Tag Archives: National Park

The Sea of Galilee

Tiberias as seen from the Switzerland Forest Road.
Tiberias as seen from the Switzerland Forest Road.

Today, the waterfront of Tiberias is a little tacky in spite of the new construction of expensive high rises. We ignored all those little stands selling “authentic” Chinese merchandise and the overpriced tourist restaurants.

Back in the days of the Roman Empire, Jesus did most of his teaching near the Sea of Galilee. In 135 CE, the Jews moved their cultural center to Tiberias because they were banished from Jerusalem as punishment for rebelling. The Sea of Galilee was a thriving and vibrant hub of civilization, activity and trade until the Byzantines lost control to an Arab Caliphate in the seventh century.

Looking north from the Arbel Cliffs National Park
Looking north from the Arbel Cliffs National Park

We stayed in a very nice one bedroom apartment called Lakeside Kinneret View Apartment that we found on booking.com. Kinneret is another name for the Sea of Galilee. We spent our time climbing the mountains, hiking the trails and fording the streams in the wonderful national parks all around the lake.

The shaded trail of the Betiha Nature Reserve.
The shaded trail of the Betiha Nature Reserve.

One of the secrets of using booking.com is to search for a place with your login, but not book it. After an hour or two, they email you with better deals.

We bought jumbo Medjool dates, fresh figs, whole wheat pita, goat cheese, olives and Tishbi merlot wine and found great spots to picnic.

Enjoying the salads and pita at Tanureen Restaurant in Migdal
Enjoying the salads and pita at Tanureen Restaurant in Migdal

There is an excellent Arab restaurant, Tanureen, by the village Migdal a few kilometers north of Tiberias. We spent a long evening there, speaking Hebrew, Italian and English to many of the restaurant guests who we met. We needed many hours to even make a dent in the number of salad dishes served. In Israel, a lot of petrol stations on major roads have restaurants on their property and this was just another fine dining experience behind the gas pumps.

Arbel National Park

View from the Arbel Cliffs National Park with the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee on the right.
View from the Arbel Cliffs National Park with the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee on the right.

The cliffs of Arbel offer the most incredible views of the Sea of Galilee. For a little extreme adventure, you can descend the cliffs by a path that coincides with both the Jesus Trail and the Israel National Trail (the trail that traverses the entire length of the country). The descent passes by 17th century cliff dwellings of the Druze. We decided to forego the extreme hike in the 100°F/38°C Israeli summer and save our aging knees for other parks.

Justin reading scriptures on the Jesus Trail.
We met Justin reading scriptures on the Jesus Trail.

The Majrase
Betiha (Bet Tsayda Valley) Nature Reserve

DSC08950Rather than climbing down cliffs in the hot sun, how about a nice walk in a cool stream in the shade? That’s what we did in the Bet Tseida Forest. This National nature reserve has a trail through the Daliyot stream of cool, refreshing water up to your calves, or maybe thighs in some places depending on how tall you are. It’s a delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Switzerland Forest Scenic Road

Relaxing in the Daliyot Stream.
Relaxing in the Daliyot Stream.

We drove clockwise around the lake and returned to Tiberias via the Switzerland Forest Scenic Road which, about half way, merges with the Israel National Trail. It has fantastic views of the southern part of the Sea of Galilee. The driver, however, has to keep his eye on the winding road. Same in life, right?

Gan HaShlosha (Sahne) National Park

About an hour drive south from Tiberias as we were on our way to Jerusalem, is another incredible place to spend a hot afternoon in the water. The Amal Stream is a warm water spring that keeps the swimming holes in this national park at a constant temperature. The developed park is a great place to spend the day if you bring your shade structure (or get there before anyone else to claim the shady spots!).

There’s a foot cleaning station on each set of stairs leading into the water. It’s provided free by countless little fish. There is also an old water mill on site, a preferred location for those bathers who arrive early; and The Museum of Regional and Mediterranean Archaeology.

Travel Tip: The Israel National Parks Pass is well worth the money if you like trails. We figure that we broke even with just four parks.

Have You Met My Great-Great-etc Grandfather?

ManuelAntonio_5637

Handsome devil, isn’t he? Runs in the family. This guy was part of a monkey gang, stealing food from beach-goers in the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.

