Nearly two years ago Brigitte and I visited Tiilikkajärvi National Park with Miska. Recently I was back there with Miska again, except instead of walking around the park we were able to enjoy skiing through over it.
Tiilikkajärvi National Park has lots of options for hiking and boating in summer, but in winter the best way to explore the park is on cross-country skis. While there is enough snow and ice the park maintains a 17 km ski trail loop (although a shorter 7 km is also possible). The ski trail goes through forest and also over lake ice, and passes two good spots for stopping to grill a sausage (the Uiton Kämppä picnic area and the Koseva ski hut).
We arrived at the park late morning, finding sunny and wind-still conditions (despite having driven through a little flurry of snow). After checking for White-throated Dipper (a bird I manage to keep missing…) at Sammakkotammi we headed north along the ski track – both classical cross-country and skate skiing is catered for, and the track was in perfect condition that day. After 40 minutes we reached the Uiton Kämppä picnic area where we had turned around on our previous visit – that just shows how efficient skiing can be under the right conditions.
We had a quick stop at a restored homestead (the Tiilikkanautio), popping inside the old farmhouse – Olli Tiainen, a famous military commander in the Finnish War (1808-1809), lived there for many years. We then covered about 6 km through various types of forest, including some low pine forest with lots of lichens (the first time I’ve been in this type of vegetation). We bumped into two of the men responsible for park maintenance, who shared stories of recent wolf sightings in the park – it turns out that some big, but old, tracks we’ve spotted at the start of the track were made by a wolf only a few days earlier.
After turning back towards the south (roughly at the halfway point of the trip), we enjoyed a long stretch downhill track, which quickly brought us to the Koseva ski hut. Miska had a fire going inside the hut’s stove in a few minutes and we were soon enjoying makkara and hot tea. I was ready for a break by that stage, and it was great to be able to relax inside the small, but well designed hut.
We then headed off across and along the frozen lakes, with a light tailwind making things just a bit easier. For a few minutes the weather deteriorated a little, acting as a good reminder that even in March winter is still very much still there! As we approached Sammakkotammi I skied right past a beaver without even noticing it gnawing away at a tree next to the ski track (I was concentrating rather hard on my skiing form…) – fortunately Miska spotted the beaver and it reappeared for long enough for me to get a good look!
Overall a great day – it was interesting to contrast the same area under winter and spring conditions, and really enjoyable to spend a few hours making the most of the beautiful weather in a lovely part of Finland.