In this hike I nearly killed my husband. Not intentionally you understand. But we did get a bit more of an adventure than we had bargained for. We set out for Nahal Katlav, a hike near Bet Shemesh near the Jerusalem Hills, a circular hike of moderate difficulty, supposedly around 7km in length.No problem, we walked over 21km a day sometimes in Japan, easy peasy we thought. The trail starts next to the Bar Bakfar restaurant just near Bet Shemesh. As we parked we were worried that there were so many people in the car park it would be crowded. But it turns out this is the starting point for a number of trails, including some really easy ones for kids around American Independence Park . As soon as we got on our black marked trail we saw few people. All went well at first, a reasonably easy descent towards the wadi, slightly muddy and slippery in places, but we took it slowly. A red marked trail branched off to our left, but my instructions said to continue following the black path along the side of the valley. The views were spectacular, even though occasionally the path was rather narrow and the drop too close to me for comfort. All around were lots of wooded slopes, pine, oak and olive, and yes also the smooth red arbutus (Katlav) that gives the valley its name.
After about an hour or so we met up with the blue trail, as instructed. Here things got a little complicated. The trail got narrower and narrower, and in some places we had to scramble up and down rocks, which we did with the aid of our bottoms. WE got muddy. No matter. But then… at one point we scrambled up an almost vertical rock face, and … the trail markers disappeared. WE could not see where we were meant to continue! Straight on there seemed to be no path at all. On our right a sheer drop into the wadi. On our left a rock face. WE climbed gingerly up it but could see no path whatsoever. There was nothing for it but to go back. Having gone back a couple of metres, we did find a blue path leading down still further. But at this point we had a feeling that this was all taking longer than it should (our pace not being that of spring chickens) so we decided to go back the way we had come. We had been walking for more than two hours, meaning going back was probably going to take another two hours, and this being winter, it gets dark before 5pm.
So we retraced our steps, by which time my knee was aching. But the view was stunning, we were out in the fresh air, and no people in sight. We made it back to the car totally exhausted and very muddy. An exhilarating experience. We shall go back and do the other end of the trail another time.