A few days before this hike my friend Morten had to pull out due to some unforeseen circumstances, which meant I was about to hike for 2 days and sleep alone in the wild for the first time. If I'm honest, this made me feel really nervous but I'm a stubborn person and did not want to change my plans. And, if there is one thing I have learnt in my life so far, it is to accept challenges that make you nervous because once you overcome fear, there is great joy on the other side.
My husband and children drove me to where I finished the last hike from Esrum to Hillerød. If you don't have that luxury available to you, you can take the train to Hillerød Station. I said goodbye to the family, slung my rucksack on my back and headed off on my first solo adventure. The sun was shining and I was feeling good.
A quick overview of the distances I planned for this route.
Hillerød - Farum 24km
Farum - Høj Taastrup 31km
HILLERØD - FARUM
Starting this part of the hike in the sunshine was quite a different story from how I finished the route the week before. Last time I had torrential rain and thunderstorms walking into Hillerød.
This time it was all sunshine and a happy smiley faced me as I began the route in the warmth of the Spring sun. You follow an asphalt path out of Hillerød and walk a few streets before you start to hit the nature trails. Although that in itself sounds sucky, I was pleasantly surprised to spy Frederiksborg Castle from a distance over the rooftops of the houses and it looked pretty sweet poking up in the sunlight making, its mark on the town.
The route takes you through a mixture of small housing estates, alongside fields, down open tracks, over the railway line and through small villages. You soon slide into smiling at the yellow fields, cows grazing and watching dragonflies around village ponds, thinking to yourself that life really isn't all that bad.
I took an early break at around 5km at this pond, pictured above, where there was a convenient picnic table placed perfectly for me to rest my feet and grab a short snack. I took some time to look around and take some pictures too, you can't really stop me from doing that.
There I am (above) with all my tech hanging off me and a loaded 32 litre Osprey rucksack on my back. I really make my bag work hard for it's allotted capacity, often attaching stuff to the outside determined to stick to a small lightweight hiking style. Although, saying that, I'm not sure I can ever be truly lightweight when I have photography gear to carry.
Break over, it was time to get some serious distance in before lunch. Between Lillerød and Farum the trail is really good and full of nature. I'm not a fan of walking on asphalt so if a route has more offroad trails than street walking, I'm a happy woman.
" I didn't want to let the fear of sleeping alone dominate the day..."
It was a good start to my solo journey and as I passed animals, churches, fields, forests and towns I found a good stride and was feeling positive about the experience. In the back of my mind, I was grossly aware that the real challenge, and the part that scared me the most, was yet to come. I didn't want to let the fear of sleeping alone dominate the day and surrendered to being in the moment as much as I could and staying on track.
It is definitely nicer to have someone to chat to whilst walking trails. I don't mind alone time but there comes a point when you wish you had someone with you. Plus this was the dreaded lockdown period so people are not really out and about and certainly not interested in getting close for a conversation. So I had to make do with wildlife and farm animals as my only friends.
I had covered a lot of the trail now and these images above were some of the last before reaching the housing estates at Farum. I stopped on a grass verge just on the side of this gravel track above and ate my lunch. I wasn't really looking forward to the streets ahead so I wanted to make sure I felt rested and refueled before the last push.
Walking through the housing areas of Farum is nothing interesting to write about or even photograph, so I'll skip to the part that actually surprised me. I knew I had to pass a motorway before reaching Farum Lake but I had no idea what it looked like and imagined it would probably be a bridge over the busy traffic below. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that the path actually takes you along the river that connects Farum sø and Furesø, walking through some passageways under the motorway.
I thought this would just be cement city but all this green really lifted my spirits and certainly made up for the walk through the streets before this point. I was also feeling really good that I was near the end and just needed to find a place to set up my camp. By now I was starting to feel tired from walking in the sunshine and just wanted to lay in my hammock more than anything in the world.
