Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Packrafting the Dommel on August’s Last

Last day of August and temperatures are again soaring to unexpected heights. I manage to convince Evert and Glen to join me on another trip on and along the Dommel river: i.c. the classical descent from Neerpelt (B) to the Venberg water mill (NL), followed by a return hike through the woods, heath and wetlands of the Malpie, Plateaux and Hageven nature reserves.

The entire trip is a bit over 30 km and takes us approximately 7.5 hours to complete, including a one hour lunch break. Even though the summer has been warm and dry, the water of the river is surprisingly clear and cool, and the flow is quite good.

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Packrafting Oude Leie

An after-work evening paddle with Evert and – partly – Jelke on an old branch of the river Leie in Astene. We put in around 6 pm, have a relaxed paddle and swim, and put out just after sunset at 9 pm. We much enjoy the laid back atmosphere and the fairly unusual warm late summer weather.

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Packrafting Leie

21 km of paddling on the river Leie, from Astene via Sint-Martens-Latem, Drongen and Sint-Denijs-Westrem to the marina at the other side of the Ringvaart. Departure at 9:30 am and arrival at 3:30 pm. No noticeable current but some waves and swell caused by the parade of pleasure yachts that typically starts around 11 am on any sunny Sunday during the summer season…

Fairly strenuous physical exercise, lots of greenery and many older and newer posh riverside dwellings.

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Packrafting Punta d’Omigna

Punta d’Omigna is a scenic cape on the west coast of the island of Corsica. It has nicely restored remains of a Genoese tower, and is located between the Pero and Chiuni beaches, in the vicinity of Cargèse.

Packrafts are not really made for the open sea, but that doesn’t mean it is not possible to use them on a trip close to the coast. During a recent family trip to Corsica I therefore put in at the Pero beach. My plan is to paddle around Punta d’Omigna, and take out at the Chiuni beach. The return trip to the put-in location will be on foot.

There is a 5 m/s sea breeze, which is not a problem in terms of head wind, but it does cause quite a bit of swell. I’m fairly sensitive to sea sickness, nausea hence starts to set in after a while. I round the cape with care, do not experience problems, and then turn towards the Chiuni beach supported by a nice tail wind.

The return hike is easy and scenic, and after 12 km and 4 hours, I arrive back at the put-in location, in time for a swim with the rest of the family.

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Scandinavia 2019

Another memorable Scandinavia experience at the end of June and beginning of July:

  • In Denmark I do some short walks on Tornby beach and pay a visit to the massive dunes surrounding (and almost engulfing) the Rubjerg Knude lighthouse. I spend the night on an official remote forest bivouac spot, which is a new experience for me in this country.
  • On the border between Norway and Sweden, I do an adventurous and physically strenuous 8-day trek including packrafting through the adjacent protected areas of Långfjället, Rogen and Femundsmarka. Nights are spent wild camping, and as usual I have to negotiate endless boulders, tree roots, marshes, … while walking.
  • I subsequently head further into Sweden and do a fairly comprehensive 1-day exploration of Sonfjället NP on foot. This park consists of a mountainous area surrounded by extensive forests, and hosts Europe’s densest population of brown bear.
  • Finally, I end up in Skuleskogen NP at the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Skuleskogen is part of the so-called Höga Kusten, where since the last ice age the land has risen 300 m from the sea. I do a 2-day trek during which I walk most of the park’s trails.

Full-blown reports including pictures will follow in due time, here is however a sneak preview:

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Packrafting Ourthe Moyenne

A 29.4 km packrafting trip on the middle section of the Ourthe river on a sunny April Sunday, together with Mathias and Dominic.

We paddle from Maboge to Hampteau, passing the lovely town of La-Roche-en-Ardenne with its medieval castle, and then continue on foot to Hotton, as the stretch between Hampteau and Hotton is – surprisingly – not open for paddling.

The river has a good flow and temperature is well above 15°C. We start around 10 am after a small hiccup, and arrive at 3 pm on the dot, while thunder clouds start moving in.

(Durbuy: 13 m3/s)

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