It was over ten years ago, when I was considering moving to Kalajärvi, right at the border of Espoo and Vantaa in the north. While on a lookout for an apartment there, checking the area out, I noticed there is also a small bog not far away, north of Kalajärvi. As plans changed and I ended up on the other side of Espoo, I never did go to that area in particular and only now, on an autumn day, cranberries ripening, decided to finally visit this forgotten pearl.
When I was a little boy, some 30 or so years ago, I spent long days on the nearby river bank, mostly fishing, or in the woods. Often I went alone, sometimes with a good friend or a few. Equipped with rudimentary gear, homemade sandwhiches and berry juice, daylight always seemed to run out way too quickly. I felt proud of catching large pikes with self-made lures, and lucky for not drowning, trying to float the river with a raft made from scrap wood and styrofoam. I got wet, cold, stung and torn on a regular basis, and bled and suffered, got scared at times, but never had any regrets. And I always went back for more.
Last weekend the annual packraft gathering took place in southern Finland. Now third year in running, it pulled together around 15 paddlers over the course of the weekend, a highest number so far, with several first timers and lots of new faces. As opposed to last year’s lake hopping in Helvetinjärvi National Park, this time the event was kicked off in Kytäjä-Usmi outdoor area in Hyvinkää, and took the colorful flock of paddlers down the river Vantaanjoki, all the way to Myllykoski, and a few, even beyond.