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Belgian forests in Autumn
THE ARDENNES, NOVEMBER 2001 - Hiking in the Belgian Ardennes, the southern part of Belgium with some hilly terain and a lot of forests : it's one of my favorite weekend activities, and it can be a bit adventurous too ! This story will show you some of the autumn beauty of the forest.
After a two and a half hours drive I arrived in the little quiet village. It was clouded and it had been raining a little.
I had a few hours to spend before the sun would set behind the hills. I decided to do a little discovery walk, up to some medieval fortress ruins. The ruins were deserted as I arrived there. The (new) bridge that replaced the one once used by the knights, was wet and slippery. I went further towards the outlook point - the view was good and as I sat there for some 10 minutes. The sun managed to break through the clouds - this could be the beginning of a good weather weekend ! I went down again and continued my walk following a rocky hill ridge and along the river. It was time to go for diner and sample some of the local delicacies.
The next day, mist was hanging in the valley. After breakfast, as I put on my hiking boots, sunshine already welcomed me, and I was in the mood for some serious hiking now. I went through the forests to some nearby lake, about 10 kilometers away. In this season, there is quite a lot of hunting in this area, and the hunting dates are always marked at the main entrance paths to the forest. I was happy to read that there was no hunting that day, so nothing could spoil my plan anymore. Around noon, after having struggled with loads of mud on the paths, I arrived at the lake with a castle and a scientific station nearby. The surroundings of this lake are a nature preservation area, so it was off limits to hikers - but the views were good. I continued my walk after my lunch towards the Semois river, to reach a little dam that was previously used by the monks (I later went to the acient monastery, it's a very luxury hotel now). Although I had been to this place before, I never hiked there in autumn with forests full of leaves that cover all the paths and dim light. I got a little lost, that is, I had to walk back further than expected, which resulted in difficulties reading my map during the last half an hour of my hike. As I reached the village again, I saw some local people in full camouflage outfit, going into the now almost dark forest - hunters or nature watchers ?
The next couple of days, I made some other hikes, and the weather just was splendid. I could fully admire the whole range of autumn colours. At one point, I was walking on a little road through the forest, and a car approached me - one of the only cars I had seen till now. Two people came out of the car, talked quietly and pointed at some trees... Soon I also saw a herd of animals ! At first the seemed to be deer, but as I looked with the binoculars, it was clear this were mouflons. (These animals are originally imported from Corsica, look here for a little description). There were like ten animals, just grazing between the trees. I had been hiking a lot in the forests before, but this was some unique experience !
On the next day I could not hike a lot, because the village was being invaded by hunters... They had a lot of jeeps and carriages with dogs and were all dressed like going to war... They made a lot of noise. There were "no trespassing" signs everywhere, hiking was not an option today.