a day on the trail

Hi wonderful people!

You might already know that I’m hiking a lot these days…like A LOT! Many of you have asked questions about the logistics of the trail & what I do each day.

While every day is so staggeringly different, here’s a glimpse into an average day on the trail thus far (though this all will change this week as I enter the desert!).

5:30 AM Phone alarm rings. I wake up (if I’m not already awake— sleeping in a new place every night doesn’t exactly equal great sleep) & wake up anyone around me who I’m hiking with for the day. One of us heats water for coffee & we all go about our morning routines in the dark. I take down clothes I hung up to dry the night before, gather my phone & Garmin (GPS/SOS device) chargers, fill my water bladder & bottles, & respond to texts I received while asleep. I put on my hiking clothes (a white sun shirt & either shorts or pants depending on the day) & someone heats another round of water for oatmeal. While we eat, we “consult Ya’acov” (review the trail maps & plan for the day— Ya’acov is the author of the trail’s guidebook).

6:45 am — If we’re staying with a family or trail angel & they’re awake, we say thank you. If we’re camping, then we pick up any trash & double check we didn’t forget anything. Then the shoes go on & off we go. Sometimes it takes us a few kilometers to get back to the trail from where we slept. Usually this first hour or so is silent, & the two or three or four of us (the hiking squad is constantly growing & shrinking) have our own little meditative moments as the sun rises. It’s awesome.

8:00 am — The sun is UP! We pull out sunscreen & pass it around. Hats, sunglasses, & sun gloves go on. Sometimes my trendy & functional sun umbrella goes up, too. We check back in with Ya’acov to make sure we’re on track (we usually have gotten lost at least once by now— eek).

9:00 am — The rest of Israel is awake. We start to figure out where we’re going to sleep that night, or plan ahead for a few nights ahead. Does one of us have friends or family near where we plan to stop? Do we want to find a trail angel (someone who opens up their home to hikers & often provides showers, laundry, & meals)? Is there a communal room at a kibbutz or pre-army academy that is open to hikers? Or, are we socially exhausted & craving more outdoor time & want to cowboy camp? We make calls, send texts, exchange voice memos, & tap into the extensive Israeli network as we hike. It never takes too long to find a friend of a friend, a generous stranger, or word of an epic campsite.

11:00 am — If we’re passing by a village or kibbutz, we stop quick to restock food. Tuna, coffee, tea, chocolate, tahini, sausage, rice, chips, oatmeal, cucumbers, gf crackers/bread & honey are my go-tos. Usually I throw in a popsicle (current favorite is pineapple coconut— like a mid morning piña colada!) to eat before we keep walking. If we’re not stopping for food, we at least try to refill water for the rest of the day.

1:00 pm — It’s Israel, it’s the Middle East, it’s effffinggggg boiling outside. By this point, sweat is in full force. I have practiced hot yoga for over a decade & this heat still puts me to shame— especially when it’s coupled with walking on concrete or sand (two surfaces that always seem to find us mid-day). We stop for two hours to recoup. I take off my shoes & socks & sweaty shirt to dry. Then lunch— the Israelis have trained me well over the past three years & I feel a strange sense of pride knowing I am fully satisfied by a lunch of canned tuna mixed with tahini on gf crackers/bread & sliced cucumber. So that’s what I do! Yum. Afterwards, I open up my sleeping pad & pass out for an hour. An hour nap mid-day is GOLD.

2:30 pm — My barista/navigator/hiking amigo (three-in-one) makes coffee (best part of hiking in Israel is the Israeli hikers are OBSESSED with their little coffee set thingys). I eat some chocolate (&/or honey), put on my shoes & my (hopefully dry) smelly shirt, reapply sunscreen (are you proud, Mom?), & we consult Ya’acov again.

3:00 pm — It’s cooled off a bit by now. We hike for another four or five hours. Sometimes new hikers join for a mile or two, & other hikers leave to catch public transport home or stop somewhere else for the day. We talk about all the big & little things— family, politics, religion, the army, travel, education, philosophy, etc. It’s unbelievable how well you can get to know people when you spend 24/7 with them— especially without screen time or the distraction of the outside world. It happens quick & it’s so exceptionally special.

6:00 pm — If we’re lucky there’s an evening breeze. No matter where we are, the sunset & the sky are reliably INCREDIBLE. I take off my hat, put up my hair, & roll up my sleeves. I’m usually exhausted by this point— especially if we’ve walked on any sand or asphalt during the day (the worst). It’s been six to nine hours of hot, exhausting movement w/ my pack on— so I tend to enter my “silly stage”, where everything is funny & goofy. This leads to singing & twisting hiking polls around like batons & making fun of each others’ accents & all sorts of random sh*t.

7:00 pm — Most nights we arrive to where we’ll sleep by dark…though sometimes we walk for a bit after sunset (not ideal), often along a highway (also not ideal & definitely the most dangerous part of the trail thus far). If we’re staying at a trail angel’s home, we all shower quickly (heaven!) & join the angel for a home cooked meal. If we’re staying at a pre-army academy, we are often served a meal from the dining hall & socialize with the kids. And, if we’re camping out, or sleeping in a kibbutz community building, then we fire up a caloric & mushy combination of rice, sausage, & tahini while talking with other hikers.

9:00 pm — I lay down to edit my photos from the day, check the day’s mileage, & write a short post. I am always shocked by all that happens in one day— so much life can be lived in 12 hrs on foot. It’s a fun challenge to condense the day to a few words. Then I decompress by writing in my personal journal (a faithful habit) & if I’m being responsible I stretch my legs, hips, & back (*if*).

9:30 pm — We consult Ya’acov on the next day’s miles. Do we need to plan ahead for water or food? Am I meeting someone somewhere along the way? Where will we find shade mid-day? I read Ya’acov in English & the Israelis read it in Hebrew & then we compare. Usually Ya’acov is more detailed & fun in the Hebrew version— c’mon Ya’acov!

10:30 pm — On a good night, I put in my ear plugs, set my alarm, & fall asleep around now. Does that mean I’m only sleeping 7ish hrs a night & walking 15-20 miles a day? Why yes. Somehow, yes. Usually a donkey or a cat or a centipede or a human or a text or a light infringes on these sacred 7 hrs, but it doesn’t really bother me…I still revel in the glory of laying horizontal— muscles relaxed, feet throbbing, & heart happy— ready to do it all again the next morning.

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