Dec 30, 2008

Mother Nature's fury knows no boundaries

A couple days ago, on another refreshingly dim, cloudy, and very windy afternoon, I took another trip down to one of my favorite spots on Earth, Pololu Valley. I encountered more crowds of tourists that I expected for such a weekday (there were actually only around 20 people down there, but even that seems excessive for such an isolated locale that I'm used to seeing so deserted). Craving absolute solitude as usual, I opted to leave everyone behind and go somewhere... well, no one else ever goes.

And it's a place no one ever goes for a reason. Most people wouldn't even dream of going that way, and even if taking the risk crossed their mind, wouldn't be stupid or gutsy enough to try it. I have been stupid or gutsy enough to do it several times, and have always been rewarded with complete isolation and a slight sense of satisfaction for testing nature and prevailing.

The coastline is comprised of sheer, vertical cliffs, at the base of which lies a narrow stretch composed of round boulders between Pololu Valley and the next valley mouth about half a mile away. There are basically two ways of reaching that remote second valley- take the switchbacking trail that ascends up the wall from Pololu Valley, traverses the ridge, and descends down the second valley wall, or take the route that is much shorter and easier, but much more risky, and hop along the boulders at the base of the cliff.

The trail used to be the much easier way, before "The Big One" of '06 triggered a rockslide that undermined a significant portion of the trail, and necessitated a detour which involves scrambling down a very steep, slippery slope while holding onto tree trunks and a network of strategically placed ropes. It's exhausting, to say the least, whether one is headed up or down.

Most of the shoreline route actually isn't that bad, as long as one is physically fit for half a mile (seems like much more) of unstable, slippery boulder hopping. The first couple portions are the worst, though, as the going is so narrow that practically nothing lies between the raging ocean and the cliff. One has to proceed with just the right timing to rush on through between waves rolling in, so as to avoid being pounded by one against the cliff face. The worst I always get is a bit wet with salt water, but it's always a gamble.

After I made my way around the point and left the mouth of Pololu out of sight, I suddenly came upon the majority of the wreckage from the boat I mentioned a couple entries ago- a wide variety of objects the ocean simply deposited on the shore. And this wreckage was far more interesting, because it apparently had not been picked over at all, and I was likely the first person to investigate it from anywhere but in the air.

The first object I stumbled upon was the craft's steering wheel, all bent out of shape but still intact. Nearby were several fragments from the engine system, though the engine itself was probably lost somewhere out at sea. Four bright red gasoline containers were strewn about the rocks, a couple of them still retaining fuel.

Here are some of the other odd, random little items I discovered amongst all the sea-logged fragments of lumber:

-fire extinguisher
-wheel from a child's bicycle
-couple of children's life vests
-a battered VCR
-self-inflating bed roll with a name and phone number on it
-grey Zodiak boat that appeared in reasonably decent shape, but not necessarily related to the wreckage of the other boat
-couple of chair cushions
-the nautical compass
-the muffler
-a flare gun set with flares

I took the nautical compass and the flare gun set home as souvenirs. Finders keepers.

If I was a cast away out there, I would have been delighted to discover such a wreck. The things I could do with all that wood, plastic, and rope, not to mention a functioning flare gun! As it was, though, I found it fascinating, surreal, and creepy all the time. I couldn't help mentally inquiring as to how it happened, or whether any fatalities occurred because of it. It's not everyday one simply happens upon such an accident, but it just goes to show the ferocity of the rough seas out there, and that Hawai'i isn't nearly as tame as many people seem lulled into believing.


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