Located just south of Etelä-Pohjanmaa, Helvetinjärvi couldn’t be named less appropriately. It’s name translates as Hell’s Lake and comes from an old story containing a warlock, an argument and cursed fish supplies, naturally! We came to visit on a Saturday in late-September and brought the kids’ cousin Siiri along for a walk through the woods to the lake and the gorge. Boris was able to come with us, so long as we kept him on a (flexi-) leash.
We parked near the Helvetin portti restaurant at Kankimäki, had a quick picnic in the car and then headed off to follow the 4km track. It was immediately clear that the terrain here was different to Seinäjoki. On the first part, the gravel trail wound through a wooded area, where the moss covering the rocks was so thick that the kids bounced on it like a trampoline, and the narrowest stream I’ve ever seen – you could hear the babbling, with no sight of the brook.
After a consistent incline, we came to a significant structure of wooden walkways and steps, the former taking us safely across the rocky cliff top with lovely views of the lake, to Helvetinkolu, a natural gorge in the rock that leads down to the lakeside. The stairs taking a slightly easier route down to the same area, with a toilet and wood-hut and not much else. Perfect, it seemed, for the group of Scouts to cook their lunch over open-fires.
After negotiating both the stairs and the gorge we, again, followed the path away from the cliff top through the woods with many fallen trees, unable to take root on the rocky ground. Suddenly, the forest environment ended and gave way to the breathtaking sight of long, golden grass swaying in the swampland. The sturdy duckboards weaving their way through the swamp helped us negotiate our way through, although a couple of mis-steps showed the benefit of wearing waterproof shoes 🙂
We we soon on the home straight, heading towards the car, the restaurant, hot coffee and ice cream – rewards for everyone!
Although we only walked a small fraction of Helvetinjärvi National Park, the 4km trail was perfect for these kids (ages 11, 8 and 6) although it would be difficult for baby strollers or wheelchairs. Challenging enough to be interesting, tiring enough that we all (except Leena) slept on the journey home, but short enough that no-one was bored. I’ll finish by quoting Olli who said “I never knew this trip would be this much fun!”
Helvetinjärvi in pictures (courtesy of Leena Wiltshear)