Sometimes Paradise is a Hot Shower and a Snickers Bar

IMG_2679The hubs and I are in our 20th year of marriage. The actual anniversary date is still a few months off. But on some days, leading up to the big day, I find myself pondering in amazement…20 years… that’s a long time.

Our 20th year together is in many ways much easier than our first. Even though that first year was filled with adventure, romance, travels and fewer responsibilities, we were still figuring out the difference between what we expected from marriage and what was really in store.

It was during that first year of marriage, that the hubs accompanied me on a “working” trip to Hawaii and I discovered how expectations could sabotage an adventure.

The island of Kauai is everything I imagined it could be. Lush, mossy green mountains set a backdrop to a tropical island paradise dotted with palm trees and resort hotels. It was a brief trip and we didn’t know if we’d ever get another chance to return; so we crammed activities into every free moment. We played golf. We snorkeled. We took a helicopter tour of the island complete with a booming Yanni soundtrack playing in our earphones.

A view from our helicopter tour of Kauai.

A view from our helicopter tour of Kauai.

Each experience made me delirious with joy. Except… the hike.

The hubs overheard other hotel guests discussing a hiking trail that led to a waterfall. Waterfalls are his jam. We’d already been on countless hikes on other trips, through the Canadian wilderness in search of la chutes d’eau. The French word made him laugh and the triumph of finding a tucked away falls made him behave as if he’d summited a great mountaintop. And word was, that people were swimming under these secluded Hawaiian falls. We simply had to check it out.

It was said to be a three-mile hike. In our estimation, the trek would take around an hour and we would be frolicking under a waterfall like newlyweds in a romantic comedy.

That afternoon, we drove to the trailhead at the end of a road located near a deserted beach, parked the rental car and set out on our adventure. I expected to get some exercise, take pictures of some beautiful scenery and be back at the hotel in time for dinner. I brought along a backpack containing a jacket, a beach towel and a water bottle.

IMG_2682After about an hour of ambling along a dirt path through an island jungle, we began to get thirsty. It was warm. The water went quickly. We hadn’t thought to bring extra water, snacks or a flashlight for such a short jaunt. We shrugged off the minor discomfort of thirst and kept walking. Lots of hikers passed us. They were heading in the opposite direction, each telling the hubs we were almost there and that reaching the falls was totally worth the trip. These comments stoked his determination and fueled his ability to tune out my rumblings about getting tired and hungry.

We’d surely covered the estimated three miles and yet, no waterfall. The farther we traveled inland, the muddier and slipperier the path became. My stomach growled. The hubs checked his watch. He knew we needed to allow enough time to hike out before it got dark. We picked up the pace.

Finally! We reached a sign. It was the 3-mile marker. The destination we thought we’d been aiming for. But, no. This was not the spot where young dreamers would discover a jungle paradise. This was just a sign informing us that we’d reached the path that would lead us to the waterfall in approximately two more miles. What?!

We’d been misled. Deceived. We thought the trip would be easier. We weren’t prepared for this abrupt change of plans. Not fair.

I wanted to go back. But in the distance we could hear a faint sound; a spilling flow of water. The hubs begged me to press on. But we’d need to go faster if we were going to make it back out in daylight. He led. I followed. I whined. I slipped on muddy rocks. I couldn’t go faster because my mental capacity had been pre-set for what I’d believed would be an easy excursion. The hubs kept checking his watch as we marched deeper into the trees and brush. A steady stream of wet hikers passed us, heading out. “You’re almost there,” they’d say. I lost count of how many people told us we were almost there.

We reached a ravine. We’d have to hike down, cross over some boulders and logs in a stream and hike up the other side to continue. It was beginning to dawn on the hubs that continuing was unwise. In the clearing it was easier to hear what we thought were people splashing under the waterfall. We walked a bit farther, thinking we must be almost there. We were not. We could now see the falls in the distance and realized we’d never make there in time.

This is as close as we ever got to the waterfall that day.

This is as close as we ever got to the waterfall that day.

Feeling famished and dehydrated we high-tailed it back toward the trailhead in the gloaming. We couldn’t hear water or people anymore. No other hikers came by. It was getting darker by the minute. We lost the trail for a bit. I was practically in tears, asking the hubs if he knew any divorce lawyers on the mainland.

We exited the tree line at sunset, trudged across the sand to the parking lot and plopped into the rental car in our muddy shoes. We drove back to the hotel in silence. I’d never been so grateful for a hot shower and a Snickers bar.

I later decided divorce would have be an overreaction, especially since the hubs ultimately chose my comfort and safety over his personal desire to get to that damned waterfall. Since then, we’ve been on longer, more difficult hikes with less drama. That’s partly because we are more careful about being prepared for contingencies.

But more importantly, I’ve learned that my mind can play tricks on me when I have a certain set of expectations and life has other plans. The trouble in Hawaii wasn’t entirely about lacking supplies since we were only three miles from civilization. It was that I expected the trip to be easier and that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable. My mind was unprepared to endure hardship. But endure we did.

Married life has not always been what I originally expected it to be. And sometimes we’ve been caught completely unprepared for a given situation or have been unsure about how to proceed. But by putting one foot in front of the other, periodically stopping to evaluate our errors in judgement, and being committed to going in the same direction–even if that means one of us needs to change direction–we’ve managed to travel through almost 20 years of life together.

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12 thoughts on “Sometimes Paradise is a Hot Shower and a Snickers Bar

  1. Paula Oleson says:

    Angela,
    I love your stories! I can relate…my hubs and I must have been on this same hike in 1998.
    Except I was pregnant with our oldest. Thought we were going out for a nice short adventure. We hiked the trail, then took the turn onto the unmarked trail. We hiked from orange ribbon to orange ribbon. (Completely unprepared for this adventure). The orange ribbons lead us on a rough trail crawling rocks, crossing streams, and ultimately resulted in a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole…..it was amazing!! And we did meet people along that trail, who joined us on that hike – and helped each other along the way…..we are still friends today! We would be happy to share the up close pics of the waterfall if you would like to see….

  2. Amen and Amen. Yes we were with Paula and John that day ! It was our 2nd time to the trail. The first time in 1994 we had to turn back when we got to the river at the 2 mile point because the water was already too deep there for the day and we would have never made it back across. The lake below the waterfall was much bigger than expected and very cold. Mark swam over to the falling water and quickly came back as the falling drops were like bullets. On the 3rd trip we chose to go farther west along the coast instead of inland and got to the beach with thousands of rock cairns and the warnings not to go in the water on a sign posted with how many had died trying to swim there. Then on another day we kayaked up the Wailua river and back through that trail to a smaller safer waterfall swimming hole. Thanks John for sending the memory and Angela’s story. Tricia

  3. 20 years! WOW! Happy anniversary. I love how this trip stands as an excellent marriage (and life!) metaphor. Great line here: “I’ve learned that my mind can play tricks on me when I have a certain set of expectations and life has other plans.” So true.

    • Thanks Nina. I remember my when my cousin was pregnant with her third. The doc acted like the baby would fall out early so that’s what she prepared her mind for. Then when she was overdue, she could barely stand the waiting or the labor. It seems kind of the same. We program our mind with certain expectations that can sabotage us if those expectations aren’t met. Let’s just say, I’ve learned to try to expect things to not come easily. Seems to help. 😉

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