I'm back, after a three hundred mile, two week hike and feeling great. Shvil Yisrael is a huge trail that starts at the northern tip of Israel and connects most hiking trails all the way to the southern tip. (of course not even close to being in a straight line) We started in Tel dan nature reserve in Kibbutz Dan, about two kilometers from the Lebanese border. We didnt realize it at first but the first week of our hike was during a record breaking heat wave. We did realize that we were drinking sometimes more then twenty liters of water a day. (Camelbaks make that a lot easier) Some people died on our trail. (nobody from our group though) I had been planning this hike with two friends for a while. Both of them, lets call them Thing one and Thing two (just cuz it sounds funny) are in excellent shape, and I'm in
pretty decent shape too. The problem was the other four guys were about average, and they really got tired and weary during the heat. One guy left half way through the first day and one guy left the second day. The rest hung on for three days, but that was it. Then it was just me, thing one and two, walking, climbing, and having an awesome time.
Our schedule consisted of waking up at five or six in the morning, packing away our sleeping bags, davening shachris, eating breakfast, filling up water, and then hitting the road (at about eight or earlier if we could) until it got dark. We took a break for lunch sometime in the middle of the afternoon. As soon as it got dark we'd set up camp, daven maariv, eat, and hit the sack. Totally out cold until the morning. We'd try to set up camp in a place that had a faucet or a hose. Then we'd have a water supply for drinking, washing our clothes, and showering. Our food consisted of a minimum of a thousand calories a meal. It was whole wheat bread and whatever dairy product we managed to buy at that civilizations grocery, (usually cottage cheese) for breakfast. Bread and peanut butter for lunch, and bread and tuna for supper. We supplemented our diet with occasional snacks of granola and halva and other high energy foods. We didnt carry much food around, cuz our packs were heavy enough. Mine weighed close to fifty pounds. About twenty five of it was just water. (and often I'd have to refill more then once a day)The back pack was a big frame pack with a metal frame. I didnt take any clothes other then what I was wearing, and I tried to cut down as much weight as possible. Heres the basic day by day.
Tuesday the 24th:
Tisha b'av. Fasted all day. Walked around in the heat a little, trying to get some last minute supplies. Most local stores closed. Then at night took a bus to kiryat shmoneh. Found a park with grass, went to sleep.
Wednesday the 25th:
Went to Tel Dan to start on hike. Heres a random pic at the reserve.
Then we started. After a little while Thing one and Two were way ahead, with me keeping up, while most guys fell behind. Heres a pic of a herd of cows blocking part of the trail.
We had to keep an eye out for the shvil yisrael marker. In this pic, the marker tells you to squeeze between that rock and that tree, wade through the stream and continue along to the bank.
We went on for a buncha hours, and the heat was intense. As it got mid afternoon it was something like one hundred and ten degrees in the shade, and yet we pressed on. Eventually the heat got the better of us, one guy left right then and there, and the rest of us passed out in the shade next to a little stream. It was really rough. (we decided from then that we should take a break during the real hot afternoon hours) Then it got a little cooler and we woke up and continued. It was definitely one of the hardest days of the hike. We covered a lot, but as it started getting darker we realized we didnt have a place to fill up on water, and none of us had more then a liter left. (we had already filled up at a cemetery, but the heat combined with the heavy backpack and steep climbing made us sweat more then we were drinking) Finally when it was too dark in the woods to continue, we just unrolled our sleeping bags in the dirt on the side of the trail, to exhausted to set up tent or do anything else.
Thursday the 26th:
We didn't have much water, so when we started off in the morning we knew we'd all dehydrate if we didn't find water before it got real hot. We walked for a bit, met some old farmer who had a field off the trail, he told us if we turned off the trail a bit we'd find an army base. We got to army base, and filled up. Then we continued on.
We passed yiftach, and after a long trek through some real nice mountains and canyons, we got to an outdoor faucet, were we washed up and washed our very sweaty clothes. Then the second guy left. We met some frum Israeli guys doing the exact same hike we were. Heres a part of the trail thats not in the woods.
Got to alma at night. Found some soft grass, and went to sleep.
Friday the 27th:
We wanted to make it to meron before shabbos, but were pretty far away, so we got off the trail, went on to the road and made it there for shabbos. We only walked half a day. Got to meron, had a hot shower in the mikva there.
Shabbos the 28th:
Typical shabbos in meron. Crowded, lots of people camped out. Had a great time. Cops searced us for drugs at least twice. Singing bar yochai and dancing in a circle is never boring, no matter how many times you've done it. We set up a tent, but it was to hot inside, so most of us just slept outdoors. Theres a big hachnosas orchim tent, that supplies everyone with shabbos meals so we had plenty to eat. After shabbos everyone from our group left except for thing one and thing two.
Sunday the 29th:
We did the nachal amud section of the hike. Its real nice mountains and stuff, but some parts can be a little difficult. We did it on sunday, but on friday just a few days before a kid died doing that very hike.
