He's back at it!

People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. My next big adventure will be the Israel National Trail starting in February 2017.

The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Big Storm



While my buddy Nightmare and I were celebrating Passover in Tel Aviv, we heard that rain would be moving into the area over the next couple of days. Being the hearty (foolish?) hikers that we are, we didn't flinch. 


 


The two of us along with our friend Davi struck out from Mitzpe Ramon under cloudy but calm skies. 


 


As it was already getting dark, we didn't make it very far out of town before we decided to camp. We picked a spot high up on the edge of the Maktesh Ramon - a huge crater that runs for miles across. We enjoyed reflecting back on our time in Tel Aviv as we ate our dinner and looked out over the crater from hundreds of feet above it. 


 


After dark, I crawled into my tent and noticed that the wind had really picked up. I wondered how Nightmare and Davi were doing as they were both going to sleep under Nightmare's tarp. 


 


Flashes of lightening were the first sign that this was going to be a rough night. I wondered to myself why we picked a spot that was so exposed. We had hiked right by a formal camping area - far from the crater's edge - that had plenty of trees and picnic tables. 


My tent (actually Hee Haw's tent) was being flattened by the sustained strong winds. The only thing keeping it from blowing off the cliff into the crater was my body weighing it down. Being in the thick of it; the worst part of the storm was both terrifying and exciting. So far, the tent was holding and I was warm and dry inside. 


I could hear Nightmare and Davi yelling to each other over the wind. They were packing up (in the middle of the storm!) and heading back to the campground we had seen. I decided to sit tight and ride it out.  


As the hours passed, I still wasn't sure I had made the right decision. Lightening flashed and thunder boomed. The tent bent over sideways in the high winds...


Morning brought clear skies but the wind was still pretty intense. I broke camp and found a (less windy) spot at the base of a radio tower to cook up breakfast. I waited by the side of the trail for much of the morning before Nightmare and Davi finally came along. 


Nightmare had lost his sleeping pad, his hat and a stuff sack in the storm. At first he was pretty bummed out but soon enough, as always, the Trail provided for him:  He found a decent piece of cardboard to use as a sleeping pad and then he scored a free hat (Who knew it was National Trail Day in Israel?). Indeed, the Trail will provide. 


 

(Nightmare's new hat with homemade chin strap)



Ever had to endure a fierce storm during a hike? Leave me a comment about it below!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pics, Pics and More Pics

I've seen so many amazing things over the past couple weeks that I can barely wrap my head around all of it, let alone write about it. Until I get my thoughts together, I hope you'll enjoy some random photographs from the Israel National Trail. 


 

Real Israeli craft beer! This delicious porter is from the Negev Brewing Company. 


 

A gift from my friends Itai and Yona. 



The trail blazes took a little getting used to but it's easier now: The INT follows the black trail to the left and the blue trail continues to the right. 



 

 A monument to a man who died out here from dehydration. A reminder that mistakes made in the Negev are quickly punished. 



 

I'm sure my cell phone camera does not do justice to this view. The Maktesh Katan (the 'small crater') was stunning to see but difficult to cross. 



 

In Detroit, when someone shows you their '67 Mustang, you think, "Wow... 50 years old!" These steps were carved into the rock by the Romans 2,300 years ago. Puts things into perspective. 



 

Again, hard to tell how massive this structure. It's called the Karbolet and it's basically a giant cliff turned up at 45 degrees. The trail takes you along the knife edge at the top. 



 

Nightmare takes Leave No Trace VERY seriously. He strapped this plastic car bumper to his pack and hiked it out. 



I am constantly reminded that this entire desert uses to be under water. Amolites and sea shells are everywhere. 



 

One of the few natural springs here in the desert. I had to dip into that cool cool water. 




 

 
My friend Denise looking majestic at the cliff's edge. 



What's the difference between a hiker and a homeless person? I'm not sure. In this country, we're both!



 
 The Afghan Fox (not my photo). These things are everywhere and they are BOLD. They have no problem sneaking into your campsite and stealing your food. 



The tomb of David Ben-Gurion. He was Israel's first Prime Minister and a super-genius. 



 
 Nightmare setting up his tarp before dark. On windy nights, he does a 'storm pitch'. 



 
More Ibex. I see them everywhere and I always stop to watch them. 



 
....for now. I'll post more pics again soon. 

