Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions

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Packrafting Semois

Last December, I made a combined packrafting / hiking solo day tour from Bouillon to Poupehan and back, and in November, I did a solo day tour on foot from Vresse-sur-Semoins to Bohan and back. Left to be further discovered is therefore the stretch of the river Semois between Poupehan and Vresse-sur-Semois…

One of the advantages of the cold and rainy weather that we have been having for weeks is that rivers in the Ardennes still have a decent flow, at least much more so than in previous years. On a day with a reasonable weather forecast, I therefore travel to Poupehan for a combined packrafting / hiking trip to Vresse-sur-Semois and back.

Weather is changy and temperature is around 8°C when I put in at the Poupehan bridge around 9:45 am. As expected, the river has a good flow and paddling therefore is pleasant. As I have experienced during a couple of other trips in recent weeks, another advantage of the unsettled weather pattern is that photographic conditions are excellent thanks to dynamic skies and intense light. Also during this trip, this becomes quite apparent.

I pass Frahan, Laviot, Alle-sur-Semois, Mouzaive and Lafôret, experience two short but intense downpours of rain, and arrive in Vresse-sur-Semois around 12:30 pm. In contrast to similar trips in the winter period, during which I am always pressed for time, I take the time for a decent lunch break.

Around 1 pm, I embark on the return hike, which is not only somewhat lengthy, but also includes 5 relatively steep ascents. The weather improves and clear spells become more numerous. One of the best things about the trail I am following (mostly GR16) is that it offers quite spectacular views of the Semois valley from several vantage points.

At 6:30 pm, I arrive back in Poupehan, after a trip of 35.4 km with a total height difference of 1095 m. Not bad for a day trip.

(Bouillon: 11.2 m3/s)

Belgium 2021-05-23: Packrafting Semois

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Packrafting Semois

33 km on foot and by packraft through the Semois valley in the Belgian Ardennes, on a rather typical murky and chilly (4°C) December Sunday.

I start at the Tombeau du Géant lookout in Botassart at 9:15 am and hike to Bouillon via the newly erected suspension bridge of l’Epine. In Bouillon, I hike up the rock for a view of the early Medieval castle and then put in my packraft.

The river Semois has a good flow and around 2 pm I arrive in Poupehan. Unfortunately, there is no time for lunch nor for a prolonged break, as there is still a relatively strenuous hike ahead and I prefer to return to Botassart before dark.

The return hike takes me via “sentier des échelles” in Rochehaut, a rather steep, slippery and muddy trail with a number of fixed ladders securing the most treacherous sections. It is not so easy negotiating the ladders with a backpack (containing my packrafting gear and with some trekking poles sticking out), but I manage.

Around 4:30 pm, I arrive back at the Tombeau du Géant lookout, a mere 15 minutes before sunset.

(Bouillon: 25.1 m3/s)