Glacier National Park: Part 3

Noah’s and I spent our third day in Glacier on an all-day, ranger-led hike to Piegan Pass. The hike started at 10am, and the trailhead was along the Going to the Sun Road at Siyeh Bend. We got up early to do the drive and make sure we were at the trailhead with plenty of time to get a parking spot. It turned out that parking wasn’t an issue that morning because it was cold, windy, and rainy. While we were waiting for the ranger to come, we stayed in the car to try to get some last-minute warmth. At one point, we even wondered if was too cold for the hike (it was supposed to take about 6 hours!). In the end, we decided to stick it out. It was definitely a good choice! The hike was amazing and, although I was freezing when we finished, the weather wasn’t really that bad until we made it up to the pass. PLUS, we came upon some huckleberry bushes!

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Fun fact: huckleberries have never been successfully cultivated, so you can only pick them in the wild!

The hike itself crossed through several different landscapes. There were forested areas:

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Flower fields (check out how foggy it is!):

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And it became more and more rocky with snow-capped peaks in the (nearer) distance as we approached the pass:

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When we were in the forest/flower fields things were a bit wet but we were all smiles:

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About 3 hours later after we had been exposed to the frigid winds/snow (yes, snow!) past the tree line, we were still smiling but were a little worse for wear. 🙂

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By the time we made it back down the peak and to the car, the rain wasn’t as heavy but it was still quite foggy. Vision on the road was pretty scary!

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Fortunately, Noah was able to build a fire back at the campsite to warm us up (note: the pic below is just the beginning stages 🙂 ):

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The next morning, our fourth day, was our last day in Glacier. We were only planning to spend a few hours in the park in the morning before driving to Ennis, MT for the wedding of two friends. Noah suggested we do the Avalanche Lake Trail for our last Glacier adventure, and the hike worked out perfectly. The hike was an out-and-back 4-mile trail, and it took us about 2.5 hours – perfect for a quick hike on our way out of the park! At the beginning of the hike we followed along a small stream:

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and were completely surrounded by HUGE trees:

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BONUS: more huckleberries!!

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While we were hiking towards the lake, there was still a bit of fog covering the mountains, so we hoped the view would clear before too long:

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After a little more than an hour of hiking, we made it to Avalanche Lake. Holy cow, it was gorgeous:

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Fortunately, the clouds were just disappearing as we headed back towards the trailhead:

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At the end of the hike there was a short loop called Trail of the Cedars. Trail of the Cedars followed a boardwalk that crossed over the water a few times:

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Noah and I learned from a ranger that the unique appearance of the water at Glacier is a result of rock flour. Rock flour is – just like it sounds – the fine flour that is made when rocks scrape against one another (i.e., what is formed at Glacier as the glaciers move). The rock flour gives the water a bright turquoise-ish tint and also makes it very transparent. When the water is shallow and the color is less intense, it almost looks like the rocks are right at the surface!

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After the hike it was time to say our goodbyes to Glacier and start the 5-6 hour drive to Ennis. Goodbye, Glacier!

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I can’t complain about the drive though – the views from the road were still pretty spectacular:

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Eventually, we saw a sign for Ennis!

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Pretty much as soon as we got to Ennis it was time to celebrate:

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The wedding celebrations went by in a blur – so many hugs, smiles, laughs, (happy) tears! Before we knew it, we had ranched:

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We had decorated:

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We had rehearsal dinner-ed:

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And the last dance was danced:

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It was definitely a happy/wonderful/moving weekend that I won’t forget. ❤

And that concludes our Montana vacation – what a trip!

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Glacier National Park

Noah and I recently had an amazing week-long trip in Montana. We (especially Noah!) has spent the a lot of time over the past several months preparing for the trip, so it was very exciting to finally be on our way! After we spent a day taking a (seemingly never-ending) string of flights to Kalispell, MT, we picked up our rental car at the airport and drove right away to the Vista Motel in West Glacier.

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The Vista Motel was just a few minutes drive from the West Entrance to Glacier National Park. The motel had small, basic rooms, but it was perfect for what we wanted – somewhere clean, affordable, and nearby the park. Also, the staff was incredibly friendly and sweet! The motel also had a small continental breakfast available in the morning (coffee, oatmeal, toast, muffins, etc.) and gorgeous views!

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We arrived to the Vista Motel late in the evening (the pictures above are actually from our first morning waking up there), and after eating breakfast in the morning we quickly made our way into the Park to get the adventures started!

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Shortly past the entrance to the park, we stopped by the visitor center to get some maps, information about ranger-led activities, and advice about…BEARS! Glacier National Park has one of the highest concentration of grizzly bears in the country, and it’s recommended for all hikers to brush up on bear safety tips and to have someone in their group carry bear spray.

