Wednesday, December 13, 2006


This happens to my soul every now and then and when it does, it's hard to quell.

Wanderlust. Taking a Walkabout. Vacilando. Solo Safari.

Sometimes I just want to throw off all the bounds of civilized society and head off into the woods. When I talk about it with Emily, she just looks at me like I just sprouted antennas, instantaneous mixture of disgust, confusion and dismay.

"Why would you want to do that?" she says.

"I don't know why! I just hear the call of the wild or something." I mumble.

It might have something to do with my youth. When I was about Bryan's age, my family would often go backpacking on three day weekends. It was because of backpacking that I got to see all the islands of the Hawaiian Chain. I have fond memories of endless switchbacks, freezing wet nights and being attacked by a colony of bees miles from medical help. Ahhh,...the good ole' days!

I suppose I must have brought this "attack" on myself. I have been listening to a podcast created by Backpacker Magazine. One of their editors recorded an episode at least once a day by satellite phone while on a 34 day solo trek on the Sierra High Route and John Muir trail areas in California. I've been on the John Muir trail! It was the pinnacle of my backpacking life! He is in many of the same places I have been. I still vividly remember freezing hikes through snow in the rain, eating a Snickers bar with a bear tooth hole in it, and leaping from one frozen boulder to the next,....Ahhh what fond memories.

Monday I picked up a musubi for lunch and for some unknown reason headed for the mountains. Soon I found myself at the very top of Tantalus, sitting in a small parking lot across from the Puu Ohia Trail head. I finished my musubi and just decided I would see what condition the trail was in.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and cool. Quiet except for the gentle breeze in the leaves and the sound of distant birds. The well defined trail headed gently upslope and around the ridge just a little way ahead. "I wonder what the view is like from there?" I thought, so in my work clothes I strolled on up to see for myself. It was magnificent! A breathtaking panorama of downtown Honolulu and the miles and miles of clear blue ocean beyond. I was in my element. Well, a few minutes later I found myself a good mile into the woods and loving every step of it.

I asked myself, as if I hadn't been paying attention to my feet, "How did I get here?". All I set out to do was to go get a musubi for lunch! Next thing I know I'm deep in the woods of Tantalus. The thought made me smile. I love that I can so quickly escape the bounds of civilization, and still be back before lunch hour is over. It was great except that it wasn't enough. It was a taste of freedom, but not a meal. I long for more.

The thought of hiking solo excites me and scares me. I love the idea, but I am fully aware of all the risks. There are definite boundaries when deep outdoors alone, but no one can predict everything. Still there is something about the challenge and the solitude that I am aching for. I have begun to study the Trans-Koolau hiking trail. It is a multi-day hike along the Koolau Mountain Crest. It is rated difficult. I would love to attempt it in the dry season of early summer.

I have been checking out a new sleeping/tent system called the Hennessey Hammock. The whole system appeals to me. Rather than sleeping on the ground, one sleeps suspended between two trees! It looks exceptionally comfortable, dry and flexible for all low altitude camping (below the tree line).

I think my course is set. Unless this longing wears off, I am headed for a solo trek of some type this year. I feel it all the way down to my bones (and I'm sure I'll feel sore there when I'm done too!) I've started taking my workouts more seriously now, trying to build up my strength and endurance. I'm paying more attention to gear catalogs and outfitter spam, but I really don't need much new gear. I just need to get away, take a hike, breathe the fresh air and listen to the whisper of the woods.

Peace, Love and the Call of the Wild,



Sandy Fewell said...

You definitely have your ancestors blood in you! It must be the 1/68th Shawnee in you---but other Nichols have experienced that call to the wild many times. Even your Uncle Mike had a bit of hermit in him, too. He loved to go to the woods at his camp and sit upon his deer stand and meditate with no one else around. I personally think it's maybe the Christmas stress that is getting to you! Hang in there---soon it will be January and there won't be anything to do!!! :)

Barbara Olmos said...

Hey Rich,
There's lots of beautiful mountains to hike and climb here in Japan ... and an abundance of musubi!!! Come on over!

Em said...

just for the record.....I did not look at Rich like he sprouted antennas or in disgust, dismay or confusion. I'm not holding him back from camping, hiking etc.
I just have a different view of wanderlust...
anyway, just wanted to "clear my name"