“In May, a middle-aged blonde made a decision to try how she and her white shepherd Musti would manage a day in the woods and a night in a dugout,” says Tuija Palonen from Hyvinkää laughingly. And both Tuija and Musti managed quite well and really enjoyed the trip! A 24-hour trip on the Salpa Trail was a magnificent, unforgettable experience, and next spring the pair intends to do it again. Tuija has travelled a lot, visiting such places as the Cu Chin tunnels in Vietnam, but in her opinion the Salpa Trail is an equally interesting sight.
The Salpa Line is a defensive line stretching over a total of 1,200 kilometres with hundreds or perhaps even thousands of defense structures dating back to the last wars in Finland. It is really worth developing as an international tourist attraction.
DUGOUTS AND STONE ANTI-TANK BARRIERS
“Our first intention was to hike a route of 50 kilometres on the Salpa Trail, but we had to change our plans because Musti got sick. We chose a route of about eight kilometres that began from Harjun Hovi, located in Virolahti, and ended at the Virolahti Bunker Museum,” Tuija explains. Along the way, Tuija could not stop wondering about the huge amount of massive stones used as anti-tank barriers, weighing even thousands of kilos, which had all been transported to their locations one by one. The idea was that when an enemy tries to get over a barrier, the tank would turn upwards, making it easy to destroy. However, the Salpa Line, built after the Winter War, was never used for military purposes.
Tuija found the first dugout fast, as well as its lookout tower. “At the end of June, there was still ice on the dugout floor, so Musti was happy to be able to cool off its paws. It was really warm outside at the time,” Tuija recalls. On the rest area of Vahtivuori, it became obvious that the barrier rocks standing erect on the field had been quarried from the adjacent rock wall. The spot also had a camp-fire area, a woodshed and a composting toilet.
IN SILENCE WITH YOUR OWN THOUGHTS FOR COMPANY
“We visited several dugouts. You could get into all of them. Many of them were made of concrete, but in one cave dugout we found bats in their sleep. That was fun,” Tuija reminisces.
As a nature lover, Tuija Palonen enjoyed the beautiful coniferous forest scenery: “Walking was easy, even though there were some ascents and descents. The route featured terrain ranging from narrow paths to old wartime roadbeds. A person in normal physical condition, who is used to walking in a forest, will have no problems there.” Tuija and Musti spent their night in a domed concrete dugout in the museum area. “I had my Unforgettable Trip sleeping bag with me, and crispbread and tuna to eat. Musti had its own mat on the dugout floor.
I had never spent a night in the middle of a forest on my own, but I wasn’t afraid. I have never heard that a bear would have gone into a dugout to eat people,” Tuija says jokingly. “I enjoyed the silence with my own thoughts for company, and I slept well.”
FAST TO REACH FROM THE HELSINKI CAPITAL REGION
Tuija advices people going to the Salpa Trail to pack a tourist map with them, and a good pair of shoes and a torch are a must. Tourist maps are available at least at the Bunker Museum and the Salpa Line Museum. Tuija reminds people that, taking the motorway, it takes less than two hours to get to Virolahti even from the Helsinki capital region. “On that hike, I came to think that we can be proud of such a tourist attraction as the Salpa Line,” Tuija Palonen says, summing up the experience.
TOTAL LENGTH OF THE SALPA TRAIL: 50 km (Harju-Hostikka cave)
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Medium. There are some altitude changes along the route and some sections are harder to pass than others.
ESTIMATED TIME NEEDED FOR THE ROUTE: Hikers 2–3 days, cross-country bikers 1–2 days
Text: Ulla-Maija Sievinen