* When Old Friends Go Walking and Talking

Segment 25 – Horvat Hanot to Azeka Junction

The feedback after our last hike on the Israel Trail a month ago encouraged me to organize another outing as soon as possible. The selected date, during the Hanukkah holiday, was problematic for some and convenient for others. I decided to go with the earlier date, and save the following one as a rain date. Turned out there was no need to postpone; the weather was ideal for hiking. But since we’ve not yet had any significant rainfall this year, the trail was dry, and I spent much of the day searching for some color to photograph.

Our hiking group consisted of long-time friends, whose friendships go as far back as school days and army service (aside from Miri and Shlomo being siblings). A chatty bunch. Delightful company.

Before starting the hike, I took the group over to Horvat Hanot to show them the mosaic floor, which is kept covered by sand for preservation.


Unfortunately, no brooms were at the site, so we were unable to expose more than a tiny patch of mosaic. Otherwise, we might have seen this, for example:


Before we turned onto the trail, I made a point of telling everyone that Yuval is responsible for following the map, but that everyone needs to keep an eye out for the trail blazes. I even stopped at an Israel Trail blaze to point it out to everyone. OK, fine. We all know what the blaze looks like.

We began hiking at a nice pace, and immediately became engrossed in conversations, while enjoying the scenery …

… and even stopping so that I could get into at least one photo for the day.


But after about half an hour, and some 2 kilometers into the trail, Yuval says, “We’re not on the trail.”


We should have been walking on the Emperor’s (Roman) Road:


But we’d missed a turn almost at the start, and had been hiking along a very pleasant trail with scenic views, parallel and slightly north of the Israel Trail. It now occurred to us that we had not seen any trail blazes for quite a while.

I was miffed to have missed the highlight of this trail segment, and was ready to turn back, but was dissuaded by Yuval. He determined we were just north of map-point #2 of the segment (a reconstructed olive press), and proceeded to lead us through the woods, and down a slope towards Route 375.

My only compensation was spotting this bright clump of cyclamen in those woods, glowing against the dry forest floor.


Upon reaching the parking lot next to the olive press, at the end of the Roman road, we reconnected with the Israel Trail. Continuing on, we soon reached a junction with the trail we’d been on earlier. There we stopped for morning brunch.

After breakfast, I caught another brief glimpse of some bright, new-growth, color.


Alongside the trail, just before it crosses Route 3855, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a drinking-water fountain especially meant for Israel Trail hikers.


Note the walking stick in Miri’s left hand. This is where it got left behind.


Trail blazes were clearly visible for the entire hike, except when it came to crossing Route 3855. The passageway tunnel was not marked, so Yuval motioned for me to climb up and cross over the road. But everyone else behind me went easily and safely through the tunnel.


The walking and talking continued, while we mostly descended …


… but also ascended, and enjoyed some beautiful vistas …

2013-11-30_Israel_Trail-b-12 2013-11-30_Israel_Trail-b-13

… even if it is all so dry, so very dry.


After passing around Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hey, I had my second, and final, photo op of the day.

Here we encountered here a couple “shvillers”, who had become separated from their friends, having followed old/misleading blazes towards the kibbutz. That wasn’t surprising, since that object we are sitting on has a blaze pointing in the direction behind us, which is NOT the Israel Trail.


Having completed the final climb of the day, we stopped for our last rest/snack break.

And more chatting, of course.


And I managed to catch one more splash of local autumn color.


The pre-hike estimate and the actual distance covered were both about 14 kilometers. We completed the hike in just five hours. I’d like to say it was physically an easy route, but I really think the camaraderie made it so.

See the complete set of today’s photos  on my Flickr site.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!


* Good to Be Back on the Israel Trail

Segment 24 – Even Sapir to Horvat Hanot 

On just a week’s notice, I gathered a small group of hiking friends, and took to the Israel Trail once again. We picked up the trail near Moshav Even Sapir, just outside Jerusalem, where we had finished a previous hike some two years ago.


The autumn day was crisp and comfortable for hiking, and provided clear vistas as we traversed the hills and valleys.


