Since I live close to the National Park Hoge Kempen (Limburg province), I consider this as my go-to place for hiking 🙂 As you can read from my previous hiking adventures, the National Park has several entrance “gates” as they refer to them. These gates are Connecterra (Maasmechelen), Thor Park (Genk), Mechelse Heide (Maasmechelen), Station As (As), Kattevennen (Genk), Pietersheim (Lanaken) and Lieteberg (Zutendaal). So far, I’ve completed all hiking trails from Connecterra, and started doing some of Mechelse Heide and went to the opening of Thor Park a couple of years ago.
To begin my challenge, my brother and I decided to go to Thor Park to give the longest hike of 16 km (yellow trail) a chance! Unfortunately, the weather was not our companion on this dreary Sunday afternoon and we were soaking wet after only 10 min… Since I went to the opening and bought the map containing all of the trails, I was familiar with the starting point but my brother guided us towards the opposite side of the trail, i.e. we would do it backwards although there is not really one way to go about it.
The first part of the trail takes you over cemented paths up to the point where you have to cross a train track (no longer in use) and then the fun begins with nothing but mud and puddles 🙂 We almost missed our path as we were too occupied with chit-chatting, but we had to decent a steep slope that was fully covered in mud, therefore, making it very slippery! Luckily, I noticed a long stick (broken off tree branch) that would hopefully hold me should start falling.
We continued and made our way walking close to the football arena of KRC Genk (my number 1 football/soccer team in Belgium 🙂 ) before heading into another type of forest area, i.e. heather. The nice thing about the National Park is that you have so many different types of forest areas that you never know what you come across (unless you inspect the maps or google earth)! With the weather being so terrible, we almost didn’t come across anyone which sometimes gave a strange feeling but at the same time, it was fun just with the two of us.. After the heather part, comes the sand dunes which I can expect in summer to be quite beautiful and busy with children playing around.
Walking through sand dunes is not the easiest bit, but it’s good training for your leg muscles. We continued and made our way through a forest area covered in pine trees. Here, we could see some impact of wood-cutting as the logs were still stacked in rows. The cover of the high trees sheltered us a bit from the rain so that we could enjoy the surroundings a bit from time to time. Next, we came across several other forest areas until we came across an open area with water on one side and strangely looking trees on the other. This part also marked the halfway sign of our 16 km hike, which didn’t feel like a long hike at all!
Next up was the part which I was looking forward to most and that was climbing the Terhill (similar to the ones in Connecterra as they are all linked to the mining history of the Limburg province)! This proved to be a challenge on its own since the rain from the previous days had caused some seemingly avalanches of mud and washed away some part of the trail. Since the weather became worse and worse, we decided that we would not go to the top as it was too dangerous. So we walked around the top and made our way slowly towards the lower trails to connect to the green trail which I did on the opening day (read here). As mentioned earlier, my brother decided we would do the trail in the opposite way, meaning that we would end this hike the way my previous hike started which is not really bad but with the dusk settling in, we were really happy to make it back to our car before it became too dark.
This concludes my first part of the preparation and I have to admit that this hike is very doable as time flew by and we finished it in 3 hours while the information at the entrance / information center indicates it’s a 4 hours hike at least. To be honest, I will probably do this trail again when the sun is shining as I really want to go to the top! 🙂
What do you think about this part of the National Park? It’s a bit more industrial or robust but has its own beauty and history to share!
Stay tuned for more hiking adventures 🙂