When people are basking in the limelight of national publicity, and being soothed by the cooling waters of human kindness and sympathy, it may seem harsh to criticize them. I shed tears of relief when I learned of Amanda Eller’s rescue. I am, however, quite frustrated that the media has not taken advantage of this very “teachable moment” to inform people about hiking responsibly.

Ms. Eller is fortunate to have survived her incredibly poor choices. And yes, we all make poor choices, but the value in surviving your mistakes is in sharing the lessons you have learned.

Ms. Eller does deserve credit for pulling herself together and surviving her ordeal, but the important point here is that the entire trauma would never have occurred if she had simply chosen not to go out alone.

There are additional lessons to be learned. Ms. Eller rejected all logical safety precautions and is only alive today because others put their lives at risk to save hers. I ask her to consider how she would have felt if she was rescued only to learn that her mother had died while looking for her. The news report said that Eller’s mother was “learning how to rappel so that she could search for her daughter.

The Manoa Cliff Trail. The author warns of the danger to unprepared hikers.

Department of Land and Natural Resources

This brings me to the next point. You do not send the inexperienced to search for the irresponsible.

Being with nature is dangerous because it is unpredictable. You must be prepared.

Old Hawaiian stories tell us this. If you blunder in like a fool, it will treat you like one.

Here’s some ancient wisdom to consider:

E hoopono ka hele i ka uka o Puna, E nihi ka hele, mai hoolawehala.
Mai noho a ako i ka pua o hewa, O inaina ke akua, paa ke alanui,
Aole ou ala e hiki aku ai.

Behave correctly while traveling the uplands of Puna; Walk with caution, do not cause offense;
Do not tarry and pick the flowers incorrectly, Lest the gods become angry and conceal the path, And you have no way out.

In my view, experiencing these places is not a right, but a privilege that is earned by learning about them and treating them with respect. If you wish to feel nature’s embrace without hiking, create a garden where you can control your environment.

When hikers do not take responsibility for their own safety, a heavy toll can be exacted if rescuers die. Those who lived through it will never forget

In 1995, a BYU-Hawaii student was lost while hiking at Sacred Falls State Park. On the fifth day of the search-and-rescue mission, two HPD officers, Bryant Bayne and Tate Kahakai, were standing in a basket suspended beneath a helicopter and lifted high into the air. A while later, the weather worsened and the helicopter crashed. We lost HFD pilot Peter Crown and both police officers. The hiker was never found.

Instead of one grieving family, we now had four. If I remember correctly, the hiker’s father stated that he deeply regretted that others had lost their lives because of his son’s choices.

‘Leave Slippers In The Car’

Here are some basic common sense rules for hiking responsibly.

  1. Never go hiking alone.
  2. If you do go out alone, stop, turn around, go back and get someone to go with you.
  3. Before you and your companion leave, each of you should notify someone of exactly what trail you will be on, what time you expect to be out, and not to panic if you don’t call them by nightfall.
  4. Learn about the trail, its terrain, typical weather conditions, and possible safety concerns. This information is available on the world-wide web.
  5. Learn from Hawaiian culture. People who have lived sustainably on these islands for hundreds of years have left us cautionary tales based on their long experience.
  6. Wear appropriate shoes. Leave the slippers in the car.
  7. Carry a backpack equipped with what you need. Your cell phone, water, lunch, essential meds, a bunch of snacks in case you are delayed, a rain jacket and rain hat, sunscreen, bug repellant and a first aid kit, at the very least. Toilet paper and a trowel in a plastic bag can come in handy, and a small flashlight.
  8. When hiking, stay on the trail.
  9. If lost, stay where you are.
  10. If you are injured, stay near the trail. Your companion can hike out in the morning to escort the rescue team by light of day.
  11. Never try to hike out in the dark.
  12. Tell friends and family not to come looking for you if they are not experts. Fire and rescue do not need one more person to look for, or carry out.

There is a great brochure on hiking safely available from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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