The first segment of our hike was along the Springs Trail in the Aminadav forest. We passed many springs and pools, some dry and others filled with water. Definitely a place to return to on a hot summer day for a refreshing dip.


A view of Hadassah Hospital (Ein Kerem) from the trail.



Playing peek-a-boo in the rock formations.



Upon reaching Horvat Saadim, a small nature reserve noted for its oak and carob trees, we found the site overrun with several busloads of Israeli Scouts from Jerusalem on an outing. No stopping here. We continued on the trail through the Honorary Consuls Grove of olive trees, and then descended steeply, but just briefly. We landed and continued on a wide and easily-hiked dirt road. But the trail soon turned off and took us down a long and very steep descent that I had not anticipated.


Descending with a view to the Refaim Valley.


At the bottom, we stopped for a breakfast break of sandwiches, fruit and nuts.

Moving along, we crossed Nahal Refaim, passed under the train tracks , and then began climbing our way back up, along Nahal Kobi.


Halfway up the climb, we stopped to catch our breath, and I finally got into a photo.


Almost at the top, near Ein Kobi, we chanced upon two swings hanging from the trees. Time for some fun!


More fooling around at Ein Kobi.


Ein Kobi.


Leaving Ein Kobi, the trail continued with easy hiking for a while in a pine forest, and then emerged onto the open agricultural fields north of Mevo Beitar.


We were a bit surprised to discover that the trail indicated on our map was not the same as the one marked by the actual trail blazes. It seems the local  farmers have gotten the trail modified to accommodate their vineyards and fruit groves.

After several attempts, we finally found a wild date tree whose fruit was ripe and edible.


Finally, we crossed Route 386 near Tzur Hadassah, and began the final stretch of the day’s hike.


Horvat Dorban ruins, north of Moshav Mata.


Descending from the ruins on the hill, we again encountered clusters of Israeli Scouts, and had to weave our way past them. We also had to weave our way through some interesting trees.


At the palm tree grove at the Mata spring we encountered more scores of Israeli Scouts, from Tel Aviv this time. Shlomo could not resist his natural inclination to play with the kids, and pulled out a magic trick.

Karen, you’re almost there!


The network of trails from the Mata spring up to Horvet Hanot were so full of hiking Scouts and families that we simply followed the crowds back to our waiting cars.

The hike was longer and a bit tougher than I had expected; I should have done my prep work more thoroughly. But all in all, it was a wonderful day out on the Israel Trail.

See the complete set of today’s photos  on my Flickr site.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

* Welcoming Winter on the Israel Trail

Segment 29 – Dvir(a) to Sansana

“The way you spend New Years is the way you’ll spend the rest of the year.”

A friend of mine posted that message on Facebook on New Year’s day. If that message is true, well then, I can expect to be doing a lot more hiking on the Israel Trail this year, and in the company of wonderful friends.

Despite last minute cancellations from my regular hiking companions, and the threat of rain, I did not want to postpone this hike a second time. As long as we had two cars, to park one at each end of the segment, we were good to go. Unlike our previous outing on the trail with 19 hikers, this time we were just five, and that was just fine! Yuval and I were joined by Cindy and newcomer Robin (who usually play tennis together on Saturday mornings but have decided to vary their routine) and Avner R (on his second hike with us).

While Yuval and Avner went to park the second car at the end of our route, we three ladies were graciously invited to wait inside the guard station at the main gate of Kibbutz Dvir. After a heavy rain overnight, the morning air was cool and gray, and we took up the offer.

We left Dvir and walked about a kilometer until we connected with the trail at the Teva/Dvira Forest. But instead of turning left (west) towards Pureh as we had done last spring, we turned right (east) towards Sansana.

The first path we took was familiar — an orienteering meet a few years ago had its start and finish here (Dvira).

Not only was this the first day of 2011, it was actually the first day of rain in the Negev this winter. Small puddles and muddy spots on the trail, together with the sweet scent of washed pine trees, were a pleasure to our senses.

Having crossed through Dvira/Teva Forest, the trail took us onto an old paved road for half a kilometer.

