Like numerous other trails I hiked, E1 has been on my radar for quite a while. Actually, since I learned it more or less passes through the region I grew up - Zürich Oblerland. And this revelation happened just three years ago, in 2017, shortly after returning from New Zealand. During summer 2019, my intentions of hiking E1 are getting more and more specific and later that summer I decide to hike E1 - a European long distance trail leading from the North Cape all the way down to Italy. The trail in Italy isn't completely marked yet but I hope by the time I arrive down there, the Italians will have finished their siesta and have marked the trail.
Unlike Te Araroa, I will hike E1 in sections instead of finishing it in one go, keeping my current job rather than quitting it. Several reasons led me to this decision. One is its whopping distance of 8000km, which makes it hard to thru-hike. Not impossible as hikers have achieved it but chances are high I'd hit snow at one point (most probably in the Swiss and Italian Alps), not to speak of unpleasant wet winter weather in Germany. Not exactly, what I am looking for ;)
Another reason: After hiking Te Araroa in one go, I had a hard time finding my way back into normal life. Hiking in sections will make the temporary return into normal life easier (hopefully), especially because with the next section already awaiting me, I will have something to looking forward to.
I can stay away from work for a maximum of 90 days in a row in order to stay current in my job as AFISO. Thanks to my flexible employer, I was able to work out an 80 percent contract, which allows me to take 3 months off during summer, while working 100 percent the remaining year. This gives me the opportunity to hike roughly two to three months every summer for the coming years.
My plan is hiking the first half of Scandinavia during summer 2020 and the second half the following year before
resuming my hike in Denmark in 2022. You see, it's a long time project and plans can and possibly will change. Even if I cannot cross Scandinavia by the end of next summer, it will not be an
issue. I'm not in a hurry.
Like during my last hikes, my Spot tracker will record me progress here. Feel free to have look and virtually join my hike!
Rødekro Aktivitetspark Shelter to Flensburg
An outrageous amount of calories found the way into my stomach yesterday, challenging my digestion and thus making me comfortably warm throughout the night.
Getting up on the last day is never an issue, especially not today as I'm looking forward to a warm place to stay for tonight. Great motivation.
But I have to deserve it. It's a long walk, the first half in rain (which wasn't forecasted) through very wet terrain. Shortly before crossing into Germany, I stop at the church of Bov. Not for a prayer but these churches usually feature a warm toilet. No exception here and I use it to change for dry, city-suitable clothes.
Crossing the border is - as usual - a rather emotional thing. Another milestone.
Denmark, country number four done and dusted. Or as my Kiwi friends would say: I knocked the bastard off.
Now let's tackle country number 5: Germany! For now it's only for a couple of kilometers but somehow they manage to ignite my Germam Wanderlust for next year as I stroll through the adorable old town of Flensburg in the last rays of the sun with it's bustling Christmas Market. There won't e Christmas Markets next summer but longer days and milder temperatures will definitely make up for that.
So that was it! A hike across Denmark in November. 13 days, a bit more than 500 kilometers.
It was certainly very different to my previous hikes. Not necessarily the landscape (which is similar to Sweden's southern part) but the hiking in constantly cold temperatures. Something, which turned out to be more challenging as I was anticipating. Luckily it was mostly just the cold. Rain was rare and only light when it did. Being outside nearly 24/7 and thus keeping myself warm wasn't always easy. It required a lot of eating. Fuel for my body. I could have worn morn but I more often than not had the impression the cold came from inside as well. Lack of sleep maybe despite the long nights.
Long nights. Another point I want to take up. When deciding to head to Denmark, I completely neglected this point. With only 8 hours of daylight the days are awfully short, requiring me to walk in the dark. Initially I had to get used to it but it somehow grew on me. Time at night was passing quickly and the moment the eastern sky turned from black to blue was always magical. In fact I remember every dawn of this little hike.
Last but not the people. Well, I can't say much about them as I have hardly met anyone on my hike. The few people I did meet though were wonderful.
I didn't mind to hike in solitude these two weeks. I actually enjoyed it. Still, if I'd continued, it might have become lonely.
Would I do it again? Maybe not. Do I regret it to have done it in November? Definitely not. I loved the challenge and am super happy I could master it.
Maugstrup Plantage Shelter to Rødekro Aktivitetspark Shelter
A lot of rain overnight, a lot of moisture in the air, a cold night. Unsurprisingly, there's fog in the morning. Eventually the fog lifts, it stays grey and dull though. No wind, which makes it quite a pleasant walk nonetheless.
A walk which is mainly along farm tracks and secondary roads with very short bits of hiking trail. My backpack feels light (well it actually is light) and my legs feel fresh - even after all this walking on hard surfaces. I have to thank my body for playing along so nicely. Initially the beach, followed by the cold and as mentioned, all the hard surfaces. It could have been so differently.
