Israel National Trail Day 9: Kfar Kisch to Mesh'had

red fox

Looking at the elevation graph of day 9, it looked a tough one. I knew there would be three ascents: Har Tavor (Mount Tabor), a notoriously steep climb, followed by Har Debora (a little smaller) and finally Har Yona. So, waking up at 3am (as usual), I was pleasantly suprised to find a significantly shorter drive to the hike start - every day so far I have driven to the end of Route 6, the toll highway in the centre of the country, and then continued on Route 77 north-eastwards. But today I left Route 6 much earlier, taking Route 65 through the Jezreel valley to where I left the trail last week in the south-eastern Galilee.

Again, the speed with which the sunrise is getting later and later suprised me, and I spent the first 30 minutes of the hike in total darkness with a headlamp, passing the town of Shibli and beginning the ascent of the looming Mount Tabor in front of me. I even had a particularly brazen red fox following me, who's eyes I kept seeing flash with the light from my headlamp. After an hour and a half of steep climbing, and a gorgeous sunrise, I reached the top, where the path turned left and skirted round the large christian franciscan compound at the top, where I could just glimpse the Church of the Transfiguration through the mist.

Then, after circling most of the summit, I took the path down which wasn't so easy to follow - it didnt at all match with the gps placement on my watch or my phone, and a few INT trail markers pointing in the wrong direction definitely didn't help. But eventually I made it to the bottom of Har Tabor, on the opposite side of Shibli, and was suprised that nearly 3 hours of the hike had already passed. I was only 8km in, but I knew I had finished the hardest part of the day. Or so I thought.

View of Har Tavor from Har Devora

Har Devora actually ended up being a piece of cake. It started with a leisurely stroll through a forest that reminded me a lot of Ben Shemen Forest near my home. The path climbed gradually through the pine trees until I got to the top, where I stopped for lunch in the shade of my parent's taxes, donated in honour of the queen's silver wedding anniversary.

After coming down a shoulder of Har Devora, I passed through olive groves with the occasional spring dotted here and there, but all either empty or thoroughly green and unenticing. And then I started climbing - not too steeply, but it was approaching the heat of the day, so I definitely noticed it. But I figured it would be a short uphill to Har Yona, so it wouldn't be too bad.