Metsäkuninkaan polku (The Trail of the King of the Forest), 4.5 km, Hangasharju
Could a bear have passed through here?
The trail runs down from Sallatunturi fell towards Hangasjärvi and Hangasselkä, dry ground, sandy ridges, streams and small bogs. The trail then ascends at the esker to an observation tower that provides a great view towards Sallatunturi fell.
The trail also includes sections of forest road. There is a deep depression on the road. Could a bear have passed through here? Perhaps one had its den under a spruce tree somewhere nearby.
The village logs and other written histories of the Salla region include many references to bears and bear hunters. One of the most famous bear hunters in Salla, known then as Kuolajärvi village, was Fredrik “Reeti” Anttila in the early 1900s. He brought down several of these kings of the forest, but also many an elk, wolverine and wolf, not to mention smaller prey. The eastern village of Kuolajärvi certainly had its fair share of bears. Some of them came over the eastern border and took a toll on the sheep and reindeer livestock.
Fredrik Anttila’s hunting exploits earned him the epithet Elk-Anttila, and later Bear-Anttila. There are many stories about Anttila that survive to this day, including his run-ins with the law. In a time when everything was in short supply, the local people made the most out of the available prey. They didn’t always have their paperwork and licences in perfect order. As the story goes, a police officer once asked Anttila how many elk he had killed. Anttila’s reply was “Well, how many are you missing?”.
Bears are very important wilderness dwellers to the people of Salla, and they are held in high regard. The names of many local places include the Finnish word for bear (“karhu”) or one of its synonyms. There is Karhutunturi in Naruska and Karhulampi in Sallatunturi Fell Centre. Then there is Kontiolampi, the village of Karhujärvi in southern Salla, and the famous sport club Sallan Karhut. And of course we can’t forget Karhunkierros, a world-famous trail in Oulanka that passes through Salla.
As prominent as the bear is in local names and stories, many people in Salla have only ever seen one in a zoo. They may have spent time fishing, hunting, picking berries and working the forests in areas frequented by bears. They may have even gone bear hunting in the area. But, in many cases, the bear has found a way to evade them, as it typically does. Perhaps it respects these strange two-legged and pale-faced creatures who often carry weapons. Perhaps it considers them the Kings of the Forest?
Trail difficulty rating
Services on the trail:
The trail is indicated by blue squares marked on trees. There is a vantage point and resting place at the top of Hangasharju. There is also a lean-to and campfire site next to the pond at the foot of Hangasharju. The trail crosses a few dikes that provide a source of water. There is also a pond that can be used as a source of water for boiling.
Outdoor activities for which the trail is suitable
Trail conditions, related risks and recommended equipment
The trail is highly varied. Starting from Sallatunturi fell, the first part of the trail follows a road. You must climb a steep set of stairs to get up to the vantage point on top of Hangasharju. Up on Hangasharju, the trail again follows a road. From Hangasharju, the trail goes down a steep and uneven path to the area with the dike, pond and lean-to. Recommended footwear: hiking boots with good ankle support.
Description of the natural environment
This short trail includes a large variety of different terrain: commercial forests, dry heath forests, bogs and groves.
Description of the cultural environment
Beautiful views of Sallatunturi fell from the top of Hangasharju.
Municipality: Salla. Located in the Sallatunturi fell area. Starts from Sallatunturi Fell Centre (behind the Sallatunturin Tuvat hotel), signposts point to the trail.
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