I really needed an excuse to try out my new backpack. Actually I have the AC Lite 15 but that is no longer present on the site and I guess that explains the discount I got on it. It’s not that I’m not happy with my other backpack, but I found the Osprey a bit too big for simple daytrips. Hiking along the Oosterschelde yesterday confirmed to me that it’s also very nice to have a small backpack. I still expect to use the Osprey on multi-day hikes which I’m planning for spring and summer, but for single-day trips I think the Deuter will win out.
Yesterday’s route took me along the Grenslandpad from Biezelinge to Krabbendijke in Zeeland. Since I left a bit in a hurry to catch the once-an-hour train in Krabbendijke I took the wrong guidebook with me so I was left to navigate only based on the markings. Not a big deal normally, but here the markings where either faded by the salt water to the point that you could hardly see them, or they were put in such awkward places that it was unclear what way to go. With some educated guessing I did find most of the route, but in the end things were a bit unclear again and I just used the GPS to find back my car. The weather was great, with a strong wind blowing in the general direction I was walking in and splendid sunshine all afternoon.
I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions, but there is something about the quiet period between Christmas and the New Year that makes you reflect a bit on the past year. One thing I noticed is that I haven’t been outdoors as much as I’d like. Two weekends and a handful of days in a whole year is a bit disappointing.
With clear blue skies there was no excuse this past Sunday not to go and do some hinking. The wind was much stronger and colder than expected, but that just reenforced the fact that I should have been thinking about the direction I was going in. I wouldn’t have had to stare into the sun all the time as well. Still, some nice views along the Waterlinie on the Waterliniepad.
Kicking up beech leaves and listening to the sound that makes is part of the full Autumn experience for me. This weekend I got ample opportunity to do so in the forest between Spa and Stavelot. Two nice days of hiking, with generally nice weather, although a little bit on the cold side, especially on the Fagne de Malchamps. Still, no rain, which is a huge improvement over our track record of the past few weekends, and even a faint bit of sunshine late on Sunday.
We followed the GR5 from Winamplanche to Stavelot, staying there overnight, and walking back to Spa through a route we made up ourselves. Making our own track worked out pretty well, with some nice sights along the way. Good fortune that hunting was on Saturday this weekend, so the forest we needed to cross was open to the public on Sunday. Wonderful autumn atmosphere all around us for the most part, and the Fagne de Malchamps looks impressively bleak.
We stayed in the Hotel d’Orange in Stavelot. The building has been a hotel for 7 generations but unfortunately this doesn’t really translate well into the decor. Some touching up and some subtle modernazation could really benefit the place. Still, we had a nice stay there in a clean room and friendly hotel staff. We had dinner at the Pizzeria Figaro in Stavelot, and that comes highly recommended. Nice relaxed place to eat with some great food.
Whenever I mention to people in the Netherlands that I like long-distance hiking on paths stretching a few hundreds of kilometers, most of them invariably will mention the Pieterpad. I’m not exactly sure why, but there is something about this particular path that makes people remember. Perhaps it is the fact that is stretches from the far north of the Netherlands way down to the very south. Or that it was one of the first to get a lot of publicity. Or perhaps it just has a nice name.
In any case, I never really walked on it, apart from a few small stretches where it overlapped with the Pelgrimspad, and as a way of getting to the GR5 near Maastricht. Until last weekend, when I finally walked my first stretch, from near Doetinchem to Spijk. The weather was great for walking. Well, apart from the first hour where it rained quite hard, but we solved that by getting coffee. This part of the path crosses through a small part of Germany that protrudes into the Netherlands, so this was an international day of hiking.
I’m at home on a Sunday afternoon as I’m writing this. The weather is nice, with big clouds and an odd patch of blue, which makes it easy to dry out my camping gear on the balcony. It’s all still wet from what was going to be a weekend of camping and hiking in Belgium. We decided to leave there early this morning instead of hiking for another day, as the rain forecast was for 20mm of rain to fall in the course of 6 hours. That kind of downpour crosses the border, it’s where the fun ends.
