Happy trails

I was at the Hanalei rubbish transfer station recently and saw a treadmill in the area for metal recycling. Over the years, I have seen many exercise machines end up there, no doubt the testament to someone’s good intentions to get in shape. Luckily, Kauai’s not like the Mainland, where I have seen rows of people lined up in health clubs after work in the dark winter evenings sweating away walking and cycling in place to get their exercise.

We are blessed in Hawaii to not have to resort to exercising indoors on machines. We have a smorgasbord of activities available to keep our bodies moving and enjoy the spectacular island we live on. Many of them are simple and free, like walking, swimming and hiking. I am impressed every time I pass Kealia and see how many people are walking along the coastal path.

Getting deeper into nature has always been my preference. Growing up on Oahu, I was lucky to have parents who loved the outdoors and had us out hiking most weekends. It was an opportunity to get away from the growing development and enjoy Hawaii as it was decades before.

I had a friend on Oahu who used to tease me when I complained about how crowded Honolulu was becoming: “Gee, I never see anyone else on the weekends.! He was a member of a hiking club and spent his days off on the trail, enjoying the valleys and mountains, and returned to his office job as a planner for state parks refreshed and inspired.

A good way to get started hiking is with a group. It can get you familiar with trails and is a great way to connect with like-minded people. There is a group that does outings, and the Sierra Club offers hikes to trails around the island. You can find them listed in the Midweek newspaper.

For those more adventurous people who want to explore on their own, information about Kauai’s trails can be found in guidebooks or online. There are easy trails, like Kuilau Trail behind Wailua Homesteads, to get started on that don’t take more than an hour or two.

Both of my parents continued hiking into their late 70s. My mother did an eight-mile day hike at age 77 and my father climbed a 3,000-foot mountain with me in New Zealand when he was 79. Hiking and being immersed in nature offers an enduring connection and sense of wonder that, as Racheal Carson says is “an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year … the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

June is Great Outdoors Month and the sixth is National Trails Day, so hit the trail! Get out and enjoy this amazing island we are lucky to live on.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,” said John Muir, founder of Sierra Club, “places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

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Kathy Vaier is a resident of Wainiha.

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