It was only a few weeks ago when I wrote about our last year’s winter holiday in Vuokatti, an active holiday centre in Eastern Finland, close to the Russian border. While writing the post, I tried to recall why we never rented snowshoes for the various nature trails in the Vuokatti hills, but regardless of my best trial, I couldn’t remember the reason.
A week ago we made a fast decision to repeat our winter holiday in Vuokatti. Only an hour after the final decision, we had already packed our bags, started the car and drove all 8 hours through Finland. This time with brand new snowshoes of our own.
Introducing the Vuokatti hills
We might not have high mountains in Finland, but we do have many different names for the hills we have up in the North. The highest ones in Lapland are called ‘tunturi’, which would translate as ‘a fell’, in case you want to find a different word to a hill.
In mid-Finland, around the Arctic Circle, the hills are a little bit lower compared to the fells of Lapland. Here’s a little Finnish lesson for you: Those lower hills are called ‘vaara’, which besides a hill means ‘danger’ in Finnish. So in Finnish language you could have really funny word plays with these ‘dangerous hills’. In English I just have to be satisfied with the word hill, as there’s no better translation to it. At least not that I know of.
In Vuokatti you can admire the line of 13 hills. Vuokatinvaara a.k.a. Vuokatti Hill is the second highest one, and also the home to Vuokatti Slopes. On the Vuokatti Hill you can also find many nature trails for summertime hiking and wintertime snowshoeing, besides the tracks for cross-country skiing, of course.
Out of all nature trails in the Vuokatti hills, we chose 7 km trail ‘Eino Leino’, named after a famous Finnish poet and writer.
Located in the municipality of Sotkamo, the Vuokatti hills will be covered with thick snow even if there wouldn’t be much snow elsewhere. And that’s the reason why snowshoes are highly recommended when heading for the nature trails in winter.
In January 2016 Sotkamo was missing snow, but this year it looked like a true winter wonderland.
But which trail should we take…?
We had already tested our new snowshoes on a winter adventure at the frozen waterfall of Hepoköngäs. Now we felt like pros, so we started to look at the outdoor map of Vuokatti Hill and chose a 7 km nature trail called Eino Leino. The trail is named after a famous Finnish poet and writer, who was born nearby and was enjoying the views of Vuokatti hills a lot in his days.
The trail was marked on the map as ‘difficult’. But hey – we were already pros, right? Easy peasy!
What we didn’t realize – as we weren’t really pros yet – was that when the temperature is zero degrees, snowshoeing will be a LOT more rough and challenging compared to -5.
The Eino Leino trail was clearly marked with signs and these posts that you can see in the photo.
Along the trail there was one hut for breaks and barbecue.
Eino Leino wasn’t too poetic this time!
With all due respect to the poet, who deeply fell in love with the Vuokatti hills when hiking there in the late 1800, the trail named after him didn’t impress us in its winter outfit.
We started our journey from the top of Vuokatti Hill, and at the beginning the route seemed what we had expected with fresh snow piled on the tree branches. The trail was marked well, and as someone had been on the route before us, we were able to follow the path very easily.
I’m sure the trail is beautiful to hike in summer, but for wintertime snowshoeing it was a bitter disappointment. Mainly, because more than half of the 7 km route goes along skiing tracks, streets or ski slopes, not so much through snowy forest as we hoped for.
“Hey, are you coming or not?”
The route passed the Vuokatti Activity Park. If this climbing park was open in winter, it would be a real extreme sports centre, don’t you think?
I was hoping to find at least one viewing spot for the wintery landscapes decorated with hills and lakes of Eastern Finland, but I didn’t get it. The only viewing place was on the top of Vuokatti Hill where we started and ended our hike. And you don’t need snowshoes to get there – besides the ski lifts, you can drive there by car if you want.
What happened with our breath – and snowshoes?
What happened with our snowshoes due to zero degree weather had nothing to do with the trail itself. Little did we know how badly the heavy and slightly wet snow would pile up on the bottom of our snowshoes, bringing a few extra kilos for each leg to carry.
When talking about exercise, we really got what we wanted! Especially when we finished the trail by climbing up the ski slope – without snowshoes. It would have been impossible, as you can probably imagine just by looking at the photo below.
Lesson learned: when it’s zero degrees, snowshoeing can be extremely rough, and even dangerous. Especially if you have strained your ankles a few hundred times during your sporty life, like I have.
I’ve experienced quite a few ski slopes in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever before climbed up one! A 700 meters long and 150 meters high slope truly made us out of breath – and out of snowshoes as well. But it was good exercise, no doubt there!
Even if the Eino Leino trail didn’t much impress us, I have no bad word about the views that open up from the top of Vuokatti Hill. When the weather is clear, you’ll have a real postcard landscape to admire. But as mentioned above, you don’t need to hike, climb or do snowshoeing for it. You can drive up any time of the year [map].
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