Last Saturday Josh was not feeling well so I took a solo trip to the Judean Hills to hike in the Sataf Forest. I was originally looking for a place to go trail running, which brought me to this site… http://www.irunfar.com/2014/03/trail-running-in-israel.html … which brought me to this site… http://www.trekkinginisrael.com/ … which finally brought me to this site… http://www.trekkinginisrael.com/sataf-to-yad-kennedy-on-the-inl/ … but I ended up deciding to go on a long hike instead. The Sataf Forest is a part of the Israel National Trail, which is a trail that traverses the length (and width twice) of Israel. The total length of the trail is 680 miles (1,100 km) and according to Nat Geo it is one of the 20 most “epic trails” in the world as it weaves through biblical landscapes as well as through everyday lives of modern Israel. Not sure their criteria for most epic but I will have to take their word for it. Below is a map of where it travels.
The hike I did started in the Sataf Forest and then ended at Yad Kennedy 12 km later. The description recommended parking a second car at the finish but I just decided to hike there and back, so it turned into a nice long day of hiking not to mention I got a late start and did not begin to hike until 11 am. The hike starts high in the Judean Hills in a pine forest and descends steeply into the valley below. As I descended I passed through a reconstructed Sataf village.
Sataf was an ancient mountain farming community that was abandoned in the 1948 War of Independence. The trail passes by numerous old houses along with a number of olive groves, vines and other agricultural remnants.
As you travel down the trail, it is astonishing to see the altered landscape. The terrain is extremely steep and the whole valley that the trail weaves through is terraced from the agriculture that was practiced here.
From some research I did, most of the terraced areas were used for ba‘al farming (without artificial irrigation), and in they mainly grew grapevines, olives, figs and pomegranates. Along the hike I passed by some large springs, caves and tunnels. It is amazing to imagine the tenacity of these early settlers! The area has been cultivated since 4,000 BCE, yes that is before the time of the Egyptians if you are counting – crazy!
Here is some more information for those that are interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sataf and http://www.kkl.org.il/eng/tourism-and-recreation/forests-and-parks/sataf-site.aspx
Once I reached the bottom of the first valley, I hiked on level ground next to a river and then began to hike up a narrow canyon. I was not quite sure if I was on the right path since it involved some scrambling but sure enough I saw the trusty trail markers.
As I continued up the trail I passed by a number of dams, springs, and more agricultural remnants.
The hike continued up the other side of the valley with sweeping views of the Judean Hills.
It is still amazes me that you can have these structures that are thousands of years old right next to these modern communities. The trail continued upwards and when I reached the top there was a memorial to John F. Kennedy, which consisted of a seal for each state (Colorado and California were conveniently next to one another) and an eternal flame – classic!
The memorial had sweeping views of the surrounding area but I did not stay long because 1) I had a long hike back to the car and 2) It was extremely windy and cold and I was wearing shorts and a wind breaker. In my haste I was able to snap this picture though, now you can’t complain that I don’t post pictures of myself.
The 12 km hike back was pretty uneventful except for the giant slap in the face with the stairs at the end.