Hiking and Backpacking
Hiking in California differs considerably from hiking in the Netherlands; to start with, you often have a difference of at least 10000 feet of elevation. We often joke that the Dutch, many of whom live below sea level, tend to get altitude sickness on freeway overpasses, while California Sierra lovers tend to get disoriented when there are no identifiable peaks on the horizon.
The Dutch hiking section of this web site (click on the menu item "Wandelen" and select a trip from the left hand site of the screen) describes a lot of day hikes within the Netherlands. English speakers are welcome to go to the Dutch version of this page and at least look at the photos: you’ll get a feel for the paths, which often go through agricultural land, meadows, along canals, and through quaint villages. Don’t look for true wilderness in the Netherlands, but nature lovers will still enjoy the variety of wildflowers and birds, cows in idyllic settings, and the babble of small streams and canals through a variety of reeds and grasses which remain green throughout the year
The Netherlands offers a number of marked “long distance” paths. These are routes of sometimes up to 400 kilometers or more of paths, dirt roads, and sometimes along side quite roads taking one through rural areas. These are not the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail – the routes are interrupted by roads and villages; but we rarely see any hiker complaining when his trail emerges onto a village square of ivy covered, stone buildings with a café with outside terrace, comfy rattan chairs, and a variety of icy beers in bottle and on tap!
On the other hand, our serious hiking, and particularly backpacking, is done in the U.S., mostly in the California Sierra Nevada. Many Dutch are often amazed to hear that we have to bring ALL our food for the whole backpacking trip; they can’t imagine that the backcountry of the parks and wilderness areas are so big that you can’t walk through them in one day or that they don’t have any roads, cafes, or grocery stores. And that you simply have to find/make your own campsite and purify your own water (“No campgrounds? No bathrooms? No Snack bars?”) is hard for them to grasp.
The English version of the site will describe a few more recent trips in the U.S. taken by the Dutchman, his Californian wife, and various friends. These are not particuarly adventurous hikes (and certainly even less so than a few years ago), but the scenery is incredible, even if you don’t wander far from the John Muir Trail.