Following Stone Age footsteps

Following Stone Age footsteps

To celebrate its centenary, Finland has inaugurated a new national park. Hossa in the Kainuu region – already a favourite among hikers and anglers – takes visitors on a journey back to the Stone Age.

Our rowing boat glides slowly across a small lake. All we can hear are the high-pitched calls of a black-throated loon – there are no sounds of civilisation within earshot, nor the usual maddening buzz of mosquitoes. It’s so serene that we even spot a mother moose and her calf calmly trotting on the opposite shore.

We’re only a hundred kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, so the sun is still bright at 10 pm – the best time of day for fishing. We row slowly around the lake, trolling a couple of tiny wobblers behind our boat.

Suddenly a rod bends. Is it a grayling? Is Hossa finally living up to its reputation as an angler’s paradise?

It’s soon clear that our catch is much larger than a grayling – it’s a northern pike. After many twists and turns, we finally manage to net it. It’s not what we were after, but there’s no reason to complain – a three kilo pike will provide a few hearty meals. On the way back to our rustic cabin we catch two large perch, each weighing more than half a kilogram. After a couple of hours in the smoker, they will make a delicious dinner.

Deserved designation

The Hossa Wilderness Area, near the Russian border south of Kuusamo, has been a popular destination for anglers and hikers for decades. The landscape is dotted with incredibly clear lakes, the dry ridges between them covered with pine forest. An extensive trail network connects well-kept lean-to shelters and wilderness huts, where overnight stays are free of charge for all visitors. Even firewood and dry toilets are provided.

These existing services weighed in Hossa’s favour when it was nominated as Finland’s 40th national park in 2016. The designation took effect in 2017 in honour of Finland’s centenary of independence.

In addition to trekking and fishing, Hossa has plenty else to offer, including ancient rock paintings, relatively easy canoeing routes (multi-day guided canoe trips are very popular), as well as excellent forest trails for mountain biking.These existing services weighed in Hossa’s favour when it was nominated as Finland’s 40th national park in 2016. The designation took effect in 2017 in honour of Finland’s centenary of independence. In addition to trekking and fishing, Hossa has plenty else to offer, including ancient rock paintings, relatively easy canoeing routes (multi-day guided canoe trips are very popular), as well as excellent forest trails for mountain biking.

Prehistoric art lives

Among the most popular hikes is a day-trip to Värikallio cliff, which follows the footsteps of Finland’s Stone Age settlers. The four-kilometre trail crosses a couple of mosquito-infested swamps, but most of the walk is similar to Hossa’s other hiking trails, with high ridges offering spectacular views over small lakes, and dry pine forests full of ripe, juicy blueberries.

When we reach the cliff, we find a dozen other hikers marvelling at Hossa’s main attraction: one of the largest prehistoric rock paintings in Finland. Rising sharply from the lake, the cliff is covered with images of shamans and moose figures. In ancient times this kind of location symbolised the totality of the universe: the underworld (water), the human world (rock), and the heavens (sky).

Hossa’s national park status has already brought improvements in visitor amenities, one of them being a recently installed viewing platform at Värikallio cliff. Even when packed with hikers, the sturdy steel platform offers plenty of room for viewing the paintings at close range.

The stick figures have faded after thousands of years of exposure to the elements, so we pull out an information leaflet. And behold: with the help of the manual (and a little imagination) we spot a moose, a couple of creatures that might be otters, and a shaman with a swan on his shoulder.

With the day’s cultural quota filled, it’s time to return to our remote rental cabin. We heat up the sauna and begin planning our next fishing session – tonight we’re determined to catch a grayling!

Hossa’s main attraction: One of the largest prehistoric rock paintings in Finland

 

The skinny on Hossa

Hossa is an hour’s drive from Kuusamo airport (85 km to the north). The park makes a good destination for a day-trip from Kuusamo.

Hikers can also take a public bus (Kuusamo–Kajaani) and get off at Peranka village. From there a marked trail takes you to the closest wilderness hut (10 km) and onward to the Visitor Centre (38 km).

Hossa offers superb free services including wilderness huts, lean-to shelters, and camping sites, all equipped with firewood and dry toilets. There are also larger camping grounds with amenities and rental cabins (book well in advance). Hossa Visitor Centre is open from February to October. The Visitor Centre has maps and other information about the area. It also sells fishing licenses and rents rowing boats. There are several tour operators that organise activities such as multi-day canoe trips for groups.

Text and photos by Ville Palonen