I and Janne had a chance to make a short trip to Kuusamo. At first, the plan was not to take dogs with us, but as we did not manage to find any suitable dog sitter, we decided to take the dogs with us. Most of the time they spent at the local dog daycare, which allowed us, humans, to spend time in the spa and other activities that did not allow dogs (for example The Predator Center).
We had previously talked about going to hike with dogs and mostly we had planned longer routes. However, due to our lack of hiking experience and limited time, we decided to start with a shorter trail, caller Pieni Karhunkierros (Little Bear´s Trail), which is 12 kilometers long trail situated in southern part of Oulanka National Park. Trail started and ended at the village of Juuma, 45 km north of the center of Kuusamo. The differences in altitude and various landforms made the trail bit challenging, but as it is planned to “day trail for everyone” there were some bridges and duckboards that made it fairly easy trail.
Usually, when walking in a forest, my dogs are always off-leash. But as this was a National Park, dogs must be on a leash all the time. I am not a huge fan of retractable leashes, but I wanted that my dogs could fully enjoy the hike too. I doubted how it would be for us, as my dogs do not usually understand the unit of “5-meter leash”, they only understand “off-leash” and “1-meter leash”. At first, it was quite difficult, as especially Melee wanted to test the limits of her freedom. Luckily she is a quick learner, so she soon stopped trying to rip my arm off. During bridges and steep stairs, she knew to stay close and wait for me as I was so much slower than her. Ginga had no problems either, she was mostly just concerned that everyone stayed together.
The facilities along the trail offered a great setting for resting and eating. We stopped once, to drink and warm some sausages at the campfire. This must have been one of the highlights for the dogs, as of course, they also got something to eat.
Our hike was really a great experience and we already started planning what routes we could possibly choose in the future. Finnish nature sets some limitation, so probably we are going to take our first long hike next summer. We really fell in love with te view in Kuusamo, so it is not impossible that our next route would be the actual Karhunkierros (Bear’s Ring), which is Finland’s most common hiking route and about 80km long.
Kuusamo offers also many other possibilities to view Finnish nature and especially reindeer. They were literally everywhere, in the forest, on the road, sunbathing at the golf course… They really have no understanding of traffic, so while driving you had to be really careful as even tough one reindeer crossed the road, there were no guarantee that that same one would not want to cross the road again with no warning. However, they are super cute and surprisingly small animals. I also learned, that most of the reindeer had collars, which are used for GPS tracking and identify the owner. Collars also help to find a dead reindeer, as they recognize when reindeer has been immobile for a certain period.