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Day 18

24km

Once again I'm exhausted. I think it has to do with the daylight. It's dark by 6, like really dark. Anyways. Today we met our first north bound thru hiker! He sounded British but had a Canadian pin on his hat. He was very kind!

I woke up at 5:30. Easy to wake up early when you fall asleep at 7 something. I played some solitaire and finished yesterday's blog, then laid in bed. Russ' alarm went off at six something and as it did it started to drizzle. We decided to lounge in bed and see if we could check the weather, but as we did the thunder roared and lighting cracked not far behind it. Somehow we're in the middle of a storm again but at least we’re in the tent. We had breakfast since I was hungry and then lounged around as the rain pelted the tent in a variety of patterns. Eventually, it started to get lighter and we decided we couldn't stay in bed all day so we might as well face the rain, as it was mellowing out. We slowly packed our things and the rain slowed to a slight drizzle. I put on some music to distract myself and within ten minutes out of the tent, the sun came out. We both delayered and pressed on through dirt roads with slick, heavy mud. Aside from a quick water stop, we spent the morning in the mild sun, plodding through the mud chatting and bopping to music (I did most of the bopping for both of us). Lunch was at the top of Mt. Sahara - second tallest place on trail. The top had a nice view so we had lunch in the sun as the tent dried out.

Within a few moments of being done with lunch, we were hustling to pack everything up as there was a wall of rain coming straight at us. Within five minutes of getting on trail it was windy and pelting cold rain again. My legs were turning purple. Russ offered me his rain pants which I declined then accepted moments later. I'm usual stupidly stubborn but today, I didn't let myself be that way and I was amazed. The pants were also amazing, which was shocking because I usually hate rain pants. Russ walked in front of me as we got smacked around on top of the ridge. Eventually I caught him and we saw a huge herd of camels (this is the point in the trail I think where cows are swapped out for camels). They looked so cute from far away as they all trotted along. I wondered what they must think of the rain - their footprints were super slidey in the mud too! As we headed down, the rain eased up and the sun came out once more. We chatted and worked our way to the bottom where we crossed paths with the other thru hiker. Must be cool to be older and still thru hiking. I hope I still do this stuff when I'm old.

The rest of the day was more dirt road walking/ mud slogging. We got off trail once, passed a Bedouin type village and some kids on bikes and are camped in the middle of an orchard - of some tree that I'm not sure what it produces.

Other random thoughts I had: the sounds of nature and its natural orchestra, also how much I want horses in my future.

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Day 17

25km.

 

Well. My sleeping pad holds up for 4 hours before becoming too deflated that I wake up. I took two air breaks in the middle of the night to blow it up again, and was on the ground again in the morning.

We were on trail by 7 - which is the earliest start we've had yet. I was misled by the book, which describes the morning section of trail like a roller coaster. We cruised up and down 3 rolling hills but it wasn't bad at all; also, it was foggy and cool out which helped. We continued on dirt roads for a while chatting most of the way and at our snack break we were passed by three runners who we had seen earlier. They commented about my Altra's and how you can't get those here. I got thinking about it, we are so spoiled to have Amazon and access to almost any product! Our selection often times is so diverse, especially compared to Israel, such a tiny place.

Anyways we pressed on passed a small town that had a basketball court that was fully fenced, right in the middle of the entry road it seemed. Very strange. Then on more dirt roads as the sun started to break through the morning fog. We walked passed some kind of military something- it had barbed wire fences, tons of tanks and large vehicles, yet there didn't seem to be anyone around, because of Shabbat? We then talked about the feasibility of sending most soldiers home for Shabbat. Seems like a terrible plan, they must feel secure enough.

We also saw a giant wall being built. I was instantly reminded of starting the PCT and the wall that separates Mexico from Southern California. Why do people think walls will do anything these days? We have planes and so much other technology, a wall is so dumb. Why would building a wall around the West Bank fix anything... and who is paying for it?

