Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Jongunjoki and Ruunaa River Paddling Expedition - Part II

And we continue where we have left off.

Rise & shine!

After a fine dinner & sauna I slept very well, being woken up too early for my taste. Nevertheless, boiling some water for my breakfast and coffee (Starbucks Via ftw!) and then we had a "Safety and Unexpected Situations" lecture by Petri. After explaining safety gear worn and carried Petri elected pairs of people and volunteers to act with him some unexpected situations.

Petri's safety gear - hover over the image to get specific information.

Unexpected situations usually included capsizing in kayak and canoe in varying variations - from poling up a stream, to being a novice paddler, to having a heart attack, to being drunk (the most likely thing to happen in my experience, Finns get utterly wasted when paddling/ boating). I was with my Russian mate as a rescuer, our situation being that Petri and his partner capsized while Petri also acted to have a heart attack and being unconscious. We decided to first rescue the conscious person and then get the unconscious one into the canoe and start CPR. Now getting a unconscious person into a canoe is quite a task and I had quite a job cut out for me getting Petri in, and doing CPR in a canoe also belongs to the kind of stuff I hope I will never have to do.

There's no right and wrong in those situations, but the general opinion after our rescue was to go first for the unconscious person and then rescue the conscious person. We decided to go the other way, as it would mean at least one sure survivor. Of course it does make sense to me, in hindsight, that we could have first rescued the unconscious, do CPR and call for help while still being able to rescue person number two without running danger of him becoming hypothermic or similar.

After the lessons some people headed to the sauna, and after lunch we packed up and continued just a few kilometers downstream, until Aittokoski, another Class II rapid. We got out at the top and went scouting, it was a pretty straight run of 400 m with 4,4 m in fall, with some big rocks at the beginning. In a canoe with my partner we did it without a problem, a fine run. Right after the rapid there's a eddy with a little sand beach, perfect for landing - even more perfect as this is where we would stay for the night!

A big double laavu with a fire place inside, a fine fire place with a bench for preparing food outside, and some very fine reindeer moss and other lichen & mosses not too far off, this seemed a fine spot. Add in that the portage back up is easy and short, and some of my classmates took the kayaks and tried the rapids a few more times. I went about setting up camp, inflating the Alpaca, getting the mind set on the task ahead and recruited a photographer.

A fine camping spot.

From the left site...

And the right site. Thanks to my mate Stu Campbell for the fine photos!

After running the rapid twice in my packraft it was time for the evening get together and talk about the day. Sitting outside around the fire we are discussing, while in our back a massive black cloud is pulling up. Petri finishes with a "... and we had great weather!" as a massive thunder cracks through the sky right above us, and a blinding lightning strikes not far away. Seconds later first hail, then big drops of rain are pounding down on us, and the meeting is postponed while everyone runs off to secure their shelters.

A howling wind blows from the west, and rips three shelters out of the ground while it shreds one 3x3 tarp at the seams and renders it useless. I had my wet gear up for drying and my SpinnShelter pitched high, which I quickly corrected with the rain and wind making it not too easy. As I think I'm done my Alpaca, which I left drying against a tree, is picked up by the wind and jumps through the forest, me chasing it =) Securely lashed around a tree and deflating it, I check once more pegs before I head back to the double laavu.

And as soon as it started it was over, leaving us with a fine display of clouds and a rainbow. The meeting commences for a second time, and concludes with a few games being played.

After the storm went over, gear is put back up for drying.

Sunshine is a fine thing to take up to.

Waking up to sunshine isn't difficult in summer in Finland. It actually is more difficult to sleep without being woken up by the sun - it going down around 23 o'clock and popping back up at the horizon around 2-ish means you wanna look for a bit of a shady camping spot. Breakfast, breaking camp, packing the vessels and getting into the paddling mindset are the tasks of the morning, and before nine we start off.

Busy ants.

