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Testing out that new knee all over the world

I am so proud of my wife. For most of our married life she has loved to be outdoors, working in her flower beds, hiking mountain trails during our ranger summers at Crater Lake, or out on the narrow, high-elevation trails on the Everest Trail in Nepal.

But as Linda approached her early 70s, pain and arthritis began to rack her body. She groaned when she rose from tending her flowers around our Jacksonville home or when hauling the washed laundry up the basement stairs.

With her right knee being the most painful, it was time to visit a knee specialist, Dr. Clevenger at Southern Oregon Orthopedics. He recommended a total knee replacement. After several months of physical therapy, Linda made a full recovery and began planning our next hiking trips. April and May 2019 were spent in Greece and Israel. We spent 9 days hiking the volcanoes on the Aegean island of Santorini.

The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history — 3,600 years ago. We were able to visit Minoan ruins that have just recently been uncovered. We also climbed volcanoes that formed as late as 1950. The island is a powerful study of volcanic contrasts. All together we hiked about 50 miles, with Linda’s new knee holding up very well.

Then it was off to Israel. After an overnight flight, a train and a bus ride, we found ourselves in the ancient city of Nazareth, the home village of Jesus. Today the city is tending toward the modern, but a few of the ancient, twisted cobblestone streets and dwellings still remain.

Linda had lined up an exciting 7–day hike on the Jesus Trail that runs from Nazareth to Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. Our plan was to hike from 5 to 7 miles each day, stay in trailside inns, with a taxi hauling our bags to the next inn. We wanted to take our time to enjoy the ancient sites and national parks along the way.

It was late spring, so Israel was heating up. The spring rains had been plenty in April, so the weeds were at times above our heads. The trail is not maintained like U.S. trails, so we had to fight our way through heavy brambles and vegetation as we searched for the large orange dots painted on rocks every 100 feet or so that indicated we were heading down the right cow path.

Starting out, we shared the trail with several groups of people, but most were through hikers, so trail usage soon thinned out as they forged ahead. Hiking north, there were two days where we did not encounter anyone, other than cows.

Northern Israel is mountainous, green and historic. The whole place could be a national park, but the people have to live somewhere. It was interesting to see trailside plaques here and there saying things like, “In the year 555 BC, 16,000 people died here in a giant battle that changed the course of history,” and to see the historic sites now occupied by herds of cows.

The elevation along the trail climbs a couple of thousand feet in places, and then dips to nearly 1,000 feet below sea level. Finally, coming down off the Cliffs of Arbel, we spotted our destination hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee after seven days of hiking. We had successfully reached the end of our sojourn.

100 miles of hiking in two countries! You give a lady a new knee and she will want to use it.

Larry Smith lives in Jacksonville.


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