The nice folks at the Alamo car rental desk at the Kalispell airport had given Noah and I a canister of bear spray when we picked up the car, and we had already joked around with Noah’s “quick-draw” approach at the motel that morning:

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At the visitor center, Noah and I continued our bear education by asking the ranger a few questions, getting comfortable around “friendlier” bears…

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…and trying not to get freaked out by the literature on sale at the store:

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ANYWAY, moving on from bears…we were ready to begin our first full day at Glacier!

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The morning was occupied by a half-day rafting trip that was a ton of fun. We went white-water rafting with the Glacier Raft Company, and Noah and I braved the rapids alone in our own inflatable kayak. Turns out Noah is a master of the sea, and he was able to safely navigate our kayak through the water while I occasionally rowed. When we finished the rafting trip, it was already a couple hours into the afternoon and we were very ready for lunch. We made our way to The Wandering Gringo – a walk-up burrito/taco stand – for delicious burritos which we made quick work of:

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We also stopped by the West Glacier Mercantile to pick up some hiking snacks and lunches to bring with us on the trail for the next few days:

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After we were fed and revived after our rafting trip, we set out for the second adventure of the day – hiking the Apgar Lookout trail!

Anticipation mounting on our way to the trailhead:

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The hike was an out-and-back trail to a fire tower overlooking Lake McDonald. The hike was about 7 miles in total distance, and it took us about 3.5 hours to complete. The hike was incredibly warm, but we had a great time making our way along the trail and enjoying the phenomenal views:

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Eventually we made it to the top! (Lake McDonald in the background)

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By the time we made our way back down the trail and had washed up at the motel, we were both exhausted and ready for dinner. We made our way to Glacier Grill and Pizza to share some pizza and salad for dinner:

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And Noah also tried a huckleberry beer (huckleberries are the regional superfood of Montana!).

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By the end of dinner, we were both more than ready to get back to the motel to get a good night’s sleep before the next day’s adventures. Stay tuned for another post soon about the continuation of our Glacier trip!

Pardes tiyul to the Golan and Upper Galilee

Several weeks ago (yes, I’m way behind on this post!), Noah and I went with Pardes on a 3-day tiyul to northern Israel. We were in the Golan and Upper Galilee region, and the surroundings were a huge difference from the last Pardes tiyul we went on to the southern Negev!

The trip started with a visit to the Jordan River where Yehoshua entered the land of Israel with the Israelite people (shortly after Moses’ death, at which time Yehoshua became the new Jewish leader). The glory of the Jordan River has definitely faded since those years…

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You see the other side of the river? That’s Jordan! Yep, we were real close. 🙂

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Despite the river itself having become relatively small, it’s still a very interesting historical and spiritual location. It’s also somewhat of a pilgrimage site for Christians because it is the site of Jesus’ bastism. We saw a lot of Christian tourists going for a dip of their own:

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After the river visit, we went on a long hike at Nahal El-Al.

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Along the hike, there were two waterfall locations where some people went for a swim!

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The hike took about 4 hours, and we had a great time!

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After the hike, the group made a final stop at Mitzpeh Gadot, the location of an abandoned Syrian bunker that was captured by the Israeli army during the Six Day War.

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The site had a lot of interesting trenches to look at, and it was also a good place to better understand the shifting of boundaries and power in this region . Also at the site is a memorial monument to the fallen soldiers of the Israeli Golani Brigade:

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After Mitzpeh Gadot, the group went back to our lodging (Kfar Szold Guest House) for dinner and some rest before another full day.

In the morning, we set out for our second big day hike – a hike on Mt. Meron.

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This hike – like the first – was green, gorgeous, and was an opportunity to see some of the flowers in bloom during the spring:

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During this hike, we passed by some ruins, including what’s left of one of the oldest known synagogues (the ruins date back to the first century when the second Temple was still in Jerusalem!):

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After the hike, we visited Amuka, a small town near Tzfat where Rabbi Yonatan ben Uzziel is buried. R. Yonatan ben Uzziel was a student of Rabbi Hillel’s and is mentioned in the Talmud, so his significance stands on its own. Yet, an interesting custom has developed that singles visit the site of his grave to receive a shidduch (match). The legend goes that praying for a match at the site will lead to a partner within a year! There weren’t that many people around when we visited the site…I guess not too many people thought to find their matches with him that day. 🙂

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When the group left the grave, we drove east towards the Syrian border. In the photo below (out of the bus window), you can see there are still lots of areas closed off with minefield warnings:

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We were heading to Tel Saki –  a small hill that served as an Israeli fortification on the border with Syria during the Yom Kippur War. At Tel Saki, we walking through some of the military trenches and looked across the expanse into Syria:

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From our vantage point, we couldn’t see too much action into Syria…

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But there were still some pretty cool tanks to play on!

