The blazing noon sun beat down on us as we ascended the daunting Snake Path slithering up the side of Masada. After hiking a third of the way up the exhausting trail, we spotted a covered picnic table and sat down under its shade for a water break. I took off my ball cap and let the wind whip through my sticky hair and cool my damp forehead.
The view before me was captivating. The remains of a Roman garrison marked the desert below. The Dead Sea, which looked more like a river, lined the horizon before me, and the Jordanian hills loomed in the distance. To my right were the sulphuric remains of the destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. After catching our breath, we tore ourselves away from the view and continued our trek.
We weren’t the only hikers on the trail that day. People from all over the world–Germany, England, and France– traversed the infamous Snake Path with us. Some of the passersby spoke English, enabling Dad to strike up a conversation with them.
Near the end, the trail changed from an inclined path to full-fledged steps. My legs were burning from fatigue and my clothes were sticking to my perspiring body. We indulged in a short break, took a few sips of water, and continued prodding up the dusty steps terracing the side of Masada. We could see the end, yet the stairs kept winding in a seemingly endless zigzag.
Finally, we staggered over the last step and collapsed onto benches under a pavillion. The top of Masada hummed with activity. Tour groups paraded the historic plateau, viewing the ancient storage rooms, cisterns, and baths. A noisy band played Israeli folk music nearby.
Since Dad and I had toured Masada on a previous trip, we were soon ready to leave. Dad proposed that we ride the cable cars down to the visitor center. I balked, “If we hiked up, we are going to hike back down!” Dad reluctantly consented, and we began our descent.
I practically flew down the sloping path. Since there were no railings along most of the trail, I attempted to slow myself to a sensible pace. We had made it back to the start of the trail in about a third of the time it had taken us to hike up. Exhausted, we covered the short distance to the visitor center, anticipating the delightful greeting of air conditioning.
Revised: August 2013