I won't waste time or words on all the details of the following months, but after meeting in August 2004, despite all the website and book work, I noticed my passion for Hawaii began to fade some. It was a bit disconcerting to me, even at the time. My girlfriend wasn't quite as excited about the new websites as I was, and the book we'd been working on probably seemed like more work to her than anything fun. In late 2004, we did decide however to take a trip back to Hawaii in May of 2005. This time I'd visit both Kauai and Maui over the course of two and a half weeks. I can say this with some certainty, waiting for the trip to arrive was torture ‰- it couldn‰'t come soon enough. I was so excited about returning I remember setting up a countdown in my old room that reminded me how many days were left before I‰'d get back. I also decided in that time before the trip that I wanted to marry my girlfriend ‰-- she felt like, 'the one.'

I elaborately planned out the engagement ideas – even asking friends about all the places I could ask. This went on for several weeks before I finally settled on either Waikamoi or the Garden of Eden; the latter being the stop I’d missed on my previous trip. When the day finally arrived to leave I was ecstatic – I can’t even remember anything else. Landing on Maui again was one of the best feelings of my life – like I could finally breathe again. Oh, to finally hear the sounds of a Myna bird singing, the smell of the ocean, the feel of the ‘mana’ (life force of the islands) around me – oh yes, I’d certainly come home this time; and what’s more, I knew it!

The trip was great, we saw lots of things and gathered lots of new photos and researched tons of places. On one late May day, as we were on the Hana Highway, I began to think long and hard about which of the two places I’d settled on asking her; and ultimately where and how I’d ask. As we walked through Waikamoi, something didn’t feel right about it – deep in my core I felt something was wrong or missing, or maybe it’s a feeling words can’t even describe. I didn’t ask her there. We continued onto the next stop, the Garden of Eden. I slipped the ring into my pocket and we began our journey through the garden. It was absolutely gorgeous – I mean the type of amazingly gorgeous you don’t easily forget. After about 20 minutes of walking and meandering through the garden, we finally settled on a small bench in the garden to sit and enjoy the scenery. I made up my mind; I was going to ask here. So I got down on one knee, popped the question, and right then and there became an engaged man. Joyous moment, right?

Hawaii though, was not pleased. Oh you may think I’m joking giving Hawaii personality like that, but I’m not – not in the least. That was the beginning of when things got really interesting. The rest of our trip on Maui was enjoyable, though our hike into Haleakala was one of the most exhausting experiences of my life. The elevation combined with not having enough sleep or fuel (we hadn’t eaten well the night before) really caught up to us as we got about 2500 ft down into the crater. I honestly thought we were going to have to commandeer a horse from another tourist as they trotted past us on the way back up. But we made it back out – exhausted and perhaps even exasperated at our decision to hike into the crater in our condition. Our next hike was about the same, only this time it wasn’t exhausting, the clouds just completely blocked our view from seeing absolutely anything as we hiked up Waihee Ridge Trail in northwest Maui. Plus I’d noticed my fiancée was starting to trip over things, a lot of things actually. Every root or rock that could catch her foot, did. After a few more days, we were on to Kauai.

Arriving on Kauai was mind blowing for me personally. More emotion packed into one moment than I can ever describe. The ‘mana’ of this island was ten-fold that of Maui and I felt it instantly. Call me crazy if you want, but there are quite a lot of people who know exactly what I’m talking about! We had come to Kauai to hike, and hike we did; almost 40 miles in a week. The first day we decided to do a portion of the Kalalau trail, and then head inland up to the beautiful Hanakapiai Falls. The hike in was great, but as we got into Hanakapiai Valley, the weather took a quick turn south, and I mean fast. I have never, and I mean never, been rained on as hard as I was in that valley. The raindrops must have been the size of quarters – I kid you not. As we rushed back out of the valley along the two mile “trail” the stream kept getting higher and higher from all the rain. Plus my fiancée kept tripping constantly, and as we got back near the Hanakapiai Beach, one final trip seemingly did her patience in. She screeched, “I… hate… this… place.” My heart sunk to a place I cannot even tell you about. Even writing this now I get a chill over my body that scares me senseless. I know she probably didn’t mean it the way she said it, but I felt like I’d personally been assailed. Stupid you might think, but to me, it was incredibly hard to swallow. I honestly couldn’t even speak with her for another 20 minutes; instead I went over and hacked a Ti plant to take back home with me. Eventually I collected myself and my thoughts and we headed back out.

For me, my journey and relationship with the Islands was starting to take a turn to a place I wasn’t ready to go. But don’t worry… this story has a happy ending, I promise. Follow up with me next time to see what happens next in Part VI.

Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick

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