The 180-degree view over the lush windward side,
from the turquoise waters of Waimanalo to Kailua and Kane‘ohe
Bay was absolutely stunning, and we all agreed that it was
worth all the sweat, mud, insect bites, and cuts.
Tired, but appreciative of the beauty of nature, we sang songs
and joked along the trail on the way back. We had a far way to
go. There was no choice now, we had to do it.
Then, all of a sudden, Mother Nature let us know she is not
only beautiful, but powerful and dangerous as well.
We heard the most horrified scream ever behind us.
Quickly, we turned around and saw one of our friends tumbling
over the edge of the trail, head first. The whole accident
took a split second, but it felt like we saw her moving in
We rushed up to the narrow path’s edge and looked down
into the valley. We couldn’t see her, and our hearts started
to race as panic paralyzed our muscles.
SELAH! ARE YOU OKAY? WHERE ARE YOU?” Matt yelled.
I’m here! I’m so scared! Take me out of here!” Selah
yelled, panic in her voice.
About 12 feet below us, a bush or a tree of some kind had
stopped her fall. She was clinging to a branch with no
her feet and 1,000 yards or so
to the bottom of the valley. It was definitely too steep for us to get
down to her without falling ourselves.
For a couple of seconds we stood there, perplexed about
how to get her back up. Then, we realized that we could
5-foot walking stick I had found
so determinedly been carrying. The trail was so narrow Matt folded himself
over it, his upper body hanging down one side holding the stick, his legs
other side, and I and Selah’s boyfriend, Marcello, sat on top of him. Selah
pulled herself part way up by moving from bush to bush so she could reach the
stick. Then Matt pulled her up the rest of the way. Phew!
We were relieved, but also shocked. What would we have done
if we hadn’t
had the stick? Hike for four hours to get help? We realized we hadn’t been
To hike in Hawai‘i is a wonderful experience, but it can also be very dangerous.
The key to safety is to be prepared. Some people might think preparation takes
away the feeling of adventure, but it is better to be overcautious and prepared
than ignorant and at risk.
You can never be too over prepared, unless [your gear] is too heavy to carry,” said
Aaron Lowe, O‘ahu Trails & Access specialist at Na Ala Hele Trails & Access.
Na Ala Hele Trails & Access is a subdivision of Forestry & Wildlife at
the Department of Land and Resources. Its mission is to administer and maintain
about 36 trails around O‘ahu.
According to Lowe, the most common mistake hikers make is to
get off the trail. That is the reason why people get lost.
Another common mistake is to not keep track of time. When it
gets dark, it’s
very risky to keep on hiking. If you get caught in darkness, you should stop
hiking and call 911 for help (of course you remembered to bring your cell phone).
There are some safety guidelines to follow for a safer hike.
The number one rule is to never hike alone. Nobody can help you if you fall or
hurt yourself badly. Bring at least one other person, although, the ideal number
of people to bring is three or more. That way someone can stay with an injured
person, and the third person can go and get help if needed.
When you have decided whom to hike with, then plan the hike. Get information
about the trail. Check how difficult it is and how long it is, and make sure
you and your partners have experience enough for the chosen trail.
Before heading to the trail, check the weather conditions. Make sure it’s
not going to rain because rain causes floods, slippery trails, and earthslides.
Make sure somebody knows what trail you are going to, and what time you plan
to be back home. That way, someone will know to call for help if you are not
returning home on time.
There are certain things you can bring to increase the safety
of your hike.
A cell phone could be the difference between life and death. Consider this: what
would have happened to our friend in danger if we hadn’t had the stick?
We would have had to hike for four hours before even being able to alert someone
to emergency. With a cell phone, we could have called 911.
Bring a rope or a walking stick. With that you have the right tools to pull someone
up if falling. Make sure that the rope or stick is sturdy and thick enough to
Bring at least two liters of water per person for a one-day hike. If it’s
a very hot day, bring even more. It will be heavy to carry, but it’s worth
Bring a first aid kit, or at least bandaids and antiseptic. There are many sharp
rocks and bushes out there, and good chances that someone will get a blister.
Bring a whistle. If you get lost it improves your chances of being found. The
sound of a whistle travels further than your voice. It is also helpful to be
wearing something brightly colored. That way you are easier to see.
Bring a space blanket (compact mylar-coated sheet). If you get stranded on the
trail, you are in danger of losing body heat, and it can help you keep warm.
Other essentials include flashlight, rain gear, signal
mirror, knife, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, and
“The adventure can turn into a nightmare if you are not prepared,” said
Lowe. So, follow these guidelines to a safe experience of the beauty of O‘ahu’s
Safe hiking guidelines
• Never hike alone.
Plan the hike. Check trail conditions.
The day of the hike, check weather conditions.
Inform friends or family where you are going
and when you will be back.
Be sure to bring:
• Cell phone
• Rope or a walking stick.
• Two liters of water per person per day.
• First aid kit with bandaids and antiseptic.
• Space blanket.
• Rain gear.
• Signal mirror.
• Mosquito repellant.