|December 9, 2007
|So the only choice I felt I had was to take a road that I had seen on the way down that turned off toward the highway
(magenta line). It was just a grass track but it was straight and level and when in the direction I wanted to go to get back
to the highway. It didn't show on the GPS. Pretty much as soon as I got on the new road, darkness fell and I was
navigating with my head lamp and Maglite that I used when I was hiking the lava fields. This allowed me to see OK but
didn't allow be to see into the thick vegetation on either side. I was basically hiking in an isolated pool of light. To make
matters worse, the GPS would show roads but as my road approached them, it would veer off in another direction and
there was no way to reach the roads indicated by the GPS! On top of that, many of the roads shown on the GPS (or the
aerial view above) didn't exist! They're just something that somebody laid out surveying one time but in reality aren't
there at all! Or, at most, they would turn out to be tracks through agricultural fields! It was very frustrating! The only
choice I had, because of the darkness, was to follow the road - it had to come out someplace... didn't it? By this time, I
was completely exhausted and could barely walk.
Finally, around the middle left of the image above, I came to a road that was actually shown on the GPS and actually
existed! At last! And it was headed straight for the highway! So I hobbled along with my hopes rising. I started to hear
the noises of the highway and thought I was home free! And then, suddenly, the road turned left and turned parallel to
the highway, although the GPS showed it continuing straight! That was just about the last straw! I continued to follow
the road because there wasn't really any choice but with no confidence that any of the roads I was seeing on the GPS
would even turn out to be real! I was literally on my last legs. I found that I was passing by a papaya field, orchard,
whatever they call it. I made the fateful decision to say the hell with it and turned into the papaya field and headed
straight for the sound of the highway. Mistake!
|On the GPS, the only road marked was the highway and I had no way of knowing whether any of the other roads
indicated were real or not. I cut into the papaya field and followed the roads along rows of papaya trees until I reached
a wall of brush, turned left until I found another road heading in the direction I wanted and took that. This also ended in
a wall of brush and I turned right, then right again in an attempt to get back to where I started. I could see my path on
the GPS so I thought I was going to get back to it until I ran into another wall of brush that separated me from my
previous path. I turned right until I ran into more brush, doubled back and went the other way until I hit more brush and
finally just stopped and sat down. I was exhausted. I knew I was close to the road - I could hear it! But, for the life of
me, I couldn't figure out how to get there! I was so completely exhausted, I couldn't go any further so I decided to just
stay there until daylight came and I could see what the hell was going on! I had a straw beach mat and one of those
reflector emergency tarps in my pack so I spread them out, took off my sweat-soaked clothes and crawled in to try and
get some sleep. Man, it felt good to get my hiking boots off! When I checked my GPS later, I found I'd walked another 7
miles, making it almost 13 miles in all. No wonder I was tired!
15 minutes later it started to rain... just a little at first, then a little more, then harder, and HARDER! I just laughed. I was
too tired and couldn't do anything about it anyway. I must have dosed off because the next thing I knew the rain had
stopped and all the stars were out... I slept very fitfully the rest of the night, just waiting for the sun to come up and show
me the way out of here!
The next morning, I could hear music coming from a radio not far away. I got my stuff packed up and went over to find a
guy working in the papaya field. I asked him how to get out of there and he pointed to a nearby line of trees and said,
"The road is right over there". I followed his directions and, sure enough, there was a two-lane paved road right there!
It turns out that if I had continued on the road I was on last night instead of turning into the papaya field just another 800
feet I would have hit it! From there, it was only a half mile walk to the main highway. I called Robin with my cell phone
and she came and picked me up! Simple as that!
|This is the road I was following just
before I turned of into the papaya field
|The following photos were taken two days later when I went back to the scene in my car. The day after, I recuperated. I
was barely able to walk and I just stayed home and caught up on my sleep and recharged. The following day I had to
run some errands in Hilo so I swung by and took these pictures.
|This was the road in the papaya field
that I turned into
|Up ahead is where I first turned left.
That brush line looked very imposing
in the dark!
|<-- My "campsite" in the morning
Looking back at where I slept from the
road to the highway -->
|But if you look more closely, you can
see there's a bit of a track... Just up
ahead on the left is where I "camped"
|Somewhere behind that brush is where
I spent the night. In the dark it was
impossible to see where to step to get
through that stuff.
|And this is what I would have seen if I
had just stayed on the road for
another few hundred feet!
|I thought I'd introduce you to my GPS device which has given you such good tracks for the last year or so! Say "hi"!
On the screen, you can see my track of the night of December 9. On the far right, by the word "BEGIN", you can see a
dashed line that leads down to a notch in the coastline. That's the path that wasn't there. The notch in the coastline is
the beach I was heading for. The dashed line below that is the path back to Paradise Park that I'd already been on so I
knew that one was there! The tangle of brown lines you see are supposed to be roads but they aren't. Some of them
are tracks through agricultural fields like the ones above through the papaya field but most of them simply don't exist -
probably abandoned long ago and completely overgrown. The GPS doesn't distinguish between a track in a field and a
real road so there's no way to tell what's what...
|P.S. (1/31/08) - After this hiking experience, I bought new hiking shoes. I got the exact same kind and here's a
comparison of new vs. old. The tread on the old shoes got worn flat by all that hiking on the rough lava and even
melted somewhat, perhaps, from the heat of the hot lava underfoot. As it turned out, I lost the toenail on my little toe of
my left foot and the toenail on my big toe on my right foot turned black but didn't fall out. My feet were losing dead skin
from the blisters for at least a month afterward. Haven't been able to wear shoes since then... Definitely messed my
feet up from that hike. I blame the tread-less shoes and the rough coastal rocks.
|December 11, 2007