Onward to lunch, aka trail magic. We strolled into a picnic area and were greeted by a man who reminded us that it's Tu BiShvat - a holiday celebrating the trees. He forced some "good" Turkish coffee on us and I had one sip so as not to be rude before letting Russ have it. I hate coffee so much! We chatted with some people around the table as they were full of questions.

Eventually, we kind of broke off from the chatty table of people coming and going and set up the tent to dry. We read and ate, and after another hour or so packed up and got going again. Oh and I got to pet a nice man’s really sweet horse which was so so nice!

The afternoon was all gradually and not so gradually up hill. Luckily we chatted the whole time and made it to camp around 4. We lounged, read and had ramen for dinner and I was passed out by 7:30. Sorry not sorry.

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Day 16

27km

Woke up in a dry tent. Ahhhh always a nice feeling. I put on brand new socks and started the day. We encountered a bit of mud and some creek crossings early, but after that the morning was easy walking. We walked on dirt roads through fields that sprawled seemingly forever, and then atop a slight hill was a beautiful tamarix tree. It was so picturesque in real life, but I didn't take any pictures. Oh well. It was more the location? Hard to photograph. It was just this perfect lone tree on a hill. On we went, more walking, more meadows and another snack break. We stopped at a gas station for water but it was pretty bleak so we pressed on. The next section of trail was 6 or 7 km on a dirt road with fields on one side and pine trees on the other. It wound left and right, but managed to be mostly in the sun which was so nice.

Our next stop was another gas station but this one had some restaurants clumped by it. We passed under some railroad tracks (where we walked super slow because there was a bird with a broken wing and we didn't want to scare it into flying), then beelined across some fields to get there. We checked everything out, crushed a gas station hot dog and some chocolate milk then went to the restaurant. It was crowded, but in the heat of the day if felt nice to be inside. We charged our phones and stuffed our faces full of lamb kebab. It was so so tasty and a lot of food, so much that we had the rest for dinner tonight. After filling water and getting a few more snacks to last us through Shabbat, we stopped at a Columbia store. Yes. Like Columbia the gear store. So strange, I have no clue why it was there, but it was. I looked at the shoes and found a pair that looked good. Following this was an emotional roller coaster of them trying to find my size, then realizing the display shoe would work, but they couldn't find he left shoe to it. Blahhhh, stuck in my Altras (my sneakers that I would consider dead currently, since the foam is shot and holes are probably a few days away) for another 350 miles or so. Whoops. This seems to be a trend in Israel. Nothing is complete, and everything feels half assed. I want to like it here so badly, but how do you not have the left shoe of a display shoe? Anyways, back to the trail with full bellies we walked.

The end of the day dragged and I listened to more of the Wes Anderson playlist - so much goodness. We were back on dirt roads until the end of the day, and the last hour or so my hip was not happy. It's amazing how your brain just over rides one pain with another.

We set up camp, and then Mother Nature pulled a fast one on me. I sat down in the tent, pulled my stuff in with my then laid down to rest my body for a minute. I got up to grab my phone to blog and was punched through the floor of the tent. Something very sharp. I rolled over onto Russ's pad to see what it was and as I felt around there were a few spots. Great. I got out of the tent to see what was under it and it seemed to be some spikey thorn plants, so I grabbed some pine needles to try and cover it. As I brought more and more pine branches over, I eventually realized we set up the tent on some scrubby plant that looked harmless but the whole base of the plant was sharp, and they were hard to pluck. Little bastards. My sleeping pad. It's full of air, and I'm still unsure how bad the damage is, but I'm 98% sure one of those shitty plants poked a hole in it. I laid down so many branches and stabbys were still coming through. As much as I didn't want to, we had to move the tent. Russ had a snack then we both went off in the dark, headlamps ablaze, in search of a stab free campsite. Once we had found one, we went back, I unstaked the tent, walked it to the new site then re staked it and got our packs. Once the move was complete we searched and scouted for a hole in my pad but couldn't find it. As I lay here, my hurting hips can feel the ground. No bueno. I guess we'll see how bad it gets overnight and go from there. What a day.

