The Hike That Was Almost My Last

One would think, after acclimating to long hikes with elevation changes in the mountains of West Texas and mesas around Abiquiu, New Mexico, that I’d be in shape for most any romp.

In Hawaii, the hike that was almost my last didn’t give a hoot about all that preparation months before.

I visited my two sons for a month back in April-May 2019. On an island loop drive with my youngest son (stationed on a U.S. Navy submarine based out of Pearl Harbor), we’d planned a hike on a trail deemed “easy” by the local trail guides. The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail boasted only a 500 ft. elevation change over the 2.5 mile trail around the coastline, ever-rising toward the lighthouse at the top. 

In a typical year, hiking is among the top three causes of deaths in Hawaii (drowning or water-related being #1). Hiking seemed an odd reason to rank so high. A little research and I learned why. On the beloved ridge hikes atop volcanic ridges, the ridges are barely wide enough for the trail. The park system barricades many of these trails closed, but seems it’s easy to subvert such intentions. The latest death reported when I was there was of a local nurse who stepped back one step too far to take a selfie atop such a ridge and plunged thousands of feet to her death. While we chose a hike on a trail with wide, paved trial winding up and around the point, at least we didn’t have to worry about “death by selfie” (surely someone’s written a mystery novel entitled that).

We arrived at the trailhead and took the last parking spot. On densely populated Oahu island, everyone seems like they own a car, despite a small island and narrow roads. The trail slope didn’t seem that bad, but soon our legs and lungs would disagree, and in hindsight, my heart too. Wasn’t long before shortness of breath, chest heaviness, and sore arms made me wonder what was going on.

Fact is, via a chronic digestive issue I’d been dealing with for years occasionally exhibited similar symptoms. I thought “oh, just another episode” and toughed it out. This concerned my son, once briefly a EMT and long interested in medical stuff. But he deferred to my “just my system getting wacko; happens now and then” self-diagnosis. But said wackiness never continued this long nor stayed in specific places in me (it usually did a wonderful, around-the-body pain tour instead).

Despite the discomfort, the views were amazing and the frequent stops to rest made soaking in the splendor all the better. We didn’t make it to the top and the lighthouse, but the hike down rewarded me with lighter symptoms, thankfully.

Getting back in the car, we continued our loop around the shoreline, each turn more spectacularly beautiful than the last. Mentally, I still connected the symptoms on the hike to my old digestive nemesis, failing to realize what it actually was. I increasingly felt better over the next few days back to normal.


Fast forward past the flight back to Denver, some post-trip time visiting with friends near Denver, and a leisurely drive back to Ohio via a maintenance stop for my RV van in Iowa. Add in a scenic drive up through Wisconsin, over Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula, then down through the state to Findlay, Ohio, to a routine exam by my doc, a bad EKG, an exploratory discovery stress test (nearly killed me as I went into cardiac shock from the test and came within a minute of “too late” efforts by two cardiologists and four nurses), to a life-saving stent placed in my “widow-maker” artery, to fix an ~90% blockages.

I’ve never been one to believe luck plays any part in living or fate, but have to wonder if that played a part through all those months before when I was unknowingly a gnat-hair’s width away from a fatal stroke. I wish I could say I was intentional living daringly on the edge of a catastrophe, but truth is I was just ignorant of the warning signs, ones misinterpreted for a long time and certainly ignoring the big “call to action” that day on Hawaiian hike.

Mahalo, Honolulu

Tomorrow I fly back to the mainland to Denver, and end my 25-day Hawaiian vacation and adventure. It’s been a great trip and visit with my two sons who live in Honolulu. And while I didn’t catch any of the other islands on this trip, we made good use of the days to explore Oahu’s nature. Of course, there was also a lot of just hanging out, eating great food, taking in a few movies, and catching up on life.

My memories of this visit include becoming a fan of boba tea drinks, sushi (more than before), and an awesome downtown Whole Foods that gave me a great place to get some writing down while indulging in some fabulous people watching. Add to the list the incredible colors in the waters around the island, and the vegetation and nature on parts of the island away from Honolulu, and it was a successful trip. Much of the nature here is difficult to photograph, but amazing to see on drives through and around the mountains of Oahu.

