In To the End of the Land, the central characters backpack along the northern stretch of the Israel National Trail, which is also known as "The Galilee."
The Israel National Trail (INT) is a 597 mile long (955 km) hiking trail that crosses the entire country of Israel, north to south, running from the city of Dan on the Lebanese border to Eilat on the Red Sea (map). The trail offers remarkable variety, winding through deserts, forests and mountains, as well as providing access to historical and archaeological sites.
The INT was the brainchild of Avraham Tamir, a writer and journalist for an Israeli children's magazine. In 1980 he hiked the Appalachian Trail in the United States, and returned home with the idea that a similar long-distance hiking trail could be created in Israel. He approached the Israel Trails Committee (ITC), and its director, Ori Devir, fell in love with the idea. Through fifteen years of hard work, the committee eventually pieced together a network of existing trails into what is now the INT. The ITC conducted an opening ceremony on Passover, 1995, presided over by then-president Ezer Weitzmann.
The trail is well-marked with tri-color blazes, orange, blue and white. The white strip always points north, while the orange points south, making it difficult to get lost. In addition to fortress ruins and monuments, the trail passes through many small villages and kibbutzim, making resupply easy. There are also numerous "trail angels" along the route who offer lodging to through-hikers. The trail does not cross the disputed territories of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
Tens of thousands hike parts of the INT every year, although not many have the time or stamina to complete the full trail in one season. It takes 30 to 70 days of continuous travel to cover the entire length on foot. Most who attempt it are Israeli, although it's gaining popularity with international tourists. The sections that pass through or near well-known tourist attractions are often very busy, but most sections of the trail are quiet and peaceful.
People primarily traverse the trail from north to south. The northern areas are less rugged, with more water and more opportunities for resupply. It's consequently easier to fix gear and food errors in the north than it would be in the southern regions of the trail, which pass through largely unpopulated desert. A typical long-distance hike will start in the spring (February May) as there is still adequate water during that time of year along most of the trail.
This article was originally published in October 2010, and has been updated for the
August 2011 paperback release.
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