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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 25, 2002

Family Matters: Family hike leaves a legacy of aches

By Ka'ohua Lucas

"Honey, can you pass me that pillow over there?" I asked, hobbling over to the sofa.

"Here you go," my youngest son said, tossing it in my direction.

I extended my arm, hoping to grab one of the corners, but I missed and it fell to the floor. Rooted to the spot, I begged my daughter to retrieve it for me.

"What's wrong, Momma?" she asked with a hint of mischief in her eyes. "You look like you're in a lot of pain."

"I am," I whined, unable to move. "My 'elemu (buttock) is so sore. I think I strained it!"

Everyone I know has had a muscle cramp at one time or another. The painful spasm in the calf that occasionally rouses a sleeper in the middle of the night is basically a severe cramp. Experts claim that there is no underlying cause other than unaccustomed exercise or a prolonged period of lying, sitting or standing in an uncomfortable position. Massaging the affected area can bring immediate relief.

I know full well how I acquired the nasty cramp: Our 'ohana had just finished a hike on the Napali cliff trail into the valley of Hanakapi'ai on Kaua'i.

Guide books describe it as a relatively easy two-mile hike, a 90- minute walk to a "pristine, sandy beach."

I knew it as a valley that once flourished. Ancient lo'i terraces have been found in the valley, along with evidence of house sites and native vegetation.

"The one thing that the valley lacked was large koa timber for making canoes," writes E.S. Craighill Handy in his classic book, "Native Planters." Early Hawaiians traversed these mountains and valleys with relative ease.

"The Napali valleys were not really as isolated as they seem," writes Handy. "But for their inhabitants, there was one great advantage in living there: The approaches were very easily defended, making the valleys impossible for warriors to invade."

Both my husband and I started off our hike on the Napali cliff trail OK. It wasn't until we headed back that cramps attacked my posterior. The children refused to wait for their aging parents as we crept along the trail.

A couple of local kids, barefoot no less, were running down the path.

As we tottered cautiously along the slope, I could feel the fibers in my gluteus maximus beginning to separate.

"I can't remember this hike being so difficult," my husband complained.

"That's because you did it 25 years ago," I said, half-sliding down rocky terrain on my 'elemu.

Reaching the end of the trail, I joined our children on a bench.

"So how was it, Mom?" my 19-year-old asked.

"Not bad, not bad at all," I lied, shifting my weight, yearning for relief.

As I bravely limped to the car, all I could think about was a bed to rest in and a bottle of Tiger Balm to relieve my achy butt.

Next time, we have a grand idea to go on a hike — I'll condition for it. Or, better yet, curl up and read all about it in my favorite guide book.

Ka'ohua Lucas is a mother of three, holds a master's degree in education curriculum and instruction.Write her at: Family Matters, 'Ohana Section, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail ohana@honoluluadvertiser.com or fax 535-8170.