This past Memorial Day weekend Jenny and I were able to experience a slice of classic Finnish summer weekend at Hauli Huvila. A taste of Finland‘s summer days and nights at a great getaway camp located on the Kings River on the outskirts of Reedley in the San Joaquin Valley.
Hauli Huvila is a good size camp that has eight cabins, room for around 30 to 40 tents, plus about a dozen trailers, campers, motor homes, or as one Finnish man repeatedly called his a “fifth wheel”. Then you’ve got common areas that include a bar and recreation room, kitchen with outdoor dining area, and best of all the sauna! All of this nestled in between the open fields that connect with various fruit orchards and the Kings River.
Hauli Huvila Cabin
We got lucky on our first time here because we won the lottery for a cabin. The cabins are for members only, so we had become members and entered in to the lottery for a cabin and we won! The cabin we won was named Talkookota. The one room cabins are cozy and very convenient with a small kitchen space including a half refrigerator and bathroom. While you don’t really spend much time in the cabin except to sleep, having the little kitchen was very handy. Being vegetarian we brought a lot of our own food, wine, and our beloved espresso machine! Most of the time we hung out in front of the cabin, we brought a few lawn chairs, canopy, and table that made for a homey outdoor room.
Once people found out we had our espresso machine, our cabin became the place to hangout in the morning for the best coffee!
My Uncle Pauli and Cousin Roy are regular volunteers at the camp, they are on the board and help care and maintain the camp. It’s a community effort on the summer weekends and people chip in to help cook meals, bartend, and generally make sure everything is going well, all while having fun. When we arrived my Aunt Tuula and Roy put us right to work in the kitchen to help prepare and serve Friday nights dinner. Tuula had already prepared from home her Finnish meatballs, the Finnish favorite lanttulaatikko, and fresh baked dark rye and oat bread.
We helped to make mashed potatoes, carrots, and green salad for about 120 people that night. Then we served them!
It was a great way for Jenny and I to become exposed to the camp, meet everyone there, and for everyone to meet us. It helped us relax and feel at home, plus having Tuula and Roy there with us made it all the better. We really had a lot of fun that first night and quickly felt like we were a part of the camp.
In the evening Jenny volunteered to help cover for Uncle Pauli in the bar to bartend. The bar becomes very popular after dinner, some people dress up for the evening while others just stay in their day shorts and shirts. The music starts cranking and the drinks are flowing while everyone hangs out the bar to socialize, dance, and have fun. It quickly turns into a big party that will often go into the wee hours of the morning. This was very reminiscent of the clubs I used to go to in Finland as a teenager.
Family and New Friends
Being in a camp full of Finnish people was a blast, there were a lot of new people to meet and we made a lot of friends. While I knew my family there, two Aunt Tuulas, Uncle Pauli, and Cousin Roy, along with a few family friends, I didn’t really know anyone else. Turns out Jenny knows some of them better than I do, keeping their friendships going through Facebook.
However there were a few people that knew who I was because I’m the son of Rejio Majamaki, my late father. There were several people who knew my father or were close friends with him, some who had worked with him over the years. Tuula and Roy were introducing me to a lot of his friends, many who were very excited to meet me. As I didn’t know my father that well, it was great to gain a little more visibility into my fathers past and his friends.
In addition to my folks that knew my father, we also met a local Finnish artist that happened to live down the street from the camp, Michael Jussila. He created each of the unique signs for each cabin name. He works with wood and metal, many of them from beer bottle caps and tin cans. He flattens and polishes them off and then applies them to his art pieces. He brought us into his home to showcase a handful of his beautiful artwork. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of his art other than the sign from our cabin, Talkookota.
This weekend the river water level was very low, low enough that you can walk through it with only a few parts that were deep enough to actually get up to your chest so you can swim. During the day folks would bring out the chairs and drinks and sit in the cool river water. We had fun wading through and walking up the river in the water under the warm sun while enjoying some good wine.
My Cousin Roy says at different times of the year the water level ranges from the low we experienced to over 15 feet deep and even overflowing into the camp ground. They say once its deep enough with the river current moving, that many of the camp goers will taxi a group of folks upstream several miles to go floating on intertubes and rafts on the river, just soaking up the sun and relaxing while letting the rivers current take you down stream back to Hauli Huvila.
One of my favorite things about Hauli Huvila is the Finnish sauna. The sauna is an essential part of the Finnish culture, every household in Finland has one and is often part of their regular cleansing and showering. Here they have two saunas going round the clock through the holiday weekend, you can jump in anytime you want, first thing in the morning, during the day, middle of the night, anytime. You’ve got a women’s and men’s sauna, no real co-ed sauna except for late at night.
Traditionally you take sauna au naturale, naked, no inhibitions just get into the sauna and get your steam on!
In Finland and even Europe, going to sauna nude is very normal. Before going in I like to take a quick shower to get all wet. Once you get in you want to get up to the highest bench and ladle water on to the hot rocks to create steam and increase the temperature into the range of 170 to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The intense heat feels so good, you take it as long as you can and then step out to take a cool down break, hydrate, even run out the river for a quick dip, then you head back in and repeat at least 3 to 5 times if not more. It’s a wonderful Finnish ritual that every one should experience and appreciate.
The best part, because the sauna is going round the clock, we took sauna at least 3 times every day, and I might have even done 4 times one day. Your body feels really relaxed and clean after each sauna, there is nothing else like it. Since we don’t normally have regular access to a sauna, we were taking advantage of it as much as possible, as were many camp goers. At least in the men’s sauna, it was often full, the top bench could fit 5 guys and frequently there were 4 to 8 guys in there getting their sauna on.
Jenny and I avoided partying too hard, okay, maybe one night we got a bit crazy, anyway we took advantage of our early morning habits and went running two of the three mornings we were there. We took off into the field back roads and ended up getting in a good 5 mile run on our first run through various fruit and nut orchards including apricot, peach, nectarine, plumb, grape, almond, and cherry orchards. There are miles of farm field roads to run through right from the camp. We had a lot of fun exploring and making our own route. It felt great getting a morning run in and then taking sauna before having breakfast. We felt so refreshed, yet relaxed, and it set the tone for our days there.
The Hauli Huvila camp is a great weekend getaway camp when you can get away for 3 to 4 days. Located about two and half hours drive away from Los Angeles. There is a great sense of community and Finnish culture that makes you feel welcome and at home. We had a blast and we look forward to going back again, soon. You do need to be Finnish to come here and enjoy yourself, or as a guest of your Finnish friends, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms and friendly faces, they just happen to be good Finnish people.
Hauli Huvila Resources
- Official Hauli Huvila Site
- Hauli Huvila on Facebook
- My Hauli Huvila photos on Flickr Hauli Huvila Group
- Hauli Huvila Wallpapers
So have you been to Hauli Huvila? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and thank you for reading!