Hiiumaa, the land of giants

A short trip to take pictures of forest before and after cutting
April 5, from Tallinn to Tõrvanina
We have a sort of forest war going on in Estonia. 
Hiiumaa, the second biggest island, was supposed to be one of the places with most of its forest intact. Recently, however, rumors have started to circulate that the forest is not there anymore. So I went to check it out. Besides, Hiiumaa is a very cool place, a lot cooler that Saaremaa actually. Or so I think, no offense.
It rains on the way. Thick snow fog surrounds the road. Everybody on the ferry seems to know everybody else. No tourist goes to Hiiumaa on a misty Thursday evening in April.
We start in a single line through the grey thickness of the night towards Kärdla, the capital of Hiiumaa. On the first crossing the line splits like the tongue of a snake. No-one else goes beyond Kärdla. I’m heading towards Tõrvanina beach. There’s a RMK camping area. What my plan didn’t foresee is the ground being covered with wet ice sheet. Luckily the ice stops at one of the picnic tables. Setting up the tent, I discover that Hiiumaa is not only dark but also hard. I fall asleep to the distant sound of geese and swans and the sea breathing not far away.

April 6, from Tõrvanina to Metsapere
It snows a bit during my late breakfast. 
That explains why it was so cold during the night. I wanted to camp one night in order to test my new sleeping bag. It didn’t pass the first test.
A hiking trail starts from the big parking lot. I follow it for some time until the snow gets too deep. Some nice tree stumps and moss-covered trees. The trail goes until Kärdla.
I picked Tahkuna peninsula for the first day because Google maps showed a big patch of untouched forest there. Well, I didn’t check when the photos were taken. It is difficult to find even enough cover for peeing. Most of the clear cut areas are from this winter. Only in one place the trees left standing are in one group with moss and undergrowth between them. In all other places the leftovers stand apart, waiting to fall down with the next heavy wind. Unless they have done so already. Many standing trees have their bark damaged or are without treetops. Interesting approach. A small herd of roe deer slowly crosses the field.
I find a bunch of abandoned houses. An enterprising person has brought a pile of old tires there. Thrown these in from the window and left some on the window sill.
I spot some harvesters in action. There also has been some clear cutting in the Leigri nature protection area. This kind of cutting is normally done with all necessary permits and city people don’t know anything anyway.
An elk stands by the road. I stop. The elk thinks a bit, walks to the road, dances over it and disappears between the trees.
Try to locate one of the RMK forest cabins but the app offers me Christmas trees instead. Christmas is still far away although one flock of snowflakes after the other crosses the road. I find the Metsapere cabin without the help of the app. Seems to be a nice place, especially in summer. With a swimming pool. No fire place inside but I still move in. A fly wakes up.
April 7, from Metsapere to Kapasto
The wind seems to rock the cabin in the night. 
Suddenly it is light outside although the sun should rise in half an hour. I pour some hot water on the snow in order to speed up spring and climate change.
Wander around the cabin. From this side and that side forest has been clear cut. Only a small grove around the toilet is left. And a narrow strip of trees between two clear cut areas where it is still possible to find mossy stumps and interesting looking trees. Sun shines on the moss, no wind at all. Some birds chirp, even the crow tries some milder melodies and then shuts up. A woodpecker. Eurasian cranes cry somewhere close. Do forestry people really only see rotting timber here?
There are clear cut areas all around. The situation is not better when I walk towards Tihu forest cabin. The cutting has only stopped in the protected area. In the cabin there is a blanket and an orange raincoat with a ladybug on it. No place to sit outside, no fire wood brought in the winter. No mosquitoes either although RMK homepage said that here are always mosquitoes. 
The trail continues to Tihu lake where people have built a place to sit in the sun, read a book and cook lunch. I have everything with me except matches. These are in the car, in a box I considered not necessary. So there are only crackers and banana.
I go and have a look at the Vanajõe river canyon. My knee is only good enough for trails now. The trail there consists mostly of icy staircase. The river is unreasonably curvy and the water very clear and golden.
Try to find fire wood but the gas stations around here are all automatic stations. No fire wood in the shop in Käina either. A man chops wood behind the shop and I wonder if he’d sell me some but then again, I don’t think he takes card payments. 
The road to Kapasto forest cabin is a narrow one. A sign warns that due to maintenance work the road is not passable for normal cars. We’ll see. Tourists all over the world have a tradition to jam their cars in the snow on the islands. A warning light blinks but the city cars are whiners anyway. Soon I park next to the cabin. They probably just wanted to hide how much trees they have cut here. There’s a handful of firewood and a giant pile of freshly cut trees nearby. I plan to go and get some more firewood from there when I hear the sound of an engine. Five small passenger cars arrive, one of them with a trailer. I’m not the only one who cannot read. They just want to make soup and go. Celebrating a birthday. Good, they’ll heat up the cabin for me.
Chopping wood makes me warm. Manage to start the fire with just one match. Doesn’t get very warm inside though. Forestry machines can be heard not far away and the noise kills the bird song. Tomorrow I’ll check it out. Now it is just good to sit in front of the cabin in the sun, read and enjoy the warmth until the sun can’t reach over the treetops anymore.
April 8, from Kapasto to Tallinn
The clear cut area that I could see from the cabin is a few years old. The noise comes from further away. 
But that direction I find some nice forest, a house in the woods and a bridge belonging to someone called Otto. Good to know.
Since I still have time I go to have a look at Sääretirp. It is a long narrow stretch of land that goes into the sea. A place like this is also on Saaremaa and I guess in many places in the world. Well, it’s nice. One side swans swim along with some pieces of ice and on the other side solid ice stretches until the stones climb out of the water again. Sun comes out and it gets warm. I discover that I haven’t turned my watch to summer time and that explains why the sun got up so early.
A half-local on the ferry confirms that there were more trees on the island one and half year ago when I was there the last time. The situation does not look good.
Muraka (cloudberry) bog

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