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358. Rainforest Trail to Pu'u 'O'o Vent (11/22/03)

Hikers (7): Cal, David, Peter, Russ, Sue, Taylor, Tim
Distance: 8 miles
Rating: 2 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii

Write-up by Sue, Russ, Tim and Cal -- Pictures by Sue, Russ and Cal

The Night Before (by Cal)

The following is an unauthorized (and most probably highly contested) account of an occurrence aboard Captain Bean's Booze Cruise the night before the hike. This is partially a second hand report because the incident was so traumatic to the primary person involved that only the incoherent mutterings are available to understand the true happenings this evening. The person involved refuses to do a write up and has threatened to destroy any vestige of this report. This person my friends is our beloved INCH leader Peter Saviz.

The dinner cruse started out great with Polynesian dancers putting on a show at each table, a good band and lots of drinks at the open bar. As sunset neared we all started to leave the table area to get a sunset picture and get more drinks. Shortly after we returned one of the ships staff motioned to Peter to follow her. He, of course, thought we had set him up for something. He followed the lady to the upper deck, all the while trying to figure out what was going on. "Take off your shirt", ordered the lady. Peter was thinking to himself either something very good or something very bad was going to happen. As he turned around, he saw a fat man wearing a coconut bra -- this wasn’t a good sign! As swiftly as a Broadway show change, Peter was fitted with a grass skirt and told to bend over so they could adjust it, a wig and of course the great coconut bra.

Meanwhile, downstairs the girl dancers were putting on a fashion show. Something seemed different. They were modeling men’s Hawaiian shirts and when finished, the girl at our table gave the shirt to Taylor. This seemed strange since Peter wasn’t around.

Upstairs they were preparing Peter for his debut. The girl said, "Just follow what I do". Realizing this was his worse nightmare come true, he was marched down stairs with the other guys to the awaiting audience on the boat. Peter paraded down the center walkway and onto our table where the girl dancers normally performed. Thinking ‘when will this hell be over’, Peter dutifully went through the Hawaiian dance number with his girl partner (Taylor said he was in sync for only 3 seconds).

Talk about Beauty and the Beast!

This beautiful performance was only interrupted once when a male staff member snuck behind Peter and untied his coconut bra strap causing them to drop to the table. Peter instantly reacted to cover his vacant boobs.

... and then it got worse!

Most of us used the remaining memory of our digital cameras to get pictures of this wonderful sight. Peter, still thinking we had set him up, returned to the table but soon realized he had been zapped by fate. As we were walking to the bus Peter turned to me and said, “For God's sake, I’m a manager. Russ will have these pictures on the web in 50 minutes and they will be world wide!”. That's the INCH way!

The Hike (by Sue, Russ, and Tim)

The cast of characters: Cal - Kala, David - Kawika, Peter - Pika, Russ - Luke, Suzy -Kuki, Taylor - Kailolu, Tim - Kimo

"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?
And the sign said anybody caught trespassin'
would be shot on sight!"

The day after Captain Bean's Booze Cruise we woke up early to hike to Pu'u 'O'o. Given the average alcohol intake on the cruise was six Mai Tais, we were feeling just a wee bit dehydrated. We arrived at the Paradise trailhead and found two abandoned and rusted cars, possibly owned by hikers (who never returned?). Not a good sign.

1, 2, 3 ...INCH! Ahuma, Ahuma, Ahuma, HA!

Our INCH chant had morphed into a prayer to the Goddess Pele that we would survive the swarms of mosquitoes, boot sucking mud, alternative farmers and the powerful Pu'u 'O'o'.

We noticed the trailhead sign behind Kala was shot full of holes as he forewarned us of the overgrown trail marked only with small blue tags, and the danger of wandering into a farm with alternative crops hidden in the rainforest. Kailolu's eyes widened with fear of our impending doom. Not a good sign.

The alternative farmers claim another victim?

As we started down the trail, we decided right away that it took two people to lead the hike. One to watch for the blue tags, and the second person had to make sure the first one didn't screw up. Luke initially took the lead for all of ten minutes before getting the group lost. Pika, at the back of the group, took over the lead as we reversed course to find the evasive trail. "The last shall be first and the first shall be last". Luckily Kuki never took the lead, otherwise we might still be in the rainforest to this day.

The trail was littered with ankle-breaking exposed roots, quick sinking mud, and furry logs which would claim many an INCH hiker on this adventure. Fortunately, everyone escaped falling into one of the multiple fissures that seemed to be a quick route to China. But there was no escaping the mud: mud lakes, mud pots, quick mud and mud pies.

As we marched deeper into the lush forest, the tranquil sounds of birds singing and the wind whispering through the trees began to ease our fears. Well at least until Kailolu heard a noise and shouted "Was that a gunshot?!!" Kimo calmly turned around and said "No, that was just my boot." Kimo found out later his boot was tearing at the seams, so perhaps his boot was shot?!

The impenetrable rainforest

As we took one last machete swing, the forest abruptly ended into an expansive lava field with the almighty Pu'u 'O'o cinder cone and vent as a backdrop. We noticed a sign in the lava which said: "Stop! Stay near forest edge. New lava can be dangerous and unstable and you are a long way from help! Mahalo." At which time we realized that Kimo was already well into the lava field and basically a white dot in the distance. Kawika decided to ignore the warning and follow Kimo, certainly tempting to anger Pele. Not a good sign.

Only fools go further

These trees shouldn't have angered Pu'u 'O'o

As we ate lunch and waited for the (foolhardy) explorers, we could hear Pu'u 'O'o venting and releasing great clouds of hazardous gas, which gathered above the crater. We couldn't be certain of what angered the gods: the helicopters circling the crater, the explorers ignoring the warning totems, or Pika 'O'o venting his own hazardous and noxious gas clouds.

Meanwhile, Kimo and Kawika had reached a second warning totem on the edge of the cinder cone for those stupid enough not to heed the first warning. The second sign had a skull and crossbones and said one would probably fall into the cinder cone and die, and no one would come rescue you if you continued on the same path. Soon we saw Kawika's orange shirt in the distance, like a speck of lava flowing towards us. We don't know if it was Pu'u 'O'o's gas or the second sign that convinced the explorers to return back to the edge of the forest and tell their tale. Either way, we were all back together and ready to run from the danger.

Where intrepid (loony) hikers dare

On the way out, many hikers tired of the mud and decided avoiding the mud was futile. They would just wander through the middle of the muck. Luke had long decided that his boots would be sacrificed to the hiking gods in Hawaii. With a "Screw it" attitude, he went straight for the middle of every mud hole, the deeper the better. Eventually the ankle deep boot-sucking mud had Luke in a death grip. He quickly took out his camera to capture the moment. At last the boot was freed with a loud sucking sound that broke the tranquility of the rainforest.

Another boot falls victim to the Hawaiian hiking gods

The boot and Luke eventually made it back to the trailhead where we were relieved to find our cars, and more importantly the cooler, were still there. Finally a good sign. Since this was our last day in paradise, we were ready for a celebration.

In closing: The eight days in Hawaii flew by. We had numerous adventures in the water, on the roads and on the trails. All the while, we enjoyed the landscapes, the amazing sunsets, the narrow escapes, the ever changing weather, and the company of good friends.

Notable Hawaii trip tidbits:

Until our next hiking adventure ... Aloha!

Russ's 280th leaf
Taylor's 170th leaf

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