Today was my first full day paddling in a kayak - the previous days on the river I was in a canoe. At first I was a bit skeptical - we had to cover some 26 km, and in a kayak you're paddling alone while in a canoe you got someone to help out. Well, we covered 20 km to the lunch place in about 3,5 hours and I didn't even break a sweat, so my worries were unfounded - it was a lot easier as I thought. With hindsight it is obvious, the kayaks we used being Seakayaks and having a very long keel while having less surface than the canoes. However, going down rapids in the Seakayaks, be it Class I or II, I could care less for. Personally I find it not interesting, it is just annoying that you get massive loads of water on your spraydeck while maneuvering in them, in the rapids, is a tad awkward. Anyway.

After lunch we continued at a leisurely pace the remaining six kilometers and arrived very early at our third camping spot, Laklajoen taukopaikka just a short walk underneath some Class II rapids. Instead of some more packrafting I decided to check out the surroundings on foot, after having set up camp. The Karhunpolku goes through the area, a very fine looking trail, and I followed it for a while to a nearby spring, where I refilled my hydration bladder and headed back. It was dinner and evening meeting time =)

View from Camp Three.

Drying gear the next morning.

Another great night's sleep, it was nice to wake up to splendid sunshine and warm temperatures. A short day of paddling was waiting, before we would head off to Ruunaa for more paddling. But first breakfast, packing, loading the canoe... The morning's paddling was uneventful, the major rapids on the river where behind us, with mostly flat water without much current and the rare Class I rapid before us. We had a final lunch before the remaining Class II rapid of Viitakoski before running it, and were passed by a group of amateur paddlers. Curious as we are, we walked up to the bridge to see how they'd paddle the rapid. It was quite a miracle that none of them capsized, as they didn't even know how to hold a paddle correctly, nevermind to keep it on one side or which strokes to use with it. We made it down Viitakoski with proper paddling, and then landed and started to load the gear for the trip to the Ruunaa river.

Adders in love and a small group of cranes.

To be continued...

The Week in Review

A busy week. A week, in which I passed my Professional Examination, which means I took the practical hurdle on the road to becoming a Wilderness Guide. It feels great to have passed it, and having done so very well. Now three theoretical exams about birds, plants and general nature knowledge remain until I will graduate =)

News & Various:

Check out the David Attenborough narrated UN International Year of Forests - video - it is the appropriate thing to do on World Environmental Day!

Looking for some lighter gear to make your summer trips more enjoyable? Then check out the Nordic Lightpacking Gear Swap, where you for example can find a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo I Shelter system for a very good price!

More light gear you can find also at the Outdoor Warehouse, who sell for example the Klymit Inertia X-Frame Sleeping Mat for your lightweight sleeping system!

A new blog dedicated to packrafting in Europe, written in German, can be found at Packrafting Europe. Give Sven and Marc a warm welcome!

Roman Dial admits to being Old School.

Christine's next adventure? Paddling the complete Yukon river in a canoe.

Markus and Carsten instruct us on how to hike 100 km in less than 24 hours.

Project Hyakumeizan takes us on a journey to the centre of Mt Fuji.

John and Jean celebrate their first year on the road and show in beautiful photos where they have been thus far. The start makes Utah, home of those magnificent red rocks and canyons.

Perkunas has been away from the internet, but he still is living a fine bushcrafty life, going fishing, hunting, making stuff with his hands and knife...

Talking of knives, Stick wants to know if you carry a knife in the outdoors - let him know!

I will be on the island of Jungfruskär, part of the Archipelago National Park, next week; doing some meadow cleaning and bird watching while enjoying the fine weather that should be coming our way. Nevertheless there should be Part II of my paddling trip come online.


Some seriously fantastic MYOG backpacks are presented on the Backpacking Light MYOG Forum by Christopher Zimmer. Go check them out and get inspired!

Thomas is making fun of the Laufbursche man purse - the latest fashion trend from Germany :D

Helen is reviewing the Gregory Women's Jade 34 Backpack.

John is singing the accolades of a Dirty Girl.

Another John (lets call him a Shed Dweller =) gives us some intel on the Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Backpack and shows that it is possible to fit gear and food for two days in it.

Terry reviews the Rab Neutrino 400 down sleeping bag aka "The Orange Slug".

Richard shows off his MYOG skills with his Kick Ass Quilts Potomac project, a synthetic underquilt he made for his hammock.

Basti looks at the Montane Featherlight Smock.


