It is remarkable how many trails there are just off the highway in Israel, even smack in the middle of the country and therefore easily accessible to the millions of people who live sandwiched between, say, Raanana to the north and Kiryat Gat to the south. (I am excluding the northern and southern Israel, which are beautiful tourist destinations in and of themselves. I have a friend who lives in the Golan; I can’t wait until her family builds a house and we can go visit. But the Golan for people like Taxman, tied to the financial district of Tel Aviv for his own employment, is a place to go on vacation, not a place for permanent settling.)
The “harei Yehuda” (Yehuda mountains) near Jerusalem seem particularly chock-full of places to hike; there are probably hundreds of trails within striking distance of Bet Shemesh, which is about halfway between where we live and Jerusalem. So during the one of the intermediate days of Passover, we picked one (Nachal Ktalav) out of our handy-dandy trail book and set off. We met approximately 350 of our compatriots in the parking lot, doing exactly the same thing. We got a spot, though, because it was before 10. (There was serious competition for our parking space when we left at noon.)
Except during uphill climbs when I had to cheerlead.
The flowers were truly spectacular. After a terribly dry fall (with zero rainfall in November), the past few months have had their share of rainy days and now things are gorgeous. I do not exaggerate. The following are only flowers we had never seen before:
Bristly hollyhock (which I realize now grows everywhere)
Then there were the flowers I could not identify, despite having two books and the Internet to assist me. Anyone?
Mystery flower #1
Mystery flower #2
Mystery flower #3
The view from the red trail, Nachal Ktalav
Snacks: Kosher for Passover potato chips, apple slices, hard boiled eggs, macaroons, cucumbers. Not everyone ate everything. (Taxman’s parents in Jerusalem for lunch.)
Peeing: This trail started from “Bar Behar,” a KKL spot that actually has a paved parking lot, kiosk for snacks and real live bathrooms. Yayyyyyy!