For years I have wanted to do a “thru-hike” – a long, continuous hike where you carry all of your gear and sleep on the trail. My criteria were: I wanted a place I have never been, warmth, and a remote and interesting trail. There were three well-known long hikes that I knew of – The El Camino, which is too crowded for my taste, the Appalachian, which is too cold this time of year, and the West Coast Trail, which I bicycled from Oregon to the Mexican border when I was 19 years old. When I found the Israel National Trail I hit pay dirt.
The INT (Israel National Trail) crosses a unique and varied landscape dotted with archeological sites as it zig zags its way from Israel’s southern border with Egypt. It crosses through the Negev Desert, Jerusalem, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the Red Sea, through Tel Aviv, and up into the mountainous northern region to the border of Lebanon. It is 1000 kilometers long and has only been fully opened since 2011. It meets my criteria in almost every way. It is not well known so it won’t be crowded (and let’s be honest – who wants to walk across a desert in the Middle East right now). It will be their winter so it may be rainy but still not crazy cold (my days of camping in sub-zero temperatures and trekking into death zone altitudes are over) and I have never been to Israel but have a fascination with its historical significance.
There are the obvious concerns but I figure it’s probably just as dangerous to go for a drive in the car. And there are advantages – Israel is a tiny country with cell coverage and internet though most of it (useful, as I plan to blog every few days), it is medically advanced, and not to be underestimated, I have a friend with connections there in high places if need be.
I am going with Jennifer Williamson. She is my daughter’s (Sabrina) boyfriend’s (Ben) mother. She lives in Edmonton with her husband Fraser. We have only met a few times but we get along famously and I think we will have a grand adventure together. There will be just the two of us with our tents, sleeping bags, cook stove and the one and only English guide book written. (What could possibly go wrong she says?)
This might seem sudden but the seed for this trip was planted long before my blueberries. And right now, while they are sleeping for the winter, I’m going to give it a go. I know my body is still compromised from this past planting season but I’m banking on the hope that it will settle into the meditational rhythm of hiking that makes me feel so centered and in tune. It’s a covetous place that is sometimes elusive but I almost always find it on the trail.
Jennifer and I will meet in Tel Aviv on February 5th. We will then fly or bus to Eilat at Israel’s southern tip where we will begin trekking. If all goes well we should finish the trail within two months. I will arrive home April 12th in time for my blueberries to stretch their branches, rub the sleep out of their buds and burst into splendiferous bloom.
A few days ago, my good friend, Kathy, gave me a beautiful leather bound journal that said “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. So it is written and so it shall be. As always, I will keep you posted.