DECEMBER 5, 2020 : Having spent the past few days sick in bed and still not feeling very strong, for this week’s trip we looked for something easy, short and close by. A hike in the woods in Ben Shemen sounded like it would fit the bill. As we drove there, I wondered if there would be anything to blog about. A simple hike among the trees – all the photos would look the same. However, what makes these outings so great is discovering the unexpected – seeing those little things that come as a surprise and turn the day from mundane to interesting. So yes, the hike itself was nice, but the little things we discovered along the way, they make the story.
Ben Shemen forest, located not far from Ben Gurion airport, is the largest (22,000 dunum) forest in central Israel. The forest is full of dirt roads for SUVs, bike and hiking trails and has many picnic areas scattered throughout. Our first surprise when we got there, was how many people were there. Families and friends were picnicking, bicycling, hiking, etc. and the parking area was almost full. Surprising for a weekday morning. Several food trucks running generators lined the dirt road.
We started our hike following the main road into the park. As the sign says, the road is to be shared by cars, bicyclists, and hikers.
Along the way, many plaques listing the benefactors of the forest lined the way.
The first few hundred meters of the hike, were also part of the Israel National Trail – Shivil Israel. An billboard sign gave information for this next section of the National Trail for those traveling south (as we were). We noticed on the back side of the sign, was the information for those traveling in the opposite direction – for those going north. Nice.
After about a kilometer, we left the main road and followed the Hertzel Blue Singletrack Cycling Route. This is a 10 km bike path through the forest, and we were going to hike the last 4 kms of the track.
Occasionally we needed to move to the side as bicycles rode on by. Once two large, noisy, smelly motorbikes passed us on the same trail.
As you hike, you hear the sound of the SUVs driving around, you also hear the bicyclists, the motorcycles, the sound systems people use in the picnic areas, and often, due to the proximity of Ben Gurion airport, the planes taking off and landing. Your eyes see nature, but your ears hear the various sounds of civilization.
Although it has not rained recently, the track still had many muddy sections.
Now in early December, the forest was full of the cyclamen leaves, but no flowers yet.
About three-quarters of the way through, we found the perfect place to sit for lunch.
Mark found a creative use for his face mask – as a tangerine holder.
The biggest surprise of the day, is we stumbled upon a pagoda in the middle of the forest. Turns out this was a gift to the people of Israel from the King of Thailand in honor of Israel’s 50th anniversary. Who knew?
Scissors in a tree? Why?
After about two hours of easy hiking, we returned to the main road. From there we noticed a tower – this is Mitzpe Modin, a fire lookout tower. Next to the fire tower is an amphitheater.
A sign that speaks for itself.
This guy drove his car on to the rocks, to raise the car so that he could do repairs underneath. Clever.
Just as we were about to head towards our car, we spotted a beautiful bride being photographed.
Nothing remarkably spectacular but exploring Bet Shemesh Forest is a very pleasant way to spend a sunny day. Bye Bye Nice Place.