Segment 14 – Meir Sh’feya to Kerem Maharal (Hof HaCarmel)
Where is the best place to hike once hot weather has descended on the land? Yuval suggested the shore. Ruti wanted shade. I knew we needed a shorter-than-usual distance. After considering everyone’s preferences, I selected the southern half of the “Finger Cave to Har Horshan” segment from south-to-north. The reversal of direction did not save us any climbs, as the path had both ups and downs. But it allowed us to hike in the open areas earlier in the morning when the air was still on the cool side, and to enjoy the shade of the forest as the day heated up later on. The beach was just a few minutes drive from our end point, giving us the option of a swim at the end of the hike.
I was delighted to see 16 regular hikers and one guest appear at 7 a.m. We congregated at the edge of the field where the Israel Trail connects to the entrance road to the Meir Sh’feya Youth Village, which sits upon a hilltop.
The trail loops around the hill on the west, which meant the trees on our right gave us shade from the low, early morning sun.
We walked-and-talked along a dirt trail for the first 3 kilometers. The trail then turned on to an asphalt road. At that point I was chatting with Alon about cycling sections of the Israel Trail on bike. Indeed, we joked, this asphalt road is a perfect example of the possibility. Engrossed in our conversation, as were fellow hikers ahead of us, we missed a trail blaze. This paved road was heading towards a quarry! Fortunately, Yuval in the rear called us back before we’d gone too far.
Ahah! – so cycling this segment might not be so easy. The trail now became a narrow path, steep in places, heading up to Hirbet Talimon.
The Talimon ruins provide a perfect place to stop for our sandwich-breakfast break. Great vistas and shade. We felt no need to rush. Avner and Saraleh treated us all to finjan coffee.
As we descended the hilltop after our rest stop, we chanced upon two bulls in the bushes on the side of the trail.
Don’t know what I/we did to provoke such a reaction. Fortunately I got out of the way while the bulls charged across the trail.
For the next 2 kilometers the trail was an easily-hiked (and easily biked) 4×4 trail. Then the trail diverged from the black-blaze trail and went up Nahal Shimri. Now the real hiking fun started. There were boulders to climb over, and tree branches to duck under.
Somewhere about here is a “bell cave”. It was not printed on any of the maps we had with us, although I had made a notation on the map I gave Yuval. Reviewing my photos, I see we passed a sign post pointing to the cave. But neither Yuval nor I saw the sign. Nor did we detect a path leading to the cave. Unfortunately brother (/-in-law) Ron was not on the hike. I’m sure he would have had an up-to-date 1:50,000 map with him and led us directly to the cave.
I had been hoping for a rest stop in the coolness of the cave. But unable to find the cave, we sat instead in the shade of the trees in an olive grove. That’s when Miri decided it was time for our dance break. (In Hebrew would that be “break-dance”?)
Avner pulled out his harmonica and began to play. Gradually more and more of our hikers joined in the dance circle, causing me to exclaim, “Wow! We’ve got a flash mob!”
Party time over, it was back to the trail. The cactus lining the trail were in blossom. A beautiful sight.
We crossed over the road leading to Moshav Ofer, and soon entered the enchanted woods of Ofer Forest (Hof HaCarmel Forest).
More fun getting over and around the boulders in our path.
Serendipity on the Israel Trail: a tranquil, rest stop in the Shir Valley, established in memory of a soldier named Noam Bahagon who was killed in Gaza in 2003.
I was so enthralled with this unexpected beauty spot, that I got everyone to sit down in the circle. Some people were expecting me to make some concluding remarks to mark the end of our hiking season, but I had nothing special to say. Meanwhile, we’re still trying to come up with a name and/or a slogan for our group. Avner keeps asking for a t-shirt. I’ll try to accomodate that request by the start of our next hiking season.
While we don’t yet have a unifying t-shirt, many of us wore khaki pants and a light/white shirt. Almost like we were regressing to the days of our youth in scout uniforms.
Even I was dressed that way!
I think it’s a sign that our hiking group has really bonded.
I’m taking a break from organizing for the summer. I’ll be happy to join in any hike or outdoor activity that anyone else organizes. I’m awaiting invitations.
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