Trekking in the Negev Desert

Back in April, I was blessed to organize and lead a trip to the beautiful country of Israel to go on a multi-day trek across the Negev Desert with a youth group.

Seffi leads the charge.

Seffi leads the charge.

Led by our guide, Seffi, we trekked across poritions of the Spice Route, one of the main trade routes of the ancient world that connected the Roman Empire with Asia. It crossed the Arabian and the Negev deserts through Petra, the Nabatean capital and continued to Gaza port on the Mediterranean shore. The Spice Route derives its name from the exotic spices like Frankenscene and Myrrh, that were traded there by the Nabateans. The Nabateans, the Desert Masters, ruled the entire region for about 1000 years. They built along the Spice Route service stations to the caravans, inns, water storage facilities, forts and a complete road system.

Seffi gives us a brief history lesson.

Seffi gives us a brief history lesson.

Seffi, a man of the desert, knew the terrain forwards and backwards and provided us a wealth of information ranging from the topography, to its historical roots and educated us on the plant and animal life. We Americans weren’t used to seeing free-range camels and were in total awe, but to Seffi, it was just another day at the office.

At times, the trail was pretty steep.

At times, the trail was pretty steep.

During our four days of camping in the desert, we only utilized shelter the first night where we stayed in a bedouin camp. The remainder of our time out there, we literally slept under the stars in nothing more than our sleeping bags. My Marmot Pinnacle 15 down sleeping bag served me well as the nights were fairly cool. I was very accustomed to camping, but before this trip I had never slept out in the open, only in a tent. It was quite an experience.

Campfire tales.

Campfire tales.

When camping under the stars, you don't miss men on camels passing under the moon.

When camping under the stars, you don’t miss men on camels passing under the moon.

These photos are from the second through fourth days at camp. I didn’t take any pics on the first day at the bedouin camp at their request.

Seffi knew how to keep the camels calm.

Seffi knew how to keep the camels calm.

We hiked down to a swimming hole that was popular with the locals.

We hiked down to a swimming hole that was popular with the locals.

A man sitting between the rocks meditating.

A man sitting between the rocks meditating.

We stopped to get water from a well and were joined by a herd of camels that had the same idea.

We stopped to get water from a well and were joined by a herd of camels that had the same idea.

Some of the ruins we explored on the way back.

Some of the ruins we explored on the way back.

The Art of Doing

I’m a dreamer and I like to encourage others to dream. Dreaming is good. Well, it’s good until you get so caught up in dreaming that it begins to take the place of actually DOING something. What I mean by DOING is putting forth the physical effort necessary to see to it that what worked out so perfectly in your dream will come to fruition.

There are a lot of things floating around on the canvas of my mind, ranging from things I know I need to do, to things I really want to do, to things I’ve started but haven’t finished. For instance, I went on a desert trek in Israel a couple of months ago, volunteered at a youth camp, and toured the Holy Land. I took lots of pictures and recorded videos of the trek and the tour, but haven’t touched any of it. I know it’s going to make a great episode, or series of episodes (I haven’t decided) for the web series…

…if I could just bring myself to do it.

So what’s the holdup?

Well…I also have a ton of video footage to edit from a weekend adventure in the Anza-Borrego Desert here in California. I went there the week after I returned from Israel and had a blast. We caravanned on dirt roads while hanging out of the sunroof of an SUV, explored some really cool slot canyons, went spelunking in mud caves where it was pitch dark, and witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I had ever seen from the top of a peak above some other freaking amazing slot canyons. This would make a really awesome episode as well…

…if I could just put some action to all of that dreaming.

I also have an upcoming trip this weekend to a breathtaking lake in the Sierras where I’ll be filming another episode of the web series. I’ve got to write a script to break it up into segments like a show because I want this one done right. I’m organizing and leading a group for this hike, so I need to get a lot of things coordinated and I have a limited amount of time to do it.

And I still have the Israel trip and Anza-Borrego unfinished. I also have to do laundry and pack for the upcoming trip. I need to go to REI and pick up some last-minute camping stuff. I need to make sure I remember to pack all my winter clothing to sleep in because it’s going to be in the 30’s at night and I just can’t go out there and freeze. I need to be sure to provide my group with all the information they need regarding this weekend’s trip.

Yet I still need to do those episodes that are waiting in the wings. See what procrastination does? It makes us look busy, like we have so much on our plate, when all we need is proper planning. A good, well though-out schedule will surely solve my problem with ease. But then there’s the issue of keeping up with the schedule. The act of DOING.

Perhaps I should call it the ART of doing. After all, it takes great skill to successfully balance multiple tasks and see them through to completion.

The antidote for procrastination is accountability. Now that I’ve opened up about these things, I’m obligated to fulfill my role of the artist, so to speak, and see these dreams materialize.

I wonder what sort of a tale I will find myself in while taking on this mountain?

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 9)

After I shared my story with Lynn, she suggested that I do something that had already been revealed to me through prayer. She suggested that I find some stones and let those stones represent things that I wanted to leave behind once and for all, and leave them at the top of Half Dome to serve as a memorial.

Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:4-7 (New King James Version)

Just a few weeks before I left for Yosemite, I opened up the flap on a messenger bag that I rarely used. I noticed the flap was a bit heavy and that something solid was weighing it down. There was a zipper pocket on the outside of the flap, which could be used for pens, pencils, etc. I opened the zipper to see what was inside and that’s when I discovered the rock I had found more than a decade ago in my parents’ driveway.

I was shocked to see that I still had that rock and that I was completely unaware of having carried it around for so long. I knew that the rock would be the perfect memorial because, like the comment spoken by my classmate, that rock was something that I had held onto that weighed something down. It was time for me to get rid of that rock and evict that poisonous comment out of my heart and mind once and for all.