Perhaps our mention of spring was too soon as it appears Mother Nature became scared of her own shadow and flitted away. The Netherlands has turned cold and grey once more. Resolved to not spend another dreary weekend at home in a fog of work and movies we took advantage of a chilly but clear Sunday to visit the Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park for a Sunday Hike. The park is located about 45 minutes away from us via direct regional train, so it is an easy day trip that is difficult to mess up.
The park is well known in the Netherlands for being home to several declining species, most notably the black grouse. To protect these animals portions of the park are closed during their long mating season, but even with the closures there are many kilometers of hiking, biking, and horse riding trails. After a discussion with a baffled park ranger who only hesitantly accepted that we wished to actually hike more than a few kilometers we set out to walk approximately 10 kilometers from the town of Nijverdal at the northern end of the park to the village of Holten in the south.
Armed with a rather costly trail map (6.50 euros) we hiked along the purple trail from the Nijverdal visitors’ center. The trail first continues along village-bordering farmland until it climbs a small ridge where it winds through heathland. Here, the ground is a dry, dusty sand, inhospitable, and dense with heather and shrubbery. The sand was so thick in places that it gave the impression of walking along a beach.
Leaving the purple trail we joined the Pieterpad, a long distance hiking trail that traverses the entire vertical length of the Netherlands. Within moments we were in a dense, lush pine forest. Before our eyes the colors changed from dry browns to bright greens. After walking a few more kilometers the forest began to fill with families as we neared the rest area of Holterberg with its restaurants, playgrounds, and visitors’ center. We stopped here for a bite and an overpriced beer (.33 cl of pilsner for 5 euros) at Woody’s Pancakes and Steaks before continuing the final kilometer to Holten where we caught another short train ride back to the east where heaters and hot coffee awaited us.
We continue to be surprised by the Dutch landscape. Though largely bucolic with its flat, emerald pastures and grazing animals the sudden and striking changes to dense woods and sandy moorlands leave us conversing about topics that we would like to learn more: how the dams and canals helped to turn the country into non-flooded, usable land, and how far inland the seas would otherwise flow.