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  1. #1
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    Israel National Trail

    I'm about 80% of the way through a 2 month trek from Eilat to the Lebanon border with Israel. I'd consider this a world class trail; in 1000 km it's got massive, isolated desert, biblical hills, dramatic mountains like the Carmel, Meron and the area around Jerusalem, coastal seashore, rolling hills and valleys in the Galilee, and the great rift valley (here, it's the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley). In spring, it's mild weather with green grass and brilliant wildflowers everywhere (well, not in the Negev). For the non-desert part, there are towns near the trail every day, so you never need to carry more than a day's worth of food.

    Anyway, just thought I'd spread the word about the trail since I've enjoyed it so much. Hammockers may despair at the fact that 40% of it is in a desert where hammocking is impossible, but I've successfully hung on the other 60% and I didn't mind sleeping under a tarp for three weeks in the desert.

    Selling points - it's a beautiful trail, which takes you through hugely different landscapes in a small distance, challenging but doable by most people, in a first-world country that's still quite exotic (besides all the religious and historical interest, and the variety of cultures and religions you'll encounter along the way), and quite safe - it stays within the borders of Israel proper and out the occupied territories, and the only real hazard is getting injured or dehydrated in the desert, which is easily avoided if you are prepared.

    Mostly it's Israelis hiking it, but I've run into about half a dozen other Americans - including four grizzled old AT vets with 9 pound base weights (though they found it a bit rough carrying 5-6 liters of water through the desert I think). I'd go with a group if possible since you may feel left out if you're the only gentile and non-Hebrew speaker in a group you find here, but you'll meet fantastic people for sure, including "trail angels" that let hikers stay in their homes for a night (or sometimes in cabins they've prepared in their yards!). Two Americans I know who hiked it solo said they rarely slept outside, as people they met invited them to stay for the night so often.

    Anyway, a few hammock-related pictures from it...


    This was the only place in the desert part of the trail where I could hammock. Unfortunately we didn't camp there. You're only supposed to (and should only) camp in designated night camps in order to protect the desert's fragile ecosystem, and none of the camps have trees you could use.


    Camping on Tel Azeka, near where David killed Goliath...


    In the north, tons of these forests have been planted to "reclaim land" and beautify the place. It's politically shady and environmentally sort of disastrous, but they make it easy to hammock when otherwise it could be quite tough. In fact, the two easiest types of trees to hang on are invasive species planted for poorly thought out reasons - these pines, and eucalyptus. I've also hung off olive trees and other native plants, but less often.

    Anyway, check it out...it's a great trail to hike!
    Last edited by jbphilly; 04-15-2011 at 10:01.

  2. #2
    Senior Member lazy river road's Avatar
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    AAAHHH man I know exactly where your coming from having been to Israel 3 times and living in the Negev for a year I loved it and am extremely jelous. Its a beautiful country with beautiful scenery all around. I wish you the best of luck in completing your hike and cant wait to see pics and a full trip report when you come back. Did you go with a program and are you doing this buy your self?
    בהצלחה (Hebrew saying for "to your success)
    LRR
    Sometimes I like to hike and think, And sometimes I just like to hike.

    Hiking is'ent about waiting for the storm to pass its about learning to hike in the rain.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    I had no idea they had a trail over there. Thanks for the info!
    Trust nobody!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Law Dawg (ret)'s Avatar
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    Well done! Sure would like to see and read more...please?
    Mark is the name and If there is more than one way to understand what I just said....I meant the good one.

    Earth First! We'll dirt bike ride the other planets later.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Veto 65's Avatar
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    Thank you for posting pictures from your part of the world. Maybe someday I'll go.
    I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. - E. B. White (1899 - 1985)

  6. #6
    dragon360's Avatar
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    I would love to see more. Send more pics!
    The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering. - St. Augustine

    Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.
    - Bob Marley

  7. #7
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    I just uploaded pictures from the desert section of the trail; they're on my photobucket (link below). My camera stopped working right after I finished the desert, so there's only a few other pictures, from another guy's camera that I'm hiking with. Still gives you a glimpse though. Photobucket is dumb and uploads everything in reverse order, so chronological order starts from the "end."

    http://s263.photobucket.com/albums/i...srael%20Trail/

    Doing the trail by myself, plus a group of people I found via the internet. It's down to just 2 now - first the Orthodox Jews in the group split off since their fasting and sabbath-keeping habits made their pace too slow for us; then the other half of the group kept having knee and foot problems. I'm the only one without any, and only one guy is left able to hike so it's just me and him for the final push up to Dan.

    http://israelnationaltrail.com/ will tell you a lot about it. There's a guidebook available in English but the quality is piss-poor...some people I know who wrote another hiking guide for Israel (the Jesus Trail) may write one in the future but until then, try and find a free copy of the existing one since you'll hate yourself for spending any amount of money on it much less the sixty bucks it costs. (the guy who answers all the questions on the forum there wrote the book so don't comment too much about it being bad...)

    The only headache is organizing water caches in the desert. The headache comes from figuring out in advance your hiking distances per day and your water and food needs (probably 7 liters per person in each cache is good; it gives you 5 to 5.5 liters to drink the next day, plus extra for cooking, cleaning and just to spare). It's also expensive...there's people you can pay to drive you out to the desert night camps to cache. If you split it between a larger group the cost doesn't hit so hard; with 8 people, our bill for 7 caches came to around 60 bucks per person. But you may also need more caches since we were with a large, supported group for the first week.

    Here's a few more pictures, though not from my part of the world - I'm from Philadelphia and just traveling here. I love being here but could never live here permanently!









    These are all from the southern half of the trail - desert and the Judean foothills. Up north it's far more lush and covered in wildflowers.

    You meet all kinds of people...atheists from Tel Aviv, socialist kibbutzniks, Bedouin shepherds, Hasidic Jews grilling out at some rabbi's tomb, Palestinian (Israeli Arab) villagers, Druze, and on and on..

  8. #8
    dragon360's Avatar
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    Fantastic! Thank you.
    The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering. - St. Augustine

    Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.
    - Bob Marley

  9. #9
    Senior Member bigbamaguy's Avatar
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    All I can say is.........very jealous of you!!!!!!!! Thank you very much for taking me to the other side of the world, it was a nice escape during my break at work today.
    Par Si Vis Pace Para Bellum

  10. #10
    New Member Bandanabraids's Avatar
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    Beautiful! It is my dream to go to the Holy Land someday.

    Thank you for sharing your pictures!

    Christina
    Don't mess with the Chief's wife!

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