Salamajärvi National Park

Forest deer, they said. Birds, they said. Unbelievable marsh scenery, they said.

A weekend in the marshes of Salamajärvi National Park, with the weather getting increasingly cold, demanded some planning. It’s several hours away so I rented a car, booked accommodations from Koirasalmi cottages for the first night, packed literally all the hiking and camping equipment and possibly tons of camping food. My husband packed his camera and spare underpants. In all honesty, he was the one doing all the heavy lifting, so the trip’s success is all thanks to him. He had also bought me yet another birthday gift, this time some pretty nifty hiking boots. He did get a pair for himself as well.

On Saturday we started with the ”Vaatimen kierros” route, counter-clockwise. We had two meal breaks and a couple of times we sat down just to regain our strength, which turned out to consume more time than we anticipated, which meant we were in a bit of a hurry. As we arrived at our cottage at Sysilampi, it was too dark to find all the deer flies hiding in our clothes. Fortunately we weren’t alone, in the sense that someone had already gotten a fire going. We also had a sauna at our disposal but our feet refused to make the trips necessary to carry all the chopped wood from A to B. So we hit the hay. We didn’t even need to warm up the cottage, the sleeping bags were comfy enough. We slept well. The very idea of stargazing made us laugh – that was so not going to happen.

Something we learned about marshmallows as my husband was fiddling with his cellphone and pushed the stick too close to the fire – they’re a very effective fire-starter. So it has multiple uses!

The fact that we got full bars in 4G at the Sysilampi cottage area, was a bit of a letdown for me. We could’ve easily watched a movie in HD. Fortunately the cottage itself was electricity-free and not to mention stress-free. All that fresh air took its toll, but at sunup, the misty morning was calling us! So if you’re taking a millennial with you, bring spare batteries and some sort of a travel charger, the cell coverage is excellent!

The boardwalks are very comfortable to walk on when they’re as new as they were here – some from 2015 and a few parts from the past years. Which is good, since some of them are slippery and partially decomposed. The trails, however, are marked extremely well all around.

Marsh and swamp views are a new acquaintance to me and there are plenty of those in Salamajärvi. The colors are amazing in Autumn, yellow and orange and almost red. There’s a bird-watching tower near the Bog of Heikinjärvi – it’s a very nice view from up there. I could picture deer battling on the marsh until I realized they’d probably sink in.

Large marshes, long boardwalks and complete silence. You feel wonderment, you feel small, you feel respect towards nature. For once, I was speechless. Several times, I looked into my husband’s eyes and and our faces lit up with joy.

On Sunday we headed back, west of Koirajärvi, back to Koirasalmi. Fields of rock (we call them Devil’s Fields) made us stop a few more times near the end of the trail. Stone upon stone as far as the eye can see. I’m sure only us city-dwellers get this excited about this stuff.

The lack of vertical differences on the map misguided us into making crazy plans when it came to our daily progress in distance traveled. Let’s just say that 20 kilometers a day is overdoing it. On Sunday, as we walked to our rental car, I made a promise to my aching knee: maximum of ten kilometers a day unless it’s a matter of life and death.

Salamajärvi National Park is an excellent destination if you’re looking for the atmosphere of Lapland but don’t want to make the long, long trip to Lapland. A perfect weekend trip. Right now the boardwalks are flooding, so gumboots are a must. It can also be an exotic experience – imagine spending Christmas or New Year’s here. A coworker even ran the Vaadin route with her dog.

More information is available at Luontoon.fi. For our trip, I found the blog Jalkaisin (in Finnish) to have plenty of useful tidbits. I’ve also written about the hike in my earlier blog (in Finnish).

~ Anne S

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