Segment 2: Kiryat Shemona to Mezudat Yesha
In today’s hike, we will not be hiking the first part of the segment — from Tel Hai to the Geological Park. I realized that the route would simply be too long, especially in the heat, and decided that it was better to cut out a few kilometers of ascent rather than skip the best part (Nachal Kedesh) at the very end of today’s route. I have promised the group we will return to complete this segment at another time, in another season.
9:25: Our hike begins at the Geological Park just above Kiryat Shemona. I am delighted that we are able to drive to the park on a paved road and park our car right near the trail; I had not realized there was vehicle access, and had thought we’d have to hike (uphill) for 2 km to reach the trail.
Going into today’s hike, we know that the route is described as “mostly uphill”, but to what degree? On a cool day, the climb up and along this ridge might not be difficult at all. But today, well, the heat and the hills prove to be quite a challenge.
I wear a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS recoding device whenever I’m out on the trail. When I download the data and display it using a program called SportTracks, I recreate the hike, and from this virtual journey, I can see and learn a lot that I didn’t or couldn’t sense during the hike itself.
One of the sections I like to look at in SportTracks is the Elevation graph and statistics. Since today’s hike had included a long uphill climb, I was curious to learn more about it. According to SportTracks, 41% of our hike was ascending; 25% was descending, and 34% was flat! We climbed a total of 539 meters! (For comparison’s sake, on Friday 22% of our hike was ascending; 21% was descending, and 57% was flat! And our total climb was just 250 meters.)
This is how it looks on the graph. I’ve marked a number of spots on the graph where we paused along the trail.
(1) 10:00 (2.3 km): Hirbet Nezer. At this point we had only hiked just over 2 km, but were already in need of a rest stop. The only shade we’d enjoyed so far was in the brief downhill segment. Doesn’t seem quite fair: shade and downhill at the same time; shade on the uphill would have been so much more appreciated. Avner has brought a hammock with him, and strings it up for a quick lounge. A loud and passionate political debate suddenly erupts among some of our hikers (not me). Eventually, the intensity subsides. David tells jokes. The laughter restores our mellowness.
While the heat is brutal, the vistas of the Hulah Valley for the entire ascent are stunning.
(2) 11:18 (5.8 km): The apex of today’s hike. At this point the trail finally leaves the (mostly paved) road that we have been walking on since starting. We make a rest stop. A bee stings Musa; the stinger has gone through his shirt but not lodged in, so the sting is not severe.
(3) 11:47 (7.3 km): We have followed the trail along a fenced peach orchard for about a kilometer. We stop in the shade near the orchard gate (which now blocks the original path of the trail). Avner picks a few peaches for us. The fruit is ripe enough to eat, but still hard. Musa chokes on piece of a peach, giving us quite a scare; after a few tense moments, he’s better, and we tease him about being unable to handle any more of his medical emergencies.
The trail now gently descends through pleasant and interesting terrain – a mixture of high grasses, rocks, and native trees and bushes – very much a holyland type of landscape.
(4) 12:13 (8 km) [near Point 5 in Zvi Gilat’s guide]: Just off the trail above us we spot a large water tank positioned in the shade of a tree, intentionally placed there for the well-being of trail-hikers, by a fine soul name Hannanya. The water is even cool. We are delighted, as the day has become extremely hot and we have been drinking more than expected. The tank is covered with graffiti of thanks. David gets his hand on a pencil and adds words of appreciation from the Mishli group.
(5) 12:29 (8.4 km): Having reached the bottom of a descent, and seeing that we are about to begin another (mild climb), we pause for a water break. The trail is now in the Nachal Kedesh Nature Preserve, and indeed the landscape is lovely.
(6) 13:22 (11.1 km): The group has splintered a bit since our last stop, but we regroup at the southwest corner of the agricultural field we have been circumventing since our last stop. Miri and Varda start to folk-dance (how can they do it in such heat?!). Avner plays his harmonica! We push on, a gentle climb up two switchbacks, and finally reach the highway.
14:05 (13.3 km): We are hot and tired, but the adrenaline kicks as we head into Nachal Kedesh canyon. And besides, it’s all shade now! As we make the descent we feel like children in a playground. The trail winds through bolders, trees and branches, but the frequent blazes take away any need for guesswork about where the path lies. We go down slowly and carefully, aware that our legs are weary and can easily give way.
(7) 14:15 (13.5 km): We find a place to sit and enjoy this wonderland. A real beauty spot. Time to move on, and we continue down the “jungle gym” trail. Soon the trail turns back and takes us up another tributary.
14:55 (14.3 km): We emerge from the canyon, and are back in the sunlight. The trail then continues along the top of the canyon, providing spectacular views, and winds around the Yesha Fort.
15:20 (15.2 km): We complete our trail at the Birdwatcher’s Lookout. Coffee, tea, cakes and sandwiches. Apparently still full of energy, Avner leads us in an outback version of lawn bowling. It’s quite silly and lots of fun. A delightful way to end our two-day excursion on the Israel trail.
See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
The video version of today’s journey: