24 March 2012

Winter Hiking, testing Bivy

March 2012

Did a short overnighter in Nuuksio National Park, testing a new Bivy Bag.  As the planned route (around Karjakaivo region) was not too long, decided to increase its level of intensity by doing a winter hike by foot, not by snowshoes, neither by skis. Motivation for this hike was anyway to spend the night in the bivy bag, under the stars, not the distance or any particular sight.

It's nearly end of March. The length of the day was already long so that there's visibility late afternoon. Started to hike from Solvalla. The sun shined. Temperature was about +5C. Forecast promised around zero temperature, so not too cold, neither too warm for the initial night.

The sun had softened snow, even on heavily used paths. Backpack felt much lighter than usually in hiking trips. Answer was simple, instead of carrying a tent I carried a small bivy bag. Another advantage in weight was a smaller and much lighter backpack than I'd usually carried. And it did feel much ligher to hike, too!

The first couple of km's were easy, but once I headed off to a shortcut path which no one had gone this winter, it felt that the whole body drowned into snow. What's more, ground was soft below snow, i.e. it wasn't frozen as I had expected it to be. So, in addition to lifting my knees up in to my teeth, I had to be aware any ponds of water that were fully hidden under snow. Ponds under snow were not frozen. I didn't want to get my feet wet.

It took lots of sweat before I reached my target, a spot at Lake Urja. There were ready cut logs and a camping place reserved for hikers, usually staying on this site at summer time.

I cut some wood logs and made a fire. Then it was the magic moment I'd been waiting for, set up a bivy. Well, not just a bivy but mattresses and a sleeping bag, and what's more, to actually test how did my new set up feel.

First I tampered a snowy ground. Then set up an ordinary foam mattress on the tampered ground and opened a bivy on top of the foam.  Next was to fill air into an air mattress (NeoAir All-Season), which I put inside the bivy bag. Last in the process was to put the sleeping bag into the bivy bag. My sleeping bag was a 3-season bag.

The first impression was that the opening of the bivy was small, too small. It was very tight to even push stuff inside of it, not to mention myself fitting from it.  Before summer hikings, I have to do something for it, for sure the opening of it needs to be extended.

When the 'base camp' was set up, it was time for a dinner. I'd say I had quite a typical Finnish hiking dinner, grilled sausages (on open fire), followed by some dark chocolate. While enjoying dinner, I thought to stay alone in a quiet forest on the shore of the frozen lake, but suddenly noticed tens of flash lights approaching my base camp. Soon after I was surrounded by some 30 young and enthusiastic Scouts, boys and girls. They set up their camp until midnight and were planning to stay there two nights.

I eagerly waited to hear what was Scout-Talk nowadays. But all I heard was about computer games, mad teachers and horse riding, and comparison of candies. Maybe its time would come later?

When I crawled into the sleeping bag I felt a bit cold. Therefore I wore a couple of thin merino, a fleece and a down jacket. After trying to get some sleep I started to feel too warm. After 10mins I took of a jacket, then after another 10mins the fleece, until I finally stayed on t-shirt and shorts, both thin merino. It was warm inside. Bivy was spacious enough inside to move around a bit, taking of clothes etc. Inside Bivy, behind my head, was some space to store important stuff.

I woke up at 6am. Wasn't too comfortable night, but was satisfied of it. Kids at the Scout camp were still in sleep, except those who looked after the fire.

Bivy had a bit moisture inside but not much. That was just due to a condensation.

Cooked some coffee and eggs. Unloaded the stuff and started to hike, returning via another and more easier route.

Observations?  Initial Bivy experience was good. Will certainly continue using it during Spring and especially Summer time.

Hiked route, about 10km (view larger map):

Some photos

Spring's here!

Grand Pine trees

Evening sun on Lake Urja

More lighter backpack and a camera bag

Bivy, air mattress and sleeping bag on foam mattress

Where to crawl in and out

New Base Camp

Time to grill

Strange colours

Scrambled eggs with French Roast

Ice's gone

High water level


Ice sculpture

A branch

19 March 2012

City Cycling In Amsterdam

March 2012

Although I fancy outdoor activities in nature (by paddling, hiking, cycling, running etc.), sometimes a city break is a good alternative for day offs. This time I chose the latter.

