July 13, 2014
Wikiloc Map: Zofar to Paran
Distance: 33.1km (20.5 miles)
Total distance since Tel Dan: 951km (589 miles)
Despite — or maybe because of — the situation in Israel, with rockets and missiles flying back and forth between Israel and Gaza — a break off in the wilderness sounded like a good idea!
It’s not easy to hike in the desert in the summer. The trick is to start really early and finish before it gets too hot. I drove down to Zofar the night before. I got a late start, so it was after 10pm by the time I got down there – it’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Jerusalem. I found a place on a dirt road off the highway where I could pull over and simply slept in the back of the car with the hatch open. Was reasonably comfortable.
I woke up about 5am, made coffee, packed up, moved the car to the entrance to Zofar, and was starting my run/hike at 0545. Last time I finished in the middle of Zofar, but I wasn’t sure if the back gate of the community would be open, so I backtracked slightly and picked up the trail outside the fence where I came in. It took me 3km of going “cross country” to rejoin the Israel Trail.
I love getting an early start. The air is cool and still; the light is a beautiful golden hue. The desert’s colors change as the sun rises. The entire day on the trail I saw one other human being – a bike rider who came by just as I was pausing to “take care of my morning business.” Figures, right? 3km from where I joined the trail brought me to the ancient Nabatean city of Moa. Moa was on the Spice Route, the trade route that brought incense and spices from the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean. The city was occupied from the 3rd c. BCE to the 3rd c. CE. After exploring Moa and taking a brief break, I was on my way again.
The rest of the day was pretty easy – along a flat dirt road most of the way – and a little boring. There were only a couple of interesting things. About 13km in I came across a herd of wild camels, about ten of them. I presume they were previously domesticated and somehow escaped. After that there was a brief 2km climb. Total elevation gain for the whole day was only 289m, less than 900 feet.
Something seemed a little “off” on the directions in Jacob Saar’s book. He listed the day as 24km, and I was expecting a few kilometers more since I started near the highway and had to get all the way back to the highway, but 33km was a LOT more. For the last 7 or 8 km I just cut straight “cross country”again – I could see both highway 90 and Paran, so navigation was easy. The trail veered back away from the highway; I’ll have to pick it up again from Paran when I do the next section.
I got to Paran around 1pm and took a bus back to Zofar. I stopped at an Aroma about a 15 minute drive north on the way home for lunch. The Iced Aroma tasted REALLY good after the last few hours of hiking in the heat. Seven more days on the trail until I reach Eilat.
“Tzofar to Paran, 33km: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=7288881”
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(Israel Trail Day 45; 37 photos)