A Morning at Twin Falls

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Early on a Sunday morning, I bounced out of bed, ready to get some oxygen in my system. The weather was sunny, perfect for the Twin Falls hike!

I often wake up with enthusiasm on Sundays, because I allow myself to do almost nothing of consequence the day before. Despite my optimistic intentions to get a lot done on Saturday, such fantasies of production rarely come to pass.

On this particular day, I laced up my sneakers, hopped into the car, and drove to Mile Marker 2 on the Road to Hana, captivated by the emerald foliage enveloping both sides of the highway. When traveling any portion of this world-renowned journey, I always feel tucked into a jungle nest – secure, healthy, and full of life.

Upon arrival, I parked, secured my electronic car key in a pocket-sized dry box from a dive shop, breezed past the Twin Falls Farm Stand, and hit the trail.

The early hour meant few people were around, but soon I noticed two dogs ahead. Unfamiliar with the dogs and their owner, presumably the man trailing behind me, I opted to maintain my pace instead of stopping to greet them. Moments later, one of the dogs passed by, marking a boundary between me and the tropical forest.

After hiking a while, I could finally see the magnificent upper falls! The only thing left to do was to make my way through the stream below – Ho’olawa Ii’ili’i – to reach it.

STREAM CARE

The water was deep today, and tranquil, almost reaching past my knees. Stepping in, I felt a cool, pleasant sensation.

Sloshing through the stream to the waterfall, my attention shifted to the surroundings, scanning the banks for any litter. Whenever I come across trash on the trail, I pick it up. Not only does it look unsightly, but it’s super disrespectful to the land. Additionally, when the rains come, all trash flows to the ocean. Fortunately, at Twin Falls, not many people seem to litter compared to many other popular spots on the island. It's unclear whether this is due to responsible visitors or frequent maintenance by stewards - I hope for the former, but it’s impossible to tell.

I came across some discarded items I wasn’t willing to touch, but I hadn’t brought a bag with me. Luckily, a solution presented itself just a few feet ahead in the form of a tank top abandoned in the mud. I scrubbed it out as thoroughly as I could in the stream water, and used it as makeshift wrapping for the trash. I considered that, once cleaned, the tank top might still be usable. Initially white, it featured a large teal plumeria print on one side and plastic glitter buttons in the place where pollinators would land on a real flower. If left unattended, the plastic pieces would eventually detach and get washed down the river. The sparkly bits would likely pose a threat to fish in the Ho’olawa Stream or the ocean beyond. Shaking off my conservationist reflections, I took a moment to appreciate the incredible surroundings.

THE UPPER FALL

The sunlight shimmered on the pond's surface, creating an enchanting dance along the cave wall just beyond the falls.  This particular display of natural beauty captivates me like no other, leaving my mind still and my mouth agape. To get closer, I crouched to navigate under a fallen log, mentally bracing for the spiderwebs likely to cling to my face and arms. Rising, I stood tall before the radiant light – reverent, grateful and quiet.

When I turned to glance back the way I’d come, my breath caught in my throat. Could there be more beauty? The answer was yes, and it unfolded before me.

The first rays of the sun, casting a soft golden glow, reached down to caress the far side of the pond. The falls hit the surface, casting fine droplets into the air, and the resulting mist drifted lazily through the intensifying sunlight. Surrounded by so much life and vitality, I expanded my focus to absorb the entire scene.

The sun’s ray touched down on one side, and on the other, the gentle falls continued to fall. Bright green ferns hung from the cave ceiling above, and I held the knowledge of the reflected light on the cave wall behind me. The moment was so laden with beauty that it almost overwhelmed my heart, tempting me to sing or shout for joy! Like one of the crawdads in the pond, a thought quickly flitted through my mind: And this is only the first stop on the Road to Hana.

STAYING BALANCED

While wading back through the water, I inadvertently caught my foot on a submerged rock. I stumbled, managed to regain my balance, tripped over a second rock, took another step, and faltered for the third time. In the midst of my laughter at my own clumsiness, I was pleased that I hadn't completely fallen—evidently, the efforts I'd been putting into enhancing my balance were paying off!

Around a year earlier, I’d overheard one of the trainers at my gym– Anytime Fitness – working on balance exercises with his client. The trainer explained that the increased likelihood of falls as we age isn't necessarily due to walking incorrectly or having an inherent balance issue. To prevent falls, it's crucial to strengthen the muscles around our joints so they can support us when our balance is challenged. According to him, achieving this is fairly easy, and he outlined a brief exercise:

Stand on one foot, and hold your hands out in front of you. Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle, and place them in line with your pectoral muscles. If you can do the next part without falling, then suspend the foot that is off the ground high – next to your other knee. Your goal is to stay balanced on each foot for at least one minute. (While you’re improving your balance with this exercise, do it near a wall at first. That way, you’ll have something to momentarily touch if needed.) This exercise, of course, is not appropriate for everyone, but since it’s worked really well for me, I wanted to share it with others.

VACATION ATTENTION

“How much farther till we get there?” a man asked me, tightly holding his wife’s hand as they power-walked towards the falls I’d just enjoyed.

“Oh, about 15 minutes,” I replied, thinking 15 minutes of potentially timeless moments.

I first visited the Islands from my home state of California on a family trip to Kauai. On a Na Pali Coast boat tour aboard the Blue Dolphin, we encountered Hawaiian spinner dolphins. In my mid-twenties, armed with a point-and-shoot camera in the flip-phone era, I struggled to capture a decent shot of the dolphins from the moving boat. A fellow tourist, at least two decades my senior, advised me to put away the camera, to simply be present with the animals and in the moment. She said this would be short, and that I was missing it. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to her. My desire to "remember" the moment through the camera lens resulted in no photographs, and the insightful woman was correct—I have no tangible memories of that encounter with the pod, my first sighting of wild dolphins in the Islands.

Observing the hurried pace of the two visitors on the Twin Falls trail, rushing to take in everything, I questioned whether they were truly experiencing it. Would they retain any lasting memories? I hoped that, deep within their bones—the iwi, as Hawaiians call it—they would hold onto something meaningful.

Mahalo for joining me this morning at Twin Falls, Dear Readers. Whether you choose to fuel your imagination further with more reading, witness these waters firsthand, or opt for other sites along the Road to Hana, I wish you wonders!

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