The last night of our whirlwind trip was spent in Ein Gedi at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel. It was probably the first lodging founded on the Dead Sea... and hasn't been updated since as evidenced by the corrugated tin roofs on the buildings and old rusted out appliances in yards driving into the Kibbutz. The hotel rooms were "cozy", reminiscent of sleep away camp, a place frequented by Teva wearing, white haired, hairy legged, backpack hostelers. While the hotel couldn't be any more bare bones, I really enjoyed it. It brought back great memories of my first trip to Israel.

We spent little time at the hotel; just enough for dinner, a little shut eye, and breakfast the next morning. After check out, we drove south about 20 minutes to Masada National Park to hike up Masada. For those of you who aren't familiar with Masada, it was a fortress built by King Herod of Judea. It was the last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters against the Romans; its fall signaled the violent destruction of the kingdom of Judea at the end of the Second Temple period.

There are two ways to get up to the top of Masada; you can take the tram or hike. My mom chose to take the tram, and my dad, Matt, Riley, Sheridan, and I hiked up. There are about 700 steps along the 2 km of winding path. The difference in the altitude between the bottom of the path and the top is 350 meters, which means that when you reach the top of Masada, you are AT sea level. The sign at the bottom states that it takes approx. 45 minutes to ascend the snake path to the top. I can tell you that it takes much longer than that, especially if you have a whining 4 year old toddler and a 30 lb. baby in a backpack with you.

Matt, my dad, and Riley walked together, while I tagged behind carrying Sheridan in the Kelty backpack up the mountain. The original plan was for me to start with Sheridan on my back, and then Matt would take her about half-way up. However, I got a bug up my tush and had to prove that I could carry her the entire way up - and that I did. It took us 1 hour 18 minutes to climb to the top. After a few minor meltdowns at the beginning, Riley did an amazing job of walking up the path. My dad was able to combat her whining by rewarding her every few hundred feet with small treats. At the very end of the climb she pooped out and my dad carried her on his shoulders the rest of the way up.

We met my mom at the top and took a tour around. We saw what used to be great buildings; the Western and Northern Palaces, bathhouse, water cistern, beautiful observation points. To the girls, everything looked like large rocks to climb and lots of ways to get hurt and annoy mom. We spent about an hour walking around, taking photos, and looking at the beautiful views of the Dead Sea. Then my mom, Sheridan, Riley, and I took the tram down to the bottom, while Matt and my dad walked/ran back down the snake path.

We got back into the car around 2pm and after feeding the girls a small meal of peanut butter and crackers, we drove back home. We arrived around 5pm, and ordered in Pizza. It was a fun weekend, but whew, we were thrilled to be home.

Here are photos from our hike.

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