sunnuntai 26. elokuuta 2012

Hämeen järviylänkö, a trip report 11-12 august 2012

I guess it's kinda ironic that after bashing on maintained trail systems my first trip report is a celebration of one. Story goes like this:
Well, I had been reading about Hämeenjärviylänkö from fillarifoorumi and other sources about the magnificent single tracks there. As a father of two small children my schedule is tight and I usually don't have much saying on how to spend holidays and weekends. However I did manage to negotiate a short 24h leave from saturday morning till sunday. So I needed to go somewhere close by hopefully with some new scenery. To the Hämeen järviylänkö it was.

There is a form of outdoor adventure where using trails is preferable if not mandatory and that is of course mountain biking or bikepacking as in this case. I have been pushing through swaps and thick forest before but without any trails or rideable terrain you could/should leave your bike at home. And even riding those boring trails you already know well with a bike makes a whole new experience. Also with a bike you can start an adventure from your own doorstep and when the night falls you are somewhere quite far away ( except during winter time kaamos). To me bikepacking has opened a lot more opportunities to have great miniscale adventures.

Bytheway, what is bikepacking? There are some chat board debates about the differences of bike touring and bikepacking but to me it's cycling those same trails you'd otherwise be hiking with a backpack.

Back to the trip report.
My trips are done mostly solo, mainly because everyone else is busy too or my plans seem stupid enough so no-one wants to take part but this time I had managed to persuade Matti to come along. I'm fine with solitude but it was a nice to have company for a change. Matti had some issues with lacking some gear but as a gear nerd I have almost double of everything so I borrowed some stuff to him.

I won't go into gear in detail but I ride Surly Pugsley, the ultimate offroad vehicle with revelate and bikepack packs.

My trusty warhorse
I tried to get an early start but as always the time flies and I don't so it was closer to 2pm when we were ready to start cycling. We had driven with a car from Helsinki to Loppi to the beginning of Poronpolku trail, part of the longer Ilvesvaellus hiking trail. We left car at the Luutalammi parking area. It is somewhat unclear to me whether it is allowed to ride those trails since it goes through nature reserves and national parks but it is not denied anywhere either. The name "poronpolku" means a reindeer trail but we are still about 1000km south to nearest living reindeer, funny.

As it was discussed at fillarifoorumi the trails are perfect. As I'm not the most technically skilled mountain biker these trails are excatly what I like, fast singletracks through pine covered forests. A finnish word would be "neulasbaana". The biggest accents/descents are right at the beginning through the Salpauselkä ridges.

Too steep to our feeble legs
Views from the top
We rode fast, we rode slow and we enjoyed the trails. And we stopped to enjoy scenery and an occasional beer. Whether was magnificent for a change. I felt a bit bad about the comforts of my 4 inch fatbike tires as Matti was riding with his hybrid bike but he did ok.

More nice trails

Some art stuff

After stopping at the Räyskälä village shop for "supplies" and coffee we continued towards Iso-Melkutin lake. It was only a short ride and we found the other lean-to at the lake to be unpopulated and decided to pitch our camp. Iso-Melkutin is a crystal clear lake with sand ridges around. The lean-to we stayed is further away from the road and in tidy condition. However I really like my Halti Pata Fun-laavu/tent so I decided to sleep in that. From the car we had ridden maybe 25km, mostly singletracks but some pavement sections also. My only complain about the trails would be around the lake that all the small trees were cleared so that stumps were very sharp, ala vietcong boobytrap style.

It sure was a clear lake
During the day at the trail we had seen just two hikers and one mountain biker, so these are not crowded trails despite being quite close to bigger cities. Only 1 hour from Helsinki with a car. When the darkness begun to fall we had some company to out fire, two ladies came to the laavu and told us it was going to be a meteor shower that night. After gazing upwards and making my neck stiff I did manage to see some shooting stars, but not really a shower of them. Around 1am it was bedtime for me and I slept great as I usually do outside but Matti spent a chilly night.

It was worth the effort in many ways to get up relieve my bladder.
At the morning the wheather was sunny and perfect once again. Due to time limitations, mainly because it was my better half's birthday we rode in a hurry via roads back to car.
Just a great trip with nicely rolling trails and good company and everything in less that 24 hours.

keskiviikko 8. elokuuta 2012

My mission statement

Duckboards are evil (period, stop).

Ok, I do have a point here..

Traditional way of backpacking in Finland and I guess everywhere else also is to pick up your ultraheavy +25kg backpack with all the necessary items ( 2 rolls of toilet paper, three flanel shirts ,hilleberg tunnel tent, coffee pot, etc.) to make you feel secure. Walking along heavily stomped well marked trail to the next dedicated camping spot with toilets and firewood.

It's all very nice and I have also hiked this way but slowly I found out there's something lacking for me. Surely you are outdoors but walking along marked trails it's like walking in a museum, you are not in the woods or in the wilderness you are just passing by and looking at it. You are missing the essence of what backpacking means to me: Adventure!

So what if you feet gets wet, so what if you get lost for a while and so what if you spend a little chilly night. Bogs should be crossed jumping from dry spot to an another. Firewood should be gathered and not carried from the shed. Trails should be found and followed if they go to your way, then skipped and look for an another one.

To me backpacking is not about getting from a to b. It's about getting an adventure.

So what is wrong with duckbords? To me they kill the that sense of adventure in the wilderness. I want those white spots back to maps, HERE BE MONSTERS!

Ok I know trails and camping spots protect the nature by reducing erosion caused by the masses. And is it even possible to have adventures anymore? Well I think it is. I live in the capital of Finland, Helsinki just a stone throw away from the center and the most densely populated area of our country and I know it's possible to start a wilderness adventure right from my doorstep. In the future I'll try to share with you my views on how to make an outdoor life more interesting.

PLUS: Duckboards can be damn slippery!