If you read outdoor blogs or search for things like #adventure on Instagram you tend to see a whole lot of one thing: smiling, happy people out doing some seriously rad stuff.
And a lot of the time, that is how it happens. You hike a tough trail or cruise through a rock garden or shred some fresh powder and you feel awesome about yourself and your life and your supposed athletic prowess. You post pictures of your friends bombing down a rocky descent or celebrating epic adventures with well-earned beers. There’s always a lot of smiles in those pictures, and there should be, because being in beautiful places and pushing your body to do really hard things is one of the best feelings in the world.
Except when it’s not.
The two pictures in the slider above were taken about 30 minutes apart on our third day out at Kalalau. What you see is luscious jungle scenery, a cascading river, and a really big tree. What I see are the bookends on either side of one epic meltdown. You see the pictures. I see the space between them when I sat on the ground and cried my eyes out.
We had set off on a short hike up the valley in search of something called the Ginger Pools, which I don’t think we ever actually found. As I followed my husband up the steep and slippery trail, deeper into the steamy jungle, I could feel my good mood starting to fade. I was tired. I was hot. My shoulders were still a bit sore from the hike in and my Chacos were gouging deep and painful gashes into the tops of my feet. I felt like I was moving in a vat of molasses and despite my best efforts I could not keep up with the pace my he was setting up ahead.
We came to a small river crossing, the kind that we had crossed dozens of times on our 11-mile trek into the Valley a few days before. Two days prior this would have been a fun challenge and a chance to cool aching feet. But on this day it was the thing that finally pushed me over the edge.
I tried several times to come up with a way to get my camera and I safely across the little stream and each time I turned back for the shore because I wasn’t convinced I was going to make it. After my fourth attempt, I lost it. I threw my backpack on the ground, put my camera down, sat on my ass, and cried my eyes out. My husband says it was akin to hiking with a toddler and he is probably right. He knows me well enough to know that the only proper thing to do in that situation is leave me the hell alone. So that is what he did.
Fifteen minutes, a handful of trail mix, and some beef jerky later, I was back to my old self and laughing about what had just happened to me. I have a tendency to get hangry when my blood sugar is low but this was a meltdown for the record books in one of the most beautiful places imaginable. We spent the next half hour hanging out by the waterfalls and snapping pictures. When we emerged from the jungle an hour or so later with a hot dinner and another Kalalau sunset waiting for us, all was right with the world again.
I sheepishly mentioned my meltdown to one of my friends back at the campground and she said that she too had cried that day. It was a good reminder that sometimes even the very best of adventures and most beautiful of places can push us to the edge, both physically and emotionally. It doesn’t matter that the meltdowns happen. It matters that we learn from them and move past them. And that we laugh our asses off about them later.