Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Finally, the long awaited trip to Japan is starting. Janne and I are sitting on the Finnair plane at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, and ready to fly to Tokyo, and then continue on to Sapporo, and finally Niseko. There are two bus trips along the way, but hopefully we'll get there without problems.

We're joining Zach, Ari, and Tero who already are there.

March is a busy time for me, so our trip is a bit shorter than the other guy's trip and I'll be working the evenings. But, Niseko is a fabled ski resort! Very excited to finally experience proper Japanese snow, as so far I have only skied on artificial snow (in Karuizawa and Yokohama). Here is the snow-bringing-tube that I saw in Karuizawa's early season in 2011:

But Niseko has real snow. We will be staying here:

Photos (c) 2011-2017 by Jari Arkko and the Annapuri Lodge

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Over- and underground walk

I ended up going around Kauniainen's Gallträsk as my activity today. The day had been sunny, but the night wasn't bad either, nice evening views. I also included the underground sports arena on my tour, and got to walk long tunnels and stop by the climbing wall in the tunnels as well.

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Sunday.  Nothing particular going on, but a pressing need to get some exercise. The sun is shining, so I decided to hike around the Laajalahti area in Espoo.

I start my hike from Villa Elfik, in the middle of the nature reserve, and close to a nice wooden path, a loop around the reeds on the waterfront on the bay. Then I continue on the duckboards on the 2.5 km path towards Otaniemi. Unfortunately, closer to Otaniemi they have taken the boards out and the path goes closer to roads and civilisation. Oh well, apparently the cows will now have more space in the summer.

Ending with a quick soup lunch at the Villa Elfik cafeteria. Pretty good.

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Kangasala Caving

Janne and I often visit Tampere on his winter vacation from school. We did that again, and again went to explore some caves. This time in Kangasala.

We visited first the Lempokivi cave, which I thought was the interesting one. It was beautiful, with the afternoon sun just at the right angle to shine through the entrance to the cave. And with the cave being made from colourful, yellowish or even red stone. A small cave, one main room with two squeezes that lead a meter or two forward but ended.

We weren't quite sure if we wanted to try the nearby other cave, Ohtolan Pirunkallion luola or Ohtola Devil's Rock cave. The pictures on the web article didn't seem as inviting, but since it was just a few minutes drive away, we decided to make a visit.

Both of these caves are right next to the road. There's even easy parking, bus stops and forestry roads, but I have to tell you, nobody would believe there are caves in these places. They are both next to fields, in small forests, and there are no large hills or cliffs anywhere near.

But the caves are there. And boy, were we surprised by the Devil's cave. The "cliff wall" that the cave opening is on is just one meter high, but the cave drops further down, with a large main room. But this time the cave continues, as there is a narrow opening to another large but rather low room. And from that room there is continuation further several meters onward, on a very tight tunnel.

This cave is covered in clay and our clothing was quite remarkable looking once we exited the cave. But I'm happy we visited there, and Janne liked the second cave a lot, too.

More pictures from the first cave, the Lempokivi cave:

Pictures from the second cave, the Ohtola Pirunkallio Cave. First mold and gold:

Second room and Janne attempting to go further:

Me coming back from the second room to the main room:

Main room:

Me in the second room:

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko.  This blog is also available from the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bird Horniness Eye Swamp Cave

Bird Horniness Swamp Eye cave. A great name, at least. But is the cave great?

We were led to this cave once again by the excellent article in Retkipaikka, and again by Antti Huttunen, as is the case often.

We would normally have been able to leave the car quite near the cave, on the forestry road. But it had snowed, and my old Volvo didn't seem to like to push through. I backed, and parked the car in an intersection that was still clear of snow. We walked... and once off the road, the going got tougher in the deep snow and the up-and-down terrain.

Approaching the cave from above, we found it exactly as described in the article. Drop down through the snowy hole, two partially connected rooms and a couple of interesting squeezes leading forward. Those tight spaces were fun to try, but they didn't lead anywhere, at least not for a human-sized crawler. A nice, but small cave.

We climbed back and were ready to return to the car. But decided to take the lower, swamp route back. Then two things happened. One, Janne slipped and hurt his hand a bit (it was OK the next day). Two, I found two interesting holes on our path. Ominous dog (?) steps lead to one of them, so I was kind of worried a bit of finding animals somewhere, but wanted to peek in anyway.

