The days are beginning to drag on; the tick of the clock echoes over the walls of my cubicle and reverberates in my ear. I can hardly stand it, it’s Thursday and God willing, Sunday night I will be on an airplane headed over the Pacific Ocean to Kauai. My girlfriend and I are scheduled to hike the infamous Kalaulau Trail along the Napali Coast of Kauai.
We are both very excited, and nervous, there are stories of illegal squatters in the valleys along the way. There are 300 foot drops off the razor thin edge of parts of the track that consist of crumbling rock and slippery mud caused by months of rain. Then there are the two major streams that divide the 11 mile path, passable with caution until any amount of rain falling deep within the valley turns it into a torrent of death causing hikers to be stranded or worse…washed thousands of feet to the tumultuous ocean below, and if they survive the fall they’ll be dragged into the depths off shore by raging rip tides.
These aren’t statements made by goofy people looking to get their names in various hiking blogs mind you; these are the content of stories published by Gear Magazine; America’s 10 Most Dangerous Hikes, BackPacker.com and Travel + Leisure Magazine; World’s Scariest Hike, as well as the Discovery Channel; One of America’s Most Dangerous Trails. All of these articles of course serving to make the trip that much more enticing and therefore fun.
But those are indeed isolated events, to be cautious and take great care in navigating these paths is essential for certain, however in spite of the handful of serious accidents published, the scenery has been made famous in the opening scenes of the Jurassic Park movie and according to anyone who’s been there it is an absolutely magical place that no-one with a serious pair of Keen’s should miss. So naturally, my girlfriend and I both being writers, are keyed up to record our travel and experiences along the way. Pen in hand (not really, not yet as I am still sitting in my office chair at my desk daydreaming and typing this on my keyboard) I could not refrain from beginning my journal for this trip, and so it is, the entry of my travel journal, three days before we ship out.
Hiking the Infamous Kalaulau Trail along the Napali Coast of Kauai
With granola in my pocket and grit in my stomach, I set out to conquer the trail deemed by the Discovery Channel as One of America’s Most Dangerous Hikes. One may not expect me at 47, an engineering change coordinator and Mechanical Engineering Designer, father of four and boyfriend to a young and beautiful Director of Nursing to jump into such a journey, one with such names attached to particular areas of its path titled “Crawler’s Ledge” by those who’ve traversed it, but here I m anxiously awaiting the night we fly out.
I think of myself as a lucky guy, I suppose I could look back at the physical and emotional abuse I suffered as a kid, the drug abuse I barely survived, the ravages of war that has and continues to affect my psyche, depression and the clinical emotional breakdowns and a divorce after 22 years I experienced and rephrase my opening statement to this paragraph. But that would do disservice to all of the hard work I have put in to becoming a successful adult, father and partner to this point. Not to mention all of those people that helped me through it all.
When I was in high school I was a very poor test taker, I failed nearly every test or exam I was given. Then one day my English teacher offered to let me write a report in lieu of taking an exam, I was to address each item included in the exam in my report and he would decide whether or not the content of my paper successfully addressed each point, therefore quantifying the knowledge I was suppose to have gained at that point. I took that challenge and it paid off in spades.
Since that point I have continued to write. I wrote through school and on into my days living on the streets as a young man addicted to drugs. I wrote as I slept in a refrigerator box, in the rain, under a billboard near Minnehaha Creek in the late eighties. I wrote on into my twenties, even after I met the girl who’d later become my wife. I wrote about life, I wrote poetry, I wrote with no official training or education beyond high school. Oh I took a few classes at the St Paul Technical College when it first opened. I even took some college classes at Normandale Community College but I always ended up on the street again. But there was something about this girl that captivated me, she grew up in West Bloomington, I grew up in different houses in different neighborhoods amidst multiple divorces between my mom and her husbands’.
She and I would start out in sort of an on and off again teenage relationship but eventually after my asking her to marry me, foolishly I might add and her turning me down because, in her words…”you don’t even have a job”. Who could blame her right? She did marry me, once I had straightened up, done a few nights in jail and a couple of trips through alcohol and drug treatment programs. I enlisted in the United States Army, as much out of desperation as a desire to solidify some sort of tradition in my name; my adopted father was in the Army, my biological father was in the Army and my mother’s dad was in the Army, maybe it was meant to be.
We moved to Hawaii in the nineties, after basic training and AIT (additional individual training), I got posted to Schofield Barracks on Oahu. It was the furthest my bride had been away from home; Angela found herself 3000 miles away from mom and dad and soon, was pregnant, sitting in the living room of a military housing project in the middle of a pineapple field on an island in the Pacific. This was before cellular phones, laptop computers, car phones and face to face messaging. I’d venture to say that it was a trying time for her.
Our relationship til now had seen times of long separation from each other, while I was in basic training and AIT, then while I was away serving in Panama for a while and then as I did my stretch overseas in Southwest Asia. Remember the only form of communication was primarily by hand written letter, and there were times that no mail got to anyone until they were on their way home back then. By the time Angela was 22 she was pregnant, living in the middle of the Pacific and had she and I had experienced war together. That’s a lot for a young couple to endure. Lord knows there is a lot more below the surface that comes with all of it.