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Running through the Ice Age

Sand in front of me, sand behind me, sand next to me, sand underneath me. There is even sand between my teeth. Welcome back to the Ice Age, welcome in the Drunense Duinen. This is the place where sand has free rein.

I knew it would be a tough trail run today, and it is. Tough but beautiful, because the Drunense Duinen is more than just sand. Forest, hills, little lakes, wide open plains and narrow zig-zag paths alternate continuously.

Polar winds

However loose sand is never far away. Yet, it’s that sand that makes this place so special, because it dates back to the Ice Age. Polar winds from the north carried it all the way here, where it formed a big plain that was slowly swallowed by trees. When our ancestors, in the fourteenth century started to cut the trees down for firewood, heather took over.

The heather in turn fell prey to cattle, looking for something to eat, giving the sand free play again. So much free play, that it covered the fields of the farmers around the plain, and found its way into the houses in nearby villages.

Battle between sand and men

In the ongoing fight between sand and men new trees were planted. Since 1921 the Loonse en Drunense Duinen have been owned by Natuurmonumenten (Nature Monuments). They use heather to keep the 270 hectares of sand under control, yet they give it at the same time its freedom by keeping the heather short. That last job is in the hands of sheep.

Luckily today is not just all sand. Most of my run goes through the forest. Often over wide paths. Sandy paths. Here and there I run over single tracks. They are the most fun, as they involve a lot of climbing and descending. Nothing crazy, a 165 meters of altitude in total, according to my Garmin, but that’s better than nothing.

Mud Sweat Trails

I picked a Wednesday to run this trail, which is created by Mud Sweat Trails. A grey Wednesday and a rainy one during my last kilometers. A good choice, as I have the dunes and the forest most of the time all to myself. Here and there I cross a lonely hiker, that’s all. For the rest, just silence.

When I cross another big plain that silence suddenly ends. The trail ends. I am back at the start, at the Roestelberg, where I can collect my stamp for completing this Province Trail. I know apple pie is awaiting me, yet I am a bit sad as I don’t want to leave this national park yet. But I have to. Work is calling.

When I drive back home, I’m sure of one thing. I will be back. Maybe to do the 25 and 35 kilometers that Mud Sweat Trails offer as well. Maybe the 17 again, but together with Sara. Whatever choice it’s going to be, I’ll return to this land from the Ice Age. I’m sure of that.

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