Isojärvi National Park was the destination for the Hiking and Camping Class of 2015. For most of us it was the first time we’d stay outdoors for the night, as you could tell from the newly purchased hiking gear. We met up along the way and drove in a line to the Park parking lot and on our way we were.

The daily trips were kept short enough for no one to experience fatigue or aching backs. But carrying a tube backpack around is crazy. I don’t know what’s stopping me from hiking and camping like they taught us, with a protective sheet, something to sleep on and/or in a sleeping bag – surely it would weigh less and it would be more convenient but in the end I suppose it’s about taking comfort with you into the woods. A proper tent shields you from bears and wolves. It’s nice to cook your meals in a pot as it is to have spare shoes and clothing and whatnot. But all that adds to the weight of the backpack but then again, they’re built for it – and personally I think it adds to the experience.

The weather was sunny but felt cold until we managed to walk for the first kilometer. After that most of us had so shed a layer or two. Sounds practical, right? Put on an x amount of clothes, walk some and the take off anything uncomfortable or add more layers because you estimated wrong.

Guiding us were Minna and Vesa From Erätaival, they held the courses too. They were also in charge of food: Minna had dehydrated meals for us as well as readymade meals by Blåband. During theory classes we had gotten to know different sorts of meals and how to dehydrate them to go. For a novice it’s a good thing that most grocery stores carry dehydrated vegetables, rice and pasta. Just add dehydrated beef and you’re good to go. I think with my brand new dehydrator, I’ll be packing a lot of nice meals for our upcoming trips. They weigh less than the stuff you can buy from stores, too!

We spent the night in a lean-to at Vahterjärvi lake, or at least some of us did. If my memory serves me right, the plan was to put the tents up, make food and take a walk without luggage. Fortunately these pictures are time-stamped but looking at the map, I couldn’t for the live of me remember which trail we took that evening. I got to keep better track of my comings and goings, maybe a small travel journal or something. So expect more detailed descriptions from now on!

In the evening we took a walk without any extra weight, which was a nice change of pace. We learned a lot about the area, how to read a compass and a map. We also took a bunch of photos of the beautiful scenery. Minna is an expert on wild herbs, so that was also a part of this evening class. Vesa on the other hand, taught us how to tie knots.

My trusty sleeping bag had me fooled in Midsummer’s Eve 2014, when I thought ”it’s Summer, I’ll manage!” and it was so damn cold. I suppose I’m not the type of person to get traumarized easily since I didn’t remember that at all in May 2015 with the trip closing in. So I shrugged and chose to grab a light sleeping bag since hey, it’s Summer! I’ll manage! No!

In the morning I woke up, after a poor night’s sleep but no longer cold. It was rather chilly, even for May, so what I did was put on all the clothes I had. Thankfully I had enough spare clothing to pull a stunt like this. But I learned from my mistakes and as soon as I got home, I ordered a new one from Varusteleka. The dream is to replace it with a lighter one at some point. But at least I’m not freezing.

Travel meals tasted delicious. We saw a pair of… red-throated divers, I think (didn’t I just write a blog post about this stuff) getting it on in the lake. Later during the Summer someone mentioned seeing those two have kids when them. Around the bonfire we discussed pretty much everything between heaven and earth. For instance, we got relationship advice from two couples! Minna and Vesa told us that the secret to a long and happy marriage is that you purchase only one canoe per household. Pirjo and Risto shared us the wisdom of labelling your food. These and many other advices ring true with a side of humour but we had a good time over there!

So all in all, the first night (in years) spent outside was quite a rich experience. I’d never carried a tube backpack before. Food-related stuff on the bonfire and with the Trangia were a cakewalk, although Minna managed most of it. But her teachings sank in, since me and Heikki did just fine in Salamajärvi, like I told you guys.

My tube backpack is an ancient Halti one and the one Heikki had on this trip was also ancient but at the same time extremely uncomfortable. I thought it was because it was too big for me or the adjustments were off but no, it was just as bad for Heikki, if not worse. So in the name of equality, we switched backpacks on the way back and went to buy a new one as soon as we got back home. Well, a new one for us, it costed about 20 euros from a thrift shop. Our classmates had some fancy backpacks that you can fill up left and right and every item has its designated pocket… I’ve been looking into those but right now they’re not in our budget. What if it’s not a good fit? The one I have right now gets the job done just fine.

Isojärvi is a beautiful and versatile national park right in the middle of Finland. Get out there!

More information: nationalparks.fi (in English)

~ Anne

 

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