Day trip at Pukala with OZme

Last Sunday, I was fortunate enough to spend 8 hours hiking, fishing, cooking and just plain loafing around with OZme from Bush n’ Blade. We met at the Pukala recreational forest near the town of Orivesi, Finland. This 12 sq. km/4.6 sq. mile forest has been set aside both by the local government and private landowners as a place where the public can hike, fish, swim, camp, cook, pick berries and mushrooms and more.

After a few delays and then 2 1/2 hours on the road, I reached the parking area where we agreed to meet. OZme had been to this area several times before and had offered to show me around. We started hiking a 6.5 km/4 mile loop trail from the parking area. Along the way, we saw this strange creature, which I think is the result of aspen roots growing up out of the ground and over a tree stump which has since rotted away. Weird!

We ate a few bilberries along the way and also collected chanterelle mushrooms (cantharellus cibarius) and others to eat later on. When we got to the laavu on the lake shore, OZme was more than ready for a dip in the lake. He assured me it was refreshing. :)

I was too hungry to think about anything but eating, so I ate a small sandwich right away. After swimming a bit and then eating a ball of rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed, which is a traditional Japanese backpacking food, OZme prepared tinder, kindling and fuel wood for a cooking fire. I might have split a log or two as well.

Recognize these?

Once the fire was going, my friend handed me a gift which I was happy to receive: a very clever alcohol-burning stove of his own design (check out his video). There’s no doubt that this stove will become a permanent part of my regular gear. It’ll be perfect for making quick trail-side tea, coffee, soup etc. Thanks, OZme!

He then used pork, carrots, the chanterelle mushrooms and miso paste to make the best miso soup I’ve had, by far. I was also offered a rice ball, which I readily accepted. I have to say, I very much enjoyed both of these Japanese trail treats, which were a welcome change from my staple outdoor foods. Once again, thank-you. :)

I offered to clean up the dirty pots using a spruce brush he made, along with ashes from the fire. The fat from the pork and ashes from the fire together form an effective soap.

After our meal came dessert: Oogling knives, axes, fishing kits, natural cordage and other gear and crafts and drinking some coffee from our kuksas (wooden cups). By this point, the sun was lower in the sky, shining right into the laavu, so it was a perfect opportunity to stretch back, lean against our packs and converse. OZme is very easily to get along with and an interesting guy as well.

Shortly after 8 o’clock, we decided to extinguish the last of the coals smoldering in the fireplace and do a little evening fishing. OZ caught a decent-sized small perch with his hand-made hand-line kit after just a few casts, but I wasn’t as lucky with mine. I think I’ve been spoiled by the plethora of fish available in the lake at my mother-in-law’s cabin, because this “not catching fish at other lakes” thing is starting to annoy me. ;)

When we were done fishing, we packed up our gear and hit the trail again. OZ picked some bilberries along the way.

We hiked for about 50 minutes and completed the rest of the loop trail, which took us back to the parking area. It was 10 p.m. on the dot. Our timing couldn’t have been better, as it started raining just a few minutes after reaching our destination and continued for at least the first hour of my drive home. Luck was on our side. :) We quickly parted ways and headed to our respective homes, already looking forward to the next trip. It’s tough to say when that next meetup will be, as OZme will have his hands full for a while (I’ll leave it to him to tell you why). If he is able to sneak out for a moment from time to time for some woods running, he knows how to reach me.

Recent progress with natural cordage

Just before we moved last month, I harvested some willow bark with the intention of honing my natural cordage-making skills. I knew that if I wanted to make some decent cordage, I’d have to process the bark a bit beforehand. A common method is to boil or simmer the bark in water with wood ashes for 1 hour or more (as long as overnight), depending on who you listen to.

Having no wood ashes available in our apartment (and I wasn’t about to touch Aunt Bertha’s urn ;)), I decided to use the household item for which ashes are often substituted in the field, i.e. baking soda. Also, instead of boiling the bark, I just put it into a container with boiling water, which cooled off gradually. I let the bark soak in the solution of boiled water and baking soda for about an hour and then let it dry before making the cordage.

