Viru Raba (Viru Bog)

As part of a bonding exercize at Andrew’s office they went on a hike at the Viru Raba (Viru Bog) in Lahemaa rahvuspark (Lahemaa National Park). Only a few of Andrew’s coworkers went so they graciously allowed me to tag along with them. I’m so happy that I did because the park and bog are absolutely beautiful.

Originally the plan was to go to the bog for sunrise so I think we’re all pretty happy that they changed at the last minute to sunset. There are many national parks around Estonia and the Lahemaa National Park is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Tallinn. This the was furthest I’d been outside Tallinn since we arrived and it was shockingly short the drop off from major capitol urban city to basically no houses or towns.

While there were small bundles of 5-10 houses every few minutes, the side of the road was mostly empty and desolate save for bus stops (yes bus stops!) dotting the highway. I didn’t really understand what the stops were for but surely, they must be of use to someone.

Getting in to the park is easy, it’s right off of a major road. You simply turn down a winding road lined with trees and there’s a small parking lot that comes up quickly on your right. Parking was actually limited and there were many people there that day (it was a Monday at 18:00 so, that’s interesting to me) but we were all able to fit in.

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The park gets right to it. Following a short wooded path which is full of tall, thin, sparse looking pines it curves gently to the left and you’re presented with a plank trail over what seems at first to just be a field. The field gives way to wetter terrain, the path narrows down to just two planks lined side by side, about as wide as a skateboard and suddenly you feel as if you are floating over the water in the bog.

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Sometimes full on water, sometimes wet, mossy, mushroom filled peat and sometimes just dry forest bed the path in the bog is 3.5 km of twisting thin plank through this beautiful space. What I noticed the most about the bog was the smell of sulfur (which is presumably peat) and the fact that the land is flat surrounding the entire forest and you can see out over it for miles.

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The trail itself is easy walking, completely flat and only a little nerve wracking as the boards squish and slide under your feet. The wooden boardwalk is newer and built right on top of the old one as it dissolves back down in to the Earth. We saw many people but there are points in the bog with large decks so you can turn around or pass people without falling in to the woods or water.

While we didn’t make it all the way down the trail, both because of time and the bog gets exceptionally muddy towards the later half, we did make it back to the watch tower in the middle of the park for the sunset. We happen to catch moon rise as well and the colors in the sky were a bright pink and peach on this day. I imagine on rainy or foggy mornings this is probably a pretty spectacular sight too.

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The drive back had beautiful purples and golds come out. The signs in the bog were pretty informative about how bogs are formed, preserved, and what types of life there were lurking in the trees I don’t really remember much of it now. I remember the smell of soft pine labrador tea, and the musty sulfuric peat. The bright pinks and whites of mushrooms dotting the slope. The warm wind turning to chill as the sunset. The bobbing planks on wet ground. And one single plaque by the side of the bog warning for humans to be respectful of the fairies that live there.

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