Exploring Maui's natural beauty (my first hike here!)

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post, but I've been a busy bee this past week in Kihei!

For those of you that may not follow me on Instagram, where I usually post daily, I found a place in Kihei and moved here last Friday from Makawao. I spent Friday and Saturday getting settled in, grocery shopping, unpacking, walking to the beach and finally taking time to marvel in the fact that I am in HAWAII!! On Sunday, I was graciously picked up to go hiking with a group I found on Meetup. I was so excited and very ready for an adventure in nature!

The hike sounded pretty harmless on paper: 2.8 miles, 4.5 hours. Little did I know that the entire hike was a very steep incline on the face of a mountainside.

Five minutes in, I was already straining for my next breath, my heart pounding so hard I thought it was going to burst out of my body...WHAT THE?!?! I go hiking almost every weekend back at home, what was happening?? I kept repeating positive affirmations to myself–"I can do this!" / "Slow and steady wins the race." / "The universe supports me." / "I am safe and supported."–which got me 45 minutes straight of hiking uphill. I reached a point where I knew I had to stop; my body was telling me I needed to, so I called out to the two ahead of me, "I've gotta stop for a bit!"

Just ahead, there was a shaded spot with big rocks to sit on and lots of trees around us, so we sat. I drank water, caught my breath, closed my eyes, repeated my affirmations and thanked the guys for stopping. They were so nice about it! "We have no other plans today...Sundays are for hiking!"

As we were talking, I mentioned my confusion about having to stop only a short while into the hike, which they responded with, "It's the humidity. You're not used to breathing in less oxygen every breath in." OH YA!! Whoops! Totally forgot about the humidity. I felt such a huge relief after they told me that...

While we were still resting, we heard voices coming down the hillside. A dad and his two teenage sons were headed past us and instead of making awkward eye contact and a half-ass smile, they stopped, asked us if we were ok, gave us solid trail advice, chatted for a few minutes, asked if we had enough water and were on their way. After the encounter, the three of us reflected on how KIND everyone is here! I've always heard that people from Hawaii are so rude and mean, but every encounter I've had over the past few weeks have been extremely positive! The "aloha" spirit is definitely alive and well!

Shortly afterwards, we were back in action, headed up the hill once again. I fell behind again, but it was totally ok because I was stopping for water and air when I needed to...listening to my body and taking it slow. I was so focused on keeping on and taking the amazing view in as we climbed higher and higher, that I didn't take many pictures or any video on the way up, whoops! But here are the few I did take:

This is where we rested and I got to catch my breath!

A little farther up...

Closer to the top!! Look at that VIEW!

About an hour and a half later, we reached the Lahaina "L". YES!! I had MADE IT!!!!

Or so I thought...

As I walked up to the bottom of the L, my hiker friends had been there for a handful of minutes; like I said, I was taking my time! There was no rush! Seriously, the Aloha spirit is SO refreshing and much needed. Anyway...as I walked up, Glen, the leader of our small pack, said "You know this is just a resting stop right?"

I was so tired and completely taken by the magnificent view and the fact that I had made it this far, that I said yes, but once I realized what he had said..."oh shit oh shit oh SHIT!" was the first thought to cross my mind. But when you're in a hiking group of three and the other two are already hiking up the side of the red dirt & lime "L", you hop right in! And let me just say, I now realize the importance of hiking poles. The incline was so steep, I could hardly take a step without sliding so thankfully, Glen threw down one of his hiking poles so I could make it up the mountainside. That pole was my lifeline to the top.

I'm so grateful that I stuck through all of that, despite my fear, despite my wanting to quit, because once we got to the top, THIS was the view–

A little about the trail:

This is the really amazing part! Every year, a few students from the graduating class of the high school down the road from the trail head, hikes up to the "L", each with 40 lb bags of lime, which is what the "L" is made of. They add the lime to the "L" for upkeep and also add their graduating class year within the tail of the L. Then they head to the trail summit (the three pictures above) to pay their respects to David Malo, a renowned Native Hawaiian historian and minister, who was in the high school's first graduating class. His grave is pictured above on the very far right and all around the grave are plaques from the students, with their names and their class year. There were tons of them! Ranging from the 1950s to 2016; it was such a beautiful tribute and the energy there was very palpable, in a good way.

