My face contorted with a bitter realisation and a shriek escaped me as mixed emotions of ickiness and regret washed over me. It was a beautiful summer evening in the Danish countryside with silver waters of a lake adjoining the trail and beautiful Beech trees that soared above me in the dense woods. But a crackling noise from under my feet made me aware I had just unknowingly squished a huge snail at around half past five. It turns out neither one of us were to have an uneventful evening that day. But my fate wouldn’t nearly take such a dark turn as it did for the poor snail. It would only remain a lesson in how not do solo hiking.
I was out for an evening stroll in the woods encircling a lovely lake near the wealthy suburbs of Farum, an hour outside of Copenhagen by train. After spending nearly 10 days in the stylish Danish cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, I was craving for my nature fix. After much scouring, I stumbled upon a convenient listing on Airbnb situated near two lakes called Furesø and Farum Sø. The property description mentioned the possibility to hike around the lakes and I was instantly sold. I decided to spend my last four days in Denmark soaking in its famously flat landscape.
Farum is way out of the tourist circuit and I wouldn’t think anyone strays this far for sightseeing. That was half the attraction for me. The other half were the two lakes. Furesø, spread over more than 2000 acres, is one of the largest lakes in Denmark and its deepest. Fringed by a dense but fragmented forest throughout its circumference, the lakeshore is crisscrossed by several trails through the woods leading to campsites, viewpoints and several establishments. Farum Sø, bang opposite to Furesø, is less than one-tenth in size of its humongous neighbour. Both the lakes are fed by Mølleå River that first drains into Farum Sø and then drains into Furesø connected by a narrow channel across Motorway 16.
Given its smaller size, Farum Sø felt much less daunting to me. And my host informed me that a well-laid circular trail runs along the circumference of the lake, about 10-km long. Now Danish summer days are long and it wouldn’t be dark until 10 PM, so I took my time and left for the Farum Lakeside Path only in the evening after 4 PM. I ambled along the wide trail, going past the old buildings and boathouse towards the forest. Fresh from the incessant rains over the past few days, the forest was bathed in a green that reminded me of the Indian monsoon. The tarmac abruptly gave way to a squelchy mud trail and the adventure had begun. The narrow strip of Beech trees lining the lake was so high and the canopy so packed that there was little light reaching the ground on that overcast evening.
Feeling particularly gutsy and determined, I decided to plow ahead even though I’m not at all used to hiking alone on unmarked trails in claustrophobic forests on strange, faraway lands. At first, the inviting sight of an expansive Farum Sø and the wide open skies instilled a false sense of security in me. However, the feeling didn’t last long because no sooner I got back on to the main trail, the eerie darkness similar to that of a cursed forest engulfed me. It being a weekday, there was no one else on the path and I was walking alone not knowing where I’d end up in a few hours.
Farum Lake seen through a small gap in the forest. Even though the trail runs around the lake, the waters are shrouded by dense foliage and not visible as much (L); The path getting narrower and wilder, passing through dense Beech forest (R)
As the forest grew denser and more intimidating, I was oddly thrilled by my newfound audacity. I couldn’t even be sure the trail would circle back to the main Motorway from where I would find my way to the Airbnb. When the forest occasionally gave way to a gap in the foliage, rolling meadows appeared, bringing light and hope with them. Alone I hiked along, listening to the chirping birds and thankful for their company on the otherwise quiet trail, surrounded by tall trees with ghostly white bark and bright green leaves.
I can't tell you how good it felt to see a bird or sunshine on that gloomy desolate, evening
After an hour and a half on the trail, I seemed to have reached the western tip of the lake, and the path took an about turn. The view opened up with marshes and meadows in sight. The lake, of which I saw very little after the initial rendezvous, was now to my left theoretically. My initial calculation was even if I missed the trail, I just needed to make sure to keep the lake to my left. But the lake was nowhere to be seen and forests engulfed me once again. Panic started to set in when I couldn’t find the appropriate trail markers and the track diverged into two very confusing alternatives. One led to private property and the other deep into the forest, away from the lake.
I took the second option, a barely trodden trail. It cut across a solid chunk of forest to abruptly spill onto a lonely road leading to god knows where. Across the street, I followed a faint trail that led to a deeper forest with disappearing tracks. With no network on my mobile, no memory of the address of my Airbnb, no idea of my whereabouts, no clue how to get back to the original trail and no one waiting for me to return, I was evaluating the grim possibility of retracing my entire path so far. But that would mean I’d be in the desolate forest till about 8 in the night and even with the long Danish summer light, that thought was genuinely terrifying. Going through the options in my mind, I walked ahead into the strange forest with slushy trails that couldn’t possibly lead to my intended destination.
It was already 6pm and retracing paths like this for an hour or two presented a grim prospect (L) ;
Lonely road through dense Forest. I had no clue where it came from or where it leads to (R)
Just when I was about to give up and turn back, the foliage opened up and bright sky appeared over a horse ranch. There was a nice road and better yet, there were people! I rushed to them to ask how I could find the trail, to which I only got weird looks in response. But a kind Dutch lady inquired where I wanted to go and offered to drop me in her car if I so desired. Oh, the wave of sweet relief that washed over me then because I truly hate being alone in forests. Going well out of her way to drop me at Farum station, the kindness she showed me that day saved me a lot of grief in an unknown land.
If I had to change anything about that evening, I’d find out full information about the hike instead of acting upon half-baked details. And I’d do it in the morning so I have time to spare for all my stupid shenanigans. Walking back to my room with a smile plastered on my face, I surmised random strangers are the designated guardian angels of solo travellers, who’d swoop in save the day despite our many careless mistakes.