Cir­cling Mount Meron

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - TOUR ISRAEL - • MEITAL SHARABI Pho­tos: HADAR YA­HAV

Most of the time when Is­raelis go out for a na­ture hike, they pre­fer walk­ing on cir­cu­lar paths since this way they end up back at their car in­stead of hav­ing to come with a sec­ond car to leave at the end of the trail, or try to find a ride with a fel­low hiker back to their car at the end. There aren’t many nat­u­rally cir­cu­lar trails in Is­rael, or at least ones that don’t have you mostly re­trace your steps. If you, too, find this phe­nom­e­non frus­trat­ing, you’ll be re­ally glad to hear that the trail that leads from Na­hal Mo­ran to Na­hal Ne­ria in the Mount Meron Na­ture Re­serve is a 100% nat­u­rally cir­cu­lar trail that will take you past gor­geous groves and en­chant­ing land­scapes.

The start­ing point is near the Mount Meron Field School, and just be­fore you reach the en­trance gate, you’ll see green trail mark­ers. Af­ter you’ve taken a few steps, you’ll no­tice that the path de­scends into a dense for­est that is full of many sur­prises – es­pe­cially in the win­ter when it’s filled with lots of wild mush­rooms and col­or­ful flow­ers. It’s un­der­stand­able that many hik­ers com­pare this mag­i­cal for­est to woods they’ve en­coun­tered in Europe, as well as those we all re­mem­ber from fairy tales when we were chil­dren. Be­cause the for­est pro­vides nat­u­ral shade, this trail is com­fort­able to tra­verse even on rel­a­tively hot days, and so you should bring the ap­pro­pri­ate out­er­wear if you’re plan­ning to be hik­ing there on a cold win­ter day.

Af­ter walk­ing for about one kilo­me­ter in the quiet and peace­ful for­est, you’ll reach Ne­ria Spring, which is si­t­u­ated in the wall of a cliff. The wa­ter that gen­tly bub­bles out of the spring is chan­neled into a shal­low pool nearby. The spring wa­ter comes from Na­hal Mo­ran and not from Na­hal Ne­ria, as many peo­ple mis­tak­enly be­lieve. Hik­ers will see two springs as they walk along this path. The first one is right on the path and is the larger of the two. The sec­ond spring is off to the side and is a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult to lo­cate.

De­spite the fact that the amount of wa­ter that flows from these springs is rel­a­tively in­signif­i­cant, the area sur­round­ing the pool and springs is al­ways packed with peo­ple pic­nick­ing or tak­ing a cof­fee break. Chil­dren love to dip their feet and splash around in the shal­low pool.

Once you’ve rested and are ready to re­turn to the trail, you’ll be happy to know that the path will take you all the way into the riverbed. Be­cause to walk this trail you must ac­tu­ally tread in­side the riverbed, which re­mains dry most of the year ex­cept af­ter a rain, you should check what the re­cent weather has been be­fore head­ing out. When the riverbed is dry, the hike is very easy and straight­for­ward. When the stones are wet, how­ever (mostly just in the win­ter), they can be very slip­pery, which makes walk­ing along this trail a bit trick­ier.

You’ll no­tice that the path down to­wards the riverbed twists and turns through the brush. The only way to reach the des­ti­na­tion – Na­hal Ne­ria – is to ac­tu­ally walk in­side the riverbed. It’s not a hard walk down, but you should def­i­nitely slow down your pace and take the time to look around at the gor­geous and nat­u­ral sur­round­ings. Af­ter it rains, lots of flow­ers and plants bloom here, and you might get lucky and catch an an­i­mal peek­ing its head out from be­hind a rock.

When you’ve com­pleted the shady de­scent down to­wards the riverbed, while en­joy­ing the in­ter­est­ing sur­round­ings, you’ll see that the riverbed is wide and open to the sky. At this point, you will be­gin fol­low­ing the red trail mark­ers.

Close by, you’ll soon come upon a road, which is a pretty unique sight in the mid­dle of a na­ture re­serve – and rightly so. The road, which con­nects the vil­lages of Hur­feish and Beit Jann, was built il­le­gally and not sur­pris­ingly it is re­ferred to as the Road of Con­tention. It was built by lo­cal res­i­dents to shorten the travel time be­tween the two vil­lages, and many hik­ers who do not wish to walk the en­tire length of the trail to Na­hal Ne­ria also take ad­van­tage of this road.

I rec­om­mend, how­ever, that you walk the en­tire trail and not take the short­cut since it is such a beau­ti­ful and unique hike. So, con­tinue along the path, which will now have you walk in the Na­hal Mo­ran riverbed. You’ll no­tice that Na­hal Mo­ran is not as straight as Na­hal Ne­ria, and climbs at a small lit­tle slope (but not so ex­treme that it will af­fect your pace). Here, you will once again come upon a splen­did view of the sur­round­ing for­est and the blos­som­ing hills. There aren’t many planned rest ar­eas along the path here, so you can just pick a spot to stop along the way. It’s quite a long trail, so I rec­om­mend stop­ping ev­ery once in a while to take in the scenery and ac­tively enjoy the fresh air.

The last sec­tion of the hike is the climb back up to the park­ing area where you left your car. The as­cent is short but steep, so be ready to give a strong last push with your re­main­ing en­ergy. When you reach the top, you’ll see the road that will lead you to the main street. Walk along the street for 500 me­ters until you reach the park­ing area.

Length: Seven kilo­me­ters (4-5 hours)

Direc­tions: Drive along Road 89 and fol­low signs for Mount Meron. Park your car in the park­ing area next to the field school.

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