Quiet life of winter in Geopark – On skis to the mire

The mystical mires are easy to explore in winter, for example on skis. The skis provide access to places that are inaccessible during melted ground.

On skis to Huidankeidas

The mystical nature of mire is easy to explore in winter, for example on skis. They provide access to places that are inaccessible during melted ground – partly because they cannot be reached and because many wetlands are nesting areas for birds where you are not allowed to go. So is Huidankeidas.

Huidankeidas is located in Honkajoki, and there is a guided route from Siikaistentie via Haukantie. The road leading to the parking area of Huidankeidas is kept open in winter. I drove there and skied first along the path to the observation tower.

Cross-country skiing

The trail had not been walked since the previous snowfall, so I got to ski in thick unbroken snow. The landscape was really beautiful, the sun was shining low, how it can shine in January, and painted warm shades on top of the trees.

Birch grove

On the edge of Huidankeidas, there is a magnificent birch grove where the trees curved from the weight of the snow. In 1959, there was a conflagration in the area of the municipalities of Honkajoki and Isojoki, and the birch grove was born after that. In summer, it is a paradise for small birds.

Peaceful mire

The mire opened bold and calm, clean crust shining in the sun. There was no sound. I continued southeast of the tower near the edge of the mire, sometimes over the pools on solid ice and over the hummocks, sometimes diving between stunted pines. Gradually, traces of life began to appear.

Traces on the snow

An ermine had wandered on the surface of the snow purposefully. Small pairs of traces ran across the hummocks as a regular ribbon. The ermine keeps the little rodents in check, but it can also catch rabbits by biting its prey into its neck. The ermine has also been seen caught in the throat of a capercaillie.

Soon I found myself in the middle of a suburb of the black grouse. There were numerous hollows and corridors here and there, and there were also droppings in the pits, revealing to whom the beds belonged. Sufficient amount of soft snow means a favorable winter for the black grouse. It gets to rest out of reach of birds of prey and the cold.

To Huidansalo

At the edge of the mire, traces of a hare crisscrossed. They didn’t seem to lead anywhere, they just ended. The hare is a cunning guy, as it makes a comeback by walking its own footprints a little further back and then jumping to the side. Thus, it misleads potential predators.

The rabbit had dug up the snow to the ground to find something to eat. Fortunately, the snow was soft, so it had gotten in easily.

I skied to Huidansalo, which seemed interesting on the map. It is a “foreland” at the edge of a mire, gentle undulating terrain with ridges of dunes and ancient embankments. There were several elegant deadwoods on the edge of the mire, and on the dry land side began a magnificent, spacious pine forest. Immediately at the edge of the pine forest, the capercaillie had scampered back and forth. I followed its traces a little way if I had seen it, but I soon gave up the chase.

Quiet pine forest

In the pine forest I heard only a woodpecker tapping, all the little birds were conspicuously absent. The weather was quite cold, it was over ten degrees below zero and it started to get a little windy, so the smaller birds were definitely in more sheltered woods.

Surprise on top of a tree

After enjoying a packed lunch I returned and still admired the peace of the mire and the fine colors of the sky. On the way back between Honkajoki and Siikainen, I noticed a capercaillie eating at the top of a pine tree. It uses the needles of weak and old pines for food, as they contain less resin substances that impair digestion. The capercaillie cock  on top of a frosty tree is called “frost capercaillie”. It is a term especially familiar to hunters.

Although the mire looks quiet in winter, there are plenty of traces and signs of biodiversity in the harsh conditions. The stories are written on the surface of the snow, and passing slowly you may see the ones who have made the traces. The sparse soundscape also speaks its own language. Welcome to the mystical mires of the Geopark on bright winter days – and moonlit nights!

Text and photos: Terttu Hermansson