I love comments! Please leave yours below. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Passover in Tel Aviv

One disclaimer and one note of gratitude before I begin. The disclaimer is that I am not Jewish and I really had very little knowledge of the Passover holiday, what it represented and the customs associated with it. The gratitude goes to my hiking buddy, Nightmare, his friends and his family. The whole trip back to Tel Aviv was Nightmare's idea and it was SO worth it. 


 


Normally, I don't like getting off the trail (for anything, really). I've spent plenty of Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmas' alone on the trail and I am just fine with that. It's where I belong, anyway. So when Nightmare wanted to get off the trail in Mitzpe Ramon and hitchhike to Tel Aviv with no definite plans in mind, I was a little skeptical. This was, however, a chance to be exposed to a completely different culture and I just couldn't pass it up. 


Once in Tel Aviv, Nightmare asked his friend Davi Haberman to put us up for the night. Davi let us get a shower and do laundry before we met some friends of Nightmare's family for dinner. And what a dinner it was! These folks treated us to a truly fine dining experience at a beautiful restaurant in Tel Aviv. Their wonderful company as well as the meal itself will not be soon forgotten. We later returned to Davi's apartment and crashed for the night. 


The next day we hiked around Tel Aviv a bit and even went to a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean Sea.


 


 Early in the afternoon, I noticed that the crowds began to thin and the stores started closing as most people went home to be with their families for the Seder meal that kicks off Passover. 


Nightmare and I took a train and did a bit of a hike to get to Udim, Israel where Nightmare's friend's family lived. They have a BEAUTIFUL home complete with a long table prepared for the special celebration. 


The Seder itself was a little overwhelming. There was lots of singing, reading prayers, drinking wine and food - OMG the food! Course after course of wonderful, exotic (to me) food. This family was not only incredibly generous, but they took the time to whisper to me in English about what was going on and what we were eating. Mostly, I'll remember lots of joy, family love and respect for their elders as constant themes during the whole evening. 



We were invited to stay that night with a wonderful couple who, although they had just met us, opened their home to us and treated us like kings. After a good night's sleep and a huge breakfast, they dropped us off at a big city park where we relaxed for a bit before making the hike to a strictly Orthodox neighborhood where Nightmare's Uncle and his family live. 


I was a little concerned because Nightmare's Uncle had absolutely no idea that we were coming. They won't take a phone call or text on this holy holiday so we had no choice but to knock on their door and invite ourselves in. 


They were so warm and welcoming that it blew my mind! Even as unannounced guests, we were treated to a huge lunch and great conversation. Being Orthodox Jews, they had some customs that were new to me but Nightmare gave me some pointers about how to proceed. It was a memorable occasion remarkable for a very close, loving family and their devout reverence for God. 


Later that afternoon, we met up with some friends we had met on the trail for some cold beer on a warm beach. Good times were had by all. 


We're now headed back to Mitzpe Ramon to pick up the trail where we left off. We only have about one week left in the desert but it's reported to be one of the most difficult and most exciting. I can barely wait to get hiking again!


Davi and Nightmare:

 


If you have any questions, comments or observations, please leave them below. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hiking the INT From a Female's Perspective

Guest Blogger: Denise Stolnik

Porto Alegre, Brazil.


 


As I hike the Israel National Trail, I sometimes feel that I appear as a 'lady in distress'. Everyone I meet sees a daughter or sister in me and tries to help. They may offer water, food or a safe place to sleep. I am not offended by this because their intent is just to help. 


I have lots of experience hitchhiking which helps me a lot when it comes to questions like, "Where am I going? What time will I arrive?"and "Where will I sleep tonight?" So I stay calm and know that everything will be okay.


I started my trips in simple ways and once I was confident that everything was going to be okay, I started seeking other challenges. First, I began traveling alone. Then, I started hitchhiking alone. Eventually, I became confident even when traveling in a country where I didn't speak the language. Although my travels sometimes sound crazy, I always do my research about something similar or read about someone who has taken the same journey. One rule I try to apply to my life: If you have already done it, I will listen to your advice. If you have never done it, I will ignore you because it will only be your fear talking. 


Inspirational figures are very important to me because they show that what seems  impossible is often possible. I follow many Brazilian women who travel a lot. For example, one travels by bicycle. Another hitchhikes around the world. Another intentionally travels without money. 


