Forests and Bogs of Lahemaa and Kõrvemaa Parks - Aegviidu, Estonia
I never knew the picking mushrooms was such a popular thing in the Nordic and Baltic countries. In the US my only knowledge of mushroom picking is the unfortunate stories you see once a year about an entire family becoming ill because someone picked the wrong mushrooms for their homemade soup. While running through Estonia on a beautiful day in mid-September I came across many families with large buckets out in the forests picking mushrooms. I snapped a few pictures of mushrooms on the trail since they were beautiful but then friends told me those are the poisonous kind.
My trip to Estonia started with mid afternoon flight on a Saturday afternoon from Stockholm. I was in Stockholm for a work event and wanted to get in a quick trip before heading back to the US. I would have liked to visit Tallinn, but given the short duration of the trip, I was just going to have time for the run I planned. I rented a car and then drove to the hotel, only about an hour away from the airport in the village of Aegviidu. Because of the 1 hour time-zone change, I lost time in the traveling. I went straight to dinner at the hotel and then went to bed early as it would be a long Sunday. That night it was just me and I think what must have been a wedding party. The next night though I was the only person at the hotel.
I had contacted the hotel a week before about getting a ride about 30 miles north (50k) on Sunday morning. Sunday morning the driver showed up right on time and we set off. It surprised the hotel manager and him I would run back that same day; I don’t think they quite believed it. We had a very interesting conversation during the 50 minute car ride since it turned out he was a professional disc golf player. I only know what disc golf is since there is a disc course where I run frequently and had no ideal people could get paid or have sponsorships. He had traveled the world playing it professionally. He also had traveled extensively as a heavy equipment operator and his next plan was to work in Canada for a while. Interesting the lives people have.
We got to the starting point, just a quiet piece of the forest road. It was here I made a tactical error. Given the early hour my mind wasn’t too fresh, and I got confused about the course I had mapped. I had based my track off the Estonia Wilderness Marathon and then added 5 miles to it (about 8k). In my mind I was thinking I hadn’t created a new track yet, so when I started I was thinking I needed to add on 5 miles (10k). I realized my mistake about halfway into the day...my 50k would now be closer to 60k. Not a bad result overall, just need to always ensure my tracks are 100% set when I’m wide awake.
Once again I was lucky to have an amazing weather day with blue skies, bright white puffy clouds, and mild temperatures. I had 3 liters of water in my pack and also had my cold weather gear since there was so much water on the route. The footing was slick through the bogs so I wanted to prepare myself in case I got wet. From reading I knew that there were portions over 3 miles (5k) from any roads. I also like to self-rescue if something happens so carry extra gear at all times when I’m by myself. I’ll write a longer post later on my views on risk taking, self-rescue and the gear I carry.
The path itself went through two parks, the Lahemaa National Park and Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve. Both parks offer amazing beauty in the form of forests and large open fields of bogs. Much of the course was single track through forests but there were also long distances on boards set on the ground across the bogs. It was fun to run on the boards because of their natural spring, but also one wrong step and you would find yourself in the bog water. I had read it’s difficult to climb out of a water hole in a bog, so was naturally cautious about crossing them. The high point of the run were the quiet areas in the bog where the sky reflected off the water as if a large polished mirror.
My run ended back at Aegviidu village where it started. I knew I had to get back to the restaurant before it closed so had to push the pace a bit at the end. I surprised the hotel manager when I walked in. She was working a 24-hour shift so had seen me in the morning when I left. When I came back from dinner, she asked when I had to leave. I answered 5am the next morning. She offered to prepare a take away breakfast, which after a long day of running is one of the nicest things you can hear.
Estonia was a great place to have a long run for an ultrarunning destination. I ran about 36 miles (60k) and still had about 1700 feet (500m) of elevation gain despite what seemed like a very flat country. I would definitely return as there are many more trails to explore and more remote areas in the country’s northeast with tracks along the coasts.