Shortly after we got to the top, I felt little drops of rain begin to fall. It actually felt really good because of the humidity! Glen and James wanted to see where the trail lead since it kept going, so I agreed. Why not??

The rain began to fall more and more with each step and I began to panic. I repeated the affirmations from earlier, but they weren't helping. The vegetation became thicker and thicker, the rain really started to come down. NO NO NO! I was getting so uncomfortable the farther we walked. I was also running low on water, ironically enough, so I finally yelled out, "We need to turn back! I don't have much water left!"

So we turned back and as we made our way down, the more the rain poured. Thank goodness there was a less steep trail for the downhill portion of the hike, because I really wasn't in the mood to slide down the steep side of the L on my butt!

The only picture I took on the way down was when I had finally gotten ahead of the rain and realized I hadn't gotten a shot of the Lahaina L from afar–

It doesn't look that difficult of a hike from this view, but it definitely wasn't easy! It was a FANTASTIC workout, especially for my calves and hamstrings. About halfway down, my knee started to really bother me (old injury). I fell farther and farther behind, but at that point I didn't care. It actually gave me time to be alone, let myself feel the pain and slight twinge of anxiety about my knee (I didn't want to be out of commission for the rest of my trip!), stop to take pictures and even a quick squat behind a large rock. Hey, when nature calls, you gotta go! Once I made it to the homestretch, where the trail ran into the path we started on, I was still hurting pretty badly, but I was so close I knew I could make it all the way back to the car if I took it nice and slow.

I took some more video footage, stopped for stretch breaks and water, and before I knew it, I saw Glen and James at the trail head. We caught our breath, stretched, watched two paragliders make their way towards the oceanside then headed to the car.

And see that red dirt?? Well, with all the rain, it became red mud and let me just say my hiking shoes and white running socks I intelligently decided on wearing, will never look the same...

As we headed back towards town, I scarfed down an apple, a few carrots and vegan pesto pasta that I had leftover from the day before. Five hours of hiking will definitely make you hungry!! After another apple, I was feeling a bit more like myself again and down to explore Lahaina for a little while.

Glen and James headed off to get ice cream and I went searching for the closest bathroom, to splash my face with water and to try to wash off some of the mud on my legs and ankles. While I was at the sink, I started talking to a woman who turned out to be from Santa Cruz! She was visiting her daughter here who had just had a baby :) I told her I went to Santa Clara, we chatted about Northern California a bit and we parted ways, wishing each other well for the duration of our trips.

As tired as we all were, we just HAD to walk around the art gallery beneath the majestic banyan tree in the middle of town. It was heart-stopping! I wish I had had my Canon because my iPhone shots really don't do it justice.

"Sheriff William Owen Smith planted an Indian banyan tree in the courtyard square in 1873 to memorialize the 50th anniversary of the first American Protestant mission in Lahaina. The banyan tree has become the largest banyan tree in Hawaii, and one of the largest banyan trees in the United States. Its extensive trunk and aerial root system now covers 0.66 acres." (source: Wikipedia)

AMAZING, RIGHT?!

After I marveled at the natural beauty of this magnificent tree and of course took a picture in the central trunk (photobombed by this little boy), I rejoined the guys. We walked around for a little while, checking out the stunning photography at some of the tables, then realized our legs were practically jello, so we headed back to the car.

Quick digression: I ran into an ice cream shop to get my water bottle refilled and they had mini pineapples on the counter for sale! Leave it to Hawaii to have local pineapples at an ice cream shop :P only in tropical paradise...

As I walked to the front door of my Maui home and my hiking friends drove away, I looked down at my shoes, covered in dried red mud. I was completely exhausted, but the good kind of exhausted. The kind you experience only from a full day of mental, physical and emotional ups and downs, wonderful memories and trying something completely out of your comfort zone.

A new, more positive wave of Maui adventure had begun...and I was so thrilled.

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