"There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable." — Mark Twain
“Kapu” tssks the security guard as he waves his finger and shakes his head at me and my fellow adventurers. “Forbidden,” he continues. “No trespassing, brah.” It is 2 a.m. and I am an almost manic mix of emotions — anxiousness, anticipation, sleep deprivation and now, frustration among the tops.
Our small group of sojourners has been planning this hike for weeks — researching times, directions and getting our gear ready. Today is the day, and one lone guard stands between us and the sweet, taboo trail whose heights and views and secrets have whispered to and enticed me for the entire eight years that I have called this island my home.
As we search the guard’s face for any signs of softening, I catch, out of the corner of my eye, a keychain on his belt loop. It has the emblem of an alma mater that just happens to be a school I wrote a feature article about just the week before. I broach the subject and a broad, toothsome smile breaks. Jutting out his barrel chest, the guard gives us a good-natured tongue lashing for disobeying the no-trespassing rules, then waves us along with a warning of dangers and risks.
Having heard the trailhead itself was difficult to find, we came prepared with detailed instructions, along with a headlamp, layered clothing, gloves, boots and rain slickers. Through a bamboo thicket and ’round a few fences (barbed wire included) thrust us right at the threshold of Hawaii’s Holy Grail, the Haiku Stairs — also known as the Stairway to Heaven hike).
The pace of our climb up is steady, slower and steep. It allows me to get lost in the sweet silence of the scenery, to create a cyclical rhythm to unwind within — to loosen what during the interim between outdoor excursions has been tightened or twisted. There is a surreal sense to this steady climb. I take a bit more time to enjoy looking around…a moment to marvel at every minute detail of the delicate dwelling place I am so fortunate to call home. It is this critical climb that sustains and satisfies that hunger that spurred me towards this trail. I feel steady. I feel sure. I feel calm. I know peace.
On this hike, I ascend a towering trellis of stair and stair, yet I feel, not resistance, but rather refreshment being offered to me by the rustling wind. Along my way, it stirs a breathy breeze — one that alights upon my brow, bringing me comfort and beckoning me forward — upward on my path. The moon and starlit summit supplies great gusts, swirling and whipping my hair…reminding me of how small I am, and how big the beautiful sky and earth dancing around me are in comparison. I am engulfed by the wind on this particular hike — it traps me in time — awakening me to how very little of it I have left, reminding me how very much of it I have already wasted, and serving to open my heart to the priceless value given to that which remains.
Yes, time — although seemingly frozen on that frigid mountaintop — ticks on in truth, and it’s moments like these, those delicious slivers of experiences, that eke out an existence and enlarge by ever-arching degrees a heart of adventure and an attitude of gratitude.
Arriving at the top, I am almost alone, save my two few silent companions. No one ever comes much to this height, and here…here is my earthly Heaven. I say my thanks here. I sing here. I stay here, as long as I need…and I breathe in the blessings.
For this day, for these fellow sojourners, for this snapshot of splendor and surreal, mountain majesty — I am won over, lifted up and stripped down, a wanderer rendered wordless.
About the author: Andy Beth Miller is a freelance writer, editor and story teller who finds time to create amid sun and surf in the Hawaiian Islands. Her travel blog PonoPeople recently sent her across Europe in search of more sojourners who are seeking. The adventure continues…
Photos courtesy of Martynas Justinevicius of Glidephotos.com.