I visited Sleeping Giant
the other day. He snatched my breath away in nearly the first step, wrapping his paw of a hand around my heart in an instant. Almost two years have passed since I last hiked the humble mountain known as Sleeping Giant situated behind the town of Kapaa on Kauai.
And it shows.
I expected there would be times I’d have to stop and catch my breath on the two-mile ascent. I knew they would come in the first mile where the climb is its steepest. I expected one stop to be at the corner of the switchback where the lilikoi
(passionfruit) vine grows, its blossom one of the most intriguing and intricate I’ve ever seen in my life. I expected another to be the long, steady incline where the eucalyptus grove begins, its payoff a view of the East Side of Kauai--Smith’s Motor Boats put-putting up the Wailua River, the coconut grove at Coconut Marketplace, the one-time sugar cane fields tucked between the mountain ridges that striate the island.
I wasn’t expecting the new, even steeper start to the trail. The new mileage markers. The new bench at the first summit, the picnic area, what I like to think of as the shoulders of the Giant. But that’s what happens with time: Things change.
But those changes, minor as they were, made the more familiar things more familiar.
I felt something tickle my ankles as I passed and knew before I looked down that it would be the blue porter weed. I found myself looking for the ti grove around a corner. The ohia lehua tree at the end of short spur off the main trail. Lauae fern growing out of rocks. It felt like I was visiting an old friend, and it felt good.
Many stories circulate about the genesis behind this mountain’s name, Sleeping Giant. The one I hear the most is that a giant of a man named Nunui helped the local village build a temple by hauling rocks from the west side of the island, marking steps in great leaps of miles and completing the construction in no time. Filled with gratitude, the people of the village celebrated with a feast, including the giant’s favorite food--bananas. The giant stuffed himself with so many tasty treats, he had to lay down for a nap--think Thanksgiving afternoon--and is still sleeping today.
I’ve always looked for that largest of herbs, the banana, on my hikes up Sleeping Giant. Not that I’ve found any. I guess the Giant ate them all. But I did find something else. Something as yummy as the bananas were for the Giant.
I think I was at the three-quarter mark, the place where two eucalyptus trees hug the trail, each tree bigger around than I can wrap my arms, when something blossomed inside me. I’ve always thought of these trees as feminine and as guardians and, like any mother, at once protecting and welcoming. I paused here, placed a hand on the trunk of each tree, looked up at their hundred foot height and gave thanks. It was an unconscious action and something I realized I’ve done every time I passed these beauties.
It was here that the Giant gave me back my breath--a different kind of breath than that which I’d started my day. This breath was deeper, more freeing. It unlocked some unnamable tension that I didn’t even know I was carrying in my body. And while I cannot say for sure, I would swear my blood pressure dropped.
Some practice yoga. Others meditate. I find my connection to spirit and this great universe of a world in which we live by walking in nature. Nature is my medicine and my nourishment. Nature is good for my soul.