“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” -Ernest Hemingway
Two weeks ago, alongside a few hula family, I hiked up to Mokuʻāweoweo and back. The opportunity came through an invitation to fulfill a 20-year dream, so I was honored. I agreed because I wanted to support my dear friend as she manifested what she had waited so long to do, but what started out as a mission to provide moral support, quickly transformed into my own personal quest.
I don’t know a lot of people who have hiked to Mokuʻāweoweo, so I thought, why not? I’ve done some pretty unbelievable things in my life, like signing up with my best friends to do the Honolulu Marathon on a whim and then actually training and running the 26.2 miles because I didn’t want to waste $26.20 by not going through with it. I’ll cherish that experience because it’s a feat few people can boast they’ve done and it challenged me physically and mentally. When I agreed to Mokuʻāweoweo, the marathon came to mind and I knew it would be an experience that would teach me massive life lessons and forever bind me to my amazing traveling partners.
We acclimated Friday night just below the Mauna Loa Observatory by sleeping in trucks at 40 degree weather. It was a cold and restless night.
We awoke to Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Kohala, and Haleakalā at 6 am, prepped, then embarked upon the trail at 8:30 am. Leaving late was a rookie mistake that would later haunt us. The hike from the observatory was 3.8 miles straight up to the rim of the crater and another 2.1 miles to the cabin. The trail is marked by ahu, or stones assembled into little shrines. The ascent seemed endless and I’ll be happy never to see another trail ahu for the next 2 years. Altitude sickness and the thin air began to take its toll on me and before long, we had been walking for a good 12 hours. My pack felt light enough at the beginning, but as time went on, it got heavier and heavier. Twilight came and went and the cabin was still nowhere to be found. The thought of having to hunker down on the trail overnight did cross my mind, but thankfully, a hula sister who had made it to the cabin, came back for the last of us. We arrived at the cabin in the dark, shortly before 9, grateful, relieved, and exhausted.
We spent Saturday night in the humble, but warm cabin, 30-degree weather rapping on the windows, while Mokuʻāweoweo lay smoldering outside. It was another restless night.
After greeting and paying homage to Mokuʻāweoweo, we left at 9:15, Sunday morning. The air was thin and as physically able as I am, I continued to bog out physically, mentally, and spiritually. Had it not been for that same hula sister who rescued us the night before and her commanding encouragement, I might still be on the mountain. I owe my epic journey to her. Her humorous reminders that the vultures were circling, kept me moving. Bruised, but feeling rejuvenated and accomplished, we arrived to the trucks after a 6 hour descent, ready to process the life-changing experience and to write the next exciting chapter of our lives.
For me, this hike to Mokuʻāweoweo was done in a kind of haze, brimming with reflection and inner dialogue. I first got mad at my inability to “get it together” and then I cried, a lot, both to and from Mokuʻāweoweo. I cried for every bad decision and every mean word. I cried for all those things I should’ve done and had been too chicken shit to do. I cried that my body, mind, and spirit were each so disoriented and out of sync with each other in that environment that I was having to battle with myself the entire hike. Mostly, I cursed myself for not leaving behind and emptying the emotional baggage I had been saddled with for the past few months, especially before a trip that would require every ounce of strength on all fronts. On the way down, I shed the effects of altitude sickness and giving a shit, and finally, dropped the emotional baggage somewhere along the cinder trail.
The hike served as preparation for yet another life transition that had been awaiting my undivided attention for awhile. It jolted me into focus to prepare for the next phase of my life. I always hear the saying, “The lava is coming,” and although I know that it means to get moving, I really needed a heroine’s journey to put it and everything else in my life back into perspective.
Toward the end of the hike, I stopped to look out at the same mountains who greeted us the previous morning, and I thought of my great-grandmother Lucy, who might’ve looked over to Hawai’i island from Maui on clear days to spy Mauna Loa peeking through clouds. I said a little mahalo to her as we greeted Haleakalā from our vantage point. I thought of my nieces and nephews who may one day climb Mokuʻāweoweo or their own version of a such mountain that will raise a mirror to them and show them humility in its presence and the brevity of human life.
I feel blessed that I am one of the lucky few in this world who has seen Mokuʻāweoweo with my own eyes and was brought to witness her splendor by my own two legs. With me, came my own family, including tūtū Lucy, and the communities that have nurtured me. You too were with me on this journey to Mokuʻāweoweo. You were with me with every step on the unsure and crumbly ʻaʻa. You were with me when I was bundled up tight in the cabin, exhausted and craving sleep while the spirit was wide awake and terrified.
If you never physically make this trip in your life, just know you were there with me, so thank you. Thank you for guiding me home.