Go figure… Just about 1,5 h driving from my place starts a trail called the “Rockland Legend Trail”. If you now picture deep canyons, rapid rivers and high mountains I might have to disappoint you. Yet after my 3-day hike along this trail I still concluded… hiking in Europe ain’t that bad after all. It do is very different from hiking in America, except for the part where you put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. In Europe we don’t have many big wilderness areas left so you’ll be going through little villages and towns at least once a day. No worries about resupplying or water yet also no getting away from it all for days and days and getting back into your “natural mode” (which to me is one of the greatest things about hiking in a country with huge non-civilized areas). Anyway, back to the Rockland Legend Trail. I guess the trail just opened a few years ago. The trailsigns all seem to be very new and it looks like hardly anyone has been hiking there (though that might of course be because of the fact it’s still winter here).The trailsign definitely is one of the cutest I’ve ever seen… a little blue ghost making a peacesign (or do ghosts only have two fingers???)…

The trail goes along remains of ancient castles, sandstone rocks and moves through the history of the german-french border region. In the castles I found myself trown back into the middleages, the rocks told me tales from ages ago and the destroyed bunkers reminded me of the tragic both german and french soldiers must have gone through just a few decades ago. This combined with a beautiful landscape makes this trail worth a hike. In fact I might even go there a second time. Next time I’ll definitely bring my climbing gear along as there are many many great climbing spots along the trail!
Speaking of gear I tried to go lightweight but also kept in mind we’re still having winter here in Europe. So I took my WM Antelope sleepingbag, my NeoAir XTherm and an extra puffy. We didn’t bring a tent, just a silnylon tarp to protect us from rain.
Following a ghost during the day makes me freak out at night. Fuck I heard noises everywhere and hardly got any sleep.
When I bring my WM Antelope there is just no way to make my pack look not-bulky. Even if I put my sleepingbag into a compression sack it still appears to be huge (eh well it IS huge) and it makes my pack look like as if I’m on a monthlong survivaltrip without resupply options. Nothing to be done about that. I go lightweight but I look like a highly overloaded skinny little donkey… Damn!
“Countryhopping” I’m in France – I’m in Germany – I’m in France – I’m in Germany
Anyway the bag kept me warm and I still love my NeoAir Xtherm. After all those nights on different undergrounds it hasn’t failed on me and I still think it was worth the money! Daniel brought the NeoAir Xlite S in combination with a lightweight foam pad. I think that might even be a lighter option than my Xtherm in size Regular. But I’m not sure whether my feet’d stay warm using a torso length pad. Might have to try that out before I can make a decent compare. Well it definitely kept him warm and based on his snoring I’m pretty sure he slept like a baby on the Xlite haha.
First thing we did when we started hiking: Take a detour. Jee seems like we’re no purists. “The trail goes that way but oooh the other way looks cooler… yeah let’s go the other way! We’ll find back to the trail somehow!” Hahaha.  That “other way” brought us to the Napoleon-rock, which is said to resemble to Napoleon. Now should I say “poor Napoleon” or “poor rock”? I couldn’t recognize anything either way around! O well a nice rock it was. Too bad we didn’t bring our climbing shoes though!
Next time we’ll bring our climbing shoes. I just kept on falling of the rock haha!
As we only started hiking in the afternoon we didn’t have much daylight left and after leaving the Napoleon-rock we started looking for a place to sleep. In most parts of Europe it is forbidden to camp in… eh well practically anywhere outside of campgrounds. We’re not talking about established campsites in the forest here, we’re talking about big commercial campgrounds. Those campgrounds are the only places where you can put up your tent or tarp legally. Even just sleeping in a bivy is only legal in an emergency situation. I suspect these rules where enforced by the hunter’s lobby. And I think they’re absolute bullshit. Anyway as rules are made to be broken (especially the bullshit ones) we looked for a spot well hidden in the middle of the woods, away from trails or roads. Too bad we were in an area where lumbermen were taking down trees and it wasn’t all too easy to find a good spot. I definitely didn’t sleep too much that night as I kinda suspected crazy humans behind each tree (I kinda loose my ability of thinking straight at night)! In Europe I have nothing to fear from bears or cougars or anything, but humans… they freak me out!
Anyway I was happy when daylight came and we made our way back to the Rockland Legend Trail. Through rain, sun, hail and wind we made our way up and down small valleys and hills, climbing ancient castle stairs and bouldering on sandstone rocks. We definitely weren’t disappointed. The guys constructing this trail did a good job!

After about 8 hours of hiking we found the most amazing campspot under an overhanging rock not visible from the trail. Based on the traces left it was clear that people must have been using this rock for shelter even hundreds of years ago. That definitely made my archeologist’s heart beat faster (think I never mentioned before that I have a master degree in ancient near eastern studies and archeology… o well it ain’t that important)! Touching those traces connects me to the past, to the people who lived centuries ago, who had a totally different life than I have and still -that I am sure of- had kind of the same longings and the same feelings. People always seem to have been able to find the remarkable and important spots in a landscape. As a backpacker I try to leave no trace but I do love to find traces that connect me with my ancestors. For me the spirit of the land is not only created by plants and animals but also by people, after all we’re nature too – no more no less.
The only traces we leave are our shadows on the rock
Collecting wood for cooking dinner on the bushbuddy stove
Cooking dinner on the bushbuddy, using the Ti pot I won from Gossamer Gear

After an amazing sunset and a great night’s sleep under the stars (I felt so safe under/next to that rock!) we awoke with an even more amazing sunrise. As if the sun had set the rock on fire!!!

I felt like I could have spend some more time under that rock but we had to keep going so we went to conquer another castle right after breakfast and then made our way into the valley… of course only to find out the trail would take us up again the moment we’d reach the valley floor hahaha. By noon we reached modern civilization. After putting up our thumb for only 5 minutes a car pulled to the side of the road and gave us a ride back to our starting point. The woman was making big eyes when we told her we didn’t sleep in hostels… Nature is our home! It’s funny (well actually it’s sad) how here in Europe most people don’t even consider it possible sleeping in the woods. She definitely has a story to tell now. “You won’t imagine what happened to me! I picked up two hitchhikers who slept in the woods… just like that!” Hahaha! Yep that’s what we did! We slept in the woods… Just like that! Go figure! ;cP


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