I do still love hiking though. Sometimes I wonder why.

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Day 15

8-12km

So towns on the PCT used to stress me out. On the INT, we go through small towns almost daily. But Tel Aviv took me right back to my PCT town feelings. So much to be done, never enough time.

We woke up this morning and packed our things. My shirt got dyed kind of blue in the wash, so now I'm sporting a blueish shirt! First on the to do list was resupply, which wasn't too bad in a good sized grocery store. We've learned if we shop hungry we usually get the right amount of food for hiking. After repacking everything after checkout, and realizing just how wasteful packaging can be, we were onto errands. We both had a small list of things we needed so we split up and did some shopping. We were both very unsuccessful. I got a pair of socks and Russ got a new sleeping pad but that's all, and we were both kind of frustrated with the lack of anything we needed. I keep wondering why. I blame it on Tel Aviv, a city I just don't seem to jive with. No new shoes, aka rough feet and beat up Altras until the end! We got a snack then headed to the bus stop where things continued to not work out. Our bus was late, so we missed the second bus we needed to make. Then, we ended up at the train station instead of a bus stop, so we took a train south, but missed our stop and had to backtrack.

The second train was full of military kids. So strange this country is. Nothing was working. It's bad enough we had to skip miles, now it was hurry up and wait all day only to end up in the wrong spot and road walk for two hours before getting back on trail. As we walked I podcasted because my feet don't like the pavement and I was in a mood still from town. I was frustrated with the way Russ handled the navigation and mad we had hustled around all morning, just to sit around at the train station. Sometimes we seem like sandpaper, just both gritty and bumping into each other scratching the surface. Whatever though, in the past. Time to walk. We walked for a while on the road then got on some dirt roads, and past some ripe lemons and zucchini (so we took one of each). We stopped by the side of the road and snacked on some grape leaves which have become one of my favorite grocery store treats. They are too heavy to pack out but because of the bus madness we were eating them now. As the walk went on I felt my body easing into things and getting happier as the sun started to drop lower in the sky. I also downloaded a playlist of songs from Wes Anderson movies which I'm only a few songs into but I'm pretty sure it's walking gold. We set up camp kind of early, so there was time for Infinite Jest before dinner (gnocchi with sauce, zucchini, and cheese... so fancy!). Now post dinner coma, making arrangements for water caching in the desert, and more book. Ahhh how good the simple life is. It feels so good to be out of Tel Aviv.

 

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Day 14

25?km

 

I slept pretty well last night. The ocean is unbeatable for ambient white noise. When I woke up, I was quickly brought back to reality as I had to pee, and we were on a public beach. I watched people slowly stroll by with their dogs and eventually, when the coast was clear - literally - I ran and peed as fast as I could. Not even a few minutes went by before a herd of young men went jogging by. We had breakfast then packed. I ripped my sleeping back and had a moment of panic when I temporarily misplaced my phone. Not the best start to my morning but you win some, you lose some.

Once we were on trail we almost immediately headed inland and saw a ton of mountain bikers on trails. We talked about Russ' knowledge of bikes and the sport which I know almost nothing about, but seems to attract middle aged men. Eventually we were on a paved road, and then a plaza near the highway. We went in to get water and the hostess gave us two sandwiches (tomato mot pesto - aka amazing), cold water and chatted with us a bit. Trail magic if I've ever seen it. As we walked out of the coffee shop we chatted with a biker guy quickly who had a handful of questions for us, and offered us money which was new. Then, back over the highway and into a nature preserve. We were up on a dune, with scrubby bushes and a good sized cliff overlooking the ocean. It looks like California sometimes. We strolled in the sand and eventually took a break on a bench, but got swarmed by little kids having snack time then nap time. I swear all the school kids here do is go on field trips! Anyways. We pressed on, played weird games with our trekking poles and strolled over the trail. Mostly flat, sandy, piece of cake. We stopped at a picnic table for lunch, and had weird ramen noodles but it was filling so whatever.