Trip Reports:

Leighton Wight penned a majestic piece about his The Tour Divide: The World's Longest Off-Payment Bicycle Race experience, which you need to read.

Sam went Splitboarding on Memorial Day.

Roger went for a two nights hiking along the Blekingeleden and Laxaleden, enjoying fine views over lakes, rivers and forests.

Brian and Staci wnet for a seven day paddling trip to the BWCA which included fishing, moose and dragonfly sightings as well as fine rainbows.

Adam visits Mono Lake. Splendid photos of an area which could not be more bizarre and alien.

Looking for a very hard yet beautiful day hike? Try Mt. Moosilauke.

Kelley and John visit the Camden Hills State Park. Fine views and wildflowers to be encountered.

FHNR hiked in Portugal, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. Gorgeous photos of an area which has a lot to offer - fine views and wild camps, for example - make this well worth your time.

The first part of Doom's nine day Solo Bike & Packrafting Tour is a must read.

That kids and toddlers love the outdoors is demonstrated by Eric from Revelate Designs, who took his seven month old son Finn up the Front Range Mountain ridgelines.

Kenburg spend three days in the Cairngorms with a mate.

Jörgen paddles the Voxnan river and its rapids in his packraft in preparation for his upcoming trip.

Andy shares some fine photos from his TGO Challenge.

Nick was wearing a lot of layers on his hike in the Strathconon Corbett.

To summit or not to summit, that is Swanscot's question.

Sitting in the car in carpark, waiting for the rain to stop, Paul and his mate are trying to remember when was the last they hiked in the rain. Once the rain makes a break, they start to walk the Fairfield Horseshoe, one of the finest rounds of the Lakeland.

Pablo has a must see video of him and his mates paddling down Lil' Susitna river - fine tunes included!

Gustav spent a weekend in his local woods. Moose, campfires, luxury food and red-light are to be encountered.

Marcel continues his write-up of his E5 hike, Day 9 takes us from the Braunschweiger Hütte to Zwieselstein.

James starts off his TGO Challenge report, this being his 3rd attempt at completing it we hope to see him succeed! Days 1-4 are up, finely written accompanied with great photos you are well advised to read it.

Dave lets us in on the hardest trip he has ever done - a combination of skiing, packrafting, and hiking.

Robin went for a nice stroll in the Lake District.

Mountain Goats, waterfalls, caves, misty mornings.

Jongunjoki and Ruunaa River Paddling Expedition - Part I

I'm not a big fan of splitting trip reports in several parts, but before I head off into the wild for my Professional Examination on Tuesday & Wednesday I wanted to give you a first taste of the paddling expedition. Expect Part II sometime soon!


The fourth and final expedition of my Wilderness Guide education. Paddling in canoe, kayak and packraft down some very scenic rivers and exciting rapids. Lots of learning, from a excellent teacher.

Signage to our basecamp.

Basecamp for the first four nights.

Monday morning, off to Kuru, throwing my pack into the trailer, climb into the car and off to the East we are. On the way we pick up our canoe & kayak teacher, Petri Leinonen - one of the best paddling teachers in this country, with over 25 years of experience. About six thirty in the evening we arrive at the Jonkerin Lähtöpaikka, basecamp till Friday morning. Here the river Jongunjoki starts, while the Jonkeri lake, from which it is fed, is our playground for the first days.

Petri in the bow, refreshing our memories from last year.

The first "rapid".

Tuesday and Wednesday we take turns in kayak, canoe bow & stern until what we learned last year is again up-to-date. The weather is wet: grey, windy, rain, with the occasional ray of sunshine breaking through. In every free minute we head back to the kota on the shore, a closed hut with a fireplace in the middle, to dry clothes, cook food and boil water for hot beverages while talking about paddling, and the soon to be finished year. Time flies, less than three weeks and this education is done.

A Memorial site. Don't bother unless you get really excited about a big rock in a lake.

This photo describes the general feel of the first few days pretty well.

Tuesday afternoon we go to visit a few war memorial sites. The rebuild trenches and bunkers near lake Saunajärvi are the highlight, we had good fun running around in them and "re-enacting" the war. Yeah, we weren't serious!

Wednesday afternoon then the first training at the Siltakoski rapid, a 70m long Class I playground. Managed to capsize in both canoe and kayak at my first try, which was a great learning experience - after capsizing you're not afraid of the water anymore, and you learn from your mistakes. Eddy turns and ferry gliding were the name of the game, and good fun after you mastered them.

The Kota on the far left, behind it the woodshed, a hut we used for dressing & drying, and in the background another hut which we used to store gear.

Thursday, second morning on the rapids. I got permission to take the packraft, and boy did I have fun on the short Class I rapid - I must have had a manic smile on my face, so much fun it was! Down and portage up were what I did a dozen times, ferry gliding across the current, working up the current into the eddy to do a eddy turn to go back down. Awesome. I want more.

Our vessels. Brand-spanking new Esquif Prospecteur 17 Royalex canoes where what we were paddling, at 2000€ a pop not cheap! The Kayaks already had seen plenty of (ab)use.

Thursday afternoon then a short introduction to something. It was raining, which wasn't bad, but the wind which was howling made us all look like a sorry bunch. Before it was go to sleep time, it was "Say what ya wanna paddle tomorrow" time. Kayaks were popular, and after some discussing and thinking a satisfying solution was found. I was to paddle in a canoe with a good mate, someone of whom I knew that we would work well together. Off to sleep then.

Thursday evening. Calm before the storm.

Friday morning, breaking camp, packing, lashing gear into the canoes and kayaks. First time, so it took a fair amount of time for us 11 students. By eleven o'clock we were ready, and we started to paddle down the Jongunjoki.

The weather got better!

The first few rapids were short Class I, nothing to get out and go scouting for. There were some lakes to be traversed, thankfully it was fairly windstill so there wasn't much of physical effort involved. After some time paddling we reached the 550 m long/ 7 m drop Kalliokoski - Boulder Rapid - our first Class II rapid. Getting out and scouting, getting the lodown from Petri, getting back to the vessels, deciding who goes first, second, third... Building up anxiety. Waiting makes me nervous, and in a group of nine canoes and kayaks, well, expect to wait for a while. Thankfully we soon had a go, giving a 110%, being full of adrenaline we had a fine run down, big smiles after having mastered this first challenge.

We continued to the lunch site, the sun came out and it was gloriously fine, laughter and smiles all around while we strengthened ourselves for the remaining 15 km.

Hiidenportti, the second Class II+ rapid.

We soon reached Hiidenportti, a Class II - II+ rapid which has capsized many great paddlers, as Petri told us - it is a tricky rapid where you quickly need to switch sides or end up smashing in a rock and capsizing. Again getting out, again scouting, again discussing routes, again who goes first, second, third...


Middle - scouting from the bridge.

And it continuous.

Happy paddlers after a perfect run!

Hiidenportti was tricky also because there's not much leeway above the rapid - there's another Class I right before it, so it is backwards ferry glide across the current, eddy turn in and off you go. As you can see from the photos, my mate and me did it without getting wet, a sweet run, pumped with endorphines and being really happy about doing it so well. We waited for the rest of the group, had a little post-excitement drink and snack, before the paddling continued.

Paddling continues after everyone came down Hiidenportti.

After Hiddenportti there were seven more rapids, of which only Pässipyörteenkoski with its one meter drop right at the beginning is worth mentioning. We arrived at the Otroskoski campsite, the (open & free!) Sauna already being heated by some other paddlers, ready for us later on. I asked Petri if it'd be cool to run the last few rapids with the packraft, and got permission for take-off. Wading through a contributory stream and bushwacking through the forest up along the stream, I reached after a while the V before Pässipyörteenkoski. Inflate, strap the pack to the Alpaca, PFD, Helmet, Spraydeck closed and off I went. Good fun, but sadly too short.

Otroskosken hut (top right) & sauna. Plan a stop here if you paddle down Jongunjoki.

Camp that first night paddling.

After having successfully run the river in the packraft I was just in time for the evening meeting, in which we discussed the past day and the next day. While I munched my dinner the sauna was getting ready, and a fine sauna it was. A dip in the river was the refreshment needed, before heading off to sleep & sweet dreams.


To be continued.