walking a few kilometres along the lakeside, and enjoying the gentle breeze blowing in from the calm waters, i stumbled into a campfire/resting place called Koirakivi. There was three Kayakers enjoying the sun and resting around the fireplace. The warm shallow lake water was gently rippling against the kayak's and the sun was beaming down upon us like an almighty presence. A slight breeze drifted across from the east which made me lift my chin and give a contented sigh. Koirakivi is a really nice place to approach from the lake. There is a little beaching area where you can glide your canoe onto, and take a rest by the fireplace. There is a wood shed, that is usually stacked with chopped Pine courtesy of the Forest Association, giving you the oppurtunity to light a fire if you wished and maybe enjoy some makkara (sausage) frying on a stick. There are also toilet facilities. I greeted my fellow travellers with a "Hello" and a smile and slowly walked on towards Tiilikanautio.
The weather was still quite warm even at 1700 hours, and the sun looked no-where near ready for bed. At this time of the year in mid. Finland, the sun will set between 2300- 0300 hours, only four hours, and at Midsummer's (June 19-25) the longest daylight hours of the year, it will not set at all.
After a 5 minute walk along some freshly laid looking duckboards I arrive at Tiilikanautio, a beautiful place that was once an old Tenant Farm up until the early 19th century. The history here is a little scattered, but from what i can gather, the croft and it's outbuildings was in use and lived in up until the early 1820's. The history and evidence shows us that at some point in time the croft was used to smelt the iron ore from the lake into usable iron. In these early years there had been a workshop in the courtyard, where iron had been processed. However from 1820 onward it was left to stand for almost a hundred years until the 1920's then Pekka Jauhiainen and his family lived here and the decaying buildings was rebuilt and its lands was cultivated, up until the 1960's. The croft buildings in this area was again restored in 1991 and left as an Tourist attraction. There is no staff overlooking this property and you are allowed to roam freely among the beautiful meadows while being in awe of the wild summer flowers and dancing butterflies. You can also enter the main living quarters and get a real taste of what it must have been like during those early years. Inside you will see, a large table and benches, and a huge built-in oven.
If you are my age around 50, then you may remember a TV series called ' Little House on the Praire', Yep, Tiilikanautio will make you feel like you are there with Charles and Laura Ingalls.
From Tiilikanautio i walked along some more duckboards until i came across another signpost telling me i had reached Uiton Kämppä. I knew from previous hikes here that there was a water well with a hand pump. I looked around and spotted it among a small grove of trees. I took off my pack and proceeded to fill my 4 litre water filter bag. After filling i gently rested the bulging reservoir on the ground away from any sharp stones, i then sat down on the cold concrete pump base and took a deep breathe. It's nice to be outside again i thought. Something inside me yearns for this peacefulness. Please note that it is recommended that you boil or filter all the water that you will consume from the lakes in Tiilikka, that also includes the Hand Pump Well. A safety precaution that should be advised.
At Uiton Kämppä there is a large rental cabin. It can accommodate a group of 22 people. It has 3 rooms and a kitchen area. There are 18 beds in total. The Uiton cabin is particularly well suited for schools, educational institutions, nature associations and clubs. Also it is great for nature themed courses and teaching. The rental prices for the cabin are €150 a day, €600 for 5 days. The cabin is available to rent from 15th May- 30th October. If you are interested in the cabin for rent then take a look here for more information https://www.luontoon.fi/uitonkamppavuokratupa
Uiton Kämppä also boasts a large suspension bridge
After taking a load off at Uiton, i decided i better head on over to Venäjänhiekka, this is only 500 metres or maybe less for me, as i plan to set-up my hammock in the hilltop trees before the track starts to go steeply downhill to the lakeside camping area. I pick up my gear and remembering my 4 litres of water i head on over the suspension bridge. The bridge wobbles slightly as i cross, and at the peak height i stop and admire the views on either side. It is early evening now and the sun's intensity has mellowed some, but it is still quite warm. The birds are singing all the time here i notice, quite bazaar. I'm not sure if it's because it's so peaceful that i notice such a thing, but the sounds of the birds and the trickling of a stream seem to be intensified. Everyone i have met on the trail are smiling and look genuinely happy. There is a sense of calmness in Tiilikkajärvi, walking through it can be almost a meditation.
