I had a conversation recently about what motivates me to hike, beyond the enjoyment of “being in nature,” which feels cliche. Without really having to think about it, I shared that my motivation has much to do with the desire to get lost, to be lost, to stay lost. Maybe it’s inspired by the books I read as a child and young girl – The Secret Garden, Call it Courage, The Boxcar Children, Where the Red Fern Grows, Island of the Blue Dolphins, just to name a few – that provoked a sense of adventure and survival that has stuck with me all these years. The thrill of being as close to the wild without the safety of a windscreen or brick wall between me and the moss on the trees is exhilarating and does something inexplicable to my psyche. I spent a lot of time on my bike between the ages of 7 and 9 purposefully trying to get lost when we lived on Guam (more on that in another post some day) for that very reason. I longed for some grand adventure, to find an ancient or haunted artifact in an attic, an abandoned cabin in the woods that I could turn into my own hideout. But living in military housing doesn’t lend itself to much adventure
I started hiking when I was in elementary school. My parents would plan short (4 mile) loop hikes on a mountain peak somewhere. My first memory of hiking is on the Aiea Loop Trail on O’ahu where I grew up. It wasn’t at all exciting or anything like the wilderness adventures I read about in books. It was boring and brown with no scenic stops, no big reward at the end. It wasn’t the type of hike that would normally inspire a new hiker to continue. I wanted more.
In the 8th grade, on a whim, I joined the hiking club at my school. At the time, it was outside my comfort zone and I thought it would be like the BSA and Sierra Club advertisements I saw in magazines – camping, backwoodsy overnights, survival and conservation. It was not. It was more hiking in the mountains. One particular hike I believe was at Waimano Falls. My mom calls it the hike from Hell because it was muddy, we encountered a small group of drug runners/growers, I fell and ended up with a bad infection a couple of days later after I cut my arm deeply on a thorny vine when I fell, and we were poorly prepared for the terrain. But it fed that need for wilderness excitement that I had been searching for. And I was hooked. I joined the club on many more hikes, including one heart-pounding prop-plane trip to Moloka’i that ended up being a bust after the truck we were using to get up to Kamakou got stuck in the mud.
There were also trips to the Pali, including the trail behind it, at the end of the Old Highway Road. It was one of my favorite places to go, and I have fond memories of exploring the hala groves with my dad. I also returned to this trail when I was older and ended up getting caught alone in a rainstorm. I had nothing with me except my car keys and a camera. I still hadn’t learned about being prepared when off on my adventures.
Other early hikes growing up included Waimea Falls, Kahana Valley, the popular Le’ahi, the tragic Sacred Falls, and the world famous Stairway to Heaven/Haiku Stairs, which I won’t link to because it has become a controversial location due to its extreme popularity with tourists who don’t respect the local laws.
I’m sad to say that back in the time when I was beginning to explore my home island and develop a love for hiking, I barely scratched the surface of the many, many beautiful hikes I could have been doing back then. I also went out very poorly prepared, often wearing the same sneakers I used for P.E. at school, nothing but a tank top and shorts, and maybe a camera. This was before everyone had a cell phone, and usually I hiked alone (as I continue to do still). I’ve come far from those days, but I’m grateful for the beauty that kept me adventuring and exploring and searching for more lost times…
More to come in my next post.