"I'm not much of a hiker," I tell them.
"Oh, this is an EASY hike," they assure me. "Not like the last one, at all."
"The last one" was three hours of hiking in the rain, swimming in really cold water, and three hours of hiking back out. Somewhere in there, our youth director fell off a ledge and tumbled head over heels sixty feet down a ravine and cracked several ribs.
So, I agreed to go on the easy hike since it was nothing like the last hike. Everyone told me it would be a thirty minute hike to a river where we would blow up some inflatable rings and float down a river and have lunch, then hike back out. I was assured that even Katie could do it - that's how easy of a hike it is.
We met up with everyone in the parking lot of our church. There were more teens than adults so we had a nice sized group. It was at this point that I heard my friend Lisa say to someone else, "Oh, don't worry. There are plenty of roots and things to use and handholds and toeholds."
I turned to Ben (who has been on this hike before), "Are we going to be climbing up a cliff or something?"
"No, mom," he assured me. "It just a hill, a slight incline, not a cliff."
So we set off. It was muddy and slippery in places but it wasn't a terribly difficult hike. We were such a large group that I couldn't see my kids most of the time. They were either well ahead of me, or well behind me. But they knew to stay with the group and not go off by themselves, so I wasn't worried.
Then we came to the "slight incline". It was forty feet high. Not quite vertical, but almost. I took one look at it and said, "There's no way Katie can make it up that."
I was really thinking, "There's no way I can make it up that."
"She's already at the top of it," someone said.
When you are a kid, you look at a forty foot wall in front of you and think, "That looks like fun!"
When you're my age, you look at a forty foot wall and think, "I could twist a knee or my back bad enough that I won't be able to walk out of here. They'd have to carry me all the way back and I don't know if anyone in this group can make it with me draped over their shoulders. I'd be in a lot of pain the whole way. How long would I be in the hospital? What if I had a compound fracture? A concussion? How much damage can I do to myself if I attempt this? How good is my insurance?"
But....my kids were at the top so I kind of had to.
I watched several others go up first. One of the men in our group froze halfway up and it took him a while to finally get all the way to the top.
When it was my turn, I didn't look down, not once. I concentrated on exactly what was in front of me and on finding the next toehold and handhold. Unlike rock climbing, we weren't attached to anything so if we fell, we fell.
When I finally made it to the top I was shaking like a leaf. The man who had frozen half way up was still sitting just at the top trying to catch his breath.
We were close to the river at that point. We had to wade out into it ankle-deep and walk down it to an area where there was a river bank. Despite the fact that Hawaii is warm year-round, water that comes straight out of a mountain is cold year-round. We waded down to a clear spot and put our lunches and floats down. Most of us needed to eat at that point. I figured food would make me stop shaking.
Katie started complaining because her float wasn't holding her up out of the water enough and she was cold and the cold water was touching her and she wanted to get on my float with me and she didn't like her float and my float could hold both of us and I got up, handed her my float, took her float and started wading back to base camp.
"Aren't you going with us," everyone chorused at me.
"No, I am not," I snarled.
I made it back to where our backpacks and lunches were. I took Katie's float, laid it out on the bank and used it as a bed. I kicked my wet shoes and socks off lay back and listened to the birds sing and tried to nap.
It started to rain.
After about an hour, I heard the merry sounds of the group paddling back up the river to me. We managed to deflate all the floats, pack up the remains of the lunch, and start the hike back out.
And then we came back to the forty foot wall.
What had seemed like a blast to climb while standing at the bottom, looked totally different from the top. Katie went into a near state of panic at the thought of going backwards down that thing.
Luckily my friend Lisa said she knew there was a way around it. She, Katie and I decided to try to find the path that went around. We continued down the trail a ways.
The trail forked.
We took one trail, went down it for a while, decided maybe that hadn't been the right trail after all, went back and tried the other trail, and still couldn't decide which way we should go. We finally became more concerned about being lost than about falling forty feet and went back to the wall. Luckily some of the others were still there and they helped Katie down. One of the teen boys stayed right behind her the entire way so that he could catch her if she slipped.
The rest of the hike was mostly uphill. At one point, I thought I heard native drums beating. I realized when I stopped to listen that it was the sound of my heart drumming in my ears.
When I finally caught up to Ben I said, "You told me it was a 'hill'! A 'slight incline'! Not a cliff!"
"Mom," Ben said patiently. "A cliff is straight up and down like this." He held up his hand in a vertical position simulating the face of a cliff. Then he inclined his hand a quarter inch to the right, "That hill was like this."
At least I am forewarned for the future. If they ever tell me a hike is "a little difficult" I'll know it's life threatening beyond belief. And if they every tell me a hike is hard, I'll have the ambulance waiting at the trailhead when they come out.