The nature around the lake at Farum was beautiful with new growth and bright greens everywhere. The wind was quite strong across the lake and I realised quite quickly that I did not want my camp to be near the noisy lapping waves against the shore. I walked a little off course through this section because I was trying to find a nice quiet spot to hang my hammock. The problem was, there were a lot of people walking dogs, getting some air after being stuck indoors all day working, walking with children and riding bikes. This is a problem for me because I like to find a spot that is away from the crowds, somewhere I can almost hide, like having a small nugget of the area to myself. I was also nervous about people seeing a lone female camping. Even as I write that sentence it angers me that as a female I am naturally concerned for my safety because I'm considered an easy target.
I pushed on looking for somewhere quiet but could feel the small voice in my head niggling at me that this was not a good place to camp for the night. I opted to continue to the next woodland area regardless of my tired feet and empty tummy after 24km of hiking.
Unfotunately, much to my despair, there was nowhere in the next area to pitch my hammock off the main track. The nature was nice, it certainly seemed quieter than at Farum sø but the trees either side didn't really go deep away from the path and again I wanted the ability to hide from the public. I could feel my nerves rising at the thought of how tired I was but I still needed to find a good camp spot. I even started talking to the spirit of my dead mother at this point. She is with me, in my heart, on every trail so it felt natural to cry for mums help.
I continued on not thinking about the distance but just focusing on one foot in front of the other. I passed a fuel station and bought a croissant and can of coke, I never normally touch cola but sometimes you have to break the rules for what your body needs to complete the journey.
I sat down on some grass and consumed the croissant and coke whilst still asking mum for some strength to continue. The sugar worked a treat and I walked on further knowing there was another woodland a kilometer or so ahead. Walking into Jonstrup forest at Søndersø, I could feel this place was where I would find my camp spot. It had a nice calm feeling, not many people, I think I saw a couple of horse riders and a small handful of mountain bikers. I followed the main path around the lake and then I saw the perfect spot lit up by the low sunshine, right next to the lake.
This was my view and I was so happy I shed a tear. I didn't waste any time and immediately set my hammock up, man I was desperate for some hammock time! With my camp now set up and the sun slowly lowering even more, it was now 8 pm and I was starving. Luckily I had some prepared pasta with me and I tucked in until I had destroyed the lot and munched a few chocolate biscuits as dessert.
"...I had pushed through some mental and physical boundaries..."
The view across the lake as the sun dipped and the sound of the birds chirping their way to bed was so relaxing. I could hear forest mice scuttling around in the leaves and I was happy that my bed was off the ground! This was not a night to sit up and admire my surroundings or talk until late by a fire. I was exhausted and could feel I had pushed through some mental and physical boundaries and I was done!
Ticket to the Moon were very kind to have sent me some gear in collaboration with this Pilgrimage, however, I was still waiting for that to arrive so I had to use a scrappy piece of tarp from my garden equipment. I already owned the hammock and mosquito net myself and absolutely love them. The equipment is light to carry and easily clips on the outside of my bag so I have room inside for other essential items.
My fear of sleeping alone made sure my senses were on high alert and although I was tired it took me a little while to settle down and stop checking what every noise was. Finally, I got some sleep and I awoke to a sunny fresh morning, the sound of birds meeting and greeting each other on the lake, the cool morning air in my nostrils and the satisfaction that I was alive and well and had concurred my fear. My smug face below is one of pride in my accomplishment and also a spec of self-understanding and evolution. I grew a little more mature and experienced on this trip alone and I was feeling good about it.
Now all I needed to do was chill in my hammock, enjoy some breakfast and keep a smile on my face whilst packing the camp away ready for a new day on the trail. I truly love sleeping in a hammock, especially when I'm trying to ensure I leave no trace of my overnight stay. The ground remains undisturbed, the trees are not damaged by the straps and I get a good nights sleep all snug in my sleeping bag.
JONSTRUP (Søndersø) - HØJ TAASTRUP
After I packed my rucksack ready for a new day on the trails, I thanked the forest for my stay and headed off towards Ballerup. It's always nice to start a new hiking day in nature and follow offroad paths for a while before hitting the asphalt again. And, boy did Jonstrup deliver!
