Walk: Baraque Michel
Relais des Fagnes - Chalet du Centenaire - Pont du Centenaire - Fagne Polleur - Baraque Michel - Vecquée - Villa Sérénité - Relais des Fagnes
Picturesque walk of 19 km, the first part of which follows an upward slope next to the water and the second part of which is a downward slope on an ancient path through the fens.
It is not suitable for inexperienced walkers, children's cars and the less able.
On this route, which is always muddy and slippery, appropriate footwear is required (waterproof/non-slip).
There is a possibility to have something to eat halfway through the walk at the Brasserie "Baraque Michel" (only exceptionally closed).
At the exit of the Relais des Fagnes, on the Route de Hockai, you turn right (towards the village) and follow this road until it bends almost 90 degrees to the right and you will see a rural path in front of you which allows you to continue straight ahead. You leave the asphalt, ignore the path on the left and choose this path straight ahead. You will pass the holiday home "Chalet du Centenaire". Your path leads to a narrow forest path where you turn left. At your right hand side you will see the RAVeL (the old railway line N°44 which linked Pépinster to Stavelot. Since 1973 there are no more trains passing by and even the rails have disappeared, because most of the route has been transformed into a cycle path and footpath, to integrate it into the RAVeL).
The forest path takes you to a small bridge that you have to cross. An asphalt road now allows you to descend comfortably to the Hoëgne.
Cross the Hoëgne by the picturesque bridge called "Pont du Centenaire" and take the small path straight ahead. Then continue on the stony path until you reach the first crossroads. Here you turn right. Now you will follow the river Hoëgne upstream for quite some time (depending on the season you will either see or hear it) and then you will walk through a rather dark wood until you reach a bridge. This area is known as "Fagne Polleur" (the old name for the Hoëgne).
You don't cross the bridge but continue straight on along the river upstream (and don't worry about the "private road" warning). You stay on the small asphalt road and at the fork in the road you turn right. The small road passes through the woods for a short stretch and then you will cross the very typical “high fens”landscape that you know from the tourist brochures, characterised by low and curved leafy trees, herbaceous vegetation, conifers and the seductive rustle of small streams. A little further on you will see some superb views of this beautiful natural area. At one point you will pass over a stream that flows under the path through a concrete pipe. (Note the quartzite blocks beside the path). This is the Herbofaye (its source is near the Baraque Michel), which joins the Hoëgne here and you are actually witnessing the "birth" of the Hoëgne: before the confluence of the two small rivers, the Hoëgne is still called Polleur. (Its source is on the plateau of Mount Rigi at an altitude of 660 m.) After a number of meanders over a distance of 25 km, the Hoëgne finally flows into the Vesdre.
Follow the river for a few more kilometres until you reach a hunting lodge. Here you turn left and cross the Herbofaye by the small concrete bridge. And now you will go up to an old path, which is called the "Vecquée". This path was already in use in the time of the Gauls. Later it became a Roman road and in the Middle Ages it was used by the Prince-Bishops of Liege to visit the abbeys of Malmedy and Stavelot. Hence the name "La Vecquée" (cfr. "évêque" and therefore "chemin de l'évêque"). At that time, the Vecquée was also the border of the Principality of Liege. Between 1815 and 1920 (until the Treaty of Versailles) it was the border between Belgium and Prussia and in the year 1839 hexagonal stones were placed along the route to reinforce the visibility of this demarcation line. Some of them remain today. Walk a short distance to the right and stop at the BP151 marker (B = Belgium, P = Prussia). Here you will find the 'Cross of the Betrothed ', erected to commemorate the death of Marie Solheid and François Reif on 21 January 1871. These two young people were walking in the fens, but they never returned. They were killed by frost in a 75 cm layer of snow. Their bodies were only found on 22 March (2 months later).
Then simply continue to follow the Vecquée. A few hundred metres further on your path, which turns into a stony path, will give you impressive views of the fens. The path leads you to the "Fischbach Chapel". This chapel was built by an industrialist from Malmédy, Chevalier Henri Toussaint Fischbach, to thank Providence for the rescue of his father-in-law, who had lost his way in the fens. It were the customers of the Baraque Michel-pub, who managed to get him back on the right road by ringing the bells. The chapel was dedicated to "Notre Dame de Bon Secours. It has been fitted with a bell tower and a beacon to deal with emergencies. There is also a register in which the rescued people write down their experiences (the "Iron Book"). In 1856 the book already contained more than 100 testimonies.
Now it is time for a well-deserved break: at the Baraque Michel there is a wide range of typical regional products, pies and snacks. The inn was built at the beginning of the 19th century by a tailor from Herbiester. He is said to have promised God to build an inn for lost travellers, after having (almost fatally) lost himself in the fens. For several decades the innkeeper and his guests rang the bell at nightfall and whenever the weather conditions were likely to endanger travellers. Like Mount Rigi, the inn was a customs office between Belgium and Prussia (Mount Rigi on the Prussian side and Baraque Michel on the Belgian side). The operators were responsible for closing the gates and also had responsibilities as postal workers.
After the break you return to the chapel and take the stony path through the fens again, but this time in the opposite direction, which gives you a second chance to enjoy the typical panoramas, praised by the tourist brochures. And now we are going to descend the historic "Vécquée", as many generations before us have done. The descent is a straight line through the fens, but there are places where the muddy state of the path forces you to leave the path and advance along the edge.
Eventually you will reach the (already known) "Pont du Centenaire" over the Hoëgne. You will cross the bridge and start to climb the slope opposite, which requires quite a bit of energy but you will soon reach the next bridge, crossing the RAVel where you continue straight on to the "Villa Sérénité". The path in the extension of your road, next to the Villa, takes you directly to the Hockai Road. If the condition of the path does not allow a comfortable passage, you stay on the asphalt by taking a left. The result is the same, you also reach the Hockai Road. Turn right and after 2 km you will find yourself at the starting point: Le Relais des Fagnes.