After lunch we walked down to the beach. Mmmm bliss. Shoes came off and we strolled for a while, then lounged at the end of the sand. The trail then took us up over a marina type area with some shops then back down to the beach. We strolled for about 2 km before switching it up and... drum roll please!!!! RENTING BIKES! City bikes. So much fun. Yay for bikes! They are much easier on the body and we got into town so much sooner! We rode around under the sun then returned the bikes upon arrival to the downtown area and walked to our home for the night.

We are staying with a trail angel off the list, in a cute home on the third floor of a building off Dizengoff, one of the main streets in Tel Aviv. The house has this weird upper middle class styling of my parents Jewish friends. It's such a distinct style but I have no idea what to call it. We are staying with a girl (who is in university now but hiked last year) and her parents. We showered, they did our laundry, I had an interview, we were fed, and then we ran some errands. I tried on a few shoes but nothing was right or even close to wide enough.

This post feels blah but I'm exhausted and having trouble keeping my eyes open. Town days are always crazy.

 

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Day 13

25 km

 

As I write this, the southing sound of ocean is in the background. Also is anyone sick of this? I worry sometimes that it's going to be super boring for people to read my day to day blabbing. Oh well?

In the middle of the night the tent rained on me. I could hear the drops falling on my sleeping bag, but when I woke up it was mostly dry. We had oats and got moving, Russ was mopey. We came to an underpass to avoid walking across the railroad tracks that couldn't have been more than 3 ft. high. This trail feels like a strange joke at times. We crawled through, both struggling and laughing, and took a break on the other end where I finally asked what the mope was all about. We talked about it but it didn't make it go away. The next section of trail was thick sandy road which was slow going, especially with the mood being kind of low. My head wandered to thoughts of possible jobs and such, pros and cons to different places I've applied, and thoughts of living east again despite not loving it. I thought about hiking, and how I feel like I hate it sometime, and how much less rewarding this trail feels. I'm just walking. Not even anywhere special. Idk what I'm doing anymore.

As we pressed on we detoured off trail to try and find fuel but had no luck. By the time we left the shopping center I was pretty fed up. Russ doesn't always understand when I think things should be swift, or urgent. Also, the book sucks and I'm learning to trust very little of it. It's so close to being useless. I'm not sure how it got published, and would love to write a letter to the authors (I honestly think I'm going to when I'm done). Anyways, by the time we left the shopping center I was over it. We walked back to the beach and I was ready to cruise. Start and stop isn't really my style, but also hunger stinks. We walked for an hour or so then had to stop, fuel was needed. We snacked, and I felt better, and after the tent was dry we read some Infinite Jest. Also the beach here is really beautiful. The water is stunning, and I don't know if it will get old. After packing up lunch we continued on the beach for a while, then up (an elevator... aka dreams do come true) to a promenade full of art and water fountains and views. The town seemed nicer than most Israeli cities. Everything seemed just a bit more polished and completed. I like it here.

We stopped a few times along the promenade to take in the view, or play on swings, then found our way back down to the beach. Aka home.

We watched the sun set and read. Once people started leaving we set up big bird and cooked a large large quantity of Mac n cheese (we didn't finish it all in one sitting which is how you know it's a lot of food). Now we're snuggled up by the ocean. Perfection. Sweet dreams

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Day 12

28km

 

I always have to pee in the middle of the night. It falls between 2 and 5am, and today it fell closer to two. As I got out of tent I realized everything was damp and we were very clearly in a cloud. I crawled back into my sleeping bag and fell back asleep. I woke up around 5:45 and couldn't fall back asleep, so I just laid there. I tried not to move, and when Russ woke up I let him know the whole top of the tent was drippy. Condensation and humidity are crazy things.

