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From Latter Day Saints to the Hiker’s Golden Rule

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We were in Hawaii to celebrate my boyfriend’s sixtieth birthday.  On Saturday, our first day after arriving, we decided to take our hotel guest advisor’s advice and head for the End of the Road on the northern –most end of the big island, Route 270.
She warned us that we didn’t have much daylight left since the sun would set at six o’clock.  We took a beautiful winding drive and passed the North Kohala Public Library on Akoni Pule Highway.  Within a few minutes we had reached our destination.
I pulled our rental car into a parking spot that faced east and turned off the ignition.  As I started to gather my cell phone and the keys together, I saw a sizeable group walk in front of the nose of our car.  There were four young men in button-down shirts and ties sporting black name tags and with a silver-haired gentleman along with two conservatively-dressed women.
“Oh great,” I muttered.  “Mormons.”  I hesitated in getting out of the vehicle since I figured they might approach us handing out literature and witnessing.  We exited the car anyway and they greeted us with smiles.  They asked us if we were from the mainland and explained that the young men were on site for two years as missionaries.
I asked if there was a secret Mormon handshake and they laughed and said that Mormons were crazy, but not secretive.  My boyfriend Michael said that he was used to crazy, having grown up Catholic.
The two ladies laughed and one said that she had grown up Catholic and that they were in fact, crazy, which had caused her to convert.  “From the frying pan into the fire,” I thought silently.
The other woman looked at me and smiled and shook my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Louise.  I checked her nametag, which read, “Sister Pearson.”  She followed my glance and explained, “I wear that since I’m on a mission.”
“Michael,” I said sternly.  “It’s time.”  After a quick group photo where I joked about throwing gang signs, which they laughed at, we were on our way.  It was now about five minutes before six and the sun’s light was already fading.
Michael was definitely having second thoughts, but there was no way I was turning back after coming all this way.  We descended the rocky trail where you could see dried-out rivulets.  You wouldn’t want to try this in a rainstorm or after dark, that’s for sure.
The steep pitch of the path, along with the rocks, forced us to carefully pick our way down.  Signs along the trail read, “Caution:  Erosion causes loose rocks, which may result in severe injury or death.”
We passed a slender man and his female partner as they were climbing back up.  We smiled and nodded.  He looked at us quizzically.
Next came two hikers in their mid-sixties.  After multiple switch-back turns, we were starting to wonder if we’d ever reach the sea, or make it out of there before dark.  Had this been a poorly planned outing?  A foolhardy idea?  I realized it wouldn’t be the first time! 
When we made the final turn that led us to the rocky beach and ocean we passed two women with a passel of kids—two boys and a red-headed girl.  I approached a beautiful old banyan tree and leaned against it, offering blessings and gratitude.  (My mother had warned us against removing anything from the beach—Hawaiians consider that bad luck and I didn’t need any proof).
Finally, I reached the water!  I dashed ahead and soaked my old running shoes.  The sun had set and the shadows were growing.  It was time to make the return climb.
As we crossed the large, black smooth stones to return to the trail, I fell.  The spirits must have been with me since my hands didn’t even touch ground—I just crouched down and landed in a seated pose.  I then used my legs stork-like to stand.
Michael admitted, “That was one graceful wipeout.”  We increased our pace since we had been told the hike would take fifteen minutes down and thirty minutes back up.  There were no lights whatsoever on the trail and we started moving double-time.
We had been talking about running the New York City marathon in November after having volunteered for a few years.  Our three miles’ fitness foundation was coming in handy.
I felt relief when I saw half of a plastic knife lying in the dirt, since I remembered that marker from doing down and knew we didn’t have much distance left to cover.
Just then, I looked up and saw the last remaining bit of light in the sky and exclaimed, “I see someone!”  The car, and safety, couldn’t be far off.
As I continued chugging along uphill, the woman’s head and face remained in focus—she wasn’t moving.  She stood at the very top of the trail, expectantly looking down at us.
Was she waiting for us?!  She had to be, I realized.  She and her husband were surely on vacation since this area seemed an extremely unlikely choice for an experienced local hiker.
Michael and I reached the blacktop and headed for the ledge where we could sit and dangle our feet.  It was officially dusk.  The couple was sitting in their car, waiting patiently.  When I opened the car door, only then did they start the car and drive away.  We waved and they smiled.
We had been watched over and taken care of, from start to finish.
What a warm Aloha, indeed.


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