Friday, August 30, 2013

Your Life: Don't Leave Hawaii Without It

Volcanoes, tsumanis, earthquakes, hurricanes: You want big time violent nature, come to Hawaii. Yet these destructive events are rare, and even more rarely do they take lives. Oddly enough, when someone dies on vacation in Hawaii —usually several accidental fatalities occur per month—it happens on beautiful days when people are out having fun. So, that's the good news: there's  nothing to worry about if you excercise good judgment and recognize common risks.

In no particular order, here are a few rules to live by that are peculiar to a place like Hawaii:

1. DON'T DROWN WHILE SWIMMING. The culprit here is rip current, which is caused by incoming wave water escaping through channels back out to sea and taking people with it. The higher the waves, the stronger the rip current. Some beaches are more dangerous than others, but all beaches can be dangerous on a given day. Rip current is visible from shore. The mantra is "when in doubt, stay out." Swimming at beaches with lifeguards also helps.

2. DON'T DROWN WHILE WALKING THE SHORE OR BEACH. Rogue waves and storm sets snatch people from bluffs and sloping sands. Stay back from big surf, wet sand and reef, and always keep an eye on the surf.

3. DON'T FALL FROM A CLIFF. Hawaiian ridges are often razor thin and near vertical. Rain creates slick surfaces. Try using a retractable hiking pole on mountainous climbs, and stay back from the margins of a trail, where tufts of greenery disguises drop-offs. Never try to climb, since the soils and rocks are unstable.

4. DON'T STRAY FROM THE TRAIL. Normally, this common rule is to protect nature from people, but in Hawaii the tables are turned. If you are going cross country or fighting your way through flora, turn back and go to a known point on a trail. If there's a safe way to get someplace, there will be a trail. The land swallows hikers up.

5. DON'T HAVE A CAR ACCIDENT.  Drivers should do their sightseeing while parked, and parked safely off the roadway. Many roads are narrow and curvy, with beautiful scenery and filled with other drivers who are gawking and stopping in the middle of the road.

6. DON'T GET SWEPT AWAY IN A STREAM. Tropical rains and steep ridges mean streams rise quickly and with force. Cars get swept away on spillways. Hikers get swept away on stream crossings.  Rain can occur inland, when it is sunny at coastal stream valleys. Always wait out a high rushing stream, even when inconvenient. It will subside. And when walking along streams, be aware of having to seek high ground.

Trailblazer guides for Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii have practical advice and safety tips for all forms of adventure, and also have specific precautions for a particular beach or trail. Odds overwhelmingly say that you will not be harmed in Hawaii, beyond a sunburn or hangover. Still, better safe than ...