It’s not that I wasn’t prepared as I got some new hiking gear. I got the Haglöfs Fusion jacket partly to take with me to work when going by bike and partly for hiking trips with a chance of rain. It did get a good workout on Saturday already, when we had some heavy rain in the first hour, and so far I love this jacket. Wears great and is easy to pack. The one thing that drives my crazy though is why there is a piece of velcro on the hood. Can that be used to fold the hood away? If so, I’m at a loss how to do that.
I’ve also retired my old backpack after years and years of heavy duty. A few minor annoyances have been building up while using it over the years, and I took the opportunity to correct them with a new backpack: Osprey’s Stratos 32. After two days of hiking I really love this pack. It’s large enough to stow quite a bit of stuff when travelling, but small enough to wear it as a daypack. It’s got a bunch of nice features that make it a treat to use such as the special side pockets for water bottles, the zippered side pockets for maps and books, and bungee loops on the back to easily attach stuff to the backpack.
As for hiking: we did manage to get a good day in on Saturday with only an hour of heavy to light rain at the beginning. The area just east of Liège is pretty heavily populated and the path took us over a bit too many paved routes for my liking, but it also ended right next to our campsite which made shuffling the cars a bit easier.
When will I ever learn to eat well before a hike. Last Saturday I didn’t really have breakfast, and with temperatures up to 30 degrees and no wind I needed to drink a lot. Surprise: loss of minerals and a headache towards the end of the day. Sigh.
I still managed to walk 32km on the GR5, one of the more famous European walking tracks, stretching from the North Sea to Nice. I had walked a tiny overlapping part of it last year near Bergen op Zoom, but this was the first real stretch. Not sure if I’ll ever make it to Nice, or even if I would want to.
By far the strangest sight was the Tour Eben-Ezer with some impressive animals on top of the towers and seemingly located in the middle of nowhere. Other than that nice rolling hills, fields and trees, and a lot of quarries.
This weekend the weather is great for outdoor stuff. Even though it's only April it feels like summer outside, and I should really be out there. Instead I'm at home working through a ton of stuff to do, including sorting out pictures like the ones from last weekend.
See, last weekend the weather was really nice as well and then I did go out for a hike along the river Maas near Roermond. Paul cobbled together a nice walking route which we later found to coincide with several "official" walking routes, one of which would lead us all the way to Santiago de Compostella. This part of the Maas valley is fairly heavily populated and also used a lot for boating. In fact, the most quiet place we encountered was a footpath along the Maas next to a chemical factory. I must not have been very awake as in hindsight I realize I missed a few photo opportunities and the pictures I did take where not that great. Still, seeing an orchard blossoming is always a great sight.
Yesterday was a grey and drab cold winter day, but with not much wind and not much precipitation it actually was not that bad. Besides, what better remedy for the Christmas festivities than a nice brisk walk outside in near-freezing conditions. Given that we did not have to rely on public transport we took the opportunity to explore the aera in between the main rivers in the Netherlands, the Land van Maas en Waal. Due to the cold and the flat light there were not that many photo opportunities, the picture belongs really sums it up quite well.
Every fall I try to plan a hike so that I get to walk on a carpet of fallen leaves, kicking them up on occasion, and listening to the sounds that makes. Yesterday was such a day. It would have been even better with a bit more sunshine and some dramatic dark-grey clouds in the sky being swept by by a stormy wind, but at least it didn’t rain.
We hiked in the Gooi area, just north of Hilversum, about half forest and half parkland belonging to some estates, with some smithereens of moorland. The forest was varied and especially on the way back had some really nice leaf-covered paths. The parkland was varied with open fields, water features and beech-lined lanes. Recommended.
Glorious sunny late-summer weather is always a good excuse to get out of the house. This morning I explored the Kaapse Bossen near Doorn. This time not one of the long-distance hiking tracks, but a GPS route of my own creation. While the route didn’t always work out very well it was fun to just wander around the forest without paying notice to the painted signs.
I got up really early to be in the forest at daybreak. Unfortunately I didn’t spot any animals, but the forest is always beautiful in the early morning light. The Kaapse Bossen also have the added attraction of a watch tower with a panoramic view of the whole area. Especially nice with the morning light striking the crowns of the trees.