Field Journal: Nuuksio National Park

The third day of my solo tour of Finland’s National Parks brought me back close to Helsinki when I visited Nuuksio National Park. The afternoon before, I drove to Haltia – the Finnish Nature Center, located in Nuuksio National Park, to visit the exhibits and browse in the shop for badges of the parks I’d already visited. The center is small, but presents a complete experience of the nature of Finland with multimedia displays. A long diorama of Finnish nature greets visitors before opening into a large room with a wide screen that plays videos of Finland’s many habitats throughout the seasons. It feels like you’re snowshoeing through a winter forest one moment before being transported to a rocky summer shore the next. An audio tour gives information about Finland’s nature while accompanying the immersive display. I enjoyed the large display and spent a peaceful half hour watching the videos.

When I stepped back outside, I realized the popularity of Nuuksio. After spending two days, the first at Puurijarvi-Isosuo National Park entirely alone and the second at Kurjenrahka National Park with only a handful of encounters, I felt the crowds outside Haltia acutely. Many people were visiting the center, but others were heading out on the trails that begin from there, or just returning. That night I planned my next day’s exploration of Nuuksio with that in mind.

Fortunately, my hotel was on the west side of the park which appeared to be much less popular. It also happened to be the starting point for a short walk. I opted for the Soidinkierros Trail, a 4km long circle route through an old growth forest with rocky outcrops. I set out early in the morning, not quite sure if I would find myself alone or encounter a lot of people.

I wandered through the forest before soon encountering a path of stones lined by heath and Scots Pine. Swaths of reindeer lichen created light bluish areas in the low growing vegetation while large boulders punctuated the landscape. Before long I found a short offshoot trail leading to an overlook of the Soidinsuo wetlands, the largest mire in the park.

Continuing on I came to a nameless connector trail that led to Kaarniaispolku Nature Trail, a short 2.7km long trail. Since I had all day to explore, and I had not yet encountered a single other person, I decided to take the trail instead of returning and driving to another part of the park. The connector trail led through much of the same rocky forested habitat, but it didn’t take long before I came upon Kaislampi, a beautiful long lake with a boggy shoreline.

It was perfectly serene and there was not another soul anywhere around. I found myself blissfully alone in complete silence to enjoy the view. I walked very slowly along the trail as it followed the edge of the lake, stopping often to simply observe. A little frog hopped across the trail and water striders dotted the water near the shore, but I was otherwise alone. As the trail climbed slightly, the blueberry plants, which were abundant but empty before, were laden with fruit. For some reason the plants near the lake were full of berries while the others were not yet producing fruit, adding to the magic of this place.

Knowing I would return the same way was the only reason I was able to continue on with my walk, and I did, through forest and over a stony ground. Eventually I reached the Kaarniaispolku Nature Trail, a route that traversed a variety of habitats, my favorite being the complex of rocky terrains. I walked through field, forest and alongside rocky outcrops that I soon climbed over, leading to a pine forest and out into an open meadow where robber flies basked in the scant sunlight on the boardwalk.

Finally I found myself, still completely alone, stepping over a largely rocky landscape. Somehow, pine trees had found space to send their roots in the crevasses between the stones that appeared a solid mass. Moss and reindeer lichen also found purchase in these cracks along with purple flowering heath and a few rogue blueberry plants. The vertical sides of the rocks were covered in lichens and from the sides, it looked like the flat tops of these expansive stones were wearing sweaters of moss and lichen.

Eventually, after some slow wandering, I found myself back at Kaislampi. I had encountered only a single other person on a bike near the entrance of the nature trail and I savored the peaceful solitude at a beautiful lake for as long as I could. Despite walking slowly, I eventually reached the end of the lake and the other half of the Soidinkierros circle trail. In the sunny patches of the forest I saw butterflies and syrphid flies soaking in the sunshine.

By afternoon I had returned to the beginning, having spend about five peaceful hours in solitude and covering roughly 10km.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World, coming April 1, 2020 from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction.

Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.
Kelly Brenner
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