Ku’Kui Trail: Whenever you go down, you must come back up

What a day. With a belly full of split pea soup I found in the freezer and a beer on the table, I bring you a recap of today’s adventures. Snoopp dog lies at my feet, enjoying the final hour of sunlight before we say goodbye to today’s sun and hello to the moon.

Snoopp dog and I got today started with a stroll around the block, of course in a new direction. We passed a mini-mart with men in trucks pulling up to the parking lot. Curious what that is all about. My companion for the summer, Snoopp, is a great walker, Grandpa having trained him well, but boy oh boy, do the big dogs behind those fences give both him and I the spook. We meandered down the street with houses and then crossed over the main road and had the view of the ocean on the way back home. If I keep my head turned to the right, then it is a peaceful walk watching the waves crash and the distant palm trees lengthen towards the morning sun. However, I walk along the side of the main road where by 6:30am, those same men in trucks and many more are zooming about to whatever which way on the island.

After my morning coffee and before I could think twice about it, I filled my camelback with water after giving it a good sniff test. I carried that thing through Myanmar for the last two years never having used it, and surprisingly it passed the test. With water packed, a plethora of snacks, I hopped in the car and drove up to the canyon. As mentioned yesterday, I had the Ku’Kui Trail in mind for today. About a 3/4 mile past the 8-mile marker, I parked the car, laced up my hiking boots, and got started.

Last night I did a bit of research about this trail and people rated it from moderate to difficult, one reviewer going as far to say it is for, “confident hikers.” Despite the last four months of walking on flat ground, I decided choosing the challenging hike for the first one was the way to go. I have set the bar high. Starting at 8am with hopes to stay out of the direct sun later on in the day, I began the 2,000 foot drop to the bottom of the canyon. After all but a half of a mile, I knew why this was geared for confident hikers. The Hawaiian red dirt and loose rock here is simply waiting for one to plant there foot recklessly and have them slip out from under them. The path seems to follow parts of where mudslides have occurred, so if there was a bit of rain in the air, I probably would have turned around and saved my ankles.

With blue skies above, I descended into each layer of microclimates. At the top, the grasses tickled each other in the wind and roosters bawked across the path. At the midway I thought I was traversing Mars. And the last half mile being dense forest cover and the gurgling sound of the river ahead.

Finding flat ground again, I made my way to the water, snapped a picture or two, and then immediately got moving again. Slick with sweat and sweet blood pumping through my veins, the mosquitos were having a picnic of me. Thus, I had to forgo my own picnic plans. Having just came all the way down, there were no surprises at the difficulty in front of me in going back up. With only mere seconds to take a break before being ambushed by the bloodsuckers, I navigated to the top.

Finally, I reached a layer of the microclimates where the mosquitos didn’t dare inhabit and I was able to finally sit down and catch my breath. For the next two and half hours, I proceeded to climb up a bit and sit back down under whatever patch of shade I could find. It took me double the time to go up as it did to go down, but the expansive views of the canyon kept the spirits alive at every turn.

In the past, my days of hiking has been accompanied by at least one friend. Now, being on my own, has forced new perspectives. One being extreme caution in making sure I don’t roll an ankle or veer off the path into the unknown. Another being the accountability only to myself. There were no mind games being played about going slow or taking breaks or eating all my snacks. I knew I had to get back up to the top and it didn’t really matter how I did it. Overall, I would prefer to be hiking with a friend, someone to share the experience with but because I am alone, it is worth leaning into the takeaways of such. My mind is free from comparison to others and judgment of what I can’t do. Instead, I am out here in awe of what I CAN do. Who cares that it took my three and half hours to go five miles. What matters is I went.

With a creeping headache and shaky legs, I drove back home and proceeded to spend the rest of the day being nothing but lazy. Today was a push for sure, but damn I feel good. I appreciate the soreness in my legs already settling in and the tenderness of my toes. As my body takes the time to heal, build muscle, tighten in its demands for continued attention, I am only grateful. Grateful that I am engraining a new way of moving and thinking into my being. I am not asking myself for record setting hike times or to go straight up without stopping. I am letting go of the idea that my body is something to be fixed and just being stoked for how it does move, where my legs take me, what my hands can touch. I am asking myself to enjoy the moment, be present, listen to the wind and feel the heat.

So I will leave this here for today. The dusty orange sun has said its goodbye and so will I.

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