Ironman and the Yoga Queen

“Hi,” I said to the ranger inside the booth at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. “We’re doing the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.”

“You know it’s already past 3 p.m.?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes, we know.”

I’d masterminded the ultimate adventure—a “strenuous” hike followed by dinner at Laili, a Mediterranean-Afghan restaurant in Santa Cruz—and no ‘noid ranger was gonna stop me.

Who did this guy think he was dealing with anyway? Jimmy is an Ironman and they don’t call me the chaduranga queen in yoga for nothing.

“We can hike 12 miles in 2 & 1/2 hours easy,” I bragged.

“Thirteen. It’s actually 13 miles,” said Mr. By-the-Book, who insisted we leave a note on our dash for his night relief.

“Dearest Ranger,” I wrote,We pre-parked a car at the finish near Waddell Beach. Please don’t worry if we don’t return for our Prius until after 9 p.m. See you soon!

Then, map in hand, Jimmy and I were off. “What’s his problem?” I scoffed. “There’s plenty of light.”

We trekked through stunning old-growth redwoods and fern-lined canyons, and in no time passed Mile Marker 1. “Only 12 more miles to go!” I exclaimed.

Forty-five minutes later we came upon Berry Creek Falls, the crown jewel of Big Basin. The 60-foot waterfall was so tropical it felt like Hawaii…

Berry Creek Falls

…except darkness was closing in and we still had 10 miles left, so back onto the trail we hustled.

Moments after leaving the Falls the trail suddenly dead ended. Through the dusk, I spied another path — on the opposite side. The only way across was atop a wobbly gutter MacGyvered across the deep, gushing creek.

One slip and down we’d plunge into the icy water.

We crossed unscathed, but a rained out, mucky Slip ‘N’ Slide of a path awaited.

Ironman took the lead, mud skating over the puddles, his neon orange Nikes beacons guiding us through the ever darkening forest.

Thirty minutes later we found ourselves enveloped in blackness.

dark & snowy night

We clicked on our iPhone flashlight apps, a sorry light source for the dark, creepy forest. Just then a mountain biker coming from the Falls zoomed past, his headlight momentarily illuminating the woods.

“Hello!” I cried. “How much longer to Waddell Beach?”

I expected him to say three, maybe four miles MAX.

“About eight miles,” he said.

“Nooooo!” I wailed.

Having depleted our almonds ages ago, all I could think of was the roasted pumpkin borani we planned to devour at Laili later–that was if a hungry mountain lion didn’t devour us first.

“I’m scared, Jimmy. What if we wind up like that couple in the ‘8os who got stranded in a blizzard for five days. They made a TV movie of the week starring Neil Patrick Harris, remember?”

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“If they make a movie about us who would should play you—Rob Lowe?”

“No way,” sniffed Jimmy. “Rob has man boobs. I need someone like Marky Mark, only more yoked.”

Time passed–An hour? Five hours? Time drags when you’re so cold you’re dreading losing your toes to frostbite.  “How many days do you think Tanner and Saxon will keep playing Minecraft before they notice we’re missing?” I asked Jimmy.

“Dunno. At least a week.”

Just when I could not take one more step there it was: Mile Marker 13!

We hugged, then looked around.

Maybe my fuzzy vision was distorted from staring at the tiny pinhole of light for so long, but our car was nowhere to be found. All we saw was an unlit paved road leading into the dark unknown.

Little did we know the additional three miles out to coast where we’d parked ratcheted our hike to 16 miles.

Shivering, hungry, clutching our phones with swollen sausage fingers we soldiered on, until…

…finally, off in the distance…wait, could it be? Yes, high beams of cars whizzing down Highway 1 beckoned us like a lighthouse.

We dragged ourselves the remainder, then collapsed in the car.

Ironman and the Yoga Queen ate some serious humble pie that day.

Then, after thawing out, we hit Laili and feasted on pumpkin borani.

“We made it!” we said, clinking frosty mugs of Belgium pale ale.

“You didn’t have to amputate our toes in the middle of the forest!” I exclaimed.

“And Rob & his moobies didn’t have to star in my life story!” Jimmy added.

Rob & Jimmy

If you’re craving adventure, this is a great one. Just take our advice~park at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, hike the Berry Creek Falls loop (7 miles roundtrip), then head straight for Laili for roasted pumpkin borani. Cheers!

Oh, and Jennifer? If I don't make it out alive next time, are you available?
Oh, and Jennifer? If I don’t make it out alive next time, are you available?

 

Do You Know the Way to Makalawena?

A few years ago on our first visit trip to the Big Island in Hawaii, we stumbled upon the most gorgeous beach, Kua Bay. We couldn’t believe our luck. The sand was silky white; the water fanned out in front of us in like a peacock’s tail~turquoise, cobalt, aqua and sea foam green. Best of all, the sand was sprinkled with only a few other beachgoers. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.

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A year later we returned. The beach was a little more populated as the road had been paved. But still, it was pristine as we remembered…

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This time? Not so much. Every tourist and their mother had discovered our little secret. Sadly, Kua Bay was kooked out…

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(Of course this isn’t Kua but just to give you an idea of the claustrophobic feel.)

So, it was back to the guide book for The Ratty Pack. Just down Hwy 19 not far from the Kona Airport, we read, was an epic, deserted beach. The only bummer? The road to the coast was a little uh, bumpy. How bad can a 1 & 1/2 mile, unpaved road through the lava fields be, we wondered?

Bad, it turns out. Thirteen minutes of bone-jarring, chiropractic appointment-inducing hell.

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The view from out our car window.

An eternity later, we arrived at a parking lot that still looked very, very far from the Pacific. Not to mention this foreboding sign…

It was just Jimmy and I on this mission as the teenage half of the Ratty Pack contingent had stayed back at the house to mainline their crack, uh, Minecraft computer games. There were a half dozen cars in the lot so we decided to go for it. Hoofing along the trail, chunks of lava rumbling under our feet, we felt as if we were moonwalking.

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Are we there yet?

See those palm trees waaay off in the distance?

Turns out that wasn’t even Makalawena. We had only reached Mahai’ula, a well-protected snorkeling bay which was pretty, but not the most exquisite beach on the island as our guide book promised.

So we kept on walking, right past this old, red abandoned house which I later read once belonged to a prominent part-Hawaiian family called the Magoons.

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Following the breadfruit trail like the Hawaiian Hansel and Gretel…Image

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Climbing over gnarled tree roots, we soldiered on. Thirsty, parched, hot and dusty, how much longer…we’d been trekking by now 40 minutes.

Then finally we spotted a sandy trail leading to dunes…

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And just beyond, a heavenly crescent of deserted beach! NIRVANA!Image

Giant palms fringed the white silky sand.

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“Aren’t the views just stunning?”I marveled.

“Why yes, they certainly are,” replied Jimmy.

We bodysurfed, walked the beach, and sprawled out on our towels marveling at Makalawena’s beauty. The occasional airplane buzzed overhead and the long walk through the lava field seemed a small price to pay for such serenity.

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Coconuts washed up on the beach.

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Body surfing in the minty green sea.

The beach was so deserted, we had trouble finding someone to snap a pic for us.

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And that’s just how we like it!