It's early afternoon, when I'm approaching Rødekro, where I immediately set course to the supermarket for my last shopping in Scandinavia. I stock up on food, which I grew fond of during my last 112 days in Scandinavia. I will have to carry it 40 kilometers tomorrow but I don't mind to carry these good tasting memories in my backpack.
The supermarket is just a stone's throw away from the shelter, where I arrive shortly after. Luckily it's available for staying as there wouldn't be many other options around. I have a lovely and very rare chat with some locals, before I get ready for the night. I am already in my sleeping bag, finishing up my book, when the lady I was talking to before returns, offering me a warm soup, sandwiches, coffee and beer. What a wonderful, unexpected surprise. Trail magic at work. I eat the sandwich and soup as long as it is still hot. It's so filling actually that I decide to postpone my mac and cheese and porridge for later tonight. It's going to be a full blown three course dinner tonight.
After drinking two cups of coffee and feeling a little excited as it's my last night on the trail, I won't be able to sleep so soon anyway.
Skodborg Shelter to Maugstrup Plantage Shelter
Without luck, I am trying to find my motivation to get up this morning. It seems to have disappeared. Doesn't matter, as it's, after pushing the two previous days, going to be a short day out on the trail.
At around 07:30 nature is calling and I decide to take it as a sign to pack and hit the trail.
While the first half of the day is fairly pleasant to walk in sunny weather through forest and the town of Jels with its lovely windmill the second half is a bit more a struggle. Wind (after westerly wind 2 days ago, southerlies yesterday now it's blowing from the east) and some light rain making the walk a bit less pleasant. After a short 7 hour day I reach my basic shelter in a pine plantation. It is super simple and I love it. I get comfortable, read my book, cook dinner. Lentil soup with chocolate porridge as dessert it is.
Yes, it's cold (not the porridge but the weather) , yes it's wet. Not comfortable, really, I've come out of my comfort zone more than enough. Especially after spending nearly all of the past 11 days in shelters. Yet, lying in my sleeping bag, candles burning peacefully beside me, listening to the rain in solitude - enjoying and appreciating the simple things the trail offers. I already know I am gonna miss it.
Vingsted Shelter to Skodborg Shelter
A cold night, a cold morning. Luckily there's a heated toilet, where I spend a bit more time than usual to soak up some warmth before heading into the night at exactly 04:00. The first 4 hours are night hiking, the time and kilometers usually passing quickly. Probably because navigating the small backroads and paths need more concentration than during daylight. Again I find some shortcuts, which means a bit of road walk. Well, the official trail is road walk as well, just following quiet roads.
By 09:30 I reach Baekke. Time for resupply and to treat myself with some sweats. In the cold, I will burn their calories in no time. Initially I was planning on staying here but it's obviously way too early so I push on after finishing packing and eating. 2 hours after Baekke, I pass through Vejen. An neverending, straight road takes me through the town, passing what feels like a hundred barber shops and hair styles studios. The only reason I would visit them was to escape the now unpleasantly stiff, cold southerly breeze. However, I keep on pushing. The shelter I was initially eyeing is closed for construction. So there's no other way than to push on some more. After 40 kilometers on hard, flat surfaces, my body feels stiff. The cold wind does not help.
At three, 11 hours after starting, I make it to Skodborg. Town number three today and my today's spontaneous destination. Luckily my hexagonally shaped shelter offers a good protection from the wind for my 3rd last night in Denmark. Time sure is flying.
Højderyggens Shelter to Vingsted Shelter
Except for the first couple of kilometers through forest (where I actually got a bit confused at one point in the night and walk an unintended full circle - I'm mildly pissed off when I suddenly walk past the same sign again a couple of minutes again) the big chunk is on backcountry roads, with not much to write about. Well, maybe I should mention that I don't head into Jelling as planned. Instead I take a shortcut straight towards to the south. Saves me a some kilometers of roadwalk.
So let's write something about the weather, which I think, being a weather observer at work as well, was fairly interesting today. It starts with drizzle this morning, not too cold calm air. Roughly four hours into the hike, looking towards the west, I can see a clear line between clouds and blue sky approaching me. The line is nearly completely straight, right across Denmark reaching somewhere from the south west corner oto Copenhagen. At this point it is obvious that a front (most probably a cold one) must be approaching. I enjoy the good weather period as much as I can because I know, showers, wind and cooler temperatures will follow behind. And sure enough, roughly an hour later I spot the first towering cumulus to my right. The wind speeds must be high further up in the air and the clouds are here in no time, luckily bringing only a few showers but blustery wind and colder temperatures. These temperatures are supposed to stay. Especially in combination with the sky, which by now is clear again as the front passed through, getting up tomorrow morning will be on the chilly side again.