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This is the view from the beach where the monkey gang hung out.ManuelAntonio_5609

It’s funny how we all will stop and try to figure out what a few people are staring at. While we were hiking through the park we stopped and took pictures of this tree whose leaves grew in perfect circles. While we were doing this, several people stopped and looked up thinking that maybe we were seeing some rare bird.ManuelAntonio_5590

I wish I had put something next to this huge dragonfly so you could see how big it was. I’d guess he was at least six inches. (And us men always know how big six inches is!!)ManuelAntonio_5606

 

 

It’s Not Nice to F**k With Mother Nature! (And Probably Won’t Work Anyway)

As a long time resident of Fort Lauderdale, I’ve always thought that building on the barrier island, that is to say, Fort Lauderdale beach itself, was a really stupid thing to do. Nevermind that these buildings nakedly face the full force of a hurricane or tidal wave. As a systems engineer, my intuition was that structures on the island would disturb the natural flow of tide and sand that built the island. In a complex system like the ocean, there’s no way to know the “butterfly effect” of disturbing this process.

Noted geologist, Orrin Pilkey, says that building on the shifting sands of barrier islands is a form of societal madness. These structures, Pilkey believes, are the primary insult to natural beach processes. Not everyone agrees with him, but everyone (scientists) agrees that human actions are hurting the situation in one way or another. Cutting channels for cruise ships and building jetties to protect those channels are probably the worst offenders.

Hitchhiking on the remains of Baltimore Rd on Assateague Island
Hitchhiking on the remains of Baltimore Blvd on Assateague Island

Assateague Island, just off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, is also a barrier island. In 1950, a 15 mile section of the Maryland side of Assateague was platted for development, and a paved road, Baltimore Boulevard, was constructed to traverse the new development. A major storm in 1962 destroyed or covered most of Baltimore Boulevard, and many of the structures on the island were destroyed. It motivated politicians (who usually sell out to private money) to create the Assateague National Seashore. Hurray for them for supporting a measure that makes sense: Preserving a barrier island ecosystem for its natural inhabitants and sand flow, and for visitors to enjoy.

Assateague is famous for it’s wild ponies. The ponies inhabit the salt marshes and pine forests of the island. Legend says that the ponies are from a shipwrecked Spanish Galleon, La Galga. It was a military ship guarding a fleet of Spanish trade ships on their way from Havana, Cuba in 1750. They ran into a hurricane and were taken off course, up the Gulf stream. La Galga ran aground on the barrier island. The Spanish war horses escaped and became, over the years, these wild ponies with large bellies from their salt diet.

Assateague2013_0119Deena and I decided to spend a few days there on our way south. We originally had a prime beach campsite but learned that the forecast was for freezing temperatures and 30-40 mile per hour winds. Wisely, or perhaps I should say “carefully”, we moved our tent to a protected area behind a pine stand. All night, we could hear the wind howl but our tent barely rippled.

The island is quite interesting with very distinctly different ecosystems: salt marshes, white sand beach and pine forest. We didn’t see many ponies, but the deer were not shy. The park has some lovely trails that highlight the geographic features of the island. The Assateague photo album is here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the barrier islands were national parks?Assateague2013_0088

 

Getting Older Has Some Benefits Other Than Denny’s Senior Meals

I won’t even go into the downside of aging. I’m pretty sure you can think of a few appropriate to your own age.

On the other hand, there are some benefits to getting older, including getting wiser. Well, some people get wiser.

In Brazil, when we went to Carnaval in Salvador, Bahia, we purchased entrance to a “block” and a “camarote”. A “block” is a big rope at the back of the music truck where the paying people can dance. (Outside that rope, it’s shoulder to shoulder and packed really tight with people, some of whom are pickpockets.) A “camarote” is a bandstand on the side where you can safely watch the music trucks and dancing people pass by in the street. The entrance ticket is not a piece of paper, but rather a specific T-shirt that you wear for admittance.

If you don't have a special t-shirt, you dance in a street this crowded.
If you don’t have a special t-shirt, you dance in a street this crowded.

When we arrived in Salvador and went to get our entrance t-shirts, we had to wait in a huge line for more than an hour. Frustratingly, all our admittance shirts weren’t even ready for us. We had to return two days later and the line was even longer!

I tried, in my broken Portuguese, to explain that we’d already waited in line the day before. That attendant referred me to another fellow who spoke English. He was a nice young man who took me aside where no one who could speak English was listening. “In Brazil,” he said, “there’s a law that if you are 65, you don’t have to wait in line. How old are you?” I said, “Um, yeah, that’s it, I’m 65.” Deena and I were escorted up front with him explaining “Ele tem sessenta e cinqo.”

In the United States, after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, I’ve finally reached the age where I can purchase a Senior National Park Pass. For an additional $10 in cash, that is.

Seriously, it’s a really good deal. The Senior National Park Pass, which is a lifetime pass for only $10, gets me and whoever’s with me into any National Park in the country for free. If Deena and I are camping, we receive a 50% discount on our campsite. In fact, that bargain is probably the only reason that we’ll keep the old van and see more of the U.S.A.