- A couple of weeks ago a few friends and I hiked along Na Pali Coast
on Kaua`i to Kalalau Valley. This was my seventh trip along the 11-
mile coastal trail, which varies in altitude from sea level to about
800 ft, climbing up and down on narrow trails, in and out of valleys
and gulches, often with bad footing and sheer dropoffs.
About half-way in, on a ferociously hot, sunny, and humid day, I
sprained my ankle while crossing Hanakoa Stream. I'd never had a
sprain before, but I knew I'd suffered more than a little tweak. I
could actually feel what I later found out were ligaments tearing as
I slipped--and it wasn't even a bad slip. I could still move my foot
and wiggle my toes, and my ankle didn't swell up immediately, so I
just hiked the last five miles, set up the tent, got water from the
waterfall behind the wide, wild beach (the first winter swell was
just arriving and huge surf was pounding), and waited for my
There is a hammock story here, which is why I'm telling you the tale.
My foot swelled up that night and it rained hard. We heard rocks,
loosened by the rain from the ancient and crumbling cliffs just
behind the campsites, falling, bouncing, rolling, and crashing near
us. We curled foetally with our arms over our heads, knowing that our
attempts to protect ourselves would be useless if one of those two-to-
four-foot diameter boulders homed in on the lime-green 2 1/2 lb A-
frame tent that I'd made. Believe me, even those blind boulders could
spot that lime-green silnylon in the dark. We survived, and a
whopping rock was found the next morning parked behind a nearby
protective wall built over the years by campers out of other fallen
rocks that littered the area.
It rained most of the next day and off and on for a couple more days.
Two of our friends who were travelling slower got drenched the first
night at the halfway point and just turned around and hiked back out,
though we didn't find that our until getting back to civilization.
(The father-son team hiking in to whom they gave an explanatory note
for us apparently never made it in, either.) The sun didn't come out
until day five of the trip, when the tradewinds started to blow
again. The few people in the area came out into the sun like crabs
out of their holes, taking off their damp clothes and worshipping the
good weather. A couple of naked girls floated in the vast, temporary
lake that had been created when the huge waves swamped the beach.
We're babies here, weather-weenies who are used to near-perfect
conditions, and more than a day or two of "bad" conditions unhinges
us. But there is a hammock story coming.
During all this time I was only able to hobble to the waterfall to
bathe and in the other direction for certain other necessities. I
didn't get down to the beach and I didn't walk up into the valley,
three or fours miles deep and full of streams, pools, waterfalls, and
fruit trees clandistinely planted by the valley's "outlaws," who live
there on a semi-permanent basis without permits.
So, what did I do? I hung in my one-pound Hammock Bliss double near
the waterfall, with a view of the ocean and what was left of the
beach. I kept my sprained ankle elevated, chatted with the few other
people who came by, read "The Botany of Desire" (highly recommended),
enjoyed the ministrations of my kind companions, and waited till the
swelling came down. When it rained, I moved the hammock to the
shelter of a maintenance shed not far away. By the afternoon of the
fifth day, we hiked partway out, and completed the exit on Day Six;
picture me hobbling like a drunken spider with two Lekis propping me
up. My pace wasn't really much slower than it would have been without
Now, two weeks after the injury, I'm still limping a bit. My favorite
relief is just lying in the Mayan hammock I have strung up in our
living room. But, of course, that would be true injury or no!
On this trip we took a tent as primary shelter for three of us and I
almost omitted any hammock, trying to pare our weight to the bone. I
finally decided, though, that the one pounder was worth it, and it
certainly proved its value. I'd have been miserable without it. So,
don't forget to pack your hammock right next to that Ace bandage. You
may need them both.
Brandon in Honolulu