Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions

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Packrafting / Hiking Semois

A good week after an overnighter with Masha on the Semois between Bouillon and Vresse-sur-Semois, I am back at the same river for a solo overnighter. This time, I packraft from Chiny to Herbeumont and then hike back. It’s a tour of 62 km that I complete in one and a half days. With a flow of 9 m3/s in Chiny, paddling conditions during the trip are generally good.

Report > Belgium 2021: Ardennes

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Packrafting / Kayaking Semois

Back in May, Masha and I spend an absolutely gorgeous weekend paddling the river Semois from Bouillon to Vresse-sur-Semois. We camp in Poupehan and use a packraft (me) and cheap inflatable kayak (Masha) to float down the river.

With brilliant sunshine, intense spring colors and a flow of no less than 26 m3/s in Bouillon, conditions couldn’t possibly be better.

Report > Belgium 2021: Ardennes

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Packrafting Dommel

A 31.5 km day trip with Tom, packrafting the river Dommel from Neerpelt (Belgium) to the Venberg water mill in Valkenswaard (Netherlands) and returning on foot via the Malpie, Plateaux and Hageven nature reserves. The weather forecast promises fine weather, but foggy skies and chilly temperatures remain until well after noon. However, at that point the sky clears and temperature rises substantially.

I have made this trip several times before, possibly because I feel a special bond to the river Dommel as the waterboard that manages it (“Waterschap De Dommel”) is an avid user of the water quality modelling and simulation software that I co-authored many years ago at Ghent University, and have helped commercialize later on, among other at the Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI).

Belgium / Netherlands 2021-09-04: Packrafting Dommel

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Scandinavia 2021: Packrafting Juumajärvi – bis

A final late evening packrafting trip on the Juumajärvi lake system in Finnish Lapland. We are nearing the middle of August now, and it is very obvious the sun is setting earlier day after day. Also temperature plummets increasingly rapidly after the sun has disappeared from the sky.

Finland 2021-08-12: Packrafting Juumajärvi

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Scandinavia 2021: Packrafting Lower Oulankajoki – bis

After having paddled 25 km on the lower Oulankajoki river and noticing that it in fact does not pose any technical difficulties, I convince the rest of the family to join me on another trip on this river. Of course, since in this case we will not have anyone to pick us up by car, we will only be able to do a shorter stretch, after which I will have to hike back to fetch the car. The only place where a pick-up by car is possible apart from Jäkälämukta, is Nurmisaarenrinne, so this is where I will have to take out, do a short cross-country hike to the Karhunkierros trail, and hike back via the latter trail to the put-in location. In all, this will give us a trip of 8 km of paddling and 10 km of hiking.

The weather is stunningly beautiful when we put in after the Kiutaköngäs rapids. Similarly to yesterday, the river has a good flow without any risk of touching the river bed, and the current is swift. We have lunch at the first sandy cliff, get to see some reindeer, continue our route, and have another break at a scenic sandy beach. Eventually, the kids take out at Nurmisaarenrinne, on the left bank of the river. Masha and I cross the river by packraft to the other side, where I start hiking off-trail to the Karhunkierros trail, while Masha takes both of our packrafts back to the other shore.

During the short off-trail section, a large animal jumps out of the thicket in front of me. I first think it must be a deer, but it in fact turns out to be a large hare. A while later, I get onto the Karhunkierros trail and follow it back to the put-in. During the hike, I first get some views of the meandering river that we paddled earlier in the day, and later also of the roaring Kiutaköngäs rapids.

I get back to our car and start driving to Nurmisaarenrinne. The first part of the track is the same as towards Jäkälämukta, but afterwards I get onto an even smaller track that is just barely feasible with a regular car. It’s good that I don’t meet any other cars, as there would be no way to let them pass given the very limited width of the track. Also, there are boulders sticking out of the ground and slippery muddy sections. In the end, I do reach Nurmisaarenrinne without issues, pick up the rest of the family, and together we drive back to our basecamp in Juuma.

Finland 2021: Packrafting Lower Oulankajoki

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Scandinavia 2021: Packrafting Juumajärvi

Basecamp during our visit of Oulanka National Park in Finnish Lapland is a camping in the small and remote village of Juuma. The campsite gives direct access to the Juumajärvi lake system, I hence cannot resist making an evening trip by packraft, even though I already paddled 25 km on Oulankajoki earlier in the day. One can simply never get enough of these subarctic sunsets, they’re just mesmerizing…

Finland 2021-08-11: Packrafting Juumajärvi

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Scandinavia 2021: Packrafting Lower Oulankajoki

Oulanka National Park is one of the highlights of Finland’s rather extensive network of national parks. The park boasts wilderness consisting of taiga forest, hills, rocks, rivers and gorges, as well as fauna including wolf, wolverine, bear, lynx, moose and reindeer.

Several of the park’s rivers are packraftable, with levels of difficulty ranging from very hard to rather trivial. The most obvious river descent is the Lower Oulankajoki river, which normally has a good flow and a fast current, albeit exhibits no technical difficulties to speak of. I hence decide to paddle this river, starting after the wild Kiutaköngäs rapids (dangerous and forbidden to paddle) and ending a bit short of the buffer zone along the Finnish-Russian border (which has restricted access).

I am dropped off by car after the Kiutaköngäs rapids by wife and kids and around 11 am embark on the 25 km descent that will lead me through the untouched taiga forest. On a day with fine weather conditions such as today, the descent is an absolute joy. The scenery is beautiful throughout, but especially interesting are several high eroded sand cliffs on outer river bends, and sandy beaches on inner bends. The further I proceed down the river, the more reindeer pop up along its shores. Reindeer in Lapland are mostly semi-domesticated, which means they roam freely, but still belong to herds that are owned by – typically – Sami shepherds.

Around 4 pm, I arrive at Jäkälämutka, turn into a quiet cove, take out and call up the rest of the family in order to arrange a pick-up by car. It is possible to reach the take-out location at Jäkälämutka with a regular car, although it does require a 2x ~25 km drive over bumpy and dusty gravel roads.

Finland 2021-08-11: Packrafting Lower Oulankajoki

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Scandinavia 2021: Packrafting Malingsbo-Kloten

The Malingsbo-Kloten Nature Reserve is one of Sweden’s southernmost wilderness areas. As it is conveniently located and merely a 2-hours drive from Stockholm, it has become popular among Swedes for multi-day hiking and paddling trips.

After having spent the night at a camping by Lake Råsvalen, we follow a series of gravel roads to the tiny village of Kloten, where the most obvious put-in to the Malingsbo-Kloten lake system is located. We inflate our packrafts as well as the girls’ inflatable kayak and set off on a day trip across the scenic lake system.

Masha and the girls decide to return a bit earlier than me, which is somewhat unfortunate as while I am paddling alone, I am suddenly joined by a beaver. It is probably not too pleased about my presence though, as it splashes its tail onto the water to warn the rest of the colony of imminent danger.

The weather remains good throughout the day, with large sunny spells, nicely shaped clouds and little wind.

Sweden 2021-08-04: Packrafting Malingsbo-Kloten