This charming little hike, which was supposed to happen without a fanfare, turned out a completely different way than planned. At the very last minute, two of our youngest sons and our dog joined us. As a continuation of our latest excursion along the Israeli National Trail (Shvil Yisrael), we wanted to go all the way up to the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee), but the weather decided otherwise and, our adventure ended up on the 1,200-meter high Mount Meron.
Eytan, Doron, Magi and our dog, Dolly, come with me on this hike, which is planned to last three days. We leave the car in Dishon and ducking through the little rear gate of the moshav, we start to walk under beautiful, ever-changing cloud formations, through sun-lit cactus forests. On the left, water-mill ruins border the creek bed. We descend the sun-stricken path in a long stretched queue to reach the bluish-green waters flowing in the bed of Creek Dishon. I do not take a lot of photographs because, in order to save weight, instead of the nearly two-kilogram camera, I only brought the smaller one with fixed macro lens, which only weighs a bit more than one kilogram, but is not suitable for photographing wide landscapes. Furthermore, I do not realize that, for some reason, almost every photo is out of focus.
The weather forecast indicated rain and cold for today, and snowfall on Mount Hermon; therefore, I brought a tent for the children and two large bags for Magi and me, just in case it would rain during the night. Today is “Independence Day” in Israel. In good weather, parks and forests are packed with people, but we have not encountered a single soul throughout the day. That is why I like to hike in bad weather.
We pass by the tomb of Prophet Isaiah, where Dolly rolls in something very smelly, so hundreds of flies settle on her back and buzz around. The poor animal nervously keeps trying to bite and catch them on the go. She is not used to such things; at home, lying on the sofa in the living room, she has probably never even seen a single fly. Whenever she can, she dashes into the water and splashes around gleefully.
We are hit by a rainshower; we wait until it is over under a citrus tree. In Ein Arvut, water springs from the rocks and creates a small pool underneath, but the water is not clean, so Eytan panics when he accidentally touches it.
And again a storm. This time it is serious. It is hailing hard and the drops of ice hit the ground boisterously. We are crouching under some bridge until the storm passes.
Dolly can smell the rock hyraxes hiding among the rocks, so she tries to lure them out jumping around vigorously, but they get scared and crawl in even deeper.
We already are at Nachal Tzivon, wandering in the dense vegetation of Yaar Baram. Its ancient moss-covered oak trees make this my favorite Israeli forest. Doron discovers a venomous snake at a garbage collection point; fortunately, the snake is in a good mood today, so it leaves us in peace and prefers to hide from us.
Every time we eat, my dyslexia shows up as I always call “Kabanos” (a thin turkey sausage) as “Cannabis”. Later my verbal skills improve a bit, and I start calling it “Kabanis”, but I get stuck at this point. Once, I will try a hemp-flavored sausage for sure, it must taste really good.
The children are hungry all the time. In less than a day, they have eaten most of the food I had packed for the three-day trip, but they keep complaining that their stomach just feels very empty. Eytan keeps nagging me to call one of the Trail’s angels and, in addition to free showers and accommodation, ask for some roast meat as well.
The wood is wet, so lighting the fire gives me a hard time. My lungs become filled with smoke.
‘And here comes the concrete barriers’ – I know Israel like the palm of my hand, but since I do not know the palm of my hand at all, I probably know Israel better.
I’m thinking to myself who and why put this horribly ugly structure here. ‘In times of war, when the sirens go off, every hiker in Northern Israel must run behind a concrete wall within a minute!’
I am flabbergasted when I see that our four-legged dog can pass through this ‘cow barrier’, while our horses are not so able to coordinate their steps.
Our spirits are high all the way. We do not quarrel despite the capricious weather and the heavy backpacks; the children do not fight either, they just keep making fun of me while laughing merrily.
By looking at the fast-moving clouds, we are guessing how much rain/mud we can expect in the upcoming days, whether or not we can continue the hike, and whether there will be enough food left?
Last time, Magi said that we should come next when the wild Cistus crispus (Lotem) is blooming. ‘Lifamim halomot mitgashmim’ (Sometimes dreams come true), he says enthusiastically.
A wild boar is tearing through the undergrowth next to Eytan; it stops for a little while, looks at him and then buzzes off with much clatter. Besides the zoo, my son has never seen such a big wild beast. He enthuses over what happened for about an hour. ‘I cannot believe what I have just seen!’
We climb Mount Meron. In the meantime, the sun becomes less bright; by the time we reach the top, the weather turns very bad and cold.
I put on three pairs of trousers to survive the chilly night. By the time I am done with this lengthy process, I get a very bad diarrhea, so I have to strip all my clothes off in a hurry.
The strong wind even rips the toilet paper covered with poop out of my hand, so I have to complete the ‘operation’ using grass.
We arrive to the Chomema ruins (the name means ‘little dove’ in Arabic), which is an ancient site from the Arab period (638 to 1099 A.D.). We delight in the sight of the tiny water spring and the centuries-old olive trees above. Other ruins can be found in the surrounding area as well, among others, a mine from the Byzantine period.
After a long search, we find a spot that seems to be suitable for spending the night there. I light a fire and then, we have dinner. By the time the night falls, the thunderstorm breaks out again. The children rush into the tent; we, adults, hide under our bags. Bolts of lightning strike the ground accompanied by the sound of thunder and then, drops of ice start to fall on our rudimentary camp… The tent is leaking. The bags are torn. My lower body is completely wet. My phone is flooded and destroyed. Magi has just enough time to call for help before his mobile phone’s battery dies. Until Guy, the husband of one of my sisters, arrives, I spend twenty minutes squatting under the bag. When my feet get numb, I kneel down into a puddle and continue to hold the bag over my head.
Besides the backpacks, we leave everything on the mountain covered with white pieces of ice and climb up to the road. Dolly’s legs are frozen, she cannot move them. Eytan pulls her onto his lap to warm her up. Guy takes us to his workplace, where he makes us drink some wine and coffee; afterwards, he closes the mountain restaurant and drives us home.
As Magi keeps insisting, two days later, I go back with him to the scene, safe in the knowledge that we would not find anything there but, to my big surprise, everything is in its place. I grab the sleeping bag, still heavy and soaked in rainwater, and take it out of the tent, so the tent flies away. I catch it in the air…
Date: April 23, 2015
Distance walked: 18 km
Locations: Creek Dishon (Nachal Dishon), Forest Baram (Yaar Baram), Creek Tzivon (Nachal Tzivon), Mount Meron (Har Meron)
Participants: Magi, Peti, Doron, Eytan (and Dolly, our dog)
Other comments: we took a tent, but did not drive a car to accompany us
This post is also available in: Hungarian