Yesterday we went on a hike to Nachal Sefunim, in the Carmel near Haifa . Sefunim, with a samech, means hidden like Tzafun in the Passover Seder, or panelled. Till we got out and on our way, and ate, we were ready to start walking at 15:00 (that’s 3:00 PM for you Americans). We figured an hour there, an hour back, and we would have plenty of time before dark, which was around 17:20. I thought darkness would set in a little later.
You can already see where this is going.
After walking along the rows of ripe bananas and their dramatic flower buds, we came to a sign indicating two trails. Our guidebook said to follow the red trail along the creek bed to the main attraction, a stalactite cave, and return the same way. But a second tabaati, ring-shaped, trail with blue sign markers also went to the cave. The hand-written note on the sign to the cave indicated that the cave was karov yoter (closer) along the red path so we decided to take that one. If we had time we would return on the blue trail.
The walk involved climbing lots of rocks to reach the large cave with stalagmite and stalactite formations. (Reminder: StalaCtites come down from the ceiling and stalaGmites come up from the ground.)
The cave was cool and large and we could hear bats chirping.
We were a little concerned about getting back down the red trail and debated which way to return. I was hesitant because we didn’t know how difficult it was or how long it would take (I hadn’t forgotten karov yoter), but didn’t want to make anyone miss out so I agreed. (There’s an important lesson in there.)
After about ten or fifteen minutes on the blue trail, which led high into the cliffs, a man in a Parks Authority uniform approached. He was worried that we wouldn’t finish the blue trail by dark. In addition, it ended with a steep descent down a rocky cliff and he didn’t want us to get stuck there. The difficult part of the red trail was nearest the cave. That trail flattened out near its starting point, so that even if we went slowly we would be out of danger by dark.
The ranger asked how long it had taken us to get there. I said an hour, proud of our speed. He said he had done it in half an hour and at the rate we were going we wouldn’t make it. My husband, and especially my 13-year-old, seemed reluctant to change course but we turned around. As it turned out, my husband’s concern about the difficulty of going down on the red trail was unfounded. The kids cooperated and we finished around 17:25.
While walking back to the car we came across the park ranger, who had just gotten back from the longer trail himself. He said—and I knew I would have to share this line with you, dear readers: “It’s a good thing you listened to me. Israelis would have said they know what they were doing and continued on their way.” He recommended that we try the trail another time, perhaps on Pesach when the flowers are in bloom. Apparently you can see the sea from the top of the cliff.
When we arrived home at around 19:00 we were happy to find a parking spot on the street, because we must vacate our parking lot for the neighbors’ sukkot. When I opened the car door, my husband’s work cellphone slipped off my lap into the sewage drain. We looked carefully and checked again in the morning, but finding no sign of it so he ordered a new one.
This was a real Israeli adventure involving rocks, dry creek beds, caves, assistance, and advanced technology gone awry.
To get to Nachal Sefunim, travel north on Highway 4. About 3 kilometers past Tzomet Oren, at kilometer marker 194, you will find parking on both sides of the road. Follow the dirt path on the right (east) side of the road. A few meters after the bananas, you will see a hiking trail sign indicating the start of the blue and red trails.