Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice and the End of a Season

The winter solstice is actually on Monday, but I chose to celebrate it on today on Sunday, since Monday is a workday for me. The days will now start to get longer again. This is worth celebrating because currently the time between sunrise and sunset is only 5 h and 44 minutes, which does limit you a bit on workdays. A good way to celebrate the solstice is to do something outside.

My intention was that last Sunday´s trip would be the end of the kayaking season for me, since it was an absolutely fantastic outing.

I had planned a bike ride for today, but as it felt like I was catching a cold I thought that would have been too hard on the body after all. With the sunrise being at 9:37 I had plenty of time to consider my options, while drinking the morning coffee. It looked to be a fine morning, so I opted to go for some final paddling instead, before the arrival of the winter. I did not regret the decision.

The ten day weather forecast now predicts snow and a temperature safely below freezing, so it seems likely the winter has finally arrived. There was a slight dusting already.

Vepsä gets snow.

I still like the Greenland stick.


There was already ice in some more sheltered places. The ice thickness was around 5 mm, which was still possible to paddle through.

On the way back it started to snow.

The final 1 km crossing was even a bit too exciting, with waves from two directions and big enough to occasionally break over the kayak, but I got back without any bigger problems.

The December kayaking has offered some really nice moments in the nature, a good compensation for the lack of winter and this was a worthy finish to the kayaking season.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Waiting for the winter

We are now well into December and there is still no winter in sight in the weather forecasts. Two weeks ago we at least had snow for a few days, which was really nice in the middle of the November misery (November had only 5.1 h of sunlight in Turku).

Normally the lack of a proper winter would have me very frustrated at this point, but this time it isn't too bad. In addition to having a lot to do at work, my rediscovery of kayaking after an eight year break has kept my spirits up. It is more fun to go paddling instead of riding in the very wet forest, something I try to minimize also because of potential trail damage.
Yours truly.

One of my goals for next summer is to learn to paddle with a Greenland paddle. My eagerness (or impatience if you want) led me to get one a little early. I took it to the pool training a week ago for some roll training and found it to be quite nice. Yesterday I tried it for real and was again pleasantly surprised. I have a 228 cm long Lahnakoski Greenland, but next summer I'll probably make one myself. It should be possible to make a lighter one with a few hours of work.

Much to my surprise, there was a little ice in a few places on the lake. About 7 mm is enough to make paddling through it a bit difficult.

Ordinary cruising speed, about 8 km/h, was easy enough with the Greenland paddle, but the top speed was slower than with a large bladed paddle. I couldn't go much faster than 9 km/h. The Greenland paddling technique is a bit different, so it should be possible to improve a little, but I still think the top speed will be lower. It shouldn't matter much, though.

I'm still waiting for the winter, but in the meantime I'll do some paddling.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sixth Annual Vajosuo Beer Ride

November means mostly depressing weather and darkness in Southern Finland, in addition to the annual beer ride to Vajosuo. This mountain biking event was now to take place for the sixthtime. The concept is still simple: Ride the bikes for a few hours on very demanding trails, stay at the Vajosuo shelter for the night drinking beer and eating and then ride for another few hours in the morning after a few hours of sleep.

My bike packed with everything needed, including a full liter of beer. The Salsa Mukluk in 29+ mode with a suspension fork is a very nice ride and I'll probably do a review of it before I switch to the fully fat winter wheels and tires when the snow arrives, which I hope to be soon.

I rode to the meeting place at Rantapiha from home on roads. The 45 km took exactly two hours, which I think was quite ok. A third of the distance was on somewhat soft dirt roads.

There were seven of us starting from the Rantapiha parking place, with an additional two going straight to the Vajosuo shelter. Everyone had a fatbike, except me with my half fat 29x3" tires.

The first leg was the duckboards north of the Savojärvi lake. The duckboards are quite new and in good shape, but the rain had made them slippery.

It wasn't all duckboards, but it was still rather demanding riding. The trails are mostly fairly technical and very slippery when this wet.

The duckboards south of Savojärvi were in poor shape and even more slippery.

Despite now having a fatbike, JJ still rides with a big backpack.

The fire was already burning when we arrived.
I heated a smoked trout, which tasted rather deliciously. Jani has a game stew going on. After three hours or so it tasted really good.

Yes, this looks almost ridiculous. A few years ago everyone only had grilled sausage, but that would now feel a bit primitive.

And so the evening went on in good company, with great food and a little beer.

About half past one it was time for the traditional walk to the bird tower to look at the dark mire. This time the mire itself could not be seen, since it was too dark with all the fog. When we returned from the tower I went to sleep in my bivy bag. The time was now around three in the night. I slept very well and got up a little over eight in the morning after a rather warm night.

Breakfast in the making.

My bivy spot. The wine bag pillow was again in use, since I had replaced the wine bag with a new one. The first one developed a leak after a little less than four years.

Jani's sleeping spot. You can probably not see him because of the camouflage, but he is there. The Red Cross ground sheet seems a bit out of place, though.

The morning was rather slow. I would have been prepared to leave a little after nine o'clock, but we didn't get started until well after ten.

A few different bikes.

Toni now has good sponsors, which can be seen from the bike and everything attached to it.

There is a certain grim beauty to a mire in November.

The old duckboards have now been replaced. The old ones are piled up for removal during the winter.




Some forest roads.

The Kangenmiekka trails.

After Kangenmiekka I took the roads home, while the others continued on trails for several hours. I wanted to go to the pool exercises in the evening to try my new Greenland paddle and hence was a little short of time. The remaining 30 km ride home went in 1 h 20 m, without anything to eat. I was rather cold and hungry when I got home and would probably have bonked in less than an hour without anything to eat, had I continued.

That's it. Another great Vajosuo Beer Ride done in great company! Thanks to the participants.