Walking Carefully while Experiencing the Awe of Nature

Lately, I’ve been walking with care. We hiked in some national parks in the fall and recently returned from Maui, where we hiked to a waterfall that served as the turnaround point to an out-and-back trek through a magical bamboo forest. In both places, signs were scattered near the edges of trails warning hikers to not approach. The signs on Maui, in Haleakala National Park, and at the Nakalele Blow Hole were especially grave.

“Warning: do not go further. Sheer cliffs and loose boulders. Fatalities have occurred!”

Still, we saw many venture to the edge of the trail to look down into a ravine, at a waterfall, or take a photograph. Some even disregarded the signs entirely and went into the dangerous area, off the trail, and/or into the water. We saw it repeatedly, especially on the island of Maui.

I wonder what is wrong with these people. Do they think they are invincible? Do they believe they will be “careful” enough? Is getting that selfie in an area deemed to be dangerous worth it? It seems the answer is yes, to all of the above.

One of the most dangerous things we witnessed as trail hikers were approaching the Nakalele Blowhole. People – tourists – went well past the signage that proclaimed danger. They stood on the edge of the blowhole where some, in the past, had been swept into the ocean with forceful waves or the rapidity of the water gushing out of the hole in the hardened lava rocks that formed the shore.

It just didn’t make sense. Even getting down to the blowhole on a rocky trail was treacherous. Walking carefully was necessary to avoid a twisted ankle, blown out knew, or worse. But, to venture up to a hole in the rock where water gushed out with a forceful blast? It just seemed stupid.

Additionally, we saw a group of tourists stand on the edge of a rocky cliff performing one-legged yoga poses for a photo. Eventually, the tour guide (or whoever was in charge) yelled at them to stop. Enough was enough.

The hike along the Hawaiian coast is beautiful with the verdant mountains, azure waters, and black lava rock. But I think one must respect nature as much as one appreciates it. I cannot imagine going all the way to Hawaii and not taking in some of the wonderous natural sights – the blowhole, Haleakala Crater, the bamboo forest – but you want to show your appreciation of nature and awe of what it provides by respecting boundaries. We are only human, after all.

Walk carefully. Breathe it in. Take a snapshot from a safe distance. Burn the scene into your memory. But don’t disregard the danger that lurks in the power of nature. It’s real and needs respect.

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