I think that traveling alone is easier because you only have one person to take care of: YOU. You learn your limits and understand how good your own company can be. It makes you stronger. You can still break down and cry but in the end, you are the one who has to figure out the solution to the problem. 


With regards to fearing violence against women, there are several technics that you can try. I try to make a human connection with the person that is causing me concern. Try to make him relate you to someone he knows and likes; perhaps a female in his family. Also, make your motives clear: My intent is to hike this trail - I'm not looking for anything else. 

If you feel uncomfortable at all, don't think twice and getting out. Don't worry about sounding weird or making the situation embarrassing, just trust your instincts and get out. Always try to find a way of saying that someone knows where you are (even though it may be a lie and you don't even have a signal on your cellphone). For example, you could say, "Just give me a second while I send my mom a message saying that everything is okay. By the way, what's your name again?" Sometimes it may help to mention that you have a boyfriend if someone is trying to hit on you.


Dealing with PMS and periods is an extra challenge while on the trail. Usually, it's easier to deal with it on the trail rather than in the city because in the city, you have so many things that can irritate you. And, actually, the exercise of walking actually helps with the pain.


In general, do some research when it comes to your fears. You may find out that the things you are afraid of are really only based on rumors. 


---------------------------

Wolverine here. Huge thanks to Denise for writing the above post. I consider her to be an expert hiker and a world class traveler. She offers a perspective that I often overlook. Please leave a comment below and let her know what you think

Saturday, April 8, 2017

What We Eat on the INT


There were several questions about this hike that went unanswered even as I flew into Tel Aviv. One of them was: What do hikers eat on the Israel National Trail? I know what we eat when hiking in the US: Ramen noodles, Minute Rice, sliced pepperoni, cheese, protein bars, etc...  but this isn't the kind of trail where friends and family can just send you a box full of yummy food. I would have to learn what works and what doesn't and buy my food along the way.  


First, a note about dietary restrictions: I have NONE. I am an opportunistic omnivore. That means that I will gladly enjoy any and every bit of food that comes my way. I do not discriminate and I am thankful for every bit of it. 


When my trusty hiking buddy Nightmare and I first went to a 'supermarket' (really a glorified convenience store with 5-6 tightly packed aisles full of stuff), I really had no idea what to buy. He, on the other hand, had already been in Israel for more than a month and knew what he liked to carry. "First things first," he said, "we need pita bread and hummus." 


 



This seemed like a good idea. I had eaten and enjoyed hummus many times before. I kinda always thought it should be kept refrigerated. "Nonsense," says Nightmare, "it will last for days!" Turned out to be true. Actually, the pita bread (which is made fresh and without preservatives) will go bad before the hummus does. The problem with it, as one southbound hiker warned me, is that you will get sick of it. Fast. That was also true. I needed something more. 


 


Ahhh... Tahini. This is something that seemingly every hiker in Israel carries and they all claim to make it 'the best'. 


Tahini is a goopy brown liquid made from sesame seeds that comes in a plastic carton. You pour it into a cup or pot and add some water. Add a pinch of salt and stir it for a long time and it actually thickens up - perfect for dipping or spreading on bread. You can dip anything in tahini and it will taste good. Most Israelis add a bit of lemon juice to it but hikers can't realistically carry that so we go without. Still tastes good. 


 


From there we branched off into egg noodles (that cook pretty quickly) and individual packs of tomato sauce. We can usually find Knorr sides that look like lentils and rice and sometimes we get soup mixes to which we add tons of little yellow 'soup nuts' for some crunch. 


 


Snack-wise, we eat lots of chocolate wafers and cookie-type biscuits. 


 


We found a granola mix that we like called 'Energy' which proudly proclaims 'Live life extreme!' on the label. We love dates and Israel has some of the best dates in the world. Juicy, fat, sweet dates.... so yummy. 


 


Oh! And Boomba. Lots and lots of Boomba. Boomba is like a 'cheese puff'-type snack but it tastes like peanut butter, not cheese. Like cheese puffs, it is made of styrofoam. 


Other than that, we take what we can get. We share food with other hikers and they share with us. Sometimes we luck into a family out camping who may offer us fresh fruits and vegetables. 


We even ran into a hiker from Boston (Sweet Tea AT '06) who was just on a day hike and loaded us up with all kinds of goodies - AND he packed out our trash for us!


