The Israel National Trail (INT) is a footpath that winds its way nearly 1000 kilometers across Israel, from the Lebanese border in the north to the Red Sea in the south. Because of the way it traverses Israel's unique physical, ethnic, and religious landscape, the INT is gaining a reputation as one of the world's great long-distance treks. When Avraham Tamir, a journalist and writer, hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1980, he came up with the inspiration for the Israel Trail. Along with director of the Israel Trails Committee Ori Devir, began the long process of establishing the Trail. It was opened officialy in 1995. This was my first long distance thru hike. This was the one that started the craving to go for more and more....
I haven't written a journal through this ever first long distance trail I hiked. Here are two notes I found from my experiences along the INT.
I started with a partner that quit in the first day. I found myself hiking alone, worried that maybe I'm not cut out for this. These long ones look so intimidating. I kept on walking. Met hikers along the way. Until I reached a third of the way in Tel Aviv, the big city:
"People are stressed, pushing and shoving and running. Screaming and consuming. Building and demolishing. Go go, faster faster..., there is no time to waist. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Everything is moving so swiftly, like a video clip. And myself? I live in a slow motion of the outsider. All that is around me is just flying by. At incredible speeds. How do We live like this?..."
Later on when I started the desolate and really wilderness part of the desert I started feeling different. I wasn't near home. I wasn't near civilization. I was out there:
"It happened. A few days ago or maybe a long time ago. I don't know exactly. But it happened. The trail became life. I can't really remember how it felt before and I don't know how it will feel after. I'm on the trail from dawn till dusk. I'm hiking and hiking and hiking. Its simple. It happened. I found that I like to hike....."
A Lizzard in love with a water bottle in the desert:
Naftali Ridge and Ramim Cliffs (Upper Galilee) - On the eastern slopes of the Ramim Cliffs (Matzoc Ramim) are several dirt roads and walking routes, springs and observation points overlooking the Hula Valley. The Israel National Trail is marked here by afforestation roads and views of planted forests and natural undergrowth. The area ranges from a deserted sandstone quarry above Kiryat Shmona, at the height of 280m above sea level, southward towards Yesha Fortress (Metzudat Yesha). In the autumn, the trail is rich with rain forecasting flowers, especially types of crocus and early blossoming cyclamens.
Kadesh Ili stream and Yesha fortress (Upper Galilee) - The bottom of the canyon is hard limestone, and the path lies in the shadow of the treetop canopy. (Note: The lower part of Kadesh Stream (Nakhal Kadesh) is for fit walkers only.) Elsewhere along the Kadesh Stream, hikers can climb rock steps up the stream's southern bank to view the ravine from above. The trail continues to Yesha Fortress, to the burial structure of Nebi Yusha and on to the exit point.
Meron stream's parking lot to Ein Zeved and Shema ruins (Upper Galilee) - A circular trail on the eastern slopes of Mount Meron. The trail climbs upwards from the parking lot through Meron Stream and Meron Ili Stream, Ein Zeved, "Elijah's Chair" (Kisse Eliyahu, a tall rock shaped like a pillar), the Shema ruins and back to the parking lot. Part of the trail has regular trail marks and the walk down through Elijah's Chair has Israel National Trail marks only. During spring you can see a variety of rich blossoms including orchids. Towards summer, different flowers appear and color the area yellow. The raspberry fruit ripens at the end of the summer.
Mount Tabor (Lower Galilee) - As it says in the book of Jeremiah, "as Tavor among mountains", it's impossible to ignore the presence of Mount Tabor as it rises up from almost any direction you look. The walk up and down the Tabor is beautiful as is the walk round the monasteries on its peak, near the remains of ancient walls, corner towers, caves, exposed antiquities, spring blossoms and of course, views to any direction from the sides of the mountain. The "mountain surrounding" road at half-altitude (around 250-350M above sea level) created by the Jewish National Fund provides an impressive view.
Tzippori stream (Lower Galilee) - The trail here covers one of the geographical areas least familiar to many travelers. In this area of gall oaks (Known in Hebrew as "Alon HaTavor" - Tabor oak), you can also find birch trees and carpets of blossom in winter and spring. In the Lower Galilee there are large assemblies of Bedouin. Along the trail are streams of flowing water, improvised water pumps and a castle which is named "The Monks Mill" (Takhanat HaNezirim) and the remains of another impressive gristmill at the Alil ruins (Khurbat Alil).
Ma'apilim/Nakhash stream (Carmel) - A walk through Nakhash Stream provides an almost complete representation of the Carmel's hidden treasures: From the top of the trail and while walking down the ravine, you can see an impressive view of the Northern Coastal Plain and the Galilee. The path exits near Kibbutz Yagur. You can also see a vertical karstic hole, the "Arbutus Curve" (Icul HaCatlavim) and at the end of the trail, the Haganah slik (hiding place for weaponry) in Yagur. "Nakhash" means "snake" in Hebrew. The name is derived from the Arabic "Wadi al Hia". Nowadays, the stream is called "Nakhal Ma'apilim" after the illegal Jewish immigrants who secretly arrived at the Mediterranean shore during the time of the British mandate.
After this part, the Israel National Trail continues through the Sharon plain, Gush Dan, and Shephelah areas.
Shayarot Range (Judean Mountains) - A trip to the Shayarot Range (Shlukhat Shayarot) provides views down to the Coastal Plain and up to the Judean Mountains, hundreds of kilometers of mountain dirt tracks, walking routes, caves, and an abundance of flowers in the spring. The trail passes through the "Burma Road", or "Sheva Road". Here you can climb to the military posts overlooking Highway 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, used by Palmach soldiers of the Har'el division in their battles on the road to Jerusalem during the Israeli War of Independence.
Yatir ruins to Dragot Quarry - This segment of the Israel National Trail goes from the Yatir ruins (Khurbat Yatir), one of the Levi cities in the land of Judea on the eastern brim of the Yatir Mountains ridge, through the Yatir Forest, the largest forest planted by the Jewish National Fund, to the Mount Amsha (Har Amasa) nature reserve, which has impressive views and unique plants. It also contains the remains of the Roman "freeway" Ma'ale Dragot.
Mitzpe Ramon and Ramon Crater (Negev) - The town of Mitzpe Ramon is a meeting place for artists, a station for people going down south to Eilat, and a base for visitors to the Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon). You can also see ibex roaming free on the cliffs, and enjoy the changing colors of the crater during different times of the day.
Kisuy stream and Ovda Valley (Negev) - Near Ovda Valley (Bik'at Ovda) are dunes of sand like on the beach or in the Sinai. There was once life in the Ovda Valley and you can find ancient remains including temples, ritual locations and interesting structures near the sides of the roads. From the modern settlement of Shakharot, there are views to the Arava desert.
Shkhoret stream (Eilat Mountains) - On the route are sandstone geological formations such as the "Amir formation" and "Shkhoret formation". You can see element rocks, sorts of granites in streams (or wadis) that undermined in their predecessors' sediment walls, desert plants and perhaps even representatives of the local fauna. Different shades of sandstones, the granite and its shapes and dark colors, plaster ornaments on the rock and colors galore, all of it there in Eilat area.
The only English guide for the INT that I know of is:
"Hike the land of Israel" - Israel National Trail
It has topographic maps and a route description.
Updates can be found on: