I am a fairly clumsy person. Actually, I can lose balance while standing still. When I was younger, it was a huge factor in me shying away from most organized sports. The anxiety of falling on my face was always at the forefront of my mind. And it’s a hesitation that I have carried well into my adult life as well. I hate exercising in front of anyone because I feel like I’m going to go crashing into something. But when you decide to travel the world, well, you need to SEE the world. Nothing was more important to me than being able to see the natural beauty in the world.
So when I decided to hike part of the Kulalau trail, I was nervous. Up until now, I had done fairly straightforward (read: simple) hikes. And while I wasn’t embarking on the 11 mile trek up the Na Pali Coast, the first two miles were described as “strenuous” and “difficult.” A couple different times, I chickened out. I wasn’t strong enough. I was going to be slow. I was going to be in the way. I was going to fall down the side of a cliff to my final resting place.
The Na Pali Coast is one of the most beautiful sights in the world and it’s one that can only be traversed via hiking. There are no roads. I took a helicopter ride yesterday and saw it from the sky but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wouldn’t be the same as trekking through the trees. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. So, I set my alarm to get up and tackle it early. And I ignored the alarm. I went later in the day. My butterflies and anxiety were taking control as I began driving to the end of the road. I told myself that if I was able to get parking than I would have do it. And just like that, I almost immediately got a spot right at the trail head. So, with water bottles and a small lunch to eat at the end, I began the mostly uphill climb towards Hanakapiai Beach.
And man was this hard. The trail is mainly comprised of rocks and dirt. Oh, and mud. There is a lot mud. And that mud is usually caked onto the rocks making them slick and slippery. Getting dirty is a necessity on this trail. It was easier to just walk through the puddles to get to a better foothold. There are several points where you almost need to scale the rocks like a wall both up and down. After wading through a pretty strong stream, I gently collapsed on the rocky beach of Hanakapiai. It’s a beautiful sight but that goes without saying in Kauai where everything is beautiful. (Though DO NOT go swimming here. The currents are so strong that this beach has actually claimed lives.) And I even met some of the locals. My new kitty friends really wanted my sandwich but, sadly, I had to move on back towards my car.
This part of the hike was actually the hardest part because navigating down slippery rocks is considerably harder than climbing up them. I was constantly anxious about the amount of people on the trail. If I tried to move too fast, I was slipping and it I took it too slow than I felt like I needed to stand to the side. With every step, my brain was throwing every negative comment it could concoct, taking advantage of my anxiety.
I’m not strong enough. I’m not agile enough. I’m going to fall. They’re laughing at you. You and your clown feet are going to trip and fall face first into a puddle of mud.
But gritting my teeth, I made it to bottom. I was covered in mud. My knees felt like they were going to explode. But I made it. Despite myself, I had managed to traverse even just a little bit of the Na Pali Coast. Everything is going to hurt tomorrow but it was worth it. If only to prove to myself that I can do it no matter what I try to tell myself. There’s just something about this place that makes you push yourself. I will truly be sad to leave.