Then the trail took us up and down, and across the North Lahav Nature Reserve, which is an unforested area.

We crossed another road, and then climbed up into the forest of Mount Lahav.

Purple dots appeared alongside the Israel Trail blazes on this section. I’m still trying to find out what they’re all about.

It was drizzling now, but not cold. The trail turned onto a road again, which made the going easier for us. Suddenly I had a flashback, remembering this as the location of a control point on a mountain bike orienteering course last year. Yuval could not recall it. But later, at home, I retrieved the Lahav O-map and did indeed confirm my recollection.

Photo op. Of course we had to take a picture next to the Israel Trail sign.

The trail leaves the paved road just as it reaches the Joe Alon Museum of Beduoin Culture. We detoured slightly to scout it out.  Although none of us had ever visited the museum, we were not inclined to interrupt our hike for a museum tour. A coffee break, on the other hand, was a great idea. The cashier at the entrance waived the 25 shekel museum fee, and allowed us access to the coffee shop just inside the gate. Although the sign says “Coffee Ron”, we thought the place should be more aptly named “Coffee Joe”. Hussein the barrista made us cappucinos, and had no objection to our eating the snack foods in our backpacks.  

Time to get back to the trail. We continue east around Kibbutz Lahav. Misty  and muddy.

The last leg of the hike. The trail crosses this road to Sansana and heads to the left. So no, we did not have to ford this huge puddle.

One of the day’s highlights was this tributary of a nahal (not sure which one), where rain had fallen and filled the crevices with pools of water. Within a day or two all these puddles will be dry, making this a rarely seen sight.

Rain on the pine needles.

Sansana forest on a winter day.

Two snails getting it on in the rain.

The final ascent, through the forest, and to the waiting car.

Cindy’s new shoes. Guess they’re worn in now.

Apologies for a rather sketchy hiking report. In the few days since our hike, I’ve traveled across the Atlantic and am currently in Boynton Beach, Florida. USA. An afternoon rainshower afforded me the perfect opportunity and atmosphere to complete this blog posting.  

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

* Ups and Downs on the Israel Trail

Segments 23-24 – Shoevah to Even Sapir

Although November is almost over, Israel has not yet received any significant rainfall this autumn. Our weather concern for this hiking day was not if it would be cold and wet, but rather how hot it might be. Faced with such conditions, I decided the best segment for today’s hike on the Israel National Trail would be the ascent to Jerusalem. I hoped to enjoy the greenery and shade of the forests, and to find water in the spring-fed pools marked on the map. Since this segment is the closest the Israel Trail gets to Jerusalem, it was a natural decision to hike the trail in an “ascent to Jerusalem”. But we had plenty of descents as well.

We began our hike in Shoevah, the same place we began a hike 6 months ago. We left our cars at the gas station at the entrance to the town, and walked a few hundred meters to the start of a trail. From there it was another 1.5 kilometers until we actually connected with the Israel Trail. This time, instead of  turning to the right (north direction of trail) towards Shaar Hagai, we continued straight (south direction) towards Jerusalem.

This part of the trail would not be any fun to do on a bicycle. Much too rocky!

After steady walking and taking for an hour (since leaving our cars), we reached Eyn Limon (the Lemon Spring). Still early in the morning. We had a short snack break. The air was cool and no one expressed an interest in testing the water in the pool.

After Eyn Limon,  the trail changes from a slight to a steeper incline. In my briefing at the start of the hike, I had described the entire ascent to Tzuba as a moderate climb. I understandably took some flak from the hikers when the going got a bit vigorous. As we headed up, we had lovely vistas of the forests, farmlands and villages on the surrounding hills, the outskirts of Jerusalem.

As soon as we reached Tzuba at the top of the climb, we crossed the road, and headed back down again.

As we approached Sataf, we faced a short climb. Now, this is climb that can be considered steep. Shula needed a shove from Saraleh to get going.

There were good trail blazes on this short segment. In some places, I could see three or four blazes all at once.

Cindy stops to catch her breath and pose for the camera.