Surprisingly, preparing the bark “the lazy/busy man’s way” ended up working out very well. It was more flexible and resilient than bark which is allowed to dry without being processed. I also really like the color taken on by the inner bark as a result of soaking it with the outer bark still on (most of this fell off while it was in the water). The outer bark of willow was traditionally used for dying cloth, and I can attest that it works well!

I’m happy with this latest batch of willow bark cordage, as I think it looks and works better than my previous attempts. I think I might try using stinging nettle fibers in my next attempt, just to see how they compare.

A new look for the blog

After experiencing serious problems with the other blog layout as a result of changes made by WordPress, I decided to scrap it and go for something different. I didn’t anticipate having to do this, but honestly I like the new layout better!

Hope you like it and that it’s easier on the eyes. ;)

An easy dayhike at Nuuksio National Park

Although I’ve been able to get outside a fair amount over the past few months for things like camping, fishing, boating, firemaking, looking for wild edibles etc., it had been about a year since I spent a larger portion of a day on the trail. I rectified this situation last Saturday at Nuuksio National Park, which believe it or not lies within the Helsinki metropolitan area.

This national park is 45 sq. kilometers/17 sq. miles in size and is growing little by little as new bits and pieces of surrounding forest are added over time. It’s located less than an hour from downtown Helsinki and is a good place for people pent up in the city to get their outdoor fix. Within the park, there are marked trails, unmarked trails and space with no trails, depending on what you’re looking for. I decided to do an easy no-brainer dayhike by covering the three marked loop trails in the park because I was in the mood for something easy. :) I also did this so I could get a good initial idea of the terrain in the heart of the park, as well as to see how crowded these trails get on a Saturday in July, which is probably the busiest they get all year. While there were a good number of Finns and tourists from a few different countries on the trails, there weren’t so many as to make it annoying, which was nice.

The three loop trails I covered were the Punarinnankierros (2 km/1.2 mi), the Korpinkierros (8 km/5 mi) and the Haukankierros (4 km/2.5 mi). Between these three trails and short sections of other trails, I ended up hiking about 17 km/10.5 mi altogether. Nothing Earth-shattering, but honestly, it’s enough hiking for me in one day. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of terrain types at the park, from dark and wet low areas to dry, grassy and stony hills to conifer-covered cliffs overlooking lakes to birch forests.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking and add commentary here and there. (Again, sorry if some of the pictures don’t load properly. For some reason, Photobucket seems to work intermittently. Please try reloading the page later!).

Yes, I really do wear the Swedish combat boots while hiking!

Despite the fact that these trails are heavily trafficked, there were plenty of bilberries (related to blueberries) to be found all over.

This park really does have everything, including huts where you can spend some quality time with your significant other. Just kidding! This sign indicates that there is an outhouse to the right. Hey, when you gotta go, an outhouse can be an object of affection, too. ;)

To my Finnish readers: I think I’ve discovered “tunturi Uusimaa” here. ;)

Anyone know what kind of parasite made the red balls on these aspen leaves?

After a while, I plopped myself down on a fallen log near a small pond to eat lunch. Eh, it ain’t health food, but I…uh…needed the calories for my hike…yeah, that’s it!

This was followed by a little light reading of my favorite magazine, The Backwoodsman.

Here’s the pond where I stopped. If you get out your microscope, you can see the ducks near the center of the photo.

This is a laavu or lean-to shelter. I’ve seen plenty of these before, but never one so small/low to the ground.

And the nearby wood shack, stocked well with wood by the “Metsähallitus”. This is a government enterprise which manages state-owned land in Finland.

This is the first chaga fungus (inonotus obliquus) I’ve seen in Finland, so it was a nice surprise to find it.

This looked like an idyllic place to try my hobo fishing kit, so that’s exactly what I did.

I threaded a fake worm onto the hook.

I didn’t have any luck when using a bobber to suspend the worm in the water, so I took off the bobber and tried to fish the bottom of the lake instead. I like to wrap the line once around my finger so I can feel when a fish strikes.

I didn’t end up catching any fish (maybe because this popular lake is over-fished or because it was the middle of the day?), but the rig itself functioned very well, so I’ll be using it again for sure. I found that I liked using it even more than the telescoping pole, because I could get much more distance to my casts. We’ll see how it works out over time. After hitting the trail again, I saw more chaga.

I’m pretty sure this is the work of woodpeckers.

