Thursday, April 29, 2010

Those hikers on the evening news

Since we have been home from our honeymoon on Kauai people ask us how our trip was and if we have time and we gauge them as a receptive audience, well then we tell them about The Hike.
Our first day in Kauai it rained, so we spent much of the day at the Love Shack which was perfect because hey, we're newlyweds and also we were tired from our trip. The next day we were ready to be outside, but the weather still wasn't great. So Tony suggested a hike of the Na Pali Coast, which everyone said we had to do.

We'd hike two miles to the beach, have lunch and decide whether to continue to the waterfall another two miles away. The hike to the beach, the guide book said, was strenuous. To the falls: "treacherous."

Guess what we decided to do?

Let me just say here that I am not a wimpy hiker. I've done 20-milers through the desert and Sierra, and lugged a machete and plastic bag full of Coca Cola through the Amazon.

So I was ready to knock out eight miles in Hawaii. See?

As I mentioned, it had been raining. Which made the trail a little muddy.

Tony carried a big walking stick because a woman called Deborah from Detroit whom he met in the parking lot told him to. I told him the stick wouldn't help him in the mud and stayed about ten paces behind because whenever he'd slip, he threw his arms into the air, along with the stick.

But the stick wasn't much help. Was it?

So we slipped and slid up and down the trail and at one point I felt as though I was cross-country skiing. Also, it was very windy. See how windy? (You might also notice the red ties on the root. The State of Hawaii marks the trail with red ties. Here the red ties tell us not to walk off the cliff. Some red ties would have been very helpful later in our story.)

It took us two hours to slide to the beach, where we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watched this little guy and his twin approach us for scraps.

The sun was coming out and our bellies were full of peanut butter. Anything was possible! So off we went to the falls.

There was bamboo.

And very slippery rocks.

The trail crossed the river several times. I fell in. As did my new Nikon D-SLR.

But two hours after leaving the beach, we were at the falls. The spray took my breath away as I snapped photos of Tony swimming in the pool.

We were very happy. Invigorated! In love. And my expensive camera was still working! All was right with the world.

And that is the last picture of the hike. Because on the way back, no one was thinking about taking pictures.

For the first 20 minutes of our return trip, we heartily greeted each passer-by, Tony saying "Only a quarter-mile now. It's totally worth it!"

Remember those red ties? Well when it's time to the cross the river, there is a red tie that tells you so. But it's not necessarily in your field of vision. It could be hanging off a branch in the middle of the river and you just walk right on by, following the trail worn into the brush by so many hikers before you who made the same foolish mistake.

After a while, we stopped. I don't remember any of this, I said. Me neither, he said.

But we were tired, and I had just walked into a low-hanging branch and bit my lip. My legs were starting to shake like they did in college when the mean rowing coach made us run stadium stairs for an hour. "The Hour of Power," it was called. Anyway, we pressed on. We could still see the river, so we knew we were heading in the right direction.

Soon, the brush grew heavier. A man overtook us and my spirits lifted. We followed him, but he was too fast and I cursed him as he disappeared ahead.

Should we turn around? I asked. Tony shrugged, and we pressed on.

Much to my relief, five hikers caught up to us. We told them we lost the trail.

They were stone faced. The group was a married couple and their teenage daughter, and a couple in their early 20s. We forged on together as a group, the leaders warning the followers of slippery rocks and deep brush where the ground was obscured. We were in it together, by God!

But I could feel it splintering. I stopped.

"I don't want to be those hikers on the evening news," I said.

The young man looked at me, wide-eyed. "Me neither!"

He called to his girlfriend: "Let's turn back!"

"It's too late!" she returned. He turned to me.

"I think we should go back."

I thought about leaving with him while eyeing Tony up ahead, who called back to us that he could see the beach. We only needed to keep following the river. The look on his face implored me to trust him. Just like he had when he held out his hand earlier, telling me to take hold, to trust him, and I grasped it and fell into the river - with the Nikon.

He came back to me. We decided as a group to go from rock to rock, slowly making our way back to the beach.

I turned to Tony. This wasn't good.

Let me just say here that I am not one to panic. I am cool in a crisis. Give me a seizure, choking, earthquake, massive brush fire. I've been through them all and I kept my wits about me.

"We're fucked."

He said nothing.

"This is going to end badly."

He swallowed hard. I could see him rising to the occasion. He was going to get us out of here!

A moment later one leg was in a hole and I was pulling at ferns to get out. I could feel the skin peel away from my shoulder as I found my footing and Tony hoisted me up.

I looked to the sky for signs of sightseeing helicopters. Thought about how much water we had. Cursed that man again for leaving us. And of course thought about this. (How can you not while "Lost" in the jungle in Hawaii?)

We were in the river now, reaching from one large boulder to the next, the water rushing past waist-high. Tony was leading the way, testing the water's depth and finding rocks strewn close together. The father pointed to a mossy bank of rocks. Too slippery, Tony said. Someone might fall and hit their head.

Minutes later, the teenager spotted a clearing over the river. The trail! We scrambled up over roots and rocks and sure enough, there was the bamboo!

We cheered! We hugged!

And once again we were passing people headed in the opposite direction to the falls. Except now, all Tony said was hello.

He also said, "Honey, tomorrow how about you decide what we should do?"

Me resting at the Hyatt with three of my 16 bug bites.


  1. Love it! You will be telling that story at your 30th wedding anniversary! And doesn't every married couple need some sort of treachery to jumpstart the marriage? :-)

  2. Loved this post! What a hike. Thank God Locke/the black smoke didn't snuff you all out. :)

    I'm one of Tony's friends from Detroit (my husband and I worked with Tony at The Detroit News) and I'm so glad I found your blog. I love it. Congratulations on the nuptials!


  3. Oh Liz, I'm so glad there was a happy ending; I was getting worried there. Glad you got to pick the next day's activity!