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Overall, this was a great tiyul! I loved hiking with Noah and my Pardes teachers and classmates through northern Israel and learning more about that region’s history, successes, and challenges. The tiyulim with Pardes have definitely been a highlight of my year here (see my post on the Negev tiyul and the day trip to Tel Aviv) and have made a huge difference in terms of helping me to see more of the country and to learn more about Israel outside of Jerusalem.

Visiting Tzfat in the fog and lunch on Mt. Gilboa

This past weekend I went on a trip with some friends to Tzfat and the Lower Galilee. We started our trip bright and early on Friday morning by picking up a rental car in Jerusalem and cramming everyone/everything inside. Surprisingly, the car didn’t have much trunk space, so it was a little tight:

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Nonetheless, we got to our first stop – Tzfat – after a little more than two hours. Tzfat is one of the four holy cities in Judaism, and it is associated with the element of air (the other holy cities are Jerusalem:fire, Hebron:earth, and Tiberias:water). This was a particularly appropriate day to visit Tzfat since the weather gave us a definite taste of its airy quality!

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My friend Sasha went for a private lesson with glass artist Sheva Chaya.
(you can learn about Sasha’s super cool glassworks here!)

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…and the rest of us wandered around the city for a bit:

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Since the weather was a bit cold and rainy, before too long we ended up inside a falafel shop eating lots of delicious fried food:

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Once regaining Sasha, we headed to a grocery store for some snacking essentials and then checked into the Karei Deshe Guest House where we were staying for the night to get ready for Shabbat:

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The next day, we had a full day of activities that started with a hike on Mt. Gilboa. Mt. Gilboa is located in the Lower Galilee region and is particularly known for the wildflowers that grow abundant in the spring. We went for about an hour hike and (although we lost the trail and were mainly just forging through the brush!) had a lot of fun:

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After the hike, we went for lunch at a restaurant called The Gilboa Herb Farm

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The restaurant was adorable with amazing views looking out from the mountaintop. There were so many delicious things on the menu! We ended up ordering focaccia and some mushroom/sweet potato falafel to share as appetizers, and I got gnocchi as a main dish – Noah got a lamb sausage something with mashed potatoes:

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We also ordered a few desserts as a table to share afterwards and everything was delicious! If you are going to Mt. Gilboa, I would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.

Check back soon for a post on the rest of the trip’s adventures including a trip to the Sachne hot springs and a visit to Gan Garoo (can you guess what that is? Hint: it is related to an animal that rhymes in gangaroo!).

Hiking and Biking – Ein Gedi and Hula Lake

My parents’ visit to the Holy Land involved many outdoor adventures. I addition to swimming floating at the Dead Sea, we also went on a hike during our time in Ein Gedi.

The hike we chose was at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. This Nature Reserve has an easy hiking trail as well as a longer trail that juts off from the main area and heads up one of the area’s hills.

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Along the trail, we had some great views…

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…and passed some of the small pools and waterfalls that are a highlight of the trail:

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In addition to beautiful views of waterfalls and geological features, we saw a lot of Hyraxes while we were at the Nature Reserve.

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Hyraxes are small and rodent-like. But, they are actually closely related to the elephant. Amazing, I know.

We didn’t go very far up the ‘advanced’ trail, but we did hike a short distance to the first lookout point for a beautiful view of the Dead Sea:

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Couples’ retreatin’

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After a couple days in the Ein Gedi area, we headed to the northern part of the country to the Galilee. One of our primary activities in the Galilee was to visit the Hula Lake Nature Reserve (I just noticed the Nature Reserve theme of this post…).

500 MILLION birds migrate through Israel twice a year during their flight between Europe and Africa. Nearly all of these birds find their way – at one point or another – to the Hula Lake. This lake, in the middle of the reserve, has become an ideal spot for bird-watchers.

In addition to bird-enthusiasts, the reserve is also a great stop for families or anyone who is casually interested in seeing (and hearing!) LOTS of birds. The lake is surrounded by a 5-mile trail, and there are options to rent bikes or a golf carts if walking that distance doesn’t fit your fancy (or time schedule!). We decided to rent bikes to make our way around the lake:

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The flatness of the valley provided great views of the surrounding mountains:

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Nearly as soon as we started our ride, we could hear the clamor of what sounded like a BAZILLION cranes! In real numbers, an estimated 20,000-30,000 cranes make the Hula Lake their home during the winter. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get too close to the area where all the cranes were gathered, but we still got some views from the pathway:

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In addition to seeing a lot of cranes, we passed several of these little guys in the grass and water along the trail:

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This animal is a Coypu – a water rodent that lives in the banks of wetlands. Fun fact: Coypus were imported to Israel from Argentina in the mid-twentieth century. Originally, they were imported for fur trade, but that never really took off, so they are now just one of the most common mammals in Israel.

