Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hautes Fagnes, Belgium

The trip from the Petite Suisse Luxembourgeouise to the Hautes Fagnes went quickly as we cut through Germany to reach the moors, and most of the time was spent cruising on the autobahn watching the scenery flash by. Less than an hour east of Liège, Belgium, is the Parc Naturel Hautes Fagnes-Eifel that ecompasses the Hautes Fagnes, the valley of the river Our, several lakes, and the Eifel. It runs into the German Nordeifel nature park, and the combined Deutsch-Belgischer Naturpark covers an area of 926 square miles.


The view of the high fens from the tower


Our destination was the Signal de Botrange, which at 2,277 ft is the highest point in Belgium. After stopping at the Centre Nature de Botrange to learn about the ecology of the area and grab a few maps, we found ourselves walking through the restaurant to find the unmarked door to the tower that stands guard over the area. The view over the non-native conifers to the moors that stretched all the way into Germany was desolate but beautiful, and with enthusiasm we bundled up for a short walk to experience the nature reserve.

Created in 1957, the reserve protects a very delicate ecosystem. The windy, harsh climate attracts and supports plant and animal species from high mountains and northern latitudes, and the peat bogs are unique as well. Fire can be fatal for the entire area; I remember how fire would travel underground through the duff and live on for weeks in the southern US where I fought fires, I imagine a peat bog fire would be similar in that it would burn incredibly hot, deep and travel underground.


We set out on boardwalks laid out over the bog, and I found an intense calm in the absence of sound other than the wind. Few other people had ventured out which might have been due to the weather; although it was overly warm in the sun, as soon as we were in the shade it seemed cold and the wind cut right through.

The wind turbines provided high contrast to the nuclear power plant to the north
Clumps of beech, oak and birch broke up the landscape as well as the plantations of spruce. As we walked, we saw evidence that the reserve was attempting to eliminate the non-native species and replace the middle ground between road and moor with native seedlings. Other than the boardwalk and a few informative placards, this was the only evidence of people. Practically deserted now, however the Hautes Fagnes have at some point been home to humans as traces have been found of the Via Mansuerisca, a road thought to date back to the 7th century.

Just south of the Park Roberts found his ville...

Once back in the car we wound our way north, soon crossing the border into the Netherlands. With tired feet from a long day of hiking and climbing we found a roadside restaurant to fill our stomachs before shooting the rest of the way to the next destination on our trip, Amsterdam.

1 comment:

  1. That picture of Robertsville is hillarious!

    ReplyDelete

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