By no means am I an experienced hiker. And this trail was a beast: 8 miles long (16 round trip) and 7000 feet in elevation. Steep ups and downs over a huge mountain. And then a mile of really tough switchbacks descending into Waimanu Valley.
Six other people and I started the journey on Friday morning. It took me close to six hours to finish. It was brutal. I did not have any hiking gear, instead, I was using my laundry bag that had straps on it and a small backpack-type-bag to carry all of my supplies to last me for two nights of camping. I wanted to turn back so many times. I felt defeated but I kept trekking on. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but when I got to camp it felt so good. I was so proud of myself, I felt so accomplished!
I set up my hammock and tarp to sleep in and then I went out to the beach with the others and we played in the waves and then came back to the campsite and had dinner over a lovely campfire. The weather was perfect, during the day it was just hot enough to enjoy the water and being in the sun and at night it cools down to the 60s (my favorite temperature to sleep in). The hammock was a little hard to get used to but once I did, I slept soundly.
The next day was spent playing spike ball on the beach and then hiking to an amazing waterfall. I felt like I was in the womb of the earth just floating there, my ears underwater – complete silence – watching the water cascading down the rocks surrounded by greenery and a perfect blue sky. It was one of the most peaceful moments of my life. It taught me that you have to work hard to earn those moments. Once we got back to camp we had dinner around the fire again and played some games. I packed up everything I could the night before so I would be ready in the morning.
Sunday morning we left camp around 7:30 am and made the trek back, it was much easier going out than in and when we finally made it to the end a wave of relief came over me. I DID IT. Hiking 20 miles over the course of 3 days. I slept well that night.
This was an experience that I will always remember, so many highs and lows in emotions but I did it. I persevered and it wound up being so worth it. The beauty of nature we got to experience was incredible and we had it all to ourselves, no one else was in the valley. The quiet at night with just the sound of the ocean crashing against the shore. The vibrant green of the valley that brightened at the sun rose over the mountain. The feel of the rocks underneath my bare feet making my way to the soft black sand beach. The smell of the campfire and the warmth from not only the fire itself but the company around me. It engaged all of my senses the whole time yet never overwhelmed me. Waimanu is truly a magical place.