Well now! Our first winter hike was something else alright! This is a story about failure but I hope you won’t take it too seriously. I know we didn’t! Because the weather was so nice and we had a lot of fun, having to head back home didn’t feel too bad. We had a chance to take some amazing pictures and had our fair share of hiking in the snow. In addition to that, we also managed to successfully assemble and disassemble the tent, and had a fulfilling Trangia-cooked meal plus a few campfire-roasted sausages. And we got to test our equipment out. In short, the overnight trip quickly turned to a day trip.

Now as to why this happened, the guilty party can be found in the first picture of this post. The main culprit is the lady in blue and the partner-in-crime the little white fur ball.

Since we were talking about a few kilometer hike and Möykky has done just fine on other Nature Walks, I thought a wool sweater would suffice for him to wear on breaks and should the need present itself, he could coil up inside a sleeping bag during daytime. But, as it turns out, his fur is a magnet for snow and as we walked on, he’d gather more and more and once all of it started melting, he’d be freezing. We warmed up by the campfire and he’d dry up but as soon as he ran back into the snow, the whole thing started all over again. And since the idea of having a dog in my lap for hours on end didn’t seem sensible, we hiked back to the car and drove home.

We already started our plans for attempt no. 2, because we received so many great tips the last time! I’ve always been a firm believer of the phrase ”get back on the horse”.

Leivonmäki National Park

There are several ways to approach Leivonmäki, the most northern (aka closest to Jyväskylä) route, called Koskikaran kierros, starts from the yard of Rutalahti Elementary. We skipped it this time but added it on our Spring list. We drove through Rutalahti Village, through the beautiful countryside and ended up at the Selänpohja parking lot. The directions are very clear when driving from Jyväskylä, by the way. We took Harjunkierros route this time around but you can also choose Mäyränkierros route.

Leivonmäki National park has two other parking lots, one in Kirveslampi and another in Harjunlahti. We’ll probably visit the respective routes come Spring, since the Park itself is only an hour away.

So what’s Harjunkierros route like?

In the forenoon, as we arrived to Leivonmäki, we noticed that someone had made a pretty good footpath in the snow. It went on for 1,5 kilometers from Selänpohja to the Lintuniemi semi-lean-to, so we didn’t need to break out our snowshoes. We cooked a Trangia meal, assembled the tent and after lunch we started hiking towards Cape Joutsniemi. We had no need for snowshoes there either, even though at times the wind had formed pretty impressive snowbanks.

The Harjunkierros route is fairly easy terrain, half of it goes along the lakeside and we decided that in addition to spending the night during Winter, we need to return in the Summertime. The view was amazing! The forest looked more like rows of bar code than trees and a week’s worth of snowfall had given them a nice white coating.

A short walk away from Lintuniemi is the beautiful Cape Joutsniemi. This tall peninsula seems to go on forever through a floor of ice and I can only imagine how spectacular the view is in Summer, with the lake twinkling in the sunlight.

Speaking of sunlight, we did witness some on this trip. In Joutsniemi, you could see the windswept patterns formed on the snow and even a small piece of bark had a ”wall of snow” behind it.

Upon returning to Lintuniemi we noticed our little furry companion looking like he does in the picture above. We needed to add more wood to the fire, defrost the dog and put him in the sleeping bag for a daytime nap. After he ran into the snow for the seventh time, we started packing the tent.

We didn’t have the chance to practice making a fire this time because after our Trangia lunch, other travelers showed up: a company of three guys and a doberman. It was them who had a fire going while we were hiking on Cape Joutsniemi. They even added more wood for us and after they left, a couple and their two dogs emerged from the woods. So we didn’t even have to put the fire out. An older gentleman on his skis came by as well, roasted a few sausages and had a nice chat with us while we waited for the little fur-ball to thaw. So the fire kept four separate expeditions warm – not bad!

I made a mental note, a decision if you will (no, I didn’t), that from now on I’ll start getting a fire going right after arriving at a campsite  so I get more experience in fire-making. A diligent woodcutter chops a few blocks ready for the next occupants, so we need to obtain a travel axe. On the other hand, the cheapskate and wood protector in me thinks that one should dress accordingly and have enough spare clothes so one shouldn’t have to have a constant fire blazing but enough for a few roasted sausages and as a light source/night-time protector. I understand and am aware that a lot of people like to stare at the flames and have a campfire chat during daytime but I’m a goofball and I say it’s wasteful and you can boil water with the Trangia. Don’t get mad and don’t get me wrong, it’s what people do in the woods – make a fire and stare at it. That’s why they have wood blocks there! I’m just skimpy that way, I don’t want to start a fire unless I plan to cook or roast something or if I need warmth. Or if I need to defrost a certain Jack Russell.

Needless to say, he’s not joining us in Winter-time hikes anymore. Maybe during the Summer. At around four in the afternoon we packed our stuff and headed home. Disassembling the tent took us a minute and Möykky waited patiently in the sleeping bag.

The day trip to Leivonmäki left a fire within us, we have to come back as soon as possible, maybe without the tent and definitely without the dog. We’ll see if we make it to sundown until we have to head back home again…but we need to try because we were well-equipped – clothing was sufficient, the tube backpack was easy to carry, even in the snow.

Before the trip we digged up other people’s posts about Leivonmäki:

Muurahaispuu has visited the Park three times and around the same areas we’re going to!

As per usual, for more detailed information (in Finnish), check out Luontoon.fi and Retkipaikka.

If you want to read about our pre-trip preparations, check out minimizing risks and choosing equipment. We’ll get back to you once we actually manage to spend a Winter night outside. Hopefully soon. Blog posts related to all this can be found with the keyword “winter” even later on, since we will be posting a lot about equipment, planning and future hikes.

Here’s to hoping we get to tell you guys about the beauty of Winter nights soon!

~ Anne

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