I walk along the forest path gazing at the frozen lake when a cat glides past me. The pale blue eyes of the cat meet mine at eye-level. She sits on her owner’s shoulder, timidly observing people in the Luukki recreational area in Finland. She is young and she is afraid of the great outdoors. She refuses to walk outside, but she doesn’t mind riding on her owner’s shoulder when they go out.
She is the only cat I meet whilst walking in and around Luukki on this chilly December day before Christmas. But like her, many Finns who would normally rather go to the gym or other familiar places are now spending time outside, exploring new areas in nature-, national- and recreational parks. It is great to see so many families out. Parents are handing out snacks to little ones while older children are throwing rocks on the frozen lake listening to the sounds that vibrate through the ice.
I am out with my parents, spending a bright winter day walking. We leave our car in Velskola car park and head through the forest and cliffs towards wider paths in the Luukki recreational area. These narrow forest paths are quiet as hardly anyone comes here, but the marked, wider paths in the recreational area are popular. Parking around the park is insanely busy nowadays, but if you are willing to walk longer distances, you can avoid crowded parking areas.
We join the “yellow path” and skirt around little ponds; Halkolampi, Väärälampi, Mustlampi. Temperatures are just below zero, and even though there is no snow on the ground, the cliffs and ponds are frosty. Even the pink moss around dark Mustlampi is hard enough to walk on and the cranberries among the moss are like frozen beads.
We stop for a quick “coffee break” and take out our joulutortut (plum pastries) and a thermos filled with glögi (hot, spiced juice) from the backpack. These are Finnish flavours of Christmas. Someone else has not been content with Christmas flavours but has also decorated a thin spruce with red baubles which are bobbing in the wind.
We continue on the yellow path past more ponds: Hauklampi, Käärlampi, Hepolampi. The path takes us all the way down to the main car park from where we deviate from the track and head towards Pirtinmäki. As soon as we exit the recreational, we leave the people behind. It is not crowded in Luukki per se, but there are people running this way and that way, dogs here and Nordic walkers there. It is nice to greet people and exchange a few words when it seems natural, but it is also nice to walk through a quiet forest without meeting anyone.
- What: Luukki Recreational Area
- Where: Espoo, Southern Finland
- Distance: 14km