Spent a long weekend in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Wanted to wander around the city by zig zagging it with a bicycle. Rented a typical city bike and shuffled some days in downtown with thousands of other cyclists.

I was amazed by a huge number of cyclists. In fact a lot more than those by car. They were everywhere, like an invasion. All age, all race, sometimes advancing fast as hell. Although there were separated lanes dedicated for cycling, people rode everywhere, even against traffic on one direction street (and cars gave space of course, nice!). Pedestrians mostly gave space for cyclists when crossing the road, as did cars, solely.

It took a while to get to used to the traffic, i.e. traffic made by cyclists. To increase excitement, one could start to do window shopping while cycling, or just stop on the street to shoot photos. Cycling traffic was in control all the time, very sophisticated cycling I'd say.

I saw no helmets used, not even kids. Made me wonder why.

About bicycles; almost all were based on classic frames. Very little mountain bikes or road bikes. One thing I liked, chaines in the bikes were well oiled and made no awful sound like rusty ones could make. All in all, even bikes looked old fashioned, they were in good condition, well maintained.

One could say that there was a strongly cultivated culture for cycling in the city. Things were made easy and simple, nothing fancy. I admired all that I saw and experienced very much.

Spent about 120km on the saddle. Felt good. See you some day, Amsterdam.

First impressions, bicycles everywhere ...

... there were lanes marked for cycling

Canals and Bicycles

Some Beauties

Sights Along The Canals


Men At Work

Against The Rules

Fresh Air (it's free!)

04 March 2012

A Winter Day At The Zoo

March 2012

About two months ago I was diagnosed a repetitive strain injury in my heel. Due to that, a doctor kindly asked me not to do any activities. Since then I've done Indoor Cycling, which by the way is boring, as well as spent some time at the gym.

Today I did a bold move and decided to have a Sunday walk outdoors, the first one in about two months. Weather was gorgeous, temperature some degrees under zero, clear blue sky with the sun warming the air. I knew my heel would not tolerate heavy exercise, so decided to do a short walk (at the end it appeared to be some 8km ...). The weather insisted to take camera with me.

I have had time to look at my previous outdoor photos. Clearly one thing have been missing in them, i.e. proper pictures from animals, although there were several ones showing some pile of waste of them.  That concluded where to go for a Sunday walk, to Korkeasaari island. There's the zoo of Helsinki, one of most important tourist attractions of Helsinki. Maybe now I could catch some photos as animals stay behind fences and could not disappear from my camera (well, as a matter of fact now I know that they can even do that).

There are two way to reach Korkeasaari (aka Högholmen) island by public, a ferry from the Market Square (at summer time) and by road via Mustikkamaa island (by walk, bicycle, bus etc). Did the latter.

Ticket cost 10 Eur per person. Funny to find some skis standing on the wall (some people had arrived by skiing!). There's a quite new bridge, a nice way to reach the island. Lots of snow everywhere, all paths were frozen and really slippery.

Didn't go inside of any animal house but stayed outside. Big cat species were my favourites, lions and leopards were astonishing. However, maybe seeing Lynx so near on a snowy place was the highlight.

Below are some photos. I have kept fence or window visible in most of the photos just to remind that I was at the zoo, and so were them, too.

Winter activities near parking lot

Near ticket booth

Where to choose from

A bridge to Korkeasaari island

Welcome to the Zoo!

You'll get organic coffee here, next time in June


Too much snow for a picnic

While waiting for a summer

Scenery from Korkeasaari island to downtown of Helsinki

Scenery to Suomenlinna island

Frozen sea allows skiing

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

A wink, you are most welcomed

An Eagle Owl

A Snowy Owl

A Snowy Owl

A Sea Eagle

A freerider


A Musk Ox


A Reindeer


Lynx Lynx

Lynx Lynx

Lynx Lynx

Lynx Lynx

An Otter

Disturbing you?

Still remembering, you did bite me when I was a kid

A Dumbass?

Wild Horses

Camels and Kulosaari Casino

That's All Folks!