Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Scandinavia 2016: Gothenburg Archipelago

Among the many pleasures of travelling through Scandinavia are the ferry crossings, which – when conditions are good – often feel like a mini cruise.

When travelling from Denmark to Sweden in July 2016 we took a ferry from Fredrikshavn to Gothenburg. Before sailing into the harbour of Gothenburg under the Älvsborg bridge, we had nice views towards some of the islands of the Gothenburg Archipelago.

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Scandinavia 2016: Skagen

In July 2016 we made a family trip through Scandinavia, which had as its ultimate goal a visit to my wife’s relatives based in Turku, Finland. The trip was very diverse and included cultural sights, natural scenery, attractions, swimming and hiking, most of it blessed with excellent weather.

I will make a series of posts in which I will share some of the highlights in terms of natural scenery. In this first post are some pictures from Skagen, Denmark’s northernmost peninsula.

On Skagen we made a number of short hikes, including a visit to the northernmost tip of the peninsula, which is a sandbar named Grenen. Grenen is the place where Skagerrak and Kattegat meet, and waters around the tip of Grenen are very turbulent. Attempting to swim at this location is likely to be fatal. The Grenen sandbar still grows about 10 m a year and has extended towards Sweden approximately 1 km over the last century.

Another interesting location is the “Tilsandede Kirke”, a 14th century church that is buried below the dunes, except for the upper part of its tower.

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Flemish Ardennes: Panorama route

Autumn foliage having reached its peak I make another splendid hike through the Flemish Ardennes. This time I opt for the Panorama route between Kwaremont and Zulzeke, and extend it with a detour to Scherpenberg.

The hike is about 18.5 km, involves many short climbs, and among other passes Hotondberg, which with a whopping 145 m,  is the highest hill in the province of East Flanders.

Conditions for photography are excellent with a slight haze during the cold morning hours, and brilliant sunshine and sharp-lined clouds for the remainder of the day.

Pictures > Belgium 2017-11-17: Panorama route

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France 2017: Hiking Basses Gorges du Verdon

In July we spent our family holidays in the vicinity of the lower gorge of the Verdon river. Next to packrafting and canoeing the very scenic gorge, I also made an easy solo hiking trip, more or less following the abandoned drinking water canal that runs parallel to the river.

The trail involves stairs, ladders, sections that are cut out of the rock, and tunnels. Striking are the contrasts between the arid plateau above the gorge, and the lush vegetation (mostly mosses) in the Sainte-Maxime ravine.

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Flemish Ardennes: Muziekberg route

After a touch of overnight frost last week, autumn is in full swing now.

On a blustery day with periods of intense sunshine, and unfortunately also downpours of rain, I make a 11 km hike around the 133 m hill named “Muziekberg” in the Flemish Ardennes.

Pictures > Belgium 2017-11-13: Muziekberg route

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Packrafting the Dommel on All Saints Day

The Dommel is a small river that has its source in Belgium and flows into the river Meuse in the Netherlands. The section between Neerpelt (B) and Valkenswaard (NL) meanders nicely through a largely untouched landscape and is therefore popular for canoeing during the summer season.

As the weather on All Saints Day was forecast to be quite pleasant, I decided to descend the Dommel by packraft, from the outskirts of Neerpelt to the Venberg water mill south of Valkenswaard.

I started packrafting just before 10 am and after having arrived at the water mill, swiftly headed back on foot in order to make it back before dark. The return hike was quite enjoyable as I passed through 3 nature reserves: Malpie, Plateaux and Hageven. I eventually got back well before dark at 4:30 pm, with 30+ km of distance covered, packrafting and hiking combined.

The weather was indeed as pleasant as expected as it gradually became sunny and warm after a cloudy start. I did not meet anyone during the entire river descent, and also during the return hike things were generally very quiet.

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Autumn in Parkbos Gent

The west entrance to the “Parkbos Gent” site is more or less around the corner from where I live, I hence go there quite often for short or somewhat longer impromptu hikes.

Since the development of additional trails around the Scheldevelde castle in De Pinte, it is now possible to make hikes close to 15 km by creatively combining gravel, dirt and duckboard walking trails, as well as horse riding trails. Asphalt and concrete can mostly be avoided.

Pictures > Belgium 2017-10-30: Parkbos Gent

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