It’s winter, or almost winter, in Hawai’i. Winter here means humpback whales, and there is no denying that it is pretty lonely here without them. It also means that the temperature here changes just enough that the residents start wearing sweatshirts and the tourists start laughing at us because they are on hiatus from actual cold weather. There is so much beauty here, and yet I will probably never completely get used to living without real seasons. And we probably won’t be having a white Christmas anytime soon.
Maybe it’s the holiday spirit, but lately I’ve really been craving the coolness of higher ground and a change of scenery. Something different. Although I am far from “real” mountains and haven’t had a true wilderness experience (yet) in my life, Haleakalā offers a welcome change from life at sea level. In less than an hour, I can drive to several thousand feet, along a narrow road surrounded by green, and to a forest that seems like it almost shouldn’t exist here.
Last week I drove to one of my new favorite places to get out into nature. It’s out of the way and easy to miss, and I like it that way. That’s probably why there aren’t normally lot of people here. Maybe I just came at a less busy time. I parked on the little dirt lot off the side of the road and met the short loop trail where it begins on a pine needle-covered path surrounded by trees. A misty rain was coming through the trees, and the air was noticeably cooler. Finally I could breathe in the scent of those trees. There’s nothing like it.
I wasn’t there for long, but I didn’t need to be. It was enough to be in relative solitude and let my mind wander away from everything that had been crowding it that morning. The forest is quiet, but not in the way the desert or the top of a mountain is quiet. There are sounds of the breeze blowing through the trees, snapping twigs, and my own feet walking along the path. I can understand why so many people talk about the solitude of the woods and become contemplative when they are in this sort of natural setting. It feels both unpredictable and safe at the same time.
Growing up, we had a lot of woods around us. I didn’t appreciate them, and I didn’t want to spend time in them. I was an “ocean person.” As I get older and experience more, I’m not sure anymore that I actually am an “ocean person” any more than I am any other type of person. That isn’t what defines me anyway. Things change, and I change. Why should I restrict myself to only being able to like one thing? The great outdoors is so diverse that it doesn’t make sense to compare anyway.
Enjoy it for what it is. That’s what I’m learning.
Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.