The morning forest was so incredibly calm that it was a joy to meander along the path and watch the wildlife springing into action after their nights slumber. The water on the lakes were still, the chirps from the branches above my head echoed through the trees and I was set for another warm sunny day.
Luckily my feet were feeling great from the long hike the day before. What should have been 24km turned into something more like 27km and I was happy that my hike today was now shorter due to the extra clicks the day before. I took a few stops to capture all these beautiful mirror like lakes and lush green foliage but my focus was to power through and get this section done because I could see it was going to be a warm day and I wasn't sure how much cover I would have.
Once you have let the beautiful sights of Jonstrup Vang wash over you, you arrive at Ballerup and join the streets again. It was actually a welcome sight because I needed to refill my water. I was in luck and one café had some activity behind the glass. It was a restricted COVID period so there was hardly anywhere open and I felt so lucky to find this café. As I approached the glass door I could see a sign saying they were closed due to the lockdown and currently renovating. I knocked on the glass and a guy came to the door. I explained I was out of water and had a long hike to walk and he was kind enough to fill up my hydro pack. Yay, 3 litres of water back in my pack and I was eternally grateful.
This is the Danish Pilgrim Route and it wouldn't be right if I didn't post some of the churches I passed along the way. So this one here is located in Ballerup just before you arrive at the town centre.
Ballerup passed by fairly quickly once I had left the town centre, there was just a short walk through a residential area and then I was back into nature.
My only struggle on this path through Vestskoven was the lack of cover during the midday sun. The route seems to be popular with horse riders, cyclists and runners so the paths are designed to allow everyone to enjoy the area without being on top of each other. The horse tracks had most of the tree cover and I was left walking along the very open tracks for the runners and cyclists. The forest seemed very large but at no point did I get the chance to really walk through the vast cover of trees and this section felt like it went on forever. I drank a lot of water here due to the heat beaming down on me.
After passing through Risby I didn't last much longer because the paths were so open and the sun was really hot. The track leading to Høj Tasstrup was asphalt and I was dying.
I called my husband to come and rescue me and I met him just before the path that leads under the motorway. I was so busted and sat down on a small patch of grass awaiting the arrival of my family. The shade was a nice relief and the chance to slip off my rucksack and relax was more than welcome.
This part of the Pilgrim Route certainly broke me and tested me in many ways and I will always cherish this part of the journey because of those challenges. There were certainly some really nice parts on this trail but so far Hillerød to Esrum route is in the lead for best Pilgrim Route trail.
FINAL DISTANCES OVERVIEW & MAPS
After making a few wrong turns during the first section of the Pilgrim Route, Helsingør-Hillerød, I bought a GPS watch that I could plan my routes and upload the maps to the watch. So that means I can add this snazzy part to the blog post, where you can see the map I walked and the final distance counts.
HILLERØD-JONSTRUP VANG: 28.72km
So this part of the hike ended up being longer than planned. Originally I planned to camp at Farum Lake but as I explained above I ended the hike at Jonstrup. So the planned distance of 24km became almost an extra 5km by the time I found the perfect overnight spot.
JONSTRUP VANG-HØJ TAASTRUP: 16.05KM
With the extra distance gained the day before, this hike became a shorter distance than originally planned. I also stopped earlier, instead of making it to the church in Taastrup I had to stop just before walking under the motorway. This took me from a planned hiking distance of 31km down to 16km.
I think it is important to listen to your body and this hike was pretty gruelling for me. I'm pretty tough on myself so it was not an easy decision to stop when I did. However, this is a journey and I can easily adjust the routes to accommodate these changes.
So what does this mean? It just means I'll start from where I finished and adjust the hiking plan. The original plan after this point was to hike from Høj Taastrup to Gamel Lejre. Tune in next month to find out what route I took next and where I chose to overnight.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to speak to me directly, feel free to comment below or send me an email; email@example.com
Thank you for following along on my journey as I explore the Danish Pilgrim Route. There is still a lot more to go and I am looking forward to slowly revealing it all through these blog posts each month.