If you’re just now stumbling onto my Hawaii-related posts, you can revisit them here, here, here, here, and here for commentary and island photos.

For now, I’ll take my 25 days of consistent warm climate and my tan and head back to the mainland. Looking forward to resuming nomadic living in Tamasté, provided I can wake him from a 25-day slumber for more journeys ahead.


Surf’s Up: Exploring Oahu’s West Coast

Since I leave Hawaii a week from tomorrow, I decided to start exploring Oahu’s nature by zones, taking roughly a day in each zone rather than the sporadic visits so far. We started yesterday by driving the west coast highway north from Kahe Point Beach Park until we ran out of paved road in the Ka’ena Point State Park.

As stunningly blue the water is with staggering shades from turquoise to deep blue, the hills, mountains, and vegetation opposite the shore were equally beautiful in their way. As much as I’m enjoying hanging out at Whole Foods in downtown Honolulu, spending the time to drive out of congested areas and into island nature is a fantastic way to see the true Hawaii.

Injured seal on ledge, and her (or his) mate staying close by


Hawaii Hike

Koko Crater upper right

Took my first Oahu island hike yesterday with my younger son. As with most (just about all) hiking trails here, you have to do a lot of vertical climbing to get to the views. And as expected, the views are spectacular but you have to earn them through a lot of cardio over the 500′ elevation rise on the trail!

Mongoose, not native and unwanted invasive specie (not my photo)

We hiked up the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail but didn’t make it all the way to the lighthouse. Sadly, the lighthouse is gone now and only foundations remain. And while we didn’t see any whales (a common sighting along this trail per comments I read) we did watch a mongoose go in and out of the grass along the trail’s edge. The trail offers no shade and the day was hot so we rested at one of the higher lookouts then turned back to go down.

This trail is touted as one of the easiest hikes on the island, yet was challenging for me. We’ll see how I fare on the other trails later on and hopefully share more island paradise views.

Anywhere America

One thing I’ve noticed more in my travels this year is that fundamentally, American big cities have more in common than they are unique.

As I was eating lunch at Whole Foods today, I pondered the above scene out my window and realized, except for the palm trees (and even that is common to many U.S. cities), I could be looking at Anywhere, America: similar vehicles, recognizable retail places, large developments wiping out unique stores and hotels, etc. Granted I could have walked three blocks to where I took the beach picture shared yesterday, and clearly that wasn’t Anywhere, America. But it does feel like our population centers are rapidly morphing into consistent, rubber-stamped developments of corporate and retail conglomerates.

Remembering travels over past decades, before the advent of big box stores and rubber stamped brands across America, each city seemed to have a more distinctive feel with unique representations of local retail and culture. Not any more it seems. Understood that fundamental capitalism and the need of many to become unusably rich drove local businesses, restaurants, and retail out of downtown areas. Places where preservation of architecturally historical buildings exists like Boston, Chicago, etc., have at least protected those unique icons, but for how long?

I have to confess having a pet peeve about the rapid extinction of local coffee shops in big cities. Having spent a lot of time in these, I remember enjoying many with their local cultural or artistic vibes. It’s been sad to visit New York City, as an example, over the years and witness the elimination of such places. True to our capitalistic addiction, they’ve been replaced by the now ubiquitous Starbucks. Did it really make sense to wipe out a local coffee shop so an intersection could have two Starbucks diagonally opposite? Saw that multiple times on my most recent trip. And for the record, although it takes extra effort, you can search and find some local NYC coffee shops, at least for now.

I guess this post comes off as old-fart whining for the good old days, but with the proliferation of Wal-Marts and the continued embedding and growing dominance of the Amazon empire, how long will any uniqueness remain in our signature cities? How long before we start taking down historical buildings, replacing them with high-rise condos complete with street-level unaffordable retail space? And I, for one, wouldn’t bet against seeing a Starbucks there before the first well-heeled tenants move in.