To continue a tradition of an annual packraft gathering, premiered last year, come this autumn primus motor of the first event, Korpijaakko, kicked off the preparations early on and soon after the second get-together was agreed over the weekend of September 18 to 20.
With packrafting slowly gaining popularity also here in Finland, I was hoping for a decent participation rate, despite the usual timing-related challenges with a large group, and invitations were sent all around, and event pitched in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Sharing a ride from Espoo with Marko, we were happy to meet seven other paddlers on the campsite in Haukanhieta. Preparing a late dinner and downing few beers, we discussed about the possible options for the next day’s activities, and while the drafted original plan had us heading down the Haukkajoki river, with some insight from a local packrafter, discouraged by the low water levels, a new plan was made. Instead of heading down the river, we would instead do a lake-hopping tour, returning to this same campsite by the lake Haukkajärvi at day’s end.
Saturday dawned sunny but windy. Prepared with fishing gear, we decided with Marko to head out on the lake, early in the morning, to try and catch some surf (perch or pike) for our turf (bacon). While I was catching nothing, Marko did manage to pull up a couple of fair-sized pikes, and we had our fried breakfast with some extra protein - delicioso!
Closing noon, with our merry group now two paddlers stronger, it was time to go, and see what the national park had to offer for us, most being in the area for the very first time. Heading out on the lake again, we started with a push into the headwind, out from the sandy shores of Haukanhieta. While I had been looking forward to the river, with some easy rapids, and a larger one in the end, to negotiate, with a large group of ours, it was actually very nice to glide across the lake, chatting and basking in the sun. Lake-hopping is surely a great way to utilize the ultimate portability of these rafts, and we kept a relaxed pace throughout the day.
Our route around the park passed through seven lakes and ponds: Ketvenjärvi and Vähäketven, Iso Helvetinjärvi, Sammakkolammi, Pikku Helvetinjärvi, Pitkä Helvetinjärvi and Luoma, our point of exit. In each one, I tried catching some perch for dinner, but throughout the day just couldn’t get any, not a single bite. But this did not matter all too much, as fishing on this trip was simply a way to kill time and relax, and Marko again kept the situation under control and brought food on the dinner table, catching two more beautifully copper-hued pikes.
Until Helvetinkolu (a famous dry canyon at the western end of Iso Helvetinjärvi, barely visible from the lake except for the majestic cliff at the exit) paddling and hiking was simple and clean, although we did collect a reasonable amount of deer flies on the way, crawling in every nook and grannie. Continuing from there, we found ourselves working slightly harder, first passing through a bog following a meandering ditch that was possible to paddle only for first few tens of meters, then hopping over and under fallen trees, and circumnavigating random obstacles. At the last lake, before the final leg of our paddle, I noticed my fishing rod with reel, carefully stashed two-fold inside of packraft during the day’s hikes, pulling the raft behind me, had fallen out, and was nowhere to be seen.
Flabbergasted, I was sure it was lost for good, but Marko providing company, and an extra pair of eyes, a hike back to the previous lake was done, trying to locate the earthy-colored combo in the bushes. Against the odds, we did locate it eventually, having fallen out on a soggy leg half way up from the previous lake, and with a relief, fully equiped again, we headed back to our rafts, to catch up with the rest of the group, already preparing late lunch on the shores of lake Luoma.
After lunch, we deflated the rafts, packed up, and headed back to the campsite along the dirt roads, just on time before the darkness fully fell. We then had to bid farewell to few of the fellow packrafters who could not stay for another night, and with a smaller group a round of steamed pike and other delicacies were consumed around the campfire, before the night fell.
Next day, while finishing breakfast (thanks for the bag of chanterelles Konstantin, they perfected our scrambled eggs in the morning!), we decided with Jaakko and Marko to go take a peek at the Haukkajoki river, where the road meets the Karhukoski rapid. On site, hiking up to the lean-to at the start of the roughly 300-meter long meandering rapid, the river did not actually look all that bad, though shallow indeed. Not wanting to miss out a small piece of action, Jaakko having to head towards home, with Marko we decided to raft down the Karhukoski rapid. A rocky and narrow channel, dropping down to the rapid led us through plenty of maneuvers around and over surfacing rocks and occasional grounding was inevitable. Next time around, at high water, Haukkajoki is definitely on the to-do list!
This was a fun weekend with like-minded paddlers, and as always, it was nice to meet new faces and catch up with few old ones. Most definitely this tradition needs to continue, and during the weekend there was also some discussion on whether there could be room for more get-togethers throughout the season - stay tuned!
❯❯ Flickr album: Second Finnish Packrafting Gathering