As the frequency and duration of my hikes increases, I meet a variety of interesting people whose paths were not otherwise likely to cross mine. Whether tourists or local people, our conversations are always enjoyable, and some of these acquaintances are “almost” friends now.
Initially, all of my encounters were with tourists, perhaps because I was only hiking on weekends, and some, such as a honeymooning couple on a five-island tour, simply wanted to confirm that they were still on the right trail. We hiked together from where we met, and talked about some of the plants and vistas along the trail until we reached our mutual destination.
Still other hikers were genuinely lost, and often heading in the opposite direction (opposite from my direction, as well as the direction they wanted to go). Although I only offered directions at first, eventually I hiked back with them past all of the incorrect alternatives to ensure that they could easily reach their destination without further delay or missteps.
More recently, people have asked if this trail or that was the way to some destination that was quite out of reach, either because no trail existed or because it was kapu (prohibited).
After I volunteered for trail maintenance in the Nounou Forest Reserve, and expanded that to the Kealia Forest Reserve, the people and conversations were altogether different from my initial encounters. People were interested in longer conversations, and in their words, we “talked story”—something I thought would not come about for another 15 to 20 years.
First I met a spiritual woman who encouraged me by saying that I was answering the call of my mother (no, not Mom), Mother Nature that is. We had met before, on the trail and in town, but our exchanges were more like nodding to strangers in an elevator. Now, she was sharing a bit of her faith with me, and thanking me for sawing up some trees that had fallen across the trail.
On a hot muggy day, I stopped on a bridge and on greeting a couple, realized that the man was someone I had met last year on another trail. This time he was with the friend he had mentioned when we last met, and they asked why I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and trousers on such a hot day. So I explained that I volunteered with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife to maintain safe access to the trails, and had just come from clearing some heavy branches and fallen trees, for which shorts and “slippahs” simply would not do.
Most recently, Forestry and Wildlife brought over some grass cutting tools because people were beginning to ask when “we” were going to mow. Later, while laying waste to some bull grass and invasive ground cover, I met several local people, as well as their dogs. All thanked me for the work I was doing, and one woman stopped and asked, “Didn’t the county used to do this?” That’s when I explained that I was a volunteer for the county. Afterwards, she told me a little about her experiences working the kibbutzes in Israel in the 70s while I finished mowing.
Regrettably, I haven’t been back out on the trails for about a week now due to the intense heat and humidity trapped overhead by a series of tropical storms that bear down on us relentlessly. Longing for better days ahead, both to get back on my fitness regimen and to see old friends as well as making new friends while looking after the forests.