Mushroom Central

We have planned a short getaway: we have this Friday off work, will go for a walk or something and will sleep in the Voeren area of Belgium. Saturday more walking, something cultural or a movie, doesn’t matter as long as it’s relaxing!

I have spent an hour or two in the evenings earlier this week looking up the best trails and things to see in that area, so this morning at breakfast we leaf through the options and select a walk in the Parc Naturel Hautes Fagnes – Eifel. Quite a mouthful, this nature reserve is a large area with woods and high altitude moorland on the foothills of the Eifel mountain range. ‘High’ is high for Belgium, up to 700 m in some places.

We leave home around nine, crossing the flat Kempen and Limburg areas before getting to the fun, hilly part around Eupen. This tiny part of Belgium is German speaking, as it was ceded to Belgium by Germany after World War I, it’s confusing to see the familiar Belgian road signs and advertisements in German, but I’m looking forward to practicing the language again. We park at the Naturzentrum Haus Ternell, one of the starting points of hikes in this area. The restaurant is closed but we have energy bars with us, so we shouldn’t get too hungry. We check in the visitor’s center that the hunting season hasn’t started yet in this area (it hasn’t) and then we set off along one of the more popular walks. It is marked with a warning ‘difficult trail’ but the reviews online seem to indicate it shouldn’t be too hard. It’s a beautiful forest, with a mix of deciduous trees and evergreens. The leaves have started turning all kinds of bright colors and the humid forest floor is dotted with all kinds of mushrooms. I love them, they’re bright and shiny and easy to photograph.

Ternell is situated on a ridge between two small rivers and the marked trail is easy to navigate: down to river 1, follow it down for a few kilometers, then over the ridge to river 2 and follow it up back to Ternell. The difficult bit is the last climb up the ridge, it’s rocky and muddy at the same time, so indeed you have to pay attention.

Even though it’s a weekday, we see some other walkers, so it’s not as lonesome as we prefer. It gets pretty chilly near the water: the sky is overcast and there’s a mist, sometimes condensing into a slight drizzle. We hear and see a few birds, but aside from the babble of the river it’s pretty quiet. We don’t spot any mammal wildlife, not even tracks in the mud, perhaps it’s too busy a track?

It’s two thirty when we get back at the car, a bit cold but satisfied with the walk. On the way back to the hotel we do three short, very different stops: the impressive dam of the Eupen reservoir, a convenience store for chips – we eat them immediately, while still parked at the store – and the solemn American war cemetery of Henri-Chapelle.

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