Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Packrafting Oude Kale

Historically, Poekebeek and Oude Kale were part of the same water course, but nowadays they are separated by the Schipdonk canal. Whereas Poekebeek has remained relatively fast-flowing, Oude Kale has no noticeable current.

After having paddled Poekebeek from Poeke to Nevele in the morning, Evert and I in the afternoon put in at the Landegem railway station for a 8 km descent of Oude Kale until the Bierstal bridge in Vinderhoute.

The first part of the trip passes the backyards of a couple of houses and the Merendree castle grounds, and is not particularly interesting. We pass under a small bridge in Merendree and as of this point the scenery becomes much more attractive as we now enter the Oude Kale nature reserve. We meet several obstructions caused by fallen trees and have to portage (me) or swim (Evert) in order to get passed.

Around 5 pm we reach the Bierstal bridge and take out after a very enjoyable day with succesful explorations of both Poekebeek and Oude Kale. Both creeks have proven to be quite well suited for packrafts – of course given sufficiently high water levels. We both cannot get over the fact that so close to home, and so close to the hustle and bustle of the city of Ghent, little adventures such as these can apparently be had!

[Video to follow in due time]

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Packrafting Poekebeek

Poekebeek is a small creek in the Flemish lowlands that is surprisingly fast-flowing and winding. Its source is in the town of Tielt at an elevation of 35 m a.s.l. and its mouth is at the Schipdonk canal in Nevele.

On yet another cloudy and windy Saturday morning, Evert and I put in downstream of the Poeke castle grounds and start paddling to Nevele, which is a good 10 km further. The trip can be classified as an explorative close-to-home micro-adventure, since the put-in is merely a 20′ drive from home. When we set off, we do not really know what to expect, and wonder whether the descent will be possible at all. It soon becomes clear however that there is no cause for concern: the creek has a good flow, there is only 1 simple obstruction, and the scenery is surprisingly attractive.

Whereas the put-in in Poeke was rather trivial, the take-out in Nevele is somewhat more cumbersome. In the end, we do get out of the water without too many problems, drive back to Poeke to fetch our second car, and have a quick pic-nic on the Poeke castle grounds.

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High Fens: Northeastern Bogs and Woods

A winter season totally unworthy of its name, this is unfortunately how the winter of 2019/2020 can be characterized… Since September’s memorable autumn trek in Norway, I therefore haven’t seen one single flock of snow, until I eventually end up in the northeastern High Fens one early-February Saturday. At least here there is 5 cm of wet and frozen snow above an elevation of 550 m…

I make a 31 km solo hike over muddy and slippery trails, through bogs and woods, while buzzards are circling overhead. What is especially striking in this area of the High Fens, is that it seems to be much less visited than the area around Botrange and Baraque Michel. I walk for hours and do not meet a single person, until I have lunch at a pic-nic table below the Steinbach creek, where I meet a party of 3.

Parking Grenzweg – Brachvenn – Imgenbroicher Venn – Steinley – Steinbach – Eschbach – Allgemeines Venn – Entenpfuhl – Nahtsief – Im Platten Venn – Mützenich – Kaiser Karls Bettstatt – Brachvenn – Parking Grenzweg

Pictures > Belgium 2020-02-08: High Fens

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LLT: Zedelgem

Winter has been abnormally warm thus far, but during a hike around Zedelgem with the LLT gang, temperature is merely +2°C. In addition, the weather is unfortunately again gray and foggy.

We start our ~15 km hike at the house of one of the members of the group, who happens to live right at the edge of the Vloethemveld woods. We learn about the former military facilities in the area, lend a hand to a tree planting campaign, and have our traditional aperitif and lunch outdoors.

Pictures > Belgium 2020-01-25: Zedelgem

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Packrafting Basse Lesse

The river Lesse is one of the most scenic in Belgium and the lower section between Houyet and Anseremme easily sees hundreds of paddlers on a nice summer’s day (water levels allowing, that is). In winter however, there is often not a soul…

On a frosty January morning, I put in at 10 am in Houyet for a solo descent. There are no technical difficulties on this part of the river, however since there is a good flow today, the current is not to be underestimated.

I pass the village of Gendron and subsequently paddle below the Furfooz rock formations. The fog of the morning hours starts to clear, and it becomes fairly sunny. Next on the trajectory are the rock needles of Chaleux, which are surprisingly spectacular when viewed from this angle, and are actually not something one would expect to find in Belgium.

The most impressive sight of the day is probably the castle of Walzin, which sits high above the river, on top of a vertical rock face. The castle stems from the 11th century, but has been rebuilt several times. Some parts are however still original.

I take out at the Villatoile camping, a bit before Anseremme. Since my plan is to hike all the way back to Houyet, there is absolutely no time to lose. I therefore cannot afford to take a break for lunch.

The return hike first takes me through the woods above the Walzin castle, while weather turns cloudy. I pass a lookout that offers a view towards the castle, and then one that looks over the river bend at Chaleux. As of Furfooz, the trail leads along the river and becomes very muddy.

Eventually, I arrive back in Houyet at 5:15 pm, after having travelled no less than 37 km by packraft and on foot (average travelling speed: 5.1 km/h). In order to make it back before dark, I was not able to take any breaks at all today, except for photo stops. So, a pretty intense day!

PS: I deliberately chose to hike back, whereas in this case, I just as well could have taken the train.

(Gendron: 24.74 m3/s)

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