Dead Reckoning to the Horns

I put my nose on the sun.

The pavers of the Roman road scatter and disappear but the ridge continues. Cultivated fields drape like panniers from either side of it. I cut through these, occasionally hopping a fence row. I am certain that at some point I will rejoin the “Jesus Trail.”

It doesn’t happen. I consult the map.

The carob tree is at home in Lower Galilee.

The day is still young, so the sun is an effective compass. If I keep my nose to it, I tell myself, I should flank the religious collective known as Kibbutz Lavi on the right. After that, I should eventually catch sight of the familiar outline of an ancient volcano. The twin peaks of the “Horns of Hattin,” or Qarnei Hittim, rise above the hills of Lower Galilee. The seismic activity that created this blow hole is also responsible for the basalt that peppers the fields. Given the distinctive shape of its horns, the mount should be hard to miss. It should be.

Google Earth offers a bird’s eye view of many features in the region. The Roman road described here is found just northeast of the Golani Junction (inside yellow circle). I dead reckon my way from there toward the Horns of Hattin (inside red circle).

I abandon the ridge to follow a tractor trace. Beyond the wheel lines is a wire fence and behind the fence, cattle. They are undoubtedly the property of the kibbutz. I welcome their company and offer up a greeting in bovine-speak: “Moooo!” “ahh-Moooooh!” They look up, dull-eyed, apparently uninterested in an intelligent conversation.

The road turns north and I grow concerned. This is not the direction I want to go. I stop again and tug at the straps on my pack. The alternative is to climb the fence and cross the pasture where the cattle graze. Images of Bugs Bunny running from the horns ofToro replay in my head. It is irrational, but I decide against cutting through the herd. I go north instead. After a few more zigs and zags the trace peters out entirely. It is merely a farm track used to access an isolated field.

I believe this is the funniest Bugs Bunny cartoon ever. Maybe even the best cartoon ever! From “Bully for Bugs” (Warner Brothers, 1952).

Now I am concerned. I know where I am, more or less, but without compass or GPS, I cannot locate myself precisely. There are no painted blazes anywhere, and, for that matter, no roads or paths visible beyond the field. I consider going back. I have evidently missed a cue somewhere (“shoulda made a left toin at Albuqoique?”). Still, I look at the morning sun and remain confident of my direction. I decide to continue. I push through the field and find myself in tall grasses, thistles, and shrubs. Some are as tall as I am. I find a stick and use it as a bushwacker. It might also come in handy, I imagine, if I meet up with a ornery snake.

It is tough sledding. I push through the weeds of a small valley for at least a half an hour. Gentle ridges rise on either side. There is no reason to be concerned, I tell myself. The region is too small to get lost. Besides, I am confident that the silhouette of the Horns of Hattin will rise on the horizon at any moment. I just need to get out of the valley bottom and up onto an elevated shoulder where I can see.

The rolling landscape of Lower Galilee.

The horns do not appear, but I am relieved when I catch sight of another dirt road curling to my right. I angle toward it. I cross a creek and clear one more wire fence. I am found!  Ahead is a gate, signs, and some small picnic shelters.

It proves to be a national park entrance. I spot the familiar blazes of the “Jesus Trail.” I celebrate with a brief rest, some water, and yet another Clif Bar.

The marked path now begins a gradual climb to a saddle. I follow it to the top. There, at last, the “Horns of Hattin” appear. Following in the footsteps of the Crusaders on that fateful July in 1187, I make my way toward this blasted beacon.

The Horns of Hattin loom on the horizon.