In the spirit of needing more action and adventure in my blog, this week I will relay a recent incident in which I narrowly escaped death and then again defied the same death at the hands of The Queen Mother as a result of participating in the previously stated escape from said death.
So I’m hiking along this trail in the mountains just north of Honolulu…If you have ever been to Honolulu, you know what it’s like to have to get out of Honolulu and its innumerable tourists, oriental cuisine combined with Spam, and Don Ho wannabes. I often do just that, heading out on the highway and looking for adventure by climbing around the Mauka Trail System and its fascinating array of whimsical ecosystems. One good hike takes you from the backyards of Japanese immigrants to piney woodlands to rainy jungles to huge bamboo forests that are utterly awesome because they can really creep you out on a windy day with all their clacking and smacking and raucous bamboo clacky-smackiness.
How I usually get up there is to take the bus up Manoa Road to Manoa Falls at the head of the aptly named Manoa Valley. The falls are nice, but just a warm-up to the spectacularness of spectacles one sees if one turns left at the falls to lumber up the very challenging Aihualama Trial, which is only properly pronounced if your tongue is stuck to a flagpole. About a quarter mile will find you in a great bamboo forest. I always pick up a good walking stick here because it will eventually save your life as you continue on the trail (it is not a matter of if you fall down, but when). Another quarter mile and you will be at the largest banyan tree I have ever seen with no homeless people living in it, which is very cool, and et cetera and so on as I hike the numerous vowel-laden trails back downtown to my hotel and partake in a nice Epsom foot bath.
Unfortunately, some might advance the true rumor that the Aihualama Trail has been closed to the public for some time now. Pshhht. This of course does not apply to swashbuckling adventurers like myself, as I have hiked it numerous times when it was open. How different can it be when it’s closed? Sure, the human footprints are outnumbered by those of feral pigs, but still…
So I’m hiking along this trail in the mountains just north of Honolulu…when I come around a bend and I suddenly sense that something is missing. Something like…the mountain trail. And…the mountain. The entire hillside and its Jurassic Park vegetation is gone, broken off and fallen away in a mudslide, and not the vodka, Irish cream kind either. It’s just gone. Like stimulus money or Whoopi Goldberg’s eyebrows. All that remains is a sheer cliff face of brown dirt and I am about half-way up, roughly 800 feet from the pile of debris at the valley floor. Looks like I need to turn back. But wait!
I can see the trail continuing on the other side! And in between, a discernible path where before me, other stupid people had apparently trod. Or at least a significant number of equally intelligent feral pigs.
I finally found a use for that lame high-school speech class, for I immersed myself in debate: It couldn’t be more than 200 feet across, I said. On the other hand, grisly death. And continuing would save me from having to cover the same ground that I had just hiked, which goes against all things OCD. But then again…death. If I turned back I would have to agonizingly wait for the bus or worse, walk through town to get back to my hotel—which is apparently a fate worse than falling to one’s death, for I elected to continue.
After looking to the bottom one last time and taking the lack of any bones licked clean by ants as a good sign, I took a swig of water and ventured forward, vowing to not look down again—or up for that matter, as it was not more comforting. Concentrating on the trail(?), I found that it was rather prosaic until about halfway when it narrowed by a third, then another few paces and another third. About the time I decided to turn back, I realized that I hadn’t the room to turn around. A third of the way to go. Hmmm.
My heart rate went up and my body got tighter. My bowels had apparently stretched first because they were good and loose. I began slowly shuffling along, testing each step with my trusty bamboo stick, whom I had in a fit of panicked creativity named Wilson. A few more shuffles and I realized that I would need both hands to survive, so I swung my water bottle and tossed it the remaining 30 feet or so to the beckoning trail that was just sitting there taunting me with its wide, smug, level flatness. Stupid trail.
Test, shuffle. Test, shuffle. C’mon Wilson. Don’t let me down. Literally.
I let my mind wander to relieve the stress. This would be a great time for a Facebook selfie, I thought. I would do it too, if I didn’t need this other hand to hug the mountain. I love you mountain. Wait! Selfie! I have my phone with me! I could call for help if I fell! I wonder if I could reach it with my left ankle behind my right ear and my torso turned 127 degrees. What if they couldn’t straighten me out and I’m shaped like a pretzel the rest of my life? Do you suppose I could make a living endorsing Rold Gold? How much does a chopper airlift cost?
What’s this? A large branch sticking out of the dirt blocking my path just feet short of my destination? I failed to notice this interesting little obstacle when I started. I nudged it with Wilson and it seemed sturdy. In fact it had leaves growing on it, indicating life and more importantly, roots. I gave it a tug and it held fast. I grabbed it and swung a leg over, hugging it. I love you branch.
I swung my other leg over and that’s when it happened:
I dropped Wilson.
“Wilson!” The sound was horrifying as his little hollow bamboo body bounced and tumbled and resonated down the deadly slope for what seemed an eternity. I clutched at the branch and screamed: “Wiiiillllsooooooon!!!” My echoes caused thousands of jungle birds to rise from the trees in a deafening flap.
Okay, that didn’t happen, but it would have made for some really sweet tear-jerking drama to end the story. They should put that in a movie sometime. Actually, both I and Wilson made it over the branch and shuffled the remaining few feet to relative safety. Until The Queen Mother found out.
She is surprisingly strong.
Do you suppose I could make a living endorsing Rold Gold?