Sunday, June 29, 2014

Heath & Woods betw Hilversum and Laren

Brilliant weather so we took a break from house painting to do a fietstocht. I chose Hilversum--less wind. A very pretty route through the forests and heath ringing that town.

(original date of this entry: March 31, 2014)

The trip was easy to do. By train, Sloterdijk-Amsterdam Centraal-Hilversum: half an hour.

On Hilversum's cafe-studded promenade I got some pesto cheese spread and Turkish bread from a vendor, then we followed knooppunt signs seeking a way out of town. We went by Hilversum's architecturally significant yellow-brick city hall designed by local genius Willem Marinus Dudok, then somehow got routed back to the center of town where we found another street market. Finally I spotted a sign for point 11 and we headed west out of town.

Heide en bos tussen Hilversum en Laren

Suddenly we entered the woods and found ourselves amidst plenty of company. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a taste of this fabulous early spring weather, and we were sharing the trails with numerous fietsers as we rode through the Spanerwoud. Paths crisscross the forest. Though many trees are still bare, a few sprouted buds and blooms. 

"want to save your neck, then wait a sec"
Exiting the woods via the east boundary (point 50) we rode along what is supposedly the world's longest wildlife bridge (with good lookout rest stops), connecting the forest to the heath across a highway, canal and railroad. We then entered 't Gooi, a vast tract of heath. Here the bike traffic continued to be thick, and there were also people walking and riding horses. We found a spot off the trail for a picnic. Despite the crowds and the proximity to the town, it remained blissfully still here, as if the carpet of heather functioned as an acoustic damper, muffling the occasional yelp or giggle from passersby. Alice had prepared a big potato salad, to which we added the almond-stuffed olives that the food vendor had thrown in.  People are friendly along this trail. A guy is throwing tennis balls for his dogs to retrieve. Trees in bloom form a backdrop to the heath in the Zuiderheide.

Schotse hooglanden koeien
It was great fun to ride the undulating trails through the open country. We stopped often--no reason to pass up a good bench with a view. At one of these a couple with a dachshund strolled by and naturally the dog was curious about us, poked its snout around our feet, and Alice fell right into conversation with the passing middle-aged walkers. Further on we found a bunch of longhorn highland cattle (schotse hooglanden koeien) in a pasture, all resting peacefully. 

(cow photos by Alice Daniels Klaassen)
We headed further east, going back through forest, here not so busy. We reached Laren but saw only a big branch of La Place cafe. Laren, says Alice, harbors senior centers for artists. (A couple weeks later, there's some news from Laren: ex-CEO (top-man in Dutch) of big bank ABN-AMRO shot his wife, mentally handicapped daughter and self.)

Past point 53, we realized we had only one knooppunt to go so we took a bench and discussed our game plan. It was our first fietstocht of the season, a brief easy 24km loop. Should we just head back to town, have a beer and go home? But it was just 5 and with the clock moved forward we had three more hours of light. Why not take a detour down into the Lage Vuursche? 

We turned around and sailed back down to point 53. The cafe at that spot had been full of people when we last looked at it -- now it was empty. The woods south of point 53 -- the Smithwyserbos -- were deserted and we moved silently down the meandering trail, hearing nothing but twittering birds in the trees. 

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