We tried to eat breakfast laying down but I was having a hard time and sat up... which was followed by condensation rain pouring down on me inside the tent. I quickly moved out and watched as Russ did the same thing after breakfast. We were out far earlier than usual, partly because it's no fun hanging around feeling soggy. As the sun rose we walked along dirt roads for a bit, then on a trail up a hill. Next, down a cliff, across railroad tracks, through an Arab town and to the beach! Ahhh the Mediterranean is such a crazy color. We ate pita chips and hummus as the tent dried. We chatted with a guy on the beach for a minute and he wished us luck before parting. I could've stayed forever. After staying longer than expected because it was just too nice and the tent needed to dry, we eventually packed up.

We walked the beach for another few km then popped out on the south side of Caesaria. We got a freshly pressed juice because at this point in the day it was getting hot. So crazy that last week it snowed! Oh and we made a wrong turn after the juice, had to do it once today (since every day we make a wrong turn and I drop my pole at least once). Once we were back on trail the rest of the day was road walking. We stopped at a gas station for some water and a snack, and an older man thanked us for visiting his country and kissed his hand and raised it to the sky. Then more road, some podcasts, and a strange but beautiful bridge in the middle of nowhere. On the final stretch of road we stopped for a snack but I wasn't that hungry, and a kid on a bike asked us for water. We were both caught so off guard, but we helped the kid out and he pedaled off in a hurry. We walked through the town of Hadera which seemed cute, and are camped outside of the city.

We're camped on the side of a dirt road which always makes me a little nervous (because I don't trust city people) and the mosquitoes are out in full force. Also my shoes are falling apart and I can't wait for new ones in Tel Aviv when we arrive!

Also I thought about Ernie the pup a bunch today. I hope he's okay out there. I also have been thinking about people being so ecstatic that you are visiting their country, as it's so foreign for me. I hope I find somewhere I'm that passionate about.

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Day 11

26.5km

 

My oh my, what a day. I'm in bed and I'm starting to wonder about this ankle brace, it's really starting to hurt my foot in strange places. Blerp. Also my legs are scratched and bruised and rashy and I was stung or bit by something today... but they're tan... so that's a trade off.

Anywho, this morning was lovely and I ate more than usual, the granola we had was so good I couldn't stop! The morning was relatively uneventful other than the fact that today we broke a record for number of times losing the trail! We fence hopped a few times, barbed and not barbed wires alike. We walked through a prickly pear patch too which was pretty amazing, and beautiful in a strange way. They're such cool plants. Also I had the Bear Necessities stuck in my head because there is a line about picking prickly pears. Then more walking. Lunch was at a little market slightly off trail, or more like just on a detour, as no backtracking was required. We shopped, ate grape leaves, oranges and sandwiches. We met other hikers! They we Germans going north but still, the first other hikers we've seen! Madness! After lounging in town for lunch we headed back out.

We walked along the roads in town and were greeted by dogs a plenty. They usually barked at us or came up for a sniff, but one came over, and started walking with us. He was sweet, smiled and had his tail wagging. We walked and he would causally trot out in front, and glance back to check in with us. My childhood dog used to do that. We walked and eventually the paved road ended and we walked on a dirt road for a while. We casually named the pup Ernie. Bad move, I was falling in love and getting attached. Ernie navigated a cow grate and followed us into a cow pasture, where he proceeded to scare the daylights out of some calves, in the most playful of manners. We continued on then came upon a dead end. Ernie ran around excitedly and flailed his way through a cattle grid covered in water which was pretty hilarious. He always came running back to us smiling. Russ and I realized we had made a wrong turn, so we headed back towards town, assuming Ernie would head back to his home. We turned left onto another dirt road and he turned with us. Again out in front of us and checking in. We turned onto a black trail and he followed. We joked about keeping him at first, but both knew that wasn't realistic. Unsure of what to do we stopped and sat down, Russ went to the bathroom and Ernie just sat by his pack and waited. This dog seemed to love us. And we really loved him. We sat for a few more minutes and debated what to do. He had a collar, so I'm telling myself that someone owned him and he has a nice home he's at right now, but he couldn't continue with us. We didn't want to steal someone's dog and we didn't want him to cruise with us so far he couldn't find his way back, so we had the saddest Air Bud moment of my life. I looked at him, almost crying and yelled get out of here and pointed. I yelled and yelled and he looked terrified at me. He shrunk and hustled away from me but every twenty feet or so would stop and really look at me to make sure. Russ helped, but it wasn't easy and I wanted to die after. For a while I kept looking over my shoulder hoping he would come back and in some strange world I would get to keep him despite knowing how unrealistic that is. Blah. The rest of the day wound on with more wrong turns and getting into camp.

