Bushwhacking the Secret Falls

“You have got to be kidding me,” I thought, as I pulled myself out of the slick mud for the third time in as many minutes. From the waist down, I was one with the Kauai rainforest—completely caked in twigs, leaves and reddish-brown mud. Sweat dampened my hairline, and the air was so humid that perfect circular dew drops scattered my arms and shoulders. I could hear my best friend, Emily, slipping and sliding a few yards behind me, trying to maintain her balance as we navigated the jungle floor. Every once in a while, I would catch a faintly uttered “Gosh darn it!” or “Shoot!” that would have me swallowing a laugh! Emily swore like a high class lady. I, on the other hand, swore like a sea-ridden sailor.

This entire escapade was supposed to be a relaxing walk through the jungle on the southern side of the island. A hidden gem—a waterfall that only the locals know about—or so Emily’s coworker had told her. Navigating off of a dropped pin (which can be incredibly difficult to do, by the way), we drove to the outskirts of a small town and parked alongside a road that had a neighborhood bordering one side and a goat farm on the other. Following the coworker’s advice, we stopped at Walmart on the way and picked up a gallon of water, multiple towels and water shoes—better to maneuver the slick trail—she had cautioned. Her instructions were quite vague but easy to follow: find an opening in the trees by where you parked the car and follow the path to the waterfall. Easy right??

The trail started off simple enough. A little slippery in places, but fairly easy to follow. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that, just an hour earlier, we had been lounging on the beach, hearing waves crash against the shore. Now, we were in the comfortable silence of the rainforest. To say it was beautiful is an understatement. It was incredibly green, vibrant even, with trees a hundred or so feet tall wrapped in leafy vines. The grasses and the bushes were overgrown, giving it a wild, almost forgotten look. All the greenery reminded me of Jurassic Park, so much so that I wouldn’t have been half surprised if a dinosaur or two would have walked out between the trees.

At some point we met up with the river, and while we sort of lost track of the trail, intuition told us it had to lead to the waterfall eventually. Sure enough, not long after, we arrived at its ledge. From the very top, I could see that the waterfall was about twenty feet tall, and the water coming down drifted off into a pristine fairy pool at the bottom. With plenty of rocks and shade, it looked like the perfect place for a picnic. Searching for a safe way to get down, I spotted what looked to be a deer trail that skirted the ledge and then wove its way back into the jungle. Thinking it must be the way down, Emily and I started out. However, after twenty minutes on the trail, we could no longer hear the waterfall, and the path looked like it had no intention of wrapping back around.

So, here is where we started to make our own way to the base of the waterfall. We knew it was back in the direction we had come from, but we had to go further down into the valley to come out at the bottom of the falls. Turning to make my way down the steep incline, I felt the mud slip out from beneath me, and I fell. I think at one point in the descent, I gave up the idea of doing it on my feet and slid down on my butt. The point of the matter is I would rather be dirty than twist an ankle. Reaching the jungle floor, the overgrowth was so intense, it became abundantly clear why explorers always seem to have a machete close at hand. Yeah, the leaves and the grasses getting in the way was a pain, but doable. What was continuously rerouting our exploration party were the SPIDERS. I don’t know what is in the water on Kauai, but the spiders there are ginormous. The size of your palm ginormous. And I do not like spiders.

Every couple of feet, we were stopped by a glistening web with a disgustingly large, colorful spider right in its center. Emily kept trying to reassure me that none of the spiders were dangerous, and that they were more scared of me than I was of them, blah blah blah. No. I think they could smell my fear! And, if I would have walked into one of their sticky webs, that would’ve been the end. After the umpteenth spider encounter, I was close to calling it quits, ready to find a way out no matter the direction. And then, as if on cue, I could hear angels singing—well more like water falling.

Rounding a huge grove of trees, the waterfall and fairy pool suddenly came into view, and wow….it was truly serene. The sun no longer shone on the valley, and the fairy pool held a quiet stillness compared to the falls rushing down the rocks. We had the entire space to ourselves, and were able to enjoy our picnic and a much needed dip in the cool pool. As we were packing up our belongings preparing to head out, Emily looked up and started to laugh. I followed where her hand was pointing, and right next to the falls, plain as DAY, there was a trail leading up the ledge, exactly where we had been standing. All we could do was laugh, and somehow question that if it would have been that easy to begin with, would it have been as rewarding?