My blogging silence must end for three very important reasons:
- The bane of my existence (i.e. my thesis) is completed, submitted, and approved, and I have been ceremoniously acknowledged as a graduating Master of Dartmouth College! Cheers, mutha f[edited]s!
- I need to do something more productive than watch marathons of How I Met Your Mother, if only because I’m starting to say “What UP” and “Have you met Ted?” as I walk away from strangers.
- I have two pressing blogs to write, one of which is about how I conquered the world from inside a lava tube, and the other of which is my commentary on the 50 Shades of Shame book that somehow became a best seller. I’ll begin with the former.
The Commando Hike
As a gift for completing number 1 (above), the folks flew me out to join them in Maui, where they had spent my graduation toasting glasses of diet 7-Up by the sea. On my first day there, I was introduced to TJ, the Activities Booking Dude, or more glamorously known as “The Cabana Boy.” After a year of wanting us to meet, my mom was finally able to live vicariously through me by setting us up on what she made clear was not a date (since the last time she set me up on a date with a prison guard, it did not go well), but a “Be nice to TJ because I’d like to adopt him” adventure.
TJ’s a cool dude with some gnarly tats. He grew up on the big island and moved to Maui after a brief stint in San Diego (LOVE YOU SAN DIEGO). As a local boy, he offered to go hiking with me, and said he had been on a hike called the Commando Hike, but it was “pretty extreme.”
Extreme? DONE. I’m in, that’s all I need to hear.
Even though my family has been going to Maui for 15 years, none of us had ever heard of the Commando Hike, so the night before I was set to go, I googled it. The first result was an article about someone’s unfortunate death, but the second was a very helpful blog that included details of the hike—though I thought the author’s tone was off. It was like he (or she? The writing was a bit androgynous) was pretending to be excited about terrible things. “The fourth jump was 40 feet, and I was scared at first, because of the impact of the first, lower jumps, but I’m so glad I did it because nothing is more exhilarating than thinking you’re going to die!” He/She also mentioned the possibility of being stampeded by cows at the beginning of the hike, and I started to worry that maybe it wasn’t the best idea.
THE DAY OF THE HIKE
TJ drove us in his air-conditionless car with the windows rolled down, which allowed the tropical storm-like gusts of wind rush sidelong into my inner ear. He asked if I had a preference for music.
“Do you want to listen to something else?”
“DO YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO SOMETHING ELSE?”
“There’s music playing right now?”
There was nothing to indicate the trailhead except a metal gate, but I was so relieved to arrive because I was two minutes away from full-blown road nausea (the winding roads of Hana are not ideal for people who suffer from motion sickness). Like a good hiker, I’d brought sandwiches and granola bars and water, and TJ said, “We can leave all that in the trunk. We’ll be hungry when we get back.”
EXCUSE me? Since when do you LEAVE BEHIND WATER on a hike?? He gave me an apple banana (not an apple and banana, but an “apple banana,” a fruit that tastes like an unripe banana) and said I’d need energy.
I’m thinking, that’s what the sandwiches are for. Why are you leaving your backpack in the car? What is going on!
Two minutes into the hike (we were traveling on a tire-created road through grassland), I saw cows, and the blogger’s fear of being trampled by these animals awoke in me a great unease. There was a calf literally IN the road. They seemed docile enough, but as we walked by, one of the big girls on the left started to rise, and I thought we were doomed. Thankfully, we kept walking, the cow did not run us over, and we saw no more evidence of them except for the pies they left baking in the sun.
Suddenly, TJ veered off the road onto what was definitely NOT a road, and said “This is where the trail begins.”
PART I: The Stream
The first half of the hike was up a streambed. I thought this meant alongside the stream, but it meant IN the stream. I tried rock hopping, but within twenty feet, the rocks were all submerged and I was forced to go sneakers-in. (I have a strong aversion to soaking my tennis shoes and/or walking through mud.) Also, thanks to mildew galore, I slipped at least four times within the first five minutes of entering the water. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of how my mom, if present, would have said, “That’s it. I’m turning around!” and I have to be tougher than my mom.
The stream became rockier, which enabled me to keep my feet out of the water. I stopped following TJ’s footsteps because he had no qualms about getting his feet wet, and I preferred to bounce along behind him in wild, zig-zagging patterns. After half an hour, the stream narrowed and low-hanging branches cobwebbed across it, forcing us to crawl over and under them. It felt very Mission Impossible, like the branches were security lasers and we were Tom Cruise acting stealth.
At one point TJ told me the first waterfall (“the FIRST waterfall?”) was the hardest part of the hike, so if I got through that, I should be okay.
That was encouraging.
Eventually the branches opened up onto a pool of water that we had to wade across, and then climb onto another level where there was more water.
Now, to me, that thing that TJ is standing beside is a waterfall, but after I successfully clawed my way up, he informed that that was NOT the first waterfall. That was yet to come.
PART II: The Waterfalls and Lava Tube
One may wonder what a lava tube is. It is a cave made of lava rock, and in the case of the Commando Hike, it is a cave filled with water.
The first “real” waterfall was at the gateway to the lava tube. We could hear it before we could see it. It was nestled between the rocks at an angle, so I couldn’t get a good shot of it without getting immediate water to the face (which I can tell you was made even more unpleasant by the fact I had to wear glasses). It was a blur–literally–on how I made it up there. I know that I was not tall enough to reach the handhold TJ had suggested, so he gave me a boost (and probably ingested a lot of water in the meantime. Thanks, man) and I did this weird crawl-pull shimmy thing until I could get my feet under me. Then I did Mario jumps and skips until I remembered TJ down yonder, so I grabbed the camera and flashlight from him and let him manage his own way up. (Sorry, dude.)
Above the waterfall was a cave, so we took cave pictures, and from there we entered the lava tube.