It was a beautiful summer day, the morning air still cool as we hiked towards the rim of Kauai's Kokee Canyon. "Maybe this is the most beautiful island in Hawaii," we thought, scanning the deep green forest stretching toward the sea. The trail, sometimes rough, switched back onto itself often, going up and down as it followed the mountainside. In half an hour we reached the edge of "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific". Looking down was dizzying. In the still silence we felt as though we were alone in the world...
Almost immediately we realized we weren't. Standing not too far away, also looking down into the canyon, were three rough looking locals in their early twenties, carrying guns. "Beautiful, isn't it?" I asked, trying to make friendly conversation. They nodded. "What do you hunt around here?" I tried, knowing that hunting in this area was prohibited. "Goats." They didn't seem too interested in conversation. I took out my pocket binoculars and scanned the valley floor below. "Can I try those a minute?" one of them asked. I passed them over, ever conscious of how close we were to the steep rim, ready to step back quickly. "Which way are you guys going?" They glanced at each other, passed back my binoculars, and motioned further down the rim. "Well, nice talking to you..."
We casually walked off the way we had come, but once out of sight we automatically quickened the pace, anxious to put distance between us and the unfriendly hunters. They'd said they were going the other way, but there were three of them, with guns, and we were a couple. We reached a point where the trail cut back, overlooking where we'd been about three minutes earlier. They were following us, moving fast. One of them looked up just then, his eyes glaring into mine across the gap. We had become their game.
Without talking we speeded up, running when we could, the trail a blur beneath our feet. Occasionally we heard their voices, but we probably still had a few minutes on them. The trail spread as it hit the woods, widening into a rough jeep track. "They'll catch us here, it's too flat." The floor of the forest was covered with dense broad- leafed plants. "Under those leaves," I whispered, and we dove down into the brush, covering ourselves as naturally as we could, trying not to breathe.
In no time they were there. They separated, calling back and forth, looking for us. Skipping the deep bushes, they hurried past, down the trail we hadn't taken. We waited breathlessly for five minutes, ten minutes, staring at each other. Fifteen, twenty minutes. Around us was silence. Shivering, we emerged from the leaves, starting cautiously along the track. In a while it crossed a dirt road. "Let's take it - it should get us back to the camp." We walked towards where we hoped the camp would be, until we heard the sound of a car coming. "What if it's them?" We edged back into the woods, but it was a pickup truck with an old man driving. I leaped onto the road and flagged him down.
"Where are you headed, back to the camp?" he asked calmly. We were so relieved we could hardly answer. "Anything wrong?" he questioned. We looked at each other and started to laugh. "Oh, no, nothing, just happy to get a ride back. Really, thanks for the ride..."