 


Of course, my buddy Chuck Wolfe would be upset if I didn't mention coffee. Every morning I heat up some water and pour some strong instant coffee into it. Or I pour some into a Nalgene bottle 1/4 filled with cold water and shake it up. It's good either way. Sometimes Israeli hikers will cook up finely ground Turkish coffee. That is a particular delight. 


Are these the kinds of things you eat on the trail? Leave me a comment either way!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

No Bears, No Rain


There are few constants I have come to expect out here. Every morning, I will wake to the sounds of birds singing and a beautiful sunrise. 


 


Nightmare and I will cook up some coffee (he drinks tea) and have a bit of breakfast before we pack up our gear and start hiking. 


 


I know that every day will be filled with fantastic landscapes and at least a couple really steep climbs. 


 


I can be certain that I will be absolutely beat by the end of the day and I know that I will sleep like a rock. 


 



Other than that, there are no expectations. I don't know who I might meet. I don't know if my water is going to last. I don't even know where I'm going to stay that night. 


 


Some days we hike up and over huge mountains like Amram and Timna. Some days we navigate crazy slot canyons like Nardit and Barak. Some days we meet small groups of Israeli hikers, some days we pass jeeps full of soldiers and some days we don't see a soul. 


 


Most days end with Nightmare and I finding a quiet place to camp. We break out some pita bread and hummus (I have a whole other blog post coming about what we eat out here) and talk about all the amazing things we saw that day. 


 


Two other things are certain: I will not have to worry about where to hang my food as there are no bears in Israel and I won't have to think about wether or not to use my rain fly (or even my tent!) because it never rains here. 


 


Have questions about hiking the Israel National Trail? Please leave a comment below

Friday, March 31, 2017

Day Two



The Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv put out an amazing spread for breakfast. I wasn't exactly sure what everything was, but I tried all of it. As I sipped a sweet Turkish coffee, my head was swimming with all the details Amtrak had shared with me the night before. So much to do! I had to look into car rental, buy some supplies and meet my buddy Sammy Glen (aka Nightmare AT '15, CT '16) at 10am. I got busy with research and phone calls. 


Renting a car, it seems, was a little trickier than I had anticipated. One way rentals (rent in Tel Aviv and return in Eilat) were exceedingly expensive. I would have to take a taxi all the way back out to the airport to pick up up the car and, I have to be honest when I say that driving around in downtown Tel Aviv scared the crap out of me: I couldn't read the traffic signs and there were a million little streets, each teeming with pedestrians, bicycles and tiny cars. Plus the chance that Nightmare and I getting WAY lost trying to find specific spots to cache water made me think that taking a bus to Eilat (the start of the trail) was a more attractive option. Maybe we could rent a car there and spend a day caching water. Or, for a substantial fee, you can pay a service to cache your water for you. I expressed these concerns to Nightmare and he agreed that getting to Eilat was the priority and that we would figure out the water caching later. 


Seeing Nightmare again after a year and a half was a joyous reunion. We had met on the AT in '15 and when I told him that I wanted to hike the Israel National Trail, he wanted 'in' right away. We have been scheming and dreaming about this trail ever since. 


Nightmare and I spent some time checking out Tel Aviv. He has been here before and he even speaks a little Hebrew. It was fun swimming through the crowds at a massive open air market and listening to all the strange languages being spoken. 


Eventually, we hopped on a bus and made our way down to Be'er Shiva - a decent sized city about halfway to Eilat. The bus stations here are so different from what I'm used to. First of all, they are very secure. You have to pass through a metal detector and have your backpack x-rayed just to get in. The terminal was packed with people, about a third of whom were IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). Young men and women fulfilling their mandatory military service, in uniform and armed to the teeth! When I was in the Army, we NEVER took a weapon off post. Here, they all carried at least a loaded M-16 machine gun or better. Who would ever try to commit a crime here? I never felt so safe. The people are very respectful of the soldiers and grateful for the security they provide. They are often sent to the head of a line or given a seat on a crowded bus. 


We didn't get down to Eilat until about 8:30pm. By night, the city was beautiful. Lots of colorful lights and high-rise hotels all along the coast of the Red Sea. You could look west to see Jordan and east to see Egypt. All three of these countries come to a point here on the shores of the waters that Moses once parted. 


We checked in to the famous Shelter Hostel and received bunk assignments. As I fell asleep, I looked back on my busy day and dreamt of what Eilat might look like in the morning.