Sunday, April 10, 2011

In the Footsteps of Keoua

Today I took a drive to the trailhead of the Ka'u desert trail. I wanted to see the footprint of the man who had dodged the lava and made it all the way to Ka'u through the lava desert. First there was a path through the a'a lava--jagged and rough. Then a slight downhill section and then the ropey pahoehoe lava, broken only by a few ohia trees, the trees of Madame Pele. Just a few feet from the highway, I completely lost sight of the road and followed the cairn-marked path through the lava. It was quiet--just a gentle breeze at first, enough to cool me. I was grateful for the scattering of clouds, keeping the sun from cooking me as in an imu. I looked for footprints all along the trail, amazed that anyone could find their way through the maze of lava.

I would like to pretend this footprint is from the king--King Keoua, although there is nothing in the world that would support that--just my imagination. After a battle with Kamehameha, one which neither side won, Keoua retired to Hilo, then decided to head down to Ka'u by way of Ola'a, past the crater of the volcano. He divided his retinue into three groups. The first group made it through the eruption, the second group succumbed to the sulfur dioxide and died where they fell--men, women and children lying unmutilated. The third group found the second. This footprint is bigger than it looks...I waved my size 9 1/2 (but a 10 feels sooo good) shoe over the top of this footprint--and it is easily a 14. Made my foot look dwarfed beside it. And to think that all they were wearing was hemp sandals. As I looked over the Ka'u desert, I marveled at how badly those folks must have wanted to get home--it wouldn't be the route I would have chosen--not by any means.

By the footprints are these "creatures"--pahoehoe lava frozen into shapes that resembled idols, watching over the souls of the people who succumbed to the sulfur from the erupting volcano. The wind blew, the black sand scuttled across my shoe, