Last week’s adventures took me to the nearby Nachal Ga’aton, a small stream that starts seasonally between Mi’ilya and Meona and drains into the Mediterranean in the heart of Nahariyah. Being that Meona and Mi’ilya are neighbors with Ma’alot here in the Galilee, my father easily dropped me off in Meona and I began my 13-kilometre hike in the industrial section of the town. Eager to leave the rank smell of chicken coops behind me, I skipped some interesting little things to see, hurrying along on the paved road. It was when passing a mushroom manufacturing plant that I finally got on the Nachal Ga’aton trail (marked blue). Immediately descending into the woods, the trail followed the dry Marva stream (below Tel Marva) until it reached the dry Nachal Ga’aton.
The hike was rather uneventful until suddenly I spotted a wild boar in the bushes up ahead. It was nosing around in the leaves and didn’t notice me. I began to quake in my shoes, considering my options. Making a snap decision I took a few silent paces back and then strode forth with a false sense of confidence, making sure to make ample noise. Pretending like I didn’t notice the beast worked rather well, and, after a gut-churning grunt/snort, the wild boar dashed up the gentle slope, followed by four other boars. Seizing the opportunity, I found myself a nice stick to be my protective companion. A few minutes later I crossed paths with an elderly man holding a huge club – no doubt his tried-and-true boar crusher.
Continuing along the dry rock-filled streambed I spotted yet another wild boar. Due to the fact that I walk rather quietly (a practice harkening back to my youth when I chased whitetail deer in Michigan’s bountiful nature parks), and the fact that I was upwind, I always see the wild boars before they detect me. I stepped back a few paces and began filming the boar edging into the woods when, suddenly, I spotted two striped piglets on the trail headed my way. Backing up away from the advancing piglets, not wanting the mother to spot me and think bad thoughts, I kept going further and further back – and the curious little squeakers kept coming.
There were some noises in the bush and the piglets left me. Waiting a good five minutes or so, I figured it was now safe to continue – but just as I passed I saw a boar just mere feet from me in my peripheral. It just grunted as I walked by, and my heart skipped some beats in fear. Resorting now to dragging my stick on the ground beside me, making plenty of noise, I next reached a clearing with many large eucalyptus trees and picnic tables. It was there that I had lunch, and continued on in the direction of some nearby springs, reaching the beautiful Ga’aton ruins with ease.
It’s at these ruins that Nachal Ga’aton finally sees some water and beside the bridge is a little pool perfect for children.
As it is spring- the season of growth, the ruins were overrun with tall grass and wildflowers and I was slightly apprehensive of running into a snake or two – and being that this wasn’t my first time visiting the ruins, I was content with visiting just one building.
The ruins were most recently a Ottoman farmhouse owned by the Sursuqs of Lebanon (one of Beirut’s aristocratic Christian families) having been built on old Crusader remnants. Climbing to the second floor of one building, I found a nice place to sit and look out at the ruins below – watching a kestrel fly about searching for prey.
After sitting for a spell, I took up my walking stick and left the ruins, walking along the now watery Nachal Ga’aton. When I hit Road 8833 (the road to Yehiam and Ga’aton), I turned right towards the large quarry and then took the bike trail in the direction of Kabri – still walking parallel to Nachal Ga’aton. It was on this nice bike trail that I saw an enormous grasshopper, almost mistaking it to be a small bird. Heat waves rose up on the trail before my eyes, and the hollyhocks added a nice splash of colour to the various shades of brown and green looking out to the sea.
Soon I reached netted banana fields flanking the trail, and then, just half a kilometre from Road 70 and the Kabri Junction, I came upon the Western Galilee Regional School and swung north on the access road to visit the last two things on my mental checklist. The first was the KKL-JNF Kabri Archaeological Park, which is free to visit although they prefer prior reservations. Inside I found three themes of artefacts: olive oil, corn and wine. The largest is the olive oil section, with many grindstones and presses from different time periods and locations including a reconstructed Roman-era olive oil press from the Zabadi ruins just 5.5 kilometres north near the Old Northern Road.
Then there are four types of corn grinders starting with the archaic saddle quern and then the most modern rotary hand mill likely introduced to the area by invading Roman soldiers. And finally, a winepress from the Tanach period excavated at the foothills of the Gilboa range near the Jordan River Valley. Using giant blades and diamond-toothed chainsaws, KKL-JNF and the Antiquities Authority were able to extract the 24-ton behemoth from the bedrock and transport the intact winepress to the park to be exhibited. I think it would be cool if they bottled and sold wine made from the press, or at least had hands-on activities on-site. When I finished at the archaeological park I went across the access road to the remains of an ancient flour-mill which likely used water from the stream to power the grindstones.
Nachal Ga’aton keeps on flowing all the way to Nahariyah, slicing through the centre of the city and then empties into the Mediterranean but I wrapped up my trip where I was, taking the bus back home – my first time paying for public transportation since being released from the army.