I miss Ernie and I think I need a dog when I get home.

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Day 10

15km.

 

Ahhh waking up in a bed and using a toilet to pee in the morning is nice. We slept in, tossed around in bed and listened to BatSheva hit her snooze button at least seven times? By the time we got back to the trail it was almost noon, but whatever. I'm trying to go with the flow more, and Sheva is not a morning person. At allllll.

She dropped us at the trailhead on the side of the road and off we went. The trail was nice today. We walked through Wadi Chiq, which included some climbing down metal rung bars, and to the summit of a nearby mountain where we stopped for a snack. Day hikers were everywhere because it's their one day off a week. My feet were slipping around all afternoon and I moved slowly on the descent. My stomach was doing strange things and I was tired. My knees pinched and I moved slowly, but sometimes that's all you can do. The bottom was a picnic area, where I ended up eating 6 cookies without realizing it. Whoops? Oh well. Cookies make the pain go away usually.

Next we climbed up a hundred or so steps to a really nice cave, then up more to a viewpoint where you could see the ocean! From there, the sun was setting and we strolled down through a really nice artist town called Ein Hod. We called it a day at the bottom of the hill just past town in a really pretty olive grove. Dinner was tasty and we ate as the sun set and lit up the clouds and hills behind us.

Town was nice but it's good to be back out walking. This trail is so different but it's growing on me daily. I've noticed I spend a good bit of time envisioning my future based of different job selections but it's weird because some of the places my brain goes are so far-fetched. It's only 7pm but I'm exhausted, also I think once it's dark my body is ready for sleeping.

Chat Conversation End

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Day 9

Woke up and before we were out of eyesight from where we had camped I ate it. Down like a sack of potatoes. I think I was still half asleep. The slick rocks and morning dew are a tough combo to navigate, and down I went, hard. It took me a minute to get up and I got that old snuffly and huffily feeling you get when you’re about to cry. I took a deep breath and Russ gave me a hug, then we pressed on. We headed down a hill and arrived in a small town after an hour? Maybe two? Sometime time matters when I hike and sometimes it totally doesn't. We stopped in the grocery store and got some fresh stuff for sandwiches that we promptly stuffed in our faces while hoboing outside the store kind of in the back, but in the sun.

Next, we walked on a road for a bit to the other side of the valley then we promptly took off layers, plugged in headphones and up. A pretty steep up, on a real trail! It was actually really nice! We took a break at a picnic area and snacked as we watched runners and bikers go by on a dirt road, then headed up so more to the town of Isfiya. We caught a bus within minutes of arriving at the bus stop and whooshed down the giant hill we had just climbed. At first, we had our packs on seats but the bus got more and more crowded and eventually we were smooshed into our seats with our giant packs on our laps. The bus sped around and I people watched, wondering what the stories were behind the people as they came and went. I watched an old lady who sat across from me watch the world go by. She had to have been in her 80s, and I desperately wondered what her story was.

The lower we got the less crowded the bus became again and we got off back at a supermarket near BatSheva's house. People were bustling every which way with Shabbat madness. The store closes at 2 and we arrived close to 130, so we resupplied as quickly as we could then got a shawarma nearby. We soaked in the sun some more, then got ice cream and walked to Sheva's. After we got to her place she headed out for a bit and we showered and caught up on whatever stuff.

Russ did our laundry at the laundromat and I applied to more jobs. When he got home we had soup that Sheva had made and some grilled cheeses (which apparently isn't a thing that Israelis do well?), then some gear repair, chatting, and bed.

 

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