Let’s face it: What I’d really like is my own cave behind a waterfall. With tapestries and a hand-carved desk of antique oak…
What might actually be within my grasp: A swim at Hamilton Pool. Or maybe just a hike. I think “swim” and then I remember this is Texas, and we have deadly snakes and scorpions and things, and I’m less enamored of the idea of swimming with them. I don’t have scales, just skin, and it gets goosebumps just thinking of taking off the hiking boots and plunging into unknown depths.
But isn’t it gorgeous?
I’ve told some of you the story of how I met a young man on Oahu during a trip with family, then looked him up the next time I went to Hawaii on my own. He gamely acted as my guide, both on my arrival and the day before I left, and put up with my haole city-girl whining. I arrived with a nasty cold, and it was K who introduced me to the best hot and sour soup on the planet. It was so hot it knocked the wind – and the cold virus – right out of me. It was K who endured my exhausted babbling as I dozed off halfway back to my hotel – and kept right on talking. We sat on the lawn of the Royal Hawaiian, talking and looking at the stars, and both of us fell asleep – only to be rudely awakened by the sprinklers coming on, the next morning. Amazingly, in spite of that, the soup – and I’m sure it had to be the soup – had cured my cold and I felt wonderful. I joined my tour group, and K promised to show me more of the sights near Honolulu when we returned.
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t keep in touch after I left. K took me to a little waterfall known primarily to the locals. I have had to search and search, because I could not remember its name, but I finally found it!
No, really, that muddy trail with its gnarled tree roots is as awful as it looks. My feet still ache with the memory, and it has been nearly 35 years since I hiked that. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful – no doubt, much moreso if you’re not hiking it with a tenderfoot spoilsport who’s grumbling over mud, kukui nuts, tree roots, hot sticky humid sweat, ice cold mountain stream water, and whatever else there was to grumble over. The water at the base of the falls looked so refreshing! I was eager to wash some of the thick mud off my body, so I stripped off my shirt and jeans (I was wearing a bathing suit underneath, of course!) – tried to find one square foot of space that wasn’t muddy to put them down on, and failed. Never mind – they were muddy already, anyway. I jumped into the little round pool of fresh, deep water.
Oh, my God, is it frigid! It is so cold it burns. It will knock the breath from your lungs and make you cry for mama. I have no idea how deep the pool is, but I didn’t manage to touch bottom. I didn’t climb to the top ledge and leap off like the locals, although I doubt I’d have risked death in doing so – it’s very deep. I suppose I might have frozen to death before I could gasp for air at the surface.
Poor K. He knew he was giving the tourist a rare treat, but I only saw torment. We didn’t speak much after that.
By the time I got back to my hotel room to pack for the trip home, the mud had mostly dried (it was ankle deep in some spots), and I tossed both my jeans and my tennis shoes in the trash. I think housekeeping rescued them – the maid asked me if it was a mistake, if I’d meant to toss them in the trash, and all I could think was, “How am I supposed to pack wet, muddy jeans and shoes for the flight home?” I was too tired to ask about a laundromat.
It was probably a good three months later before I was grudgingly able and willing to admit that the hike and quick, icy dip in the falls was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life. That experience taught me to at least try to enjoy the moment, even if some part of me would rather be sipping a Tahitian Itch on Waikiki beach.