View from one side of the bridge
I have come to the top of a small hill, and i look down upon the camping area, with its beautiful glistening sandy beach and lakeside view. To the far left end of the lakeside beach, there is a usual stone ringed fireplace with wooden benches adorning it in a circle. A compost outhouse stands close to the large wood shed just a few metres away. This place is the gem of Tiilikka, The path leads down quite steeply into a continuation of Pine trees. The Pines have been spaced to perfection, just like they are in all of Tiilikka, and below i can make out several tents on the edge of the wooded area maybe 10 metres from the lake's edge. Wow, this place is awesome. I descend, carefully placing my feet to try and avoid any gnarly tree roots ready to trip or grip my boot and take me down. The path starts to level off more and my body straightens to its normal walking posture. I take in the lake vista as i approach the ending of the dirt track and greet the soft yellow sand. The heat of the sun hits me as i step from the shadows of the tall protecting Pine trees, only to be met with a soft summer breeze drifting over from the lake's horizon. I inhale through my nostrils and catch a scent of pine pitch lingering in the air. In the distance towards the fireplace i see a small glow of orange appearing every now and then and smoke dispersing into the light blue sky. Children are playing in the water, their laughter is infectious and it makes me giggle, fondly remembering how innocent life used to be. Among the trees are several large family sized tents spaced evenly apart. One couple sit in the shade of the trees while their children run back and forth across the sand playing and laughing with a little beach ball. Another family are standing around the fireplace pointing long thin sticks with a sausage on the tip at the glowing fire. The woman has to keep moving to avoid the smoke getting in her eyes, while the man sits and wipes the sweat appearing on his forehead. Some people are swimming in the lake while others are taking refuge in the shadows at the forest's edge. I walk down to the waterside wearing a full backpack, trousers and hiking boots and a cap, while the others are laying around half naked and slowly dehydrating from the heat. I feel like i have stepped into someone else's movie, but it seems no-one notices me. I look around and see another hiker coming down the path and heading towards me, this is quite the norm then, i conclude to myself. I hitch up my backpack and a trickle of sweat runs down my back, time to head back to the safety of the woods, and enjoy the cool breeze flowing through the forest trees. I head up the path as the other hiker is coming down and we greet each other with a passing smile and a friendly nod. I put some power in my legs and stride up the hill like i do this everyday, I get to the top and slowly transform into walking mode feeling like a boss, while trying to conceal my heavy breathing.
I could have hung my hammock down there with the 10-15 other persons, but i like my privacy and my view from up here. I found a good spacing in-between two Pine trees, quite away from the path, as to attract less attention. I took off my pack, rested it on the tough wiry blueberry plants and some moss, and clipped open the lid. I took out the tarp and proceeded to set up camp for the evening. Some people say setting up a hammock is a lot quicker than erecting a tent, but i beg to differ, sometimes it can be a longer process. The spacing of the trees is important if you want a good 'hang'. If they are too close you will have a saggy hammock and a bad nights sleep, too far, and and the hammock will be too tight and you have a bad nights sleep. After doing this many times you will instinctively know the right distance. Before tying the ridge-line to the trees i take a good look around and check to see if there are any 'widow makers' close by (these can be dead standing trees or precarious dead branches hanging above you, that can fall on you and kill you at any given time, especially if the wind picks up during the night, hence the name. Although a little sexist, i think its been accepted from both parties). It takes me around 20 minutes to get everything all put up and my sleeping bag and pillow all in place in the hammock. The tarp is up and protecting me and my gear from any downpours, and also shielding me from the wind during the night. What i really like about the hammock system is that you are open to the elements but at the same time protected. If you haven't tried one i really suggest that you do, it seems a little strange at first but as soon as you get you 'lay'(sleeping position) correct, you will probably never go back to 'ground dwelling'(a cheeky hammock name for someone who sleeps in a tent).
I tie my 4 litres of water to a near-by tree and let the hose run down into my MSR Titan kettle, i release the clip on the hose and magically gravity does the rest. The water flows smoothly from the bag into the filter and out through the hose and into my pot. Nice. No squeezing and pushing or pumping like some of these other water filter systems. I set up my alcohol stove system and start to boil the water, ready for my dehydrated Blå Band Wilderness Stew meal. Boiling water with an alcohol stove is by no means the fasted compared to any gas stove system, especially a Jetboil, but it is the quietest, and i think it has a special quality about it. My Jetboil usually comes with me when i'm on a fishing trip, therefore i can regulate the flame temperature and also cook my fish in a frying pan, with the right stove support. Unlike the alcohol stove's purpose which is too boil water. You can use a simmer ring on a Trangia Alcohol stove for example, but i find it a bit too fiddly for my liking. 10 minutes has passed and my pot is trying to contain itself from bring forth all its contents. i take it off from the heat and pour the water into the heat reflective packet. Fill to 'line J' and leave for 15 minutes. Good call on the alcohol fuel amount, i think to myself as the flame evaporated right after i lifted the pot away. That won't happen again i'm sure.
The last time i came to Tiilikkajärvi i was canoe camping for 5 days and the lake was like glass, absolutely no wind what-so-ever, it was so magical and peaceful that i never wanted to leave. This time is a different story, as i am here for only one night and i shall be going in the morning. I can hear a young couple taking control of their off-spring. It seems they're packing up there tent and will be heading up the hill shortly. I sit back in the hammock and give a little push off with my feet, causing it to swing slowly. It's nice to be under the tarp and out of the sun, surrounded by the beauty of Tiilikkajärvi's spacious and airy Pine forest. There's a nice warm breeze that gives you a little hug, and a gentle reminder that your tired legs and body have been away too long from the trails. As i tuck into my hot stew i can hear the young family on the path heading away from the lake, tent and kids in-tow. As they got to the top of the hill i checked to see if they was breathing heavy, they wasn't. I was starting to feel tired. I had a full belly of dehydrated stew and a little night cap of Brandy. Hmm Time to kick back, listen and connect with the nature of things. Every National Park is different, but for me this one is special. Night all.