Noam Trail on Mount Carmel

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In springtime, the region is covered with the multicolored blossom of small bushes such as sage-leaved rockrose (Cistus salviifolius), soft hairy rockrose (Cistus creticus) and spiny broom (Calicotome villosa). These are interspersed with seasonal wildflowers such as cyclamen, ranunculus, orchids and many others. The Israel Trail passes through the entire length of the forest, while its breadth is divided into two by a road that forks off eastward from Route no. 4 and leads to Moshav Ofer and Moshav Kerem Maharal.

A way station along the Israel Trail

The KKL-JNF Carmel offices’ parking lot, which lies around 1.2 kilometers east of the entrance to Moshav Ofer, is the starting point for our excursion. This quiet and pleasant corner serves as an overnight way station for hikers on the Israel Trail and provides them with on-site running water and toilet facilities. KKL-JNF Carmel forester Micha Silko has told us that in the future, KKL-JNF plans to build two cabins to offer free overnight accommodation and self-catering kitchen facilities to Israel Trail walkers. This will not be a bed and breakfast operation but simply a site where “Israel Trailers” can rest and gather their forces before continuing their walk the following day.

Onwards and upwards

The time has come to set out. As we leave the parking lot, we turn westward and head towards a plaza containing stone pillars erected by KKL-JNF as an expression of appreciation for the organization’s Friends throughout the world. Adjacent to the plaza is a gate in the fence, and on the far side, the path begins to make its way up the hill (follow the green markings).

Our trail continues upwards through a forest interspersed with lush native vegetation. Here pine trees grow alongside Israeli common oak (Quercus calliprinos), mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus) and other representatives of the Mediterranean woodland, and good neighborly relations clearly prevail. In February, you will find large numbers of cyclamen and anemones here, while at other times of the year you can enjoy the sight of climbing plants such as Etruscan honeysuckle (Lonicera Etrusca), rough bindweed (Smilax aspera) and black bryony (Tamus communis).

The path is fairly steep, but not very long. After 400 meters, it crosses a broad trail indicated by black markings, then continues straight on into the woodland. Another 300 meters or so and we’ve reached the top, and are now 70 meters higher than we were at our starting point. Now we make our way down a small rocky step and find ourselves in a small valley that bears the markings of the Israel Trail.

Downhill all the way

At the junction with the Israel Trail we turn left. From now on we shall be walking downhill. To the left of the road we can see a number of elderly olive trees whose trunks are magnificent, despite the heavy shade that does not allow them optimum conditions. In our estimation, one of the trunks has a circumference of over two meters. Another step down and we come to a pleasant spot above a gully. Beside a rocky cliff, in the shade of the woodland, are a number of tree stumps where we can sit down and rest. This shady corner is dedicated to the memory of Noam Bahagon (also known as “Baggy”), who fell in action in the Gaza Strip in 2003, together with three of his comrades from the same tank crew. The path leads back to the valley and reveals a stepped waterfall over ten meters in height that is most probably never exposed to sunlight. The retained moisture has allowed mosses to grow on its stones.

After we carefully descend the steps of the waterfall we shall find ourselves at once on a broad dirt road. If we follow this road downhill for another 200 meters or so, we shall find ourselves back at the KKL-JNF offices’ parking lot.