Paradise Lost: Unexpected Adventure in Maui

Rock hopping along a 10-foot-wide stream edged in lush, thick greenery I took in my surroundings. Did it get any better than this?

Tall trees with winding limbs and rope-like vines surrounded us, next to a parade of shrubbery and greenery. There are no bald patches in the Hawaiian rainforest. It is thick, dense, and topped with a canopy.

Algae-covered rocks threatened our balance, but we trudged on. After 30 minutes, the stream became enveloped in thick tree roots and branches, causing us to hop over thigh-high foliage as thick as our fists.

After 20 minutes, we hit deeper pools of water. We climbed in as the water rose higher with each step.

Nat had promised a vertical rock climb to get to the cave, and he hadn’t disappointed. To get further, we had to climb straight up and over – no easy feat as a waterfall trickled in our path.

There we began the first of many ascents on wet rock.

The rocks were sharp, but offered the grips necessary to keep going. Climbing up through six feet of sharp grey rock was a challenge, but with each ascent, I gained confidence.

As we rose to the top, a cave came into view.

I squealed with excitement. A wet cave made from an ancient Hawaiian lava tube? You can’t find that in Colorado.

We swam towards the cave and began the ascent inside. The first pool was waist high, as was the next.

After another shallower pool, the fourth pool brought us deeper into the cave and required more technical maneuvering. The light behind us grew dim, and darkness lay before us.

Excitement and a tinge of fear pushed me onward as I followed. Pulling myself over the next threshold, I plunged into deeper waters and swam into the darkness.

Swimming across, a sliver of light entered into view.

The way out was towards the light. The way towards the light was up. Climbing up slick rock accented by a dribbling waterfall, we once again used touch to guide our way out.

Getting to the top, we walked out with hunched backs towards the light. The glamorous ending to our caving adventure was an irrigation system, which required shimmying up through thick, rusted metal bars.

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