I’ve heard many times that life is a journey and it’s not all about the journey, but the destination. I see much truth in this. However, I believe life, the human experience, is more of an adventure. The moment we are born our adventure begins. We go on journeys during our great adventure. A journey has to do with traveling from one place to another, but an adventure has to do with excitement and at times, possibly taking risks.
This past holiday weekend, I went on a big adventure. A few co-workers had invited me to go backpacking and camping here on the Big Island. I have little to no hiking and camping experience, but I gave a whole-hearted yes to the invitation. Maybe it was due to going without sugar a full 48 hours and completing a cardio workout that boosted my confidence, but I figured I was up to the challenge. I mean, how tough could it be? I owned zero camping and hiking equipment. My friends helped me choose items I would need for the adventure as I prepared mentally and physically for the trip. As the day approached, I grew a little hesitant as the three others going on this trip are all athletes and I fall into the fit-ish category. I like to work-out to stay healthy and follow a pretty good diet. But, I also enjoy my wine, cupcakes, and Netflix over workouts.
The day was here, and I had all my gear packed into my new backpack and was feeling confident I could haul an approximately 30-pound pack on my back into unknown territory. This big adventure would start at the beautiful Waipi’o Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii. Waipi’o is the “Valley of the Kings.” Meaning curved water in the Hawaiian language, (big). Two out of the four of us would get a ride down the very steep and winding road (an astonishing 25% average grade) into the Valley while the other two would park the car at a different location and walk down. We heard there were torrential rains the night before and our first water crossing showed signs of just that. It was slightly dramatic not to mention a semi-comical beginning just crossing the water to get to the other side to begin the hike. Half soaked, but safe, we finally began the long hike.
From Waipi’o Valley, we went up the Z-Trail as we zigzagged back and forth, crossing streams and hoping over ridges. Just a few miles in I was seriously questioning my ability to do this. What was I thinking?! I was barely keeping up with my friends and this was clearly not the nice, smooth state park trails I was used to. Let alone never backpacking before trying to navigate the rough terrain with 30+ pounds on my back. Onward and upward we went and by the time I managed to get to the top, I knew there’s no way to turn back. Despite the occasional helicopter pads along the way, there were no, “I don’t think I can do this hike” rescue missions. My friends patiently waited for me to catch up and continued to encourage me along the way. We still had several miles to go before we would be in Waimanu Valley. We would continue to trek (and God bless the inventor of trekking poles) through gorges, streams, over muddy paths, hills, and very rocky cliff sides.
There were points where the path was just a bit wider than hip width with a steep drop off on the side. At other moments I would look far ahead at the path and it just looked impossible to climb! There was really only one option for me to do. I had to simply keep my head down and focus on my next step. I wasn’t able to move forward without cautiously and carefully planning my next step. At times there was no room for a slip or misstep. After several miles in I was aware my feet and leg muscles hurt, but my attention was on my next step that I wasn’t feeling the pain. I was never more grateful than I was that day for all those years of doing Jillian Michael’s workout videos. Thanks to these workouts and yoga, I had the upper body strengths to help pull the weight from my legs. Not to mention hearing Jillian’s voice in my head telling me, not to listen to the BS in my mind, that I am strong, I can do this, and I’ve got this!
At our last break stop-point before the final descent into Waimanu Valley, we reached a sign that said we were only .9 miles away. Oh, the joy that filled my heart. I was almost there! I’m thankful I did not know what lies ahead. Almost immediately I noticed that the terrain was getting steeper and rougher, not to mention in a few places even narrower! My legs started to turn into Jell-O and this was not the time for my feet to fail me. We all began the slow way down navigating the final mile. This was not for the faint at heart, but I had planned on fainting as soon as I got to my campsite. More than ever, I mentally assured myself that within the hour I would be at camp. Good thing that I did not know that the trail was actually 1.4 miles and it would take about an hour and a half to hike the 1.4 miles.
After one slow step down after another, and channeling Jillian, we finally arrived at the campsite with one last water to cross. Then, it was a short trek to the last campsite, down by the beach. The view down in the valley was amazing with the incredible spot right by the ocean. I did it.
For the first time in years, I was totally off-grid. There was no Wi-Fi or modern accommodations. The only others down there were the other few backpackers. I now understood why this is one of the best spots in the world. To boot, we had the most perfect weather, clear skies, and we all sat on the beach to watch the super/blood moon eclipse. I’ve never had such an amazing experience with the night sky.
This incredible adventure made me reflect on our birth to death experience as more than just a journey. Sure, life is a journey, but it’s about all the journeys we take within our life adventure. Just like our life, although, I prepared for this big hike, I did not know exactly what it would be like. I couldn’t see what was around the next corner or just how much longer it would take. Some parts were very difficult and others easy, and most of them had amazing scenery. I know I am very blessed to be able to live in a part of the world where I can experience such beauty. But, even above this journey, the scenery, the most perfect weather, and the holiday break are the people I get to go on journeys with. When it all comes down to who sparks our soul, challenges our limits, and supports and looks out for us, it’s the people who surround us that we call friends and family that make all the difference in who we are and where we go. So, on the journey from Waipi’o Valley to Waimanu and then, back again, I came home with a renewed spirit that only nature can give you, a deeper appreciation for my friends, two fewer toenails from hiking, feeling new muscles I’m sure I’ve never used before in my life and a wonderful feeling of an accomplishment. These people are the ones who make our life-long adventure worth the climb to share the view with and worth the valley to learn about ourselves. How lucky am I to have people who would invite me on an adventure of a lifetime?