With all my gear in my backpack I hike through the woods of Drenthe, the Netherlands. Around me I see nothing but singing birds, peat soil and impressive trees. Suddenly a small wooden house appears in the middle of the forest. I will spend the night in this Cabiner: a tiny house in Drenthe where you have to pump the water from the ground yourself and have to chop wood to use in the wood stove. You’re in the middle of nature, completely off grid!
Cabiner in Drenthe
Saturday at the end of the morning my micro adventure starts at the parking lot of Staatsbosbeheer in Elp. My boyfriend and I leave for a weekend hike through the woods of Drenthe, a Dutch province, and we spend the night in a Cabiner, a tiny house. At the Staatsbosbeheer building I immediately see two cabinets with the Cabiner logo on them. In here awaits a bag filled with local ingredients for our dinner and some breakfast items.
When the walking shoes are tied we set off. have I downloaded a GPS file with today’s route, but at the starting point I also grab a map of the area. I unfold the map and see that there are 8 Cabiners, spread over the Hart van Drenthe nature reserve. That promises a lot for the hike that awaits us before we reach the Cabiner.
Through forest and peat
Looking for peace, that is what I had in mind when I decided that we would retire for a weekend in a tiny house. And we found it! The first kilometer of the hike near the small lake Ieberenplas is quite busy with hikers and cyclists. But the further we walk into the forest, the quieter it gets. Over a sandy path, with deciduous trees on the left and coniferous trees on the right. The spruces are neatly lined up, so I guess this forest is probably used for timber production. The contrast is beautiful, especially when we arrive at a wide open field with gray heather. Although it is far from purple at this time of year, it already looks impressive against the blue sky.
We enjoy the peace and quiet on a bench before we cross the plain. Here the nature of Drenthe really shows its best side. A wooden platform path runs right through the Grolloërveen. The swampy peat area is full of life. A dragonfly passes in front of us and a bright green frog splashes into the water.
When we dive into the woods again a little later, a sign announces that we are now entering the radio quiet zone of the Radio Observatory. We put our phones on airplane mode and walk on narrow paths through the forest, which turns increasingly bright green. Now we are really off grid, I decide. We don’t meet anyone anymore and are only accompanied by birdsong in the trees and small green caterpillars hanging from glittering threads under the branches. Then we suddenly see the roof of the Cabiner looming between the trees. If you didn’t know the wooden house is here, you would probably walk past it.
Hiking through Drenthe
That is exactly the intention of the Cabiners. A hiker’s house in the middle of nature, built in collaboration with Staatsbosbeheer, where you can get away from all the hustle and bustle. This is cabin number 7, an ecological and self-sufficient tiny house built with as many local materials as possible. Designed to leave as little impact on nature as possible.
Behind the house is the wood supply and here we also find the key. I step into the house and see that it is soberly furnished, but at the same time has everything you need. The solar panel on the roof provides enough power to run the lights and charge my phone via a USB charger. There is a wood stove on which we can also cook and water is manually pumped from the ground. At the back of the house I see the small bathroom, with a shower and a compost toilet.
Back to basics
You go all the way back to basics here. Because you pump the water out of the ground yourself and for a hot shower you first have to heat up the wood stove. You make coffee in the morning with a percolator on the same stove. Doesn’t that sound like a dream? You can make beautiful hikes between the different tiny houses. And if you go out for several days, you can make a trekking through Drenthe, from Cabiner to Cabiner, where you sleep in a different beautiful tiny house every night.
Get to work!
In the meantime, I can continue to enjoy this unique place. The Cabiner has huge windows at the front overlooking a small peat lake. I hear a woodpecker, he can’t be far away. Plenty of birds that can be heard but not seen. But now it is really time to roll up your sleeves. Next to the wood stove is a pile of dry wood and an ax hangs on the wall to split the kindling wood. My friend immediately rolls up his sleeves and takes the ax to chop wood.
In the meantime, I take care of the water pump. You have to pump for a few minutes before there is enough water pressure to take a shower. But for that we really have to wait until the fire in the stove has been stoked enough to heat the water in the pipes.
Cooking on a Dutch Oven
Once the wood burns, I make tea in the enamel mugs that hang from a hook in the kitchen and take a seat in front of the house to read a book. It takes a while before the wood stove is warm enough for cooking. An hour later I poke up the stove. I put the cast iron Dutch Oven on the stove and think about what I can cook with the local organic ingredients that are in the meal package. Maybe a curry with chickpeas and tofu? It takes a while to cook in the cast iron pan on the stove. But that is also part of the charm of spending the night in a Cabinet.
Under a starry sky
Meanwhile it is slowly getting dark. How wonderful it is to have no TV, no neighbors and no sound. Somewhere in the distance I might hear a few cars, because it’s still the Netherlands and we are not that deep in nature. But otherwise there is only the view of a starry sky and a good book to read. We stare at the evening sky through the large glass facade.
In the morning we wake up early when the sun rises. Also the nature is slowly awakening around me. Birds start to chirp. I turn around for a moment. My boyfriend is already getting up and fires up the stove to make coffee. I pour boiling water over my oatmeal and eat some yogurt with fruit. After a last cup of coffee I close the door behind me. On the road again!
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In front of the tiny house we first map out a route that goes back to Staatsbosbeheer via a detour – because the nature over here is too beautiful to take the shortest route. We decide to walk through Camp Westerbor, a former transit camp during World War II. Nowadays it hosts a museum and a memorial center.
But first, for a while we stand behind a woven bird screen at Halkenbroek, between Hooghalen and Grolloo. We see a lot of birds. A curlew, or is it a bittern? It is difficult to see without binoculars. But if you stay here for a while and you have a lot of patience, you could just spot a lapwing or kingfisher. Birds are not the only animals to see over here. A little later a doe runs over the path in between the trees.
We walk over what could be a former railway line to the Camp Westerbork Memorial Center. We walk past the old barracks and the villa of the camp commander. A little further there is a wagon, with which tens of thousands of Jews were transported to the camps in eastern Europe. We visit the Westerbork National Monument, which was designed by a survivor of the camp. The curled up rails show the despair of the people who were held here.
View tower and Radio Observatory Westerbork
We leave Camp Westerbork and walk to a viewing tower, which is a bit further on the edge of the forest. The viewpoint turns out to be closed off, but a little further we can take a look at the Radio Observatory Westerbork, a radio telescope consisting of several enormous antennas.
We slowly walk back through the Elper Noorderveld, on an old cobblestone road and narrow paths between the Blanke Veen. The peat area is named after the faded peat fluff that turns everything bright white here in June. But even now the peat fluff is already growing in abundance, and I see the white dots in the green peat.
Sleeping in a cabiner in Drenthe
What a wonderful weekend it was. Walking through one of the most beautiful nature reserves in Drenthe. Retreating to nature, hiking, chopping our own wood and then preparing our food on a wood stove. Spending the night in a Cabin and waking up in the morning with coffee that you make on the same wood stove. Yes, in only two days you can unwind completely in your own cabin in the woods.
Do you also want to sleep in a tiny house in The Netherlands? Book your Cabiner trekking.