I have a ten year old daughter who just got a cell phone for her birthday in February. She has a pink (I'm sorry, "rose") Apple 6S. It's newer than mine. She's spoiled. Anyway, we're often keeping her in check when she needs to put the phone down and be involved in her surroundings. I'll tell her that she needs to be "present" and she knows that means it's time to put her phone away and engage in the real life going on around her.
I'm always working, always thinking, always ON. I keep telling myself that I need to place boundaries on my work, and I intend to, but fuck me, money talks and it often comes in the form of a text message from a client at 9:45PM. Even when I'm back on the Big Island, I'm constantly in GO mode. This trip back home was completely different from the trips I've done before. I just decided, "Fuck it, I'm going to be present. Truly present." Just kidding. It didn't go exactly like that.
What most of you don't know is that my grandma, my hero, my saint, my real life fairy godmother, has been fighting for her life against cancer for the past 11 months. The real reason I came back to the BI was to surprise her for her 71st birthday. I bought my tickets a month ago and didn't say anything to anyone except my Partner In Crime, and then to the kids the day before I flew out. So, I get to Hilo on Monday evening, get some sleep, open my laptop early Tuesday morning... and the internet is down. Well fuck.
I thought about going down to the Starbucks to work, but I'm not a big fan of the corporate McStarbucks vibe. Also, who goes to Starbucks when you're in Hilo? There are so many better options.
Better options that come without wifi. Can you imagine?
I'm an interwebz junkie. I'll admit that. My work in real estate is about 80% internet based. I'm a huge proponent of social media as a means to truly network. I love the concept of spreading a message or an idea or news through an online venue. I believe there's a certain power behind the ability to unite in a way that people weren't previously able to utilize. However.
There's a cafe in Hilo called Concious Culture Cafe. They brew the best kombucha I've ever had (And that's by a LONG SHOT. It doesn't even have that weird aftertaste that you get from store bought booch. They have probably twelve different flavors, some rotating), and they have incredible vegetarian and vegan food. They don't want you on your phone while you're in the cafe, either. At all.
I knew this. I knew that if I chose breakfast and booch that I wasn't going to have wifi. I knew work would be out the window. I went anyway. (As a disclaimer, I didn't have any home-buying emergencies while I was away. Trust me, those are a real thing, and if I did, I'd be all over those). I left my laptop and went for breakfast.
An amazing thing happens when you venture out with the actual intent of being away from the interwebz. You open your eyes and ears to the world around you and truly become present.
Where am I going with this? The last you heard, this was a post about a hike and nothing hike-ish has even happened yet. Let me continue.
I heard about the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail through a radio ad. Apparently, once my internet barrier was broken I just gave up and didn't even bother to Spotify in the car. Not to mention, cell phone reception is shit up and down the Hamakua Coast anyway. So, this radio commercial comes on talking about a set of hiking trails that I've never heard of during the 18 years of my life that I spent growing up on the BI. What?! I'm fucking IN!
I researched a little bit on my phone, which didn't give me much other than the basics: The Ala Kahakai Trail runs north to south, starting at Upolu Point, heading southwest, and ending quite a ways east of South Point; it's a collective set of trails that follow the paths of the ali'i as well as old Hawaiian trading paths; it's 175 miles from beginning to end.
Obviously, I wasn't going to hike the whole thing - I had to choose an entry point and decide how much time I'd spend on the trail. I chose Upolu Point for a few reasons. First, I love the Kohala Coast and I rarely ever go out there. Second, I imagined in my mind that this could be the only portion of the trail that just might be sheltered with trees as opposed to the edge of a barren lava field. Third, Big Island Brewhaus was only a 45 minute drive away, which means I could grab a recovery beer on the way home.
The Big Island has four of the five climate zones in the world, and eight of the 13 sub-zones. Driving from Hilo to Upolu Point will take you through five of those sub-zones. (Okay, if you're sitting here wondering if the Big Island is Honolulu, STOP. The answer to that question is a No. If you're now wondering if that's an actual question that gets asked, the answer is Yes). I began in a very rainy Hilo and ended in a very hot, dry environment that felt like the end of the world.
Upolu Point is comprised of terrain that not many visitors envision when they think of Hawaii. It's hot. It's exposed. It's dry. It's fucking raw. It's also a level of gorgeous that you may never see again in your life. I grew up in Puna and when I tell people that I didn't have sandy beaches, just cliffs that drop off into the depths of the ocean, they just don't get it. The Kohala Coast is exactly like that.
The starting point of the trail is at the Upolu Point Airport, which is an eerily empty, yet obviously functional airport. I parked in the parking lot and started my walk on the dirt road along the fence. There aren't any markers for the trail at all. You just start walking, hoping you end up in the right place. I second guessed myself for probably a 1/4 mile.
It's about a 1/2 mile trek from the parking lot to the coastline, where the edges of the island practically fall off into the Alenuihaha Channel. This is the eight-mile channel between the Big Island and Maui. I was lucky enough to be out there on a clear day and I could actually see Maui poking out above the clouds in the distance! The trail itself is actually an old dirt road that can be driven on with experience and a 4x4. There were quite a few trucks parked along side of the road where fishermen set their poles up. There was only one tree along the entire trail.
I mentioned earlier that there aren't any markers or maps at the start of the trail. There is, however, a set of markers about 1.5 miles into the trail showing the way to the Mo'okini Heiau and the Birthplace of Kamehameha I.
Think about that for a second: the birthplace of Kamehameha I. It's incredibly humbling to realize that you've somehow stumbled upon the birthplace of the Conqueror himself. The radio ads didn't mention this. Nothing online mentioned this. I came out here on a whim and learned this while I was already in the middle of nowhere.
I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about Kamehameha and the way he united the islands, but what he did was pretty profound. The one thing about him that's always been incredibly fascinating to me is that at his birth, he was prophesied to be the one to overthrow the current chief. That chief actually demanded Kamehameha be killed at birth, but his mother sent him away to be hidden (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?).
The birthplace itself is the remains of the village site where Kamehameha was born. Once you walk to the south portion, you can enter through the first set of rock walls to get a better a look. After spending a few minutes here, I backtracked to hike up to Mo'okini Heiau.
Mo'okini Heiau is one of the oldest and most sacred temples of worship in the Hawaiian Islands. Kamehameha used this site as his war temple for most of his reign, but it was initially a place of spiritual worship. When the Kapu system was abolished after Kamehameha's death, the majority of heiaus were demolished. This was one of the few spared. Hawaiian's believed that, although the Kapu religion had ended, this heiau held a power that could only be obtained through time and should be protected. It's magnificent, and is one of the few heiaus that you can walk through and experience.
I spent about 2.5 hours and covered 4.5 miles on this trail, roundtrip. It's one of those trails where you have to decide on a stopping point or you'll accidentally end up walking the full 175 miles (hah!). Eventually, I'd like to take on the whole trail by doing a small piece of it every time I'm back on the Big Island. I think it's a pretty cool thing to accomplish.
For now, I'm grateful for the one opportunity a shitty wifi connection gave me to be truly present and experience something incredible. I'm making it a point to be present more often. I'm taking in the non-interwebz venues around me. I'm truly experiencing more of life. And in case you're wondering, my recovery beers at Big Island Brewhaus were delicious.