Segment 23 – Shaar Hagai to Sho’evah (Shoresh)
We should have celebrated an anniversary on the trail yesterday, but I didn’t realize it until last night. Exactly one year ago (May 2, 2009) I began my journey on the Israel National Trail. Over the year, my hiking group has evolved and established a pace and rhythm that suits our personalities and physical abilities. It has been such a pleasure and a success! May our adventures continue!
After checking the weather forecast and the route topography, Yuval and I planned a “standard” 15-kilometer route on the Israel Trail for our hiking group, from Sho’evah (Shoresh) to Shaar Hagai. We also decided to formally adopt the philosophy of hiking each segment in the direction that is easiest on the hikers, rather than conforming strictly to a north-to-south progression. That meant today’s hike was mostly downhill, although it did include one long tough climb.
Close to home, it was easy to convene at an earlier hour, and our group of 16 began hiking before 8 a.m. Everyone was relaxed and in great spirits. It was Ruthy K’s birthday. Indeed, we seemed to be in a party mood throughout the day.
We left our cars, and began the descent from Sho’evah to Nahal Kislon. We soon reached the Israel Trail.
For the benefit of other day trippers, here’s my tip for parking cars and accessing the Israel Trail from Shoeva (see map). Upon exiting Highway 1 at the Shoresh interchange, go past the gas station, and at the rotary turn onto HaDolev Street. Make a left onto HaAlon Street and park where the asphalt road ends and a dirt trail begins. Commence hiking! At the first junction in the trail, turn right onto the black-blaze trail. A the next junction turn left onto green-blaze trail, and follow it until it connects with the red-blaze trail/Israel Trail in Nahal Kislon. This connector segment is about 1.5 km, an easy downhill if you’re starting from this point.
The first part of the trail hike was a long, easy walk along Nahal Kislon. The sky was clear blue. The air was cool and fresh. The meadow grasses were still green. The wildflowers were still in blossom. Here, in the foothills of Jerusalem, it’s still springtime.
I love the wide trails. They are ideal for walking-and-talking. But, since I frequently stop to take photos, I often get dropped, temporarily, from the peleton (main pack). I’m also not in many photos. But every now and then, I keep up with the pace and the conversation, and even get into a photo or two. (That’s me on the left, thank you Ruthy A.)
Throughout the day we shared the trail with numerous cylists and a few 4×4 vehicles. We also crossed paths with many hikers, among them a pair of young men thru-hiking the Israel Trail from north to south. In his inimitable style, Shlomo struck up a conversation and treated everyone to some great laughs.
I did not ask their names, but gave them my business card and promised to put their photo on my blog. So, if you are these fellows, or recognize them, please post a comment on this blog (in Hebrew or English). Hope to hear you’ve reached Eilat safe and sound in a few weeks.
Continuing down the trail alongside Nahal Kislon, through the Kedoshim Forest, full of eucalyptus and pine trees. The trees in this forest were planted in memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust.
After a brief rest stop at the Bnei Brit cave, we crossed the dry stream of Nahal Kislon, and began the climb up Mount Carmila (blue-blaze trail). Scaling this wall was just a hint of the physical efforts that lay ahead.
We began the climb. At first it was not too difficult, and we simply had to duck under or step over the fallen tree trunks. The trail got steeper. At one point it was blocked by downed trees, and we ploughed upward and around until we reconnected with the trail.
We took a short break to catch our breath and enjoy the gorgeous vista. And then we made our final attack. The ascent is so steep that the trail has switchbacks to make the climb (or descent) possible.
But we made it! We reached the top near Beit Meir. Birthday girl Ruthy celebrates with husband Micky.
We crossed Route 3955 (road connecting Sho’evah to Beit Meir) and stopped at a roadside picnic area in the Masrake Nature Reserve for a snack and rest break. Bad choice. It was full of litter, even though there was a trash receptacle on the site. It would have been wiser for us to continue a few hundred more meters along the trail, and stop at a camp site deeper within the reserve. Those sites are much cleaner. The sign explains why: “No trash collection here. Take your garbage with you. Thanks. Keren Kayemet”.
We still had a bit more climbing to do, though not at all difficult. We passed through the Independence War memorial at Outpost 16.
The strategic importance of the outposts along this range is easy to grasp. The views from the top were magnificent. Avner and Saraleh overlooking Highway 1 towards Jerusalem.
We passed through Outpost 21 at the top of the peak. And then we began the second and final descent of the day.
Yuval and the gang overlooking Shaar Hagai interchange on Highway 1 towards Tel Aviv.
This descent was steep and difficult in places — but thank goodness we were doing it at the end of the hike and not the beginning. Climbing this segment would have exhausted us. Instead, we reached the pinnacle of the hike, both physically and metaphorically, at just the right time.
We improvised our own personal switchbacks as we descended.
Avner and Saraleh made coffee for the gals while the guys went to retrieve the cars.
We capped off the day with an amicable game of bocce|petanque|boule (choose your prefered name).
Final note: Uphills totaled about 350 meters, downhills about 560 meters. The total distance hiked was about 17.5 kilometers.
See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
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Congratulations to Shimon Shomrony, who provided the spark that ignited my adventure. He and the group he assembled five years ago finally reached Eilat, and the end of their journey on the Israel Trail, this past weekend!