Nuuksio is surely a place I will visit again, though in the future I will probably stray from the marked trails and Helsinki tourists. Soon I will return to one of the places shown to me by Scandic Woodsman over the past few years. Hopefully he’ll be there as well!

The southernmost point of continental Finland

News: It seems our camera is MIA, as no-one anywhere seems to know where it is. This means that I won’t be able to show you any pictures from the Juhannus holiday unless we find the camera at some point. On the bright side, now I get to buy a new, better camera! :)

***************************

Last Saturday, the Woodsfamily met up with Scandic Woodsman’s family for a daytrip in Hanko, the seaside town located on a peninsula which happens to be the southernmost point of continental Finland (a few islands are further south). The body of water you see in the pictures is the Gulf of Finland, the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It lies in the transition zone between the broadleaf and boreal forests.

Here are a few shots of the beautiful scenery of the area taken with the Woodswife’s phone. Hope you enjoy them!

Sorry if some of the pictures don’t load properly. Thanks Photobucket!

This coming Saturday I plan on taking a daytrip to a national park I haven’t been to in quite a while. Stay tuned!

An improved belt pouch setup

Upon contemplating the gear I carry (something one or two of you out there might relate to ;)) I realized that my belt pouch wasn’t as well optimized as it could be. It contained a few frequently used items, a few “survival” items (I’m not fond of that word, but it’s what they are) and other possibles. It didn’t contain enough items to be called a “survival kit”, but it was more than just one or two things which could be thrown into a pocket.

So I decided to swap my belt pouch for a larger canvas pouch (15 cm x 10 cm x 6 cm, or 6″ x 4″ x 2.5″) made of very thick and rugged canvas which I had been using to hold several small items in my shoulder bag. I believe this is a South African Defense Force magazine pouch from the 70s.

Rather than add new items to my kit, I just transferred a few existing items from my shoulder bag to the new belt pouch. The new setup gives me a lot more functionality if I somehow lose everything except the pouch or if I intentionally only bring the pouch with me. I should mention that my belt pouch and knife never leave my belt when in the field except at night when I’m sleeping, so it’s something I always have on my person, whereas my backpack and, to a lesser extent, shoulder bag usually come off.

My previous belt pouch contained:

  • Matches in case
  • Twine
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Mini fishing kit
  • Flashlight
  • Swisscard
  • Sewing needle

The new belt pouch contains the above items, plus:

  • Metal canteen cup (fits inside like they were made for each other)
  • Small spoon
  • Space blanket
  • Swiss army knife
  • Mini ferro rod (this was not in my shoulder bag previously; it is located inside the match case)
  • Bandana

The additional items allow me to cook and to purify water (canteen cup and spoon), have emergency shelter (space blanket), have additional tools (Swiss army knife), have another means of starting fire (mini ferro rod) and more (bandana, many uses).

To me, this new setup validates my use of a belt pouch in the first place, as it now has a clear and designated role as more of a survival kit and possibles pouch. Some of you might be thinking that a first-aid kit is “missing” from this pouch, but honestly the pouch is just too small for me to also add any meaningful first-aid items, except maybe pain killers/antibiotics. In a pinch, the bandana can be used as a tourniquet. In any case, I have a first-aid kit in my shoulder bag, which I bring 99.999% of the time.

And yes, I do think about this stuff too much. ;)

EDIT: In the comment section below, Ross Gilmore commented about how this particular pouch is deep and can therefore make it tricky/annoying to remove things from the bottom without unpacking everything first. Here’s my response: “I know what you mean about it being deep, but I’ve found a solution to this. All the little bits and pieces (except the spoon, SAK and bandana, which are immediately accessible) fit in a firm plastic bag inside the cup. If I want to access something at the bottom of the plastic bag (where I intentionally put less-frequently used items), I can quickly pull the bag out, along with almost all of the pouch’s contents. If I want to remove something from the top of the plastic bag, I just open the pouch. If I want to remove the cup, I can pull it (and almost everything else) out, and then put the plastic bag full of stuff back into the pouch. :D Having several “containers within containers” makes it extremely easy and quick to access anything in the kit. This arrangement prevents there from being little bits and pieces all the way at the bottom of the pouch.”