Hello friends! Thanks for checking out this blog. For the next two months I’ll be using it to share updates (written, pictures, and maybe videos) on my hike. I’ve never blogged before, but there’s a first time for everything I guess. This might be a long first post but I promise less rambling and more interesting posts once I start, on January 16th.
My plan is to spend my off term from Dartmouth hiking the entirety of the Israel National Trail (also known as the Long Trail or the Shvil). Map is below. The trail stretches the entirety of the country of Israel, and the length is between 600 and 700 miles. I have roughly 60 days, which hopefully should be plenty, before flying back home to Maryland for the first time in a year. The trail was established in 1995 (just like me) by an Israeli named Avraham Tamir. Apparently he was inspired by hiking the Appalachian Trail in 1980- interesting to think that he was at some point passing through Hanover, NH.
The decision to spend my off term doing this was for two main reasons. First, for a long time I have wanted to do a long term outdoors trip of some sort. I’ve done a bunch of short multi-day hiking or canoeing trips, but I’ve always wanted to do something more grand, and this is it. I love the outdoors but am ashamed of how little I’ve taken advantage of it at Dartmouth. I know many students who feel the same way; it was one of many reasons to choose Dartmouth but not something that has occupied a large part of my life/time as a student. Second, I crave a break from school, work, and I suppose, civilization. Burnout is real. A thought that has crossed my mind more than a few times in college is “I wish I had taken a gap year.” My sister, along with several of my best high school friends, did so, and it was unanimous that it was an excellent decision.
In combination those two reasons led me to the decision that I would spend my off term on some trip like this; a sort of mini gap year. As junior year approached, I started thinking about what specifically I should do. Since I did an exchange term this fall (in Copenhagen, Denmark), and there was no way I would skip spring term, I had to take my off term in the winter. Not that I’m complaining of course; I love snow but there’s a reason so many Dartmouth students take winter off. It hit me that doing a trip in the winter severely limited my options for a trip with a comfortable temperature. At first I looked more at canoeing ; I researched a stretch of the Mekong River that had been canoed several times before, and wrote up a Schlitz (a Dartmouth Outing Club fund for student adventures) app. However, of the few potential partners, none could really commit, and for that and other reasons I gave up. In retrospect, even with an experienced paddler as a partner that would have been quite a risky trip. Wikipedia might be pretty accurate these days, but relying on its assertion that crocodiles were extinct in that section of the river for my safety might not have been rock solid. When I told my friend Nature Dave about my final INT plan, he wisely said that it was “debatably less sketchy than canoeing alone through 1000 miles of river in Southeast Asia.” Anyway, once I abandoned the canoeing idea I looked into hiking trips that weren’t going to be too cold January-March. While visiting a friend in Edinburgh in October, his high school friend recommended the INT to me, and wow it really fit the bill. 40-60 days to thru-hike, warm climate, a country I had been to before (Birthright) and had some connections in, phenomenal nature (Nat Geo named it one of 20 “most epic trails”), plenty of information online, trail angels, etc. In early November I applied for Schlitz funding and received my full request, which I will be eternally grateful for. Thanks DOC!
Since I heard back that I was getting funding for the trip, I have been preparing quite a bit. I bought the only guidebook in English with maps, spent many hours researching the trail, and talked online with several people who previously hiked the trail. Of course there are plenty of logistics to figure out; when to fly in and out, what I need to bring, and so much more.
That’s all for now- I’m currently in Italy with my sis and am backpacking (the other kind) with her for a bit before I head off to Israel. I might write another post before starting, about more specifics of my plans and how I’m feeling about the trip, but the real fun will begin once I am on the trail.
Happy New Year!