My secret weapon was a Swiss roll.
You know, one of those ready-made hard ones from your local grocery store with the expiration date decades from now. Tastes like the real thing and isn’t affected by squishing. Made from all sorts of uncool ingredients like white wheat and sugar.
But after a nice surprise by the weather and our group getting soaked all the way down to our underwear, someone with a dry Swiss roll is a goddamn hero.
Last July I decided to take my family to a cave exploration trek. I had learned of Piilolampi pond hiding a cave near Hitonhauta, Laukaa. Hitonhauta was very familiar to us but we’ve yet to spot this fabled cave.
I’m not a natural cave spotter and I’d imagine feeling claustrophobic should I ever squeeze deep enough into one. So I thought I’d put my teens in there. Something completely different from social media and game consoles.
They didn’t really jump from joy after hearing about this. Into the woods? With mom and dad? In a cave? How about no.
They were laboring under the idea that this wasn’t mandatory. An actual cave! You’ll love it! When have trips with mom ever been anything else but nic- okay, I see your point. But we’re still going!
Their protests were more a force of habit so we were on our way as soon as weather permitted.
I packed the Swiss roll in secret.
Hitonhauta is a gorge formed during the ice age with rocks towering 20 meters high.
Grove plants feel right at home in this gorge with a dense sprig forest surrounding it.
We’d left our car in the southern end on our previous visits and this time was no different but we’d go through the gorge and head north after that.
On the car ride towards the destination it started raining. First a little and then a lot. Not good. None of us wanted to walk in soggy clothes and risk slipping in the cave. The rain stopped before we got there so it was fine.
There are plenty of photos that can be found of Hitonhauta online. Whether it’s of it’s rock formations and waterfalls during summer or its ice formations during winter.
And they’re all nice but nothing compared to taking your first step in the bottom of the gorge. It’s its own world and everything else seems to lose meaning while you’re down there.
The walls gradually grew around us and after a while we walked into a breath-taking scene: steep rocks on both sides and a little pond in the middle. You could hear the water pouring down the walls. It was phenomenal and dare I say, spiritual. Even the boys were totally stoked by now.
I let my eyes wander from wall to wall. The air was filled with babble and the humidity was doing wonders to our hairdos. The pond was like from a fairy-tale, it was so still. The water had formed little paths in the century-old rocks. Birds grabbed insects straight from the air. The gorge was full of life!
The path forward was slippery, thanks to the rain. We encountered only one other trekking party, three adults and a dog.
In the northwest side of the gorge the walls started decreasing in height and we arrived into the woods. Arto scouted ahead and we followed.
The ground was wet as were the tall grass which drenched not only our shoes but our pant legs as well. It was only half a kilometer away but we hiked more than that trying to avoid the worst thickets. Before too long, we saw the pond.
There was a boat on the bank. We didn’t descend all the way down but started looking for the cave entrance. I tried to compare the scenery to the photos I’d seen online. Every rock looked alike. With every one I was sure it would be the entrance.
Careful now! You don’t want to slip!
I was almost ready to declare lunch break when Arto exclaimed he had found the entrance. It was but a narrow crack under a giant boulder. With a blink of an eye, Arto and one of the boys were inside. I would’ve been there too but my “what if” generator started rolling.
What if the whole thing collapses? What if we can’t get out and one of us breaks an ankle or slips and hits their head?!
Away with you, doubt! This is a cave exploration trip! If it’s been there since the ice age, one more family won’t break it.
After the narrow entrance the cave expanded. The ceiling was high enough for the shortest of us to stand. This was when I realized I hadn’t brought a headlamp. Our youngest child was smart enough to have brought a torch, though. There was also some natural light coming through the entrance.
I had never been in such a room-like cave before. I could see someone holding off a storm in here.
We crawled through the cave and emerged from the back entrance in triumph. It was clearly lunch time. We located a proper rock as a table and took out some blueberry pie and juice. It wasn’t time for the secret weapon, not yet.
On our way back we walked near a stone-edged mire with an amazing view. It was almost time for cloudberries to blossom. We picked a few blueberries here and there and they were like candy.
So we took the norther edge back all the way to the parking lot, where another car had appeared. The weather had cleared, so it made sense. We, however, had trekked through dirt and mud for our experience of the day!
But now we’d seen the noble stone walls of the gorge and cave alike, as a family. Wet clothes are a small price to pay for such a privilege.
I didn’t remember the Swiss roll until we got back home.
It’s still in the cupboard, waiting for the next adventure. Good thing it won’t expire in years, huh?
This experience gave me an additional argument towards joint success! I’ll be using this exact trip to motivate my teenage boys to come along.