July 9, 2005, a banner day in our family. What better way to celebrate my eldest daughter’s upcoming 16th Birthday than a Mother-Daughter hike up the Kolekole Pass? So, with lunch cooler and camera gear in hand, off we went. The day promised memorable adventures, but who would have thought when that clear Saturday dawned that we would have the adventure of a lifetime? Everything started out ordinarily enough…
The hike wasn’t a difficult one, and as we began we walked with ease, chatting happily while admiring the scenery along the way. The wide trail soon narrowed, winding through trees, becoming root-strewn and steeper as we went. We could see blue skies through the needle-laden limbs of the little pine forest we passed. The landscape surprised us by opening suddenly into a wide, grassy clearing where we decided to rest and eat our lunch.
Filled to the full with food, water, and the beauty of our surroundings, we continued our hike. We had the trail to ourselves as we forged ahead. Slowly the path became steeper and rockier until we had to use the tree roots for secure footing. Ahead I spied the steepest incline yet and above it a rope that resembled a hand-rail. Below us were innumerable trees descending a treacherous slope.
The rope ran horizontally between two of the smaller trees. Leaves obscured the path ahead, but we doggedly pressed on. One of the things I adore most about my eldest daughter is her unflagging cheerfulness. Quick to laugh, she never seems to be without a smile. She also possesses the grace of a ballet dancer, clearly seen in the way she skipped across the rope-bordered path. Supported by the tree on the other end, she waited for me to take my turn across.
After about 3 steps I knew I was in trouble. The ground was literally slipping away beneath me! Knowing instinctively that my only hope was to lower my center of gravity, I quickly sat down to stop the downward slide my feet were taking. Trapped in the middle of the path, unable to go either forward or back (any small movement started the landslide all over again), I had a flash of memory.
Stationed in Hawaii the summer of 2003, I never thought I could love a place as much as I did the balmy island we then called home. I knew it was a temporary (3-yr.) duty station, and we had recently learned the Army would take us from there 6 months earlier than expected. At that time, I had been saying, “I could be buried here” simply meaning I’d love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life on this island paradise. But that day, celebrating 16 years with my daughter, struggling to hang onto a melting path, looking over a precipice I knew I’d never survive, I laughingly prayed, “This isn’t what I meant, Lord.”
Survival mode kicked in. Putting the camera bag on the ground beside me to provide even more stability, I instructed my daughter to sit down next to the rope and follow me back to the other side (I still wonder how she had managed to skip across the nonexistent path in the first place). She obediently complied and very slowly we inched our way to the first tree, breathing a sigh of relief when we finally had firm ground to stand on. The time spent on that path felt like hours, but, while likely only moments, it is still firmly etched in my memory some 7 years later.
Looking at my daughter, alive and well, I apologized for celebrating her Birthday by almost bringing about her death. The climb back down was uneventful except for the laughter that accompanied our banter. We were very happy to be alive and unharmed from our recent ordeal. Back home we smiled as we told the story animatedly, but the truth is I thought we’d never come back from that one! In spite of the dangerous circumstances we were in, we will always be able to say we remember well how we celebrated my daughter’s coming of age.