This past December, early on a Sunday, I dragged myself out of bed and wobbled to the kitchen where I forced down two Eggos with maple syrup, some cold left-over fried rice, and a couple of Portuguese sausages. My wife, I vaguely recall, already done with her breakfast, was watching CNN. It was not morning ----- it was a dream, a dream that continued with me behind the wheel of our car as it floated along H1, a dream in which my wife and I talked about the traffic.
"Man, I'm surprised there're so many cars out here at this time of day."
"I guess folks are going to breakfast before church or something."
"Geez, who the hell are all of these people?"
We headed along Moanalua Road and turned onto Waimano Home Road and were then somehow magically curving up into Pacific Palisades on Komo Mai Drive. Finally, reaching the end of the street and the start of Manana trail, I parked at a cul-de-sac, feeling a small jolt as the front bumper scraped against the curb. Car locked, backpacks slung on, my wife signed-in at the trailhead mailbox ("Koho, party of 2, hikers, 5:55 AM, Please don't touch the car") and, with flashlights beaming, we headed up the paved road.
There was no wind but the air was cool and the torches provided plenty of light so that we glided past three utility towers and a water tank and, at the end of the pavement, entered a forest where three brown signs with yellow arrows (the first sign full of bullet holes) helped us stay on path. No menehunes, no boogeyman, no nutcracker doll, just a tranquil, dark forest that we emerged from after about a half an hour.
The skies had now lightened. There were clouds in the east, no great dramatic fireball or sizzling red-orange horizon, just a gray-white eastern sky. The air still, birds were calling in the distance, a serene dawn. I was finally awake and, to boot, pleased.
We now put our flashlights in our packs and walked on top of a bare hill below which the State (or some other concerned party) had planted baby pine trees and on top of which they had pounded-in erosion guards. The trail was slippery in spots because of the morning dew but we did just fine, hiking through brown-topped buffalo grass, up a lengthy and relatively steep grade, along the muddy side of a hill, and then climbing a puny pali with the aid of some well-placed ropes. Five minutes after 8:00 A.M. we reached the helipad, halfway ---- and it started to rain. This was not a terrible thing, the rain, since we found shelter under a tree past the pad and sat and each ate a banana (visually rhyming with Manana) and, after twenty minutes, now in gaiters and windbreakers, the rain just a sprinkle, trekked through a terrific native forest. The ohia and fern surroundings were so enjoyable that we almost forgot about the mud and steep hills.
We took frequent water and cardiac breaks (my personal rule of thumb: when the heart knocks heavily, answer it). And, after a few rope climbs (nice, these ropes; thanks to those who set them up), eventually broke into the open, no more rain, moving along the narrow somewhat overgrown ridge path from one small knob to another. While the flora along the sides of the valleys was clearly beaten and bent from frequent winds, there wasn't a breeze to be found on this day. We were far out in the thunderously quiet, peaceful Koolaus, just us. And then, suddenly, we spotted two apapanes; they flew above and over the Waimano Valley, gave out a call, and then just as suddenly disappeared below the cliff.
Happy, on we went; and after one last push through a bit of brush, we popped onto the summit knob, which was about twelve feet by eight feet with knee-high grass that we promptly matted down with body and bag. Like in a bad novel, the sun broke through now for the first time that day. Then a high cloud came overhead and then the sun again broke through. High clouds, sun, clouds, sun. Not a drop of rain, always the stunning view of the windward side below and the sea beyond, framed by Ohulehule to the left and Makapuu far to the right.
We ate lunch, which included a memorable peanut butter and guava jelly sandwich, and for a full hour enjoyed the scenery.
Starting back at around 11:30, with time on our side, we took a picture or two, gained three more quick looks at apapanes, stopped frequently for water. When we reached the helipad over two hours later, I was tired. I lay down on my back. When I lifted my head and looked toward the summit, I saw that it was now cloaked in clouds. My wife sat nearby and compared the mud on her legs and shoes to the mud on my legs and shoes and declared the contest a tie.
About twenty minutes later, in the sun, we began moving again. Shortly after passing a shelter and picnic table, about an hour or so from the car, we saw people, the sight of whom, after a day of relative solitude, was slightly jarring. A young man and young woman, perched on a green puu, were together bent over a book. We kept going. In the forest, we passed a mountain biker and a couple of other hikers and a little later, on the paved road, said hello to a pack of five or six fellows (towels slung over their shoulders) who carried and drank from McDonalds cups (they were heading, no doubt, to Waimano pool).
After a hundred or so more yards we saw a discarded McDonalds cup lying like an open wound in the center of the road. There's always something. It was a rather depressing sight after such a satisfactory day, this trash on the trail. I had an urge to backtrack and find the culprit and somehow make things right. But, of course, it was only an urge. Feeling a little foolish, I picked up the cup (somewhat absurd -- there was also litter in the brush on either side of the trail but I just focused on the "new" litter). I recalled the stretch of the hike where we hovered over the valleys on the narrow ridge path as the apapanes flew above us. I wondered what it would feel like to be there and come across, as someone inevitably one day would, a McDonalds cup lying on the ground. It stung a little, this thought.
At the cul-de-sac, finished, we signed-out at the mailbox and threw our rubbish in a smelly waste can. After changing shoes, we got in the car, my wife behind the wheel, and, with visions of McDonalds and Manana dancing in our heads, rolled toward home.