What made it difficult was the lots of climbing, the long distance, and the lack of water until the end. We met a young couple doing the hike. He was carrying all her water though. While we were talking to him, some Israeli kids who were pretty inexperienced stumbled by, they had run out of water, we all donated some, and the guy yelled at them a bit, for being careless and putting their lives at risk. We went on for quite some time, when we a see a ranger running on the trail holding a back pack full of water. When I asked him if he had any extra, he stopped running and started pulling out some water. I told him not for me, but there were some kids back there who really needed. He said he knew and thats why he was running. After going a half hour further we saw a bunch of medics also hurrying up the trail looking for those kids. When he came to a clearing that was accessible to the road, we saw an ambulance and a Magen david adom van. There were also a bunch of jeeps, all part of an emergency rescue team. They had tons of water, and they wanted to make sure we were ok. I was real tired, and sat down in the shade of the truck. Immediately a guy came over and felt my pulse, then he decided I had to drink lots more water, and I may even need an Iv. When the medic checked me out he decided I was ok, but he made sure I drank three liters and had some salt. He also told me not to do anymore walking that day. We had another seven kilometers (about 4 and a half miles) of overgrown canyon to do, so when he wasnt looking, we ran off.
Then we met those frum israeli guys, their group was down to two, ours to three. We all went to chokek to spend the night. Normally its a chiloni settlement, but that week it happened to be rented out by frum people. Our Israeli friends got us food from the hotels kitchen staff, and a nice young family let us all use their shower. We even adopted a dog which we named Concrete. He followed us around and guarded our tent while we slept.
Monday the 30th:
We left the settlement, and started heading back to the trail.We took Concrete with us. He brought along a friend we named Mixmaster Mush.
Heres Concrete enjoying our tent.
Mixmaster's owner removed him after a couple of minutes though.
Concrete was tons of fun on the hike, he walked with us all the way to tiverya. When we went to the kever of R' Meir bal haness, the manager kicked him out, and we lost him. We spent our afternoon break swimming in the kinneret, just relaxing.
That night we went to moshav kinneret and slept in the park.
Tuesday the 31st:
We tried cutting through a farm, it took a lot longer then it should have. There was miles of choppy earth and all sorts of weird plants. We made it to Har Tabor. It was a long climb up. Halfway to the top pic.
We spent the night on the mountain, overlooking an Arab city. It was cool, windy and peaceful up there. Had a great sleep. Heres a pic of where we slept. (Thats Thing 1, who was a little slow in the waking up process)
Wednesday the 1st:
Went down the mountain to Dabbourye, an arab city. We met a friendly family that let us fill up water in their hose. Walked through dabbourye, continued on the trail. Most of that day was mountains, and more mountains.
We ended getting to Alon hagalil, which is a kibbutz that wasnt so far off the trail. (some times to get to civilization we had to walk a while off the trail, only to have to walk back the next morning) Theres a guy on the outskirts who set up a little area for shvil people. We had good grass, an outdoor shower (cold, but we really didnt notice) and bathroom.
Thursday the 2nd:
We wanted to get somewhere where there were frum jews for shabbos. We put on our cellphones to try calling someone who knew the area, when we all got voice messages from Thing 1's friends. His mom had been calling all of the them, going nuts. She heard a kid died on the trail, and for a few days she tried calling and his phone was off, and she was flipping out. (mothers. what can you do. I think its a psychological problem) He called her back, and she made him quit, right then and there. (something about not being able to sleep, and worrying. wtvr)So now its just me and Thing 2 left.We sent the tent back with Thing 1, cuz we never really used it much anyway. We decided to make it somewhere with kosher food for shabbos, we'd have to go fast. So we got on the road and walked fast. We didn't take any real break. (A couple of minutes to eat and daaven) We made it to Zichron yaakov thursday night. Its something like thirty, forty miles. Extremely tired, we got ourselves invited to the gabbai of one of the shuls house. There we had hot showers, a real bed, and good food. Mrs Gabbai even washed our stinky clothes for us. They offered us an invite for shabbos too, but we didn't want to waste a whole friday.
Friday the 3rd:
Walked to Chadera, didn't take that long. I went to a flower shop and found a random lubavitch guy buying flowers. Where else can you find a frum person on a friday afternoon? (next stop would've been the wine store)I told him we needed a place for shabbos and he invited us to his house.
Shabbos the 4th:
Had a very relaxing shabbos. He didnt have mattresses in such short notice, but we didnt mind the floor much. His wife made great food, and he learned inspiring torah with us.
Sunday the 5th:
This was the beaches section of the hike. We walked from chadera until we got to the beach. Then we walked down the coast, through every beach. We stopped briefly in Netanya for lunch. Heres some random beach pics.
We stopped for the night at a herzilya beach. Went to sleep on the grass at a hotel.
Monday the 6th:
Got woken up at a quarter to four by the sprinklers. Soaked, we couldnt fall back asleep, and continued on our way as soon as we ate breakfast and davened. We went real far, many hours, and stopped at a shopping center right past modi'in. Went to sleep in a parking lot of a store.
Tuesday the 7th:
Walked to yerushalayim. On the way there in the morning,when we got to the machsom of the highway that takes you to yerushalayim, the soldiers warned us that we'd be walking past all the dangerous arab settlements. (like ramallah) We didnt get killed, but we did hear gunshots most of the way along the highway. Then after six more hours we made it to Yerushalayim. I then walked the hour and a bit to my apartment. I refused to walk for two weeks and then take a bus, that would be like cutting off your hand just cuz it called you a silly name. Heres a pic of the final machsom into yerushalayim
Here are some random ani tapuach pics אני תפוח from the hike.
I've got lots more pics of the hike but it takes too long to upload, so just imagine I put em on.