This past Friday I went on a poorly-planned biking trip with my Manchunian friend Jonathan Kemp. Borrowing a mountain bike and a helmet the evening prior, we set out at 7am for a two-hour bike ride. Despite having grown with bicycles, riding them all the time, I hadn’t ridden a bike in over four years. The last time was when I rode with my best friend Bernie a one direction ride from Ma’alot to Nahariya – about an elevation drop of 500 meters (1,640 feet) – mostly downhill and on the main road. So with my weak biking muscles, I mounted my bike and followed Jonathan (a far more seasoned biker) out of Ma’alot and over to the nearby town of Meona (across Road 89 from Mi’ilya).
We entered Meona and turned off the street where the sign instructed, to the bike trails. We stopped to switch on the forward suspension (for off-road use) and began the comfortable pedaling on the dirt roads of the farm industrial area. Pretty soon we were riding along the Ma’alot Forest and then passed the sign for the nature reserve of Tel Marwa. We passed some cows, and a bull that made me feel uneasy, and then I spotted a mongoose making a dash for cover. We reached Ein Ya’akov and crossed Road 8833, just following the trail. What’s funny is that I told Jonathan that the trail is along Nachal Ga’aton but looking at the map, we never came close.
Just past the road we entered a pastoral little field and saw the proud ruins of Yehiam Fortress (or as the Crusaders called it, Judyn). Here I posed with the ruins in the distance:
Entering what we’re calling Yehiam Forest, the trail immediately became more difficult. Growing up in Detroit, I’ve never had the opportunity to go actual mountain biking so this was new to me. I clutched the handlebars safely as I navigated the really narrow winding trail, avoiding potentially dangerous rocks and trees. Weaving back and forth as we rolled downhill through the pine trees, we passed by some serious bikers and then arrived at a little flat area with a small cave at the side. Not wanting to press on too far with our time constraints, we decided that this was a good place to turn back.
Had we just another half-hour or so each way, I’m sure we could have reached Yehiam and perhaps actually have a cold pint at Malka Beer. Turning around and heading back uphill proved to be a bit of a challenge, at least for me. I huffed and puffed as I churned those bike pedals on low gear while Jonathan just zipped on up ahead.
Eventually we made it out of the forest and began the easier uphill ride back across Road 8833 and past Ein Ya’akov. At a safe section of the trail, I pedaled on ahead and took a photo of Jonathan in his element:
Attempting to wimp out several times along the way back uphill, but prodded along, I congratulated myself on reaching Meona – the end in sight. Riding along Road 89, we made the uphill push past Tarshicha and into Ma’alot. When we entered Ma’alot we noticed that the police had blocked the street off and wondered why. Straining uphill, we saw why – Ma’alot’s 1st annual run was scheduled that very Friday.
I’m thankful for all the runners passing by as it gave me a distraction from my achy thighs as I slowly pedaled my way towards my house. That’s my one gripe about mountain biking – however fun it is rolling downhill, the exact amount of misery will be experienced on the way back up. Finally we finished our two-hour loop and I dismounted; plans for another ride in the makings.