What I found was another, much bigger part of the cave. A big space under a slab, with ice flows across the rock. To us, this seemed like the main cave more than the smaller one that was shown the pictures from the article. Did Antti visit just the first one or both caves?

This cave is definitely worth visiting. And if you do, stop in both parts!

The first cave:

 The entrance hole to the first cave:

Exit from the second cave. The cave has three entrances.

Sunset in behind the Karkkila Church:

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko. This blog is also available at the TGR website. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sotkamo Dress Code

"Can you take my skis to the clothes check?" "Why not, we also take baseball bats." Dressed in a black suit, I'm on my way to a bar, to Zach's birthday party in Sotkamo. With boots and skis... my hotel is at the top of the hill.

I spent 36 hours in Sotkamo and nearby, and managed to not just attend the party, but also follow the local guide to forest skiing in Vuokatti. But after skiing in the forest for a while, she got lost and shouted "We will never find our way back!". Maybe this had something to do that she was nine and never skied in the forest before. But it was easy to get back to the slopes.

There are easy forest routes from the right side of the Perskatti (map). Also, as my guide noted, "Go to Ripa's or go home!", if you are on the slopes, be sure to stop at the Ripa's cottage cafe near the top of the hill.

I also drove an hour to the slopes in Paljakka, and while there was only a handful of other skiers, what I found was extraordinary for Finland: plenty of powder and steep, open forests to ski through. You can find the best forest skiing near the Hiidenrinne and Kuru 1 slopes (map). It is shame that this ski area isn't more widely known. There are also many other activities besides skiing, such as renting snow mobiles. And a modern hotel / entertainment complex. Maybe worth trying some day.

Finally, on my way to the airport, I stopped at Kajaani's local ski hill, Vimpelinvaara. Here I was the only skier, and this hill is tiny but nice. There are two slopes, a regular slope which isn't very steep and the steeper park slope, with jumps and other features. There's a small cafeteria hut as well.

Pictures from Paljakka:

Pictures from Vimpelinvaara:

Pictures from Vuokatti:

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Zach Shelby. This article is also available at the TGR site. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Backpacks are DEATH

"It is not about your experience with backpacks, it is about PEOPLE DYING". The ski patrol's inexplicable rule prohibits me to take my backpack to the ski hill in New York.

This is my first visit to U.S. after Trump took office, and my first ever problem with taking backpacks to a ski slope. Coincidence? Maybe not. Just think about it: travel ban - backpack ban. And considering what happened yesterday in Sweden, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Seriously though, the people at Thunder Ridge, NY, were nice. Even the ski patrol people. Particularly the ski patrol people. I was able to negotiate an exception to their rule, given that I was a blogger needing to carry a camera. After all, the ski patrol did believe in the importance of journalism, and obviously lame ski bloggers are at the centre of journalism's important role in bringing out the facts. The only problem was that I had to re-negotiate like ten times when running into different lifts and lifties. But it was all good.

And the facts are: none of my U.S. friends believed there could be skiing so close to New York City; they thought the story of a ski hill an hour north was fake news. Well, it wasn't. It is very real, while not big it is important for the kids, near for the city dwellers, and an overall fun place with varying terrain. the mid-week special tickets cost only 25$ for a day.

And it really is just one hour from the city, although you have to add another hour to get 5 miles out of JFK in the traffic that was standing still :-)

Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy this playground for half an hour. While I had a ten hour layover in JFK, it took a while to rent a car... the airlines were unwilling to deliver my luggage to a layover point, so I had to get rentals... and I had an important work conference right when I arrived at the ski area. But no matter, call completed, the open parts of the ski area all explored, and I even made it to my next flight in time.

As a side note, I spend a lot of time on conference calls. And when I travel, I don't just look at convenient flight times, I schedule layovers so that I can take calls. Can't just travel from California to home, need to stop Wednesday morning for that call. So the layover was a necessity, not a choice. It was only afterwards that I started investigating what to do in New York. There's plenty to do of course, but I've done many of the sporty things (like skating or climbing) already, so I wanted to find something new. Thunder Ridge was a surprise find for me as well. My previous New York ski trips have been like four hour drives.

I should also say that going to ski lifts with backpacks CAN be dangerous. Be careful out there,  and take off the backpack before going to a chair lift at least -- getting the backpack tangled with the chair could be bad. As we saw recently in the story about the miraculous save of an unconscious man hanging from the Arapahoe Basin chairlift.

Photos and videos (c) 2017 Jari Arkko. This blog is also available at the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.