* 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!

Advertisements

* A Stroll in the Park on the Israel Trail

Segment 19: Ganei Yehoshua (Park Hayarkon), from West End to East End

Having returned to Israel from the USA just a few days prior to hiking day, I did not know how much rain had fallen in the preceding week. I soon realized that trails everywhere in Israel were too muddy to hike. So I implemented Plan B: instead of hiking from the western end of Park Hayarkon all the way to Hod Hasharon as planned, we would exit the trail at the eastern end of the park, in the Ramat Hahayal high-tech business park.  

By the way, Park Hayarkon is officially called Ganei Yehoshua. That is also the name of the company that operates this park as well as the Menachem Begin Park and the Abu Kabir Nature Park on the south side of Tel Aviv. See the Ganei Yehoshua website (in Hebrew only).  

Our Israel Trail hike thus became a stroll in the park, on a cool but sunny winter day. For the most part we walked on asphalt and packed-dirt paths. The trail become soft and muddy only at the very end. While the others walked on an adjacent paved path, Cindy, Ruthy and I braved that final  section – a narrow path lined by tall grasses and reeds – and briefly enjoyed the sensation of being on a hike out in the country. 

Walking through Park Hayarkon on a Shabbat – especially on a sunny day after a stormy week – meant we shared the lanes with throngs of walkers, joggers, runners and cyclists. Certainly we could have walked faster and more energetically, and easily completed the 8 kilometers by 10 a.m. But that was not the point, of course. The pleasure is in pausing from time to time, to contemplate the views and become a bit more intimate with the scenery.  

Since this was an urban hike, I found myself focusing on the signs that have been posted to protect nature from humans, and humans from one another. Some of the signs seem silly, but upon consideration, I find it sad that the particular (or peculiar) Israeli culture and mentality warrant the need for such signs to keep Tel Aviv and its population clean and safe. The first sign of the day especially illustrates this point. Alongside the parking lot at the Reading Terminal parking lot, in search of a public toilet, we spotted this sign: 

No Peeing Here

No Peeing Here

Sign pointing to the nearby Dog Park under Bird’s Head Bridge (Ayalon Highway), so called because an aerial view of the confluence of the Yarkon and Ayalon streams at this spot resembles the profile of a bird’s head.

Dog Park at Bird's Head Bridge

Dog Park at Bird's Head Bridge

I guess it was too chilly, or still too early in the day, for “mangalistim” in the park. When they want to grill their kebabs and steaks, this is where they’re supposed to do it. I wonder why someone vandalized the sign. Perhaps it was an animal lover?

Have Fun Here Fanning the Grill

Have Fun Here Fanning the Grill

A Hebrew play on words. Walking for health. Walking the health trail. Whichever, I certainly agree. These billboards appear to provide useful information, but I’d just as soon not see advertisements (Clalli health fund and Superpharm stores) in the park.

Walking the Path to Health

Walking the Path to Health

In many places along the trail, pedestrians and cyclists share one lane. While hiking we noted many machos on wheels riding recklessly, showing little or no concern for the walkers and runners, as if the pathways belong exclusively to the riders. Rachel and Miri were deeply engaged in conversation throughout the walk, but managed to stay out of harm’s way.

Dangerous Curve: Keep Right

Caution Dangerous Curve: Keep Right

Funny how a trash bin cannot speak for itself. A sign needs to remind people where to put their garbage.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa: Do Not Litter

Tel Aviv-Jaffa: Do Not Litter

As we left the trail and returned to our cars in the Ramat Hahayal, we passed the ultimate sign of urban culture – a MacDonald’s restaurant. Noting the M shape of the fencing around the seating area, David remarked how it easy it can make something aesthetically pleasing, rather than ugly – all it takes is a little thinking.

MacDonald's in Ramat Hahayal

MacDonald

And finally, the best sign of the day seemed to have been arranged especially for me. About 40 minutes into the hike we chanced upon a team of marketeers gearing up for some Ganei Yehoshua promotional activities. I got so excited when I saw their sign. They were so pleased with me, it seems, that they gave me a Ganei Yehoshua cap! While I was busy taking pictures with the park mascot, an orange and unidentifiable creature, Yuval chatted with one of the organizers, who introduced himself as the General Manager of Ganei Yehoshua.

The Trail is For Me!

The Trail is For Me!

And of course, I was always happy to see my favorite sign:

Israel National Trail Sign

Israel National Trail Sign

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

* Beaches, Beaches and More Beaches on the Israel Trail

Segment 18: Gaash to Tel Aviv

This hike is the second half of the route from Netanya to Tel Aviv. We started this hike in early morning sunlight at the point we finished our last hike in early evening darkness.

This hike was a long, long walk on the beach, followed by a few final kilometers on city streets of Tel Aviv.

We began on a nearly deserted stretch of shore; besides us there were just a few campers still asleep in their tents, and some fisherman tossing their lines out. The beauty of this part was the isolation, quiet, and beauty of the cliffs that meet the shore; but it was marred by scattered garbage and apparent neglect by the municipalities and/or government offices responsible for its maintenance.

Most notable about this hike were the contrasts. Tranquil and deserted at the start; noisy and crowded at the end. Littered and unkempt at the start; manicured and clean at the end. 

The best spot, I think, was where we happened to stop for a rest, which turned into a group swim, just south of the “segregated” (men/women) beach in Herzlia. The beach here was clean and void of people — because the city of Herzlia is doing a fine job of maintaining the shoreline, and because we were outside the area patrolled by lifeguards and designated for swimming. (Yes, we swam at our own risk.)

A quick recap of all the (named) beaches we visited (11 in all, I believe).

Note: I accidentally stopped (and later restarted) the timer on my Garmin GPS on two occasions during the hike. So, it recorded our physical route, but the times and distances are somewhat out of synch. To reconstruct our route (times only), I’ve used the time information recorded on my digital photos.

6:50 (0 km): Gaash Beach.
8:00: Appolonia Beach
8:30: Sidna Ali Beach
Breakfast stop
9:25: Hof Hasharon Beach
9:30: Zvulun Beach
9:40: Acadia Beach
9:45: Yordei Hasirah (Handicapped) Beach
Herzlia Marina, Arna Mall
10:00: Segregated Beach
10:05: “non-authorized” beach: Swim break
10:45: HaTzuk North Beach “Country” Beach
11:00: HaTzuk South Beach
11:30: Tel Baruch North Beach.
Leave the beach. Ramat Aviv Hahadasha neighborhood. Sde Dov airport.
12:15 (15.0 km):  Just outside Reading electric plant. Finished!

Amos, whose roots are in Kibbutz Gaash, tells us the story behind the remains of the shipwrecked boat just off the shore.

Amos, whose roots are in Kibbutz Gaash, tells us the story behind the remains of the shipwrecked boat just off the shore.

 

Shipwreck, near Gaash

Shipwreck, near Gaash

 

Varda and David trying to stay on the trail

Varda and David trying to stay on the trail

 

Lisa on the trail

Lisa on the trail

 

Please keep our beaches clean (actually something much more clever in Hebrew, but that's the message)

Please keep our beaches clean (actually something much more clever in Hebrew, but that's the message)