All in all, we spent about two hours at the Hula Lake. My only regret is that I didn’t bring binoculars!

Tiyul to the Negev

This post is a bit belated, but two weeks ago I spent three days in the Negev on a Pardes tiyul (trip).

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Southern Israel is essentially completely composed of desert. This area, called the Negev (lit. meaning ‘south’ in Biblical Hebrew and from the word nigev, meaning dry), comprises more than half of Israel’s land. In addition the Negev, Israel also has a second, much smaller desert called the Judean desert. The Judean desert lies east of Jerusalem and descends south towards the Dead Sea.

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The focus of the tiyul was hiking (the Negev is known for hiking), and we did our first trail in an area called Nahal Peres. Nahal means river in Hebrew, and the term refers to the common geological feature in the Negev of a canal created by a former river. In the present day, a nahal may fill a few times a year after heavy rainfall and flashfloods but most of the year it lies dry. Nahal Peres is located in the north-eastern part of the Negev. We hiked for about five hours, and the terrain was relatively easy with some scrambling. The views along the hike were gorgeous; we saw gorges, locations of former waterfalls, and water cisterns that filled with water from floods.

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After a long day hiking, the group went to the inn where we were staying for the week, Shvilim Bamidbar – Hatzeva. The inn was similar to a lodge with several smaller rooms surrounding a central communal area. The communal area included lots of seating, cushions, and recreation tables. Shvilim Bamidbar also has a kitchen and serves breakfast and dinner each day (they also provided food for us to pack lunches with in the morning).

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On the second day, we did a more technical hike through another nahal, following the steps of the Palmach (Israel’s defense forces before the creation of the state). The Palmach used the Negev for training and strategic advantage over the British, and the present-day Israeli military has continued to utilize the Negev for their purposes as well.

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Along the hike, Noah took the lead in charging up some sand dunes:

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Eventually the steps of the Palmach led us to the end of the nahal with only steep ledges on all sides.

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Historically, a group of Palmach fighters did find themselves stuck here, being pursued by the British. They scaled the walls of the valley at great peril and survived. Now, the area is call Ma’ale Palmach (ascent of the Palmach), and ladders and horseshoe holds have been added along the ascent to help hikers. Nonetheless, it’s still a pretty scary climb up!

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On our third and final day, we stopped by the site of the Biblical city of Beersheba whose archaeological ruins are a few kilometers east of modern day Beersheba. According to the Torah, Abraham and Isaac dug the wells here. Based on archaeological evidence, Beersheba is believed to be the first planned city in the region – including a grid system of pathways and an elaborate water system.

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This tiyul was a lot of fun, and hiking in the Negev was unlike any other trip I’ve done. The terrain is so unique, and witnessing the barrenness of the Negev firsthand makes it impossible not to marvel at the Israeli efforts (and success!) of “making the desert bloom.”

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Hydra: exploring

On Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to greet our first full day in Hydra! Arriving after dark the night before, we were eager to see what the town looked like in the daylight and enjoy some of the beautiful views we read were so ubiquitous on the island.

Before heading out, we fueled up on the amazing breakfast offered by Mistral Hotel. The breakfast is included for all guests and was home-cooked and served each morning. Breakfast was served in the outdoor courtyard, and we received quite a spread.

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As soon, as we were seated we were brought small glasses of pea soup, shortly followed by bread, fruit, coffee, juice, cereal, breakfast pudding, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes/cheese, sweet bread, a noodle/cheese bake, and cheese sandwiches:

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WOW! We did not come anywhere close to finishing all the food. Once fully sated, we headed out to get a better look around Hydra:

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No cars are allowed on Hydra, so everything is very close and walkable. The walkways are primarily cobblestone and the houses are almost all white stucco with ceramic roof tiles:

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Because cars aren’t allowed, mules and donkeys are used to transport supplies, and we saw lots of food loaded onto flat crates and placed on wheels for transport:

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The town center is the port where there seemed to be a constant flow of business and pleasure boats and ferries, and the dock was lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes:

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The water was amazingly clear:

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After checking out the town center and marveling at how adorable the island was, we got started on our primary activity for the day: a hike up Mt. Eros. Before the trip, Noah looked up some information about hiking during the vacation, and we thought this would be the perfect activity to fill a day on an island. The information Noah found said that hiking Mt. Eros would lead to a gorgeous view of all of Hydra (and more!). The trail would also bring us past two monasteries.

Excited and sunscreened…ready to make the climb:

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The first part of the hike was through cobblestoned neighborhoods, but after awhile it transitioned to forested and rocky trails:

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Higher and higher…

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After about two hours of climbing, we finally reached the top.

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Holy cow – the views were AMAZING!

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There was even a bell at the top to ring. 🙂

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Other Greece posts

Getting There
Hydra: arrival and Mistral Hotel