Thursday, February 02, 2006


So in hindsight, it probably wasn't the best of ideas.

But just a mere 2 miles away, at the end of the hiking trail was Waimoku Falls, an amazing 400-foot waterfall. It had taken us over 6 hours of driving to get to this desolate part of Maui, and it broke my heart to think we'll have to turn around and go back to our resort without being able to see this waterfall. All because the sun was about to set in the next hour or so. I looked at the low set sun in the distant sky, then to the trail, then to Nathalie, and then back to the setting sun.

Granted, it took 4 more hours than it normally would to get here because we stopped every so often to hike around and take pictures, but I knew once we left here, we would never be able to find time to come back during our trip.

I looked down. According to my watch, we had about an hour before dusk. So at least another half hour after that before it really would start to get dark. And probably a whole hour after sunset before real darkness set in. If we hustle, we'll be able to get to the waterfall during daylight, with it being a bit dark on the way back. I hesitated about hiking back without daylight, but I had my mini-MagLite with me, and that should be enough to show the way. If we keep up a good pace, we should reach the falls in about half an hour.

I looked at the setting sun.
It was a bit discouraging.

I looked at the trail.
It beckoned.

I looked at Nathalie.
She simply shrugged.

Oh hell, let's do it!

So we started off. And after about 15 minutes of hiking, we had passed through the grassy field and started into the woods. Being that we were on the windward side of the island, there was quite a bit of moisture, making the trails muddy and a bit hazardous. Another 20 minutes and we walked by this bizarre banyan tree.

Those long strands coming off of the branches are actually roots that the tree forms in the branches and sends towards the forest floor. They then turn into trunks. This can continue so that a single tree can cover well over an acre of land.

Regardless, it's a bit spooky and strange. We quickly paused took a picture or two, but the sun was setting, so we got back on the trail and pressed onward.

After another 10 minutes or so, the forest ended and we entered the bamboo forest, our halfway mark. Here the bamboo rose to incredible heights. I couldn't tell how high from the ground. Many of the trunks that Nathalie and I were looking at near the ground easily measured six or seven inches across. It was very magestic. It was also quite dark in the bamboo forest because the tops of the bamboo did a great job blocking out the sun.

However, there was enough light to see the trail and (thankfully) the National Park Service had built a raised wooden boardwalk through the bamboo forest so that we were no longer tripping over muddy rocks and roots. This allowed us to speed up a bit.

Then as we emerged from the bamboo forest, we heard running water, and just a short distance later, we stood in front of Waimoku Falls. It was breathtakingly beautiful. And it was worth the hike. We marveled at it. We photographed it. We stood there next to it and took it all in. (Sorry, I don't have a good picture. Poor lighting conditions.)

Speaking of poor lighting, we decided to get moving before it got too dark. I didn't account for the muddiness of the trail, and I had woefully underestimated the difficulty of the hike. It had taken twice as long to get to the waterfall as I initially estimated. At this point, the sun had set and being inside the woods already reduced the amount of ambient light. With some straining we were able to see the path, but this made hiking a bit treacherous due to the muddy rocks and roots. I dug out my mini-MagLite.

Immediately I wished I had a full size MagLite. The one that takes 4 D-cell batteries. Because although having that little light was better than nothing, it wasn't a whole lot better than nothing.

It took us a while, but we found our way back to the bamboo forest and back to the boardwalk. Again, this allowed us to pick up our pace a bit, but by this time, it was totally dark. Not to mention a bit spooky.

The one thing you notice is the absence of noise in a bamboo forest. Just the sound of the wind blowing through the bamboo and your own footsteps. And I was hoping to God that the sounds would stay just like that. The last thing I wanted to hear were extraneous footsteps, or any other breathing noises for that matter.

Nothing like being in the dark in the middle of nowhere hiking on a strange trail to get your mind racing. The last time I was in a situation like this, I was in highschool and my best friend and I successfully scared the living shit out of each other by talking about whatever freaky-shit scary thoughts were popping into our heads. I was not about to go through an encore presentation of that on my honeymoon.

After nearly an hour of stumbling, we finally made it to the halfway mark: the edge of the bamboo forest and the beginning of the woods. Now came the tricky part, because the trail was back to being slippery rocks and branches. Nathalie and I dutifully pressed on. The only way out of here was to get the hell out of here.

There was no light other than the meager beam of yellow light from my little flashlight, the trail was littered with branches, roots, and rocks waiting to trip you, and the mud didn't help matters any. Our going was slow, but we aimed the flashlight ahead of us to light the way and made slow, steady progress.

Slow, steady progress until we reached the banyan tree. In the dim light, it looked honest to God like some freakish demonic being. I looked at Nathalie. We shared the same thought: "Let's get the F out of here."

Only, we couldn't find the trail.

No matter where we shined that flashlight, it was just mud. Nothing looked like a trail. Everything looked like a trail.

It was pitch dark. We were tired and hungry. We were wet and beginning to get cold. We had no idea where we were.

Panic started to set in.

And the scary banyan tree wasn't helping matters much.

We were heading for a bad, downward spiral. An avalanch of sheer panic was about to envelop us. So we stopped freaking out for a second and took a deep breath. Then careful not to get turned around and disoriented, we methodically looked around until we found something that looked the most like a trail. We looked at each other, held the other's hand tightly, and then took that trail, hoping for the best.

And after another hour of stumbling through muddy trails, we made it out. All of a sudden the forest canopy gave way and we were back in that field. We looked up and saw stars. We made it out!

It's an amazing feeling. The relief was total, and it was great. We grinned like fools and hiked towards our parked car. As we got closer to the road, we heard rustling noises ahead of us. I pointed the flashlight towards the noise, trying to see who or what was making that noise.

About 30 yards ahead of us, it looked like other people hiking the trail. It was hard to make out in my MagLite's narrow beam. Oddly, these people were walking across the trail, and not along it. And they weren't carrying a flashlight or any other form of illumination. And most peculiarly, they weren't making any noise. All we heard was the rustling of the tall field grass and bushes as they walked across the trail. I shrugged, figuring it was just the local indiginous people moving about. I guess if you live someplace long enough, you can get around without much light. Nathalie saw that I wasn't really worried and didn't worry either.

There were a fair number of locals hiking the trail because there was a long line of locals crossing that trail as we came closer to them. All of a sudden I realized that these were NOT people walking in front of us.

Nathalie and I both stopped in our tracks. Illuminated in front of us was the side of a cow, dutifully and quietly crossing our path, following the cow in front of it. Then we heard a noise to our right. Immediately Nathalie and I pivoted to our right, swinging the flashlight in that direction.

Standing just 3 feet away from us was this enormous bull, it's eyes shining back eerily from my MagLite, staring right at us.

Both of us gasped in surprise. I whispered to Nathalie, "Just back away slowly and quietly..." and we slowly got out of its way. We took a wide detour, but I didn't want anything to do with those demon cows.

When we finally got back to the car, we simply collapsed next to it from exhaustion, relief, and joy. No demon cows, no demon trees, no spooky bamboo forest. Just our little beige rental car and it's friendly little chime, telling me to buckle up.

Which we did, and started on the 2 hour drive back to our resort.

As a side, thank you to my little mini-MagLite. For without you, Nathalie and I would never have found our way out of that forest. Cheers!