Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shvil Yisrael, Day 1

Ok guys-this is going to be a bit difficult to blog b/c after our first experience doing shvil yisrael I feel as if I could write a novel. However, we all know a blog is not a novel. I will try to limit myself in descriptions. Here goes. To start with I will give you all an idea of our basic set up. As I posted before, Moshe packed up two big packs for us to wear and each child, including Ilan, wore a smaller backpack to spread out the weight. Our big packs included the 2 small tents we brought, as well as our sleeping bags (weighing in at only 1 pound each!!) Each kid had a sleeping bag and some food as well as toffees, lollypops and other sugar filled treats to keep them going. Besides junk food, no wait, I take it back, we only packed junkfood-knowing that we would shop for dinner once we got to our campsite. Lets see, what else, I think that that is pretty much it in terms of set up, now to move on to the actual tiyul. We started our day early so that we would get up north with plenty of time to hike before dark. Leaving the house at 4 45 am and going on kvish sheish got us all the way up to kiryat shemona in two hours. However, our starting point was not in kiryat shemona, and it was not even at the "official" start to the Israel Trail (which is in kibbutz Dan). We decided to tack on an additional 10 kilometers to the 1000 km already on the trail, by starting up at Nimrods Fortress. My new best friend and mentor, Jacob Saar, who wrote the english book on the trail, mentioned that this is one of the prettiest hikes in the north and it is worthwhile to add on the day. He was 100% correct. We drove up to the fortress, unloaded all our stuff and people, then I drove back down, parked at Kibbutz Hagoshrim and then took a taxi back up to the fortress where the kids were running around and Moshe had finished davening. We were ready to go. At least to hike the fortress a bit. We explored Nimrods fantastic structure for about 1/2 hour or so and then headed off to the start of the trail which does at first appear to be a sheer drop off the edge of the parking lot. This trail leads down to the Banias which was said to take between 2 and 3 hours. The hike is stunning. We literally were hiking down a mountain side, a very rocky trail I might add, with the mountains of the upper golan on one side and to our left the rich and lush fields that make the golan so invaluable to us. The three older kids tripped relatively lightly down the trail-reminiscint of mountain goats, while moshe stayed back a bit more slowly with ilan. Considering Ilan is 4 1/2 he hiked like a rock star! Actually, all the kids did great the first day. They got along well, they sang songs and cheers and they kept up the excitement we were all feeling at starting this project that we had been talking about for months now. After 2 1/2 hours of hiking with just a few drink and pit stops we hit the Banias. Actually, more like we skidded to a halt before we fell over the sheer cliff that makes up the back end of the Banias national park. Fortunately, the Israel Trail planners made sure that for those of us who can not scale cliff sides or rappell, there was a nice easy trail that eventually led down into the park itself. Or more importantly, to the ice cream kiosk in the park. Yay ice cream. We ate lunch (sandwiches I actually did pack and bring for the first day) and then the kids got their very very well deserved ice creams. This break really perked them up after the heat and sun we had been hiking through for those 2 1/2 hours. We were then ready to hit the next part of the trail which actually goes right through the Banias leading up to the waterfall at the end of the trail. This part of the trail was very easy to walk and it was in the shade. What a pleasure. What a paradise. Now, to be honest, since this blog is a tell all- The water fall was the last "pumped" part of the hike that day. Our bad-I think we over estimated what the kids could comfortably hike. After the water fall (breathtakingly beautiful, by the way), we had to turn around and hike the other way out of the Banias. This part was once again, cliff side, over looking Nachal Chermon almost the whole way. It was a beautiful hike, however, I was a bit nervous about a misplaced foot step and the kids were getting tired. Plus, it was starting to get a bit on the late side and we were then racing against the sun to be out of the forest and away from the cliff before it got too dusky. Fortunately we did it. We crossed the bridge out of the forest with time to spare and then the walk continued on a easy dirt road for a long while until we finally hit Shaar Yashuv. That last part of the walk, although physically the easiest part of the hike, was the hardest in terms of the kids being exhausted. Only through singing, storytelling and sometimes a little push or pull were we able to get ilan and ruth through to the end of Shaar Yashuv. Despite the tired mood, we all were still having fun and I have to say that walking through the beautiful village as night fell was very enjoyable for me. Idyllic.

We finally got to the end of Shaar Yashuv and the only way out was onto the highway. And we had to get out in order to get ourselves to our campsite at kibbutz Dafna. This was the scariest part of the day. We had to hike about 1/2 a kilometer along the highway-I was a nervous wreck the whole time. Thank G-d we made it safely to the kibbutz where after conversing with some very pleasant anglos who lived there, found the camp grounds and set up our tents before hitting the grocery store. Back to some of the logistics involved in this project-food for dinner consisted of kabanos, salami sandwiches, (cheese sandwiches for me-dont worry-we kept it all seperate), chumus and purple cabbage salad (ruth and goldie love that one!) and of course, Daniels favorite-smoked tuna. Smoked Tuna , by the way, deserves its own entry however, in a nutshell you take the can of tuna, open it, put a tissue on top of it, light fire to the tissue and the tissue burns using the oil in the can until it burns out. Voila'-smoked tuna. Ilan actually liked it too. Daniel learned this interesting trick on a bnei akiva overnite hike. Enough said.

We had two tents-a 2 person and a 4 person. We had the sleeping bags, sweatshirts and I even squeezed in sweatpants for everyone in case of extreme cold in the north. Note-cold not so extreme, but nice to have the sweat stuff and the change of underwear we splurged on bringing also. By 10 pm the kids and I were all sleeping. Not sure when moshe went to sleep. And that was our first day hiking the Israel Trail. As much fun as this was for me to write and as much fun as this was for you to read, I am sure, I will leave day 2 for later-hopefully not too much later, but at least after I get a good nites sleep one of these days. To be continued.....

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