One With Nature, Even On Oahu

If you live on the Garden Isle, you don’t fly to the big city specifically to go hiking. You go there for business or family, and then it’s shop-till-you drop — no matter that Ross has finally landed on your home turf.

But when shopping and dining on Oahu are burning a hole in my wallet and I don’t remember what I just bought or ate, and it’s not connected to my early onset memory loss, going for a hike doesn’t seem like such a bad idea … It’ll be fresh air, perspiration and inspiration.

So, in Honolulu recently, I join some regulars to hike nearby Manoa Falls. Time is of the essence, so we dish out 5 bucks to park at the trailhead instead of on the shoulder of a busy, winding road a half-mile away. Biased toward Kauai, the comparisons begin immediately: How nice that I don’t pay a cent for parking on Kauai, not even at the state office building.

Upon arrival at the Manoa trail, its rocky yet cool and verdant conditions remind me of Hanakapiai trail on the northwestern end of Kauai. But the Oahu path is very mild compared to Kauai’s grand eight-mile journey and also lacks the liveliness of an accompanying river.

The 20-minute trail ends with a legitimate waterfall cascading into a small, shallow pool. Again, the fall is only a mere portion of Hanakapiai’s impressive 410-foot drop into a wide, deep and very cold pool.

As I near the comparatively diminutive pool, a visitor walks by, exclaiming, “There are lots of tiny fish in there that’ll nibble at your feet. It’s a neat feeling.”

Well, that’s something new — it doesn’t happen at Hanakapiai. So I take off my slippers, lay my phone aside on a dry rock and stand knee-deep in the water.

I patiently wait for the fish to come around and clean my feet. One must tolerate delays to be blessed by divine gestures, but it’s like watching a pot that never boils. So I divert my attention to the vertical water stream. Slightly above eye level and to the left of the rushing water is a small natural cave with a curtain of water dripping across its front. Inside the cozy opening are miniature plants and rocks befitting the organic space they occupy, as if the decorative elements were purposely placed there by a worshipper.

As is my meddling nature coupled with my inclination to decorate interiors, I imagine the cavity being further enhanced. “Seems like a Buddha statue belongs in there,” the idol worshipper in me says aloud. A friend says it’s a common practice in Laos, from which he hails. With his permission, I imagine walking on water toward the small altar. In my mind, I insert a contemplative figure, light some rose-scented incense and bow in reverence to the divinity of nature.

Immediately after musing, I look down and two tiny fish are hovering near my feet!

The anticipation is exciting and when they finally nibble at my toes, I am convinced.

When kissed by nature, any hike becomes incomparable.