Yuval kept an eye on the map the entire day. No matter how good the trail blazes are, it is always wise to keep a map in hand.

We stopped for our mid-morning sandwich and snack break at Sataf.

Vista point at Sataf.

Shula sits for a moment on an olive tree. If Miri had been with us on this hike, I think she might have been inspired to turn this pose into one of her sculptures.

Beauty spot on Sataf. The brown sign indicates the wall surrounds a garden of trees indigenous to the land of Israel. The white sign prohibits entrance.

Stone steps, stone steps, and more stone steps, lead down from Sataf. A 100-meter drop into Nahal Sorek. By the time we reached the parking lot at the bottom, some of us were keenly aware of previous injuries to our knees and ankles.

The gem of the day became apparent as we neared the end of our hike. After a short segment parallel to Highway 386, the trail turns right and crosses under the road. For the next kilometer the narrow trail climbs gradually through thick forest and across remnants of ancient stone terraces that harnessed the rain waters that flowed down this tributary of Nahal Sorek.

We were surprised by this enormous wall. It is a dam (I later learned) that was once part of an irrigation system for retaining and channeling water from nearby Eyn Hindak.

After we climbed the trail up and around the dam, the forest thinned out, and we soon arrived at Eyn Hindak. There we found no water in the pools, and lots of litter and remnant of picknickers. Yuck! Even more disturbing was the damage from a fire earlier this year (caused by carelessness) that scorched most of the hillsides from Eyn Hindak to where the trail crosses the road to Even Sapir. Despite the lack of rain, a few small wisps of green have started to rejuvenate the landscape.

We had left cars parked at the entrance to Even Sapir (starred), which gave us the option of climbing out of the trail at Eyn Hindak (3). That is what we did. That route, in fact, used to be the course of the Israel Trail.

Here’s a summary of our ascents and descents. My GPS recorded a climbing total of about 460 meters, and a hiking total of about 13 kilometers. (Click image for enlarged view. Correction: Road crossing at Tzuba is Route 3965, not 395)

P.S. We did find water at Sataf, of course. Avner took a quick dive into one of the pools before we noticed the sign prohibiting it. Here’s the incriminating evidence.

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).

Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

* Turn, Turn, Turn – A New Season on the Israel Trail

Segment 19 – Tel Afek to Tel Aviv, along the Yarkon River

September 25, 2010. Officially it’s now autumn. Our clocks have already been switched to winter (standard) time. But judging from the extreme and unbearable heat, it is still summer. That made it tough to be on the Israel Trail during the week of Succot, but we were eager to get back into the hiking mode.

To begin our hiking season I selected a easy segment close to home, along the Yarkon river. I gave Yuval the choice of direction. He prefered to end the hike in Ramat Hahayal where ice-cream and frozen yoghurt shops would await us. Our group comprised just 10 hikers, mostly core members and a couple guests, after several last-minute cancellations.  

We began our hike just outside the Tel Afek National Park, at the Rosh HaAyin train station, shortly before 8 a.m.  The sky was overcast and the air was still pleasant. Our first few kilometers sped by quickly. The trail soon brought us to the Yarkon sources. The water in this segment of the river is clear, pure and rich in vegetation and fish. At the spot where I’m standing in this photo, it is safe to swim.  

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Since Avner and Saraleh had hiked the Yarkon segment of the National Trail several time in the past, they suggested an alternative route around the Mekorot Hayarkon (“Yarkon Sources”) National Park. We took their advice and intentionally deviated from the trail, circumventing the park on the north-east side, rather than going along the south-west side and the Baptist Village. It was certainly lush and lovely.  

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

One of the things I love about my hiking buddies is their knack for grazing. Here’s Saraleh enjoying a fresh fig.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

And Yuval picking wild blackberries from a high branch.  

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Despite all its turning and winding, this segment of the Israel Trail runs alongside Highway 5 and major power lines. While we did have occasional encounters with the concrete and cable jungle, for most of the hike we felt as if we were in the wilderness.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Varda taking a moment to enjoy the flowers.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

One of several water crossings.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Yuval about to enter a hidden pathway.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

We stopped for our mid-morning snack and rest in the beautiful eucalyptus grove surrounding the Abu Rabah mill (under restoration).  Just as we began munching our sandwiches, a few raindrops raised our hopes of a short shower to cool us off. No such luck.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Interesting trail blazes indicating a U-turn.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Another fun water-crossing. Avner, Ruthy and I took our shoes off and waded through barefoot. The water was warm, but my feet felt so much better (for a short time, anyway) after I put my shoes back on.         

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Ruthy treats some through-hikers to slices of a melon she had gleaned from a field alongside the trail. We always enjoy meeting backpackers on the trail, and today was no exception. I was especially thankful for the 5 extra minutes of rest I got while chatting with these kids.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

David helps resolve our water shortage (near the end of the hike) with a few grapefruits from an orchard alongside the trail.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

At this point the Yarkon is highly polluted. Beautiful only to look at.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

The high-rise office towers of Atidim business park signal the end of today’s hike. Eager to finish, we shortcutted our way through the orchards, and avoided the last few twists and turns along the riverbank (blue track in map at bottom).

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Zvi Gilat’s Israel Trail guidebook (3rd edition, 2005), erroneously states 18 kilometers as the length of Segment 19 (from Tel Aviv port to Tel Afek).  Last winter we hiked from the Tel Aviv port to Ramat Hahayal, about one-third of the segment. That day my GPS recorded a track of about 8 kilometers, so I assumed today’s hike would be about 14-16 km. I had a lot of apologizing to do — my GPS recorded almost 21 km. We were on the trail for nearly 6 hours. And it was oppressively hot by the time we finished. Far beyond what I had anticipated. But cold Cokes and frozen yoghurts at the end of the day revived us.

The red track on the map below shows what we actually hiked, including our eastern bypass of the park. The purple track is the Israel Trail.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

(Subsequently, I checked the MAPA online version of Gilat’s guidebook and found it gives a more accurate distance of 23 kilometers for Segment 19. My GPS always registers a longer distance than the “official” distances, but I don’t know why it was so significantly greater on this hike. Perhaps it’s due to all those twists and turns.)

I definitely want to revisit this section of the trail on my mountain bike. Will have to get the timing right — to avoid summer heat and winter mud.

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

* Israel Trail 2009-2010 Recap

Despite a 2-month suspension of hiking due to my retinal detachment in November, we completed 10 hikes on the Israel National Trail this (academic) year for a total of about 140 kilometers. It’s hard to be exact on the distance measurement. I activate the GPS recording when we commence walking, and stop it when we reach the end of the hike. Sometimes our hikes include a kilometer or more on a “connector” trail to the point where we pick up the Israel Trail. I’ve also accidentally paused recording a few times, and have had to estimate the length of the unrecorded segment. It’s really not critical. Eventually we will have bragging rights to 940 kilometers – the official distance of the trail. So far, we’ve done about 200.

The Trail is For Me!

The Trail is For Me!

Three of our regular hiker couples went off — independently of each other — to discover New Zealand this year. First were Saraleh and Avner Halachmi – check out Avner’s travel blog (in Hebrew). Then Ilan and Miri Berman took off – check out their gorgeous set of photos. Finally, David and Ruty Aloush made the journey. Varda also missed a couple hikes. As a result, Yuval and I are the only ones with a perfect attendance record.

Our group has coalesced very nicely, and I am no longer adding new names to the distribution/ invitation list, with one exception. We have a handful of unattached and hiking-without-husband women in the group, and I’d be happy if a similar number of men-on-their-own would join us and provide some gender balance.

Every hike this year was a pleasurable and memorable experience — with weather, terrain and social mix creating a different flavor each time.

You can take a look at our journeys through my collection of photos from the Israel National Trail.

Next year I intend to hike a couple 2-day segments south of Arad, which will probably entail hiring logistical assistance. I’m soliciting recommendations and advice — if you have suggestions, please post a comment or send me an email.

* Celebrations on the Israel Trail

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).
Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

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!