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Having just recently returned from Israel (as of 1:00AM EDT last Friday morning) I wanted to get my thoughts about the last hike I did while there – the Jilaboun River in the Golan. This was an amazing hike that I did with my younger daughter in the early afternoon last Wednesday. We drove from where we were staying near Rosh Pina up to the Golan and followed Waze until we got to the trailhead. When I read about the Jilaboun trail here I figured that we would be following the trail as they presented it – not quite. While that write-up notes that you park near the remains of a Syrian village (which we did) – we did not find the markings quite the way that article describes it and so we ended up getting on the trail near the Devorah waterfall. Ok – no biggie. As for the description that this trail is of medium difficulty – that’s accurate. It’s much rockier that I had anticipated and required a lot more scrambling than I expected. However, the trail is absolutely gorgeous and waterfalls are just incredible. As you can see from the pictures below the landscape is awesome. If you want a reasonable length hike that challenges you somewhat and rewards you greatly with beautiful views, the Jilaboun is definitely one to try. What I found somewhat amusing (albeit it’s not really *that* funny) is that the board at the entrance to the trail warns you (4th bullet down) to stay on the trail because of the danger of landmines. That’s not something you normally see when you’re hiking the Billy Goat Trail or Old Rag.

I’ve been a longtime listener of NPR (although of late I’ve come to think of those initials standing for National Palestine Radio rather than National Public Radio given their slanted reporting with respect to Israel). Anyway, every Wednesday morning they have a commentary by Frank Deford who has an alternate personality known as the Sports Curmudgeon (not to be confused with the other Sports Curmudgeon whose true identity escapes me) who periodically speaks on annoying things related to sports (professional, collegiate, and otherwise).

Recently, I’ve discovered that I have a Curmudgeon in me. Normally I’m an easy going individual. Live and let live has been my motto for a long time…I’ve never felt the need to impose my opinions on anyone. However, of late, I’ve been noticing things that have…well…annoyed me. At first I didn’t think much about it…but as time went on I’ve realized that inside of me was another “person” — someone who gets rankled seeing things that are just plain wrong and wants to say something. That is my Curmudgeon. I’ve finally decided to give him a voice…(in the style of Frank Deford):

On Sunday The Curmudgeon was running his morning run when he was passing by the entrance to the Northwest Branch Trail entrance on Kemp Mill Rd in Silver Spring. The Curmudgeon knows the Northwest Branch Trail quite well as he periodically runs along this trail as well as goes hiking on it. The trail is meant for foot traffic only – human or horse. There is an explicit sign at the entrance to the trail on Kemp Mill Road that states no bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed. As he was running by he noticed a silver mini-van parked near the entrance. The husband and wife had gotten out and had their dog with them as well and were getting ready to go on the trail. However, the part that really bothered The Curmudgeon was the fact that the husband and wife were on bikes and were standing right next to the entrance to the trail where the sign indicating that no bicycles are allowed on the trail was clearly on display. Perhaps they weren’t able to read the sign? No…the sign also included a symbol similar to the one below:

There’s a reason why bikes are not allowed on the Northwest Branch Trail. It’s a soft trail which gets torn up easily by the bike tires. The trail has been eroded to such a state where water now stands, breeding mosquitoes, on parts of the trail and people have taken to simply cutting a new trail around the pools of mud and water. It would be very hard not to understand the meaning of that sign The Curmudgeon thought but apparently these two individuals didn’t think that it applied to them.

But this is not the first time that he’s seen this behavior of people who think that the rules do not apply to them. Ok…The Curmudgeon lives in the Washington, D.C. area and he sees this kind of thing going on all the time with politicians…but of late he’s been seeing this sort of behavior more and more in the neighborhood where he lives. Whether it’s cyclists who think that trail restrictions don’t apply to them or people who water their lawns when there are mandatory water restrictions due to emergency work needing to be done on a major water pipe in the region – this behavior seems to becoming more and more prevalent. “Why?” asks The Curmudgeon. “We all have to live together and work together as a community. I follow the rules…why do others think that the rules don’t apply to them as well?” So The Curmudgeon gets rankled more and more when he continues to see examples of “law-abiding” people who are “law-abiding”…but only when it suits them. He shakes his head and laments the fact that in our society we see politicians, athletes, and entertainers consistently do things that break the rules and then get the all too easy “pass” on their actions…simply because of who they are. And this behavior is trickling down, in a pathetic imitation of the trickle-down economic theory so that even in a nice neighborhood such as his, people feel that they have the right to ignore the rules…when the rules get in the way of their doing what they want to do.

We finally took a vacation — a real vacation. No Internet, no e-mail, no cell-phone. And we didn’t have to go very far. We went down to the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina to Lake Lure and rented a lake house for a week. It was a nice and quaint little place — 2 bedrooms, 2 bath. And we did a bunch of stuff around the Lake and in the area. We went and visted the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville one day (actually we did it on two days — the first day we went was a Monday and apparently they were closed that day. So we came back on Thursday). We went up to Chimney Rock and did the climb up the Chimney and then the Hickory Nut Gorge Trail leading to the bottom of Hickory Nut Falls. Unfortunately the Skyline trail and the Cliff trail were closed. Not sure why but I heard the next day while in Chimney Rock Village that it was due to someone falling from the Skyline trail. As I understand it a small child back in May slipped under the railing on the skyline trail and fell to his death. Very sad. Anyway I would be remiss if I didn’t include some pictures from the jaunt to Chimney Rock.

Other things that we did in Western North Carolina include going to the Linville Caverns, Gem Mountain, the original Mast General Store in Hendersonville, as well as the Mineral and Lapidary Museum in Hendersonville. Overall it was a great trip and we enjoyed it very much.

On the way back we took the Blue Ridge Parkway for part of the way north. We entered the parkway at Asheville (although we then had to take quite a detour in order to get around a part of the Parkway that was washed out) and then caught it again at mile 345. We followed it until we got to Linville Falls where we stopped for a while to go and see the top of the falls. They were awesome. I highly recommend that if you’re ever that way you should see the falls. Here are some pictures of the Linville Falls.

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On the whole, I really needed to get out of the city and away from the constant e-mail and cell-phone calls from work. It was wonderful to wake up to the cool weather on Lake Lure and to sit and have coffee knowing that I could not “get online” and check e-mail. Of course, the downside is that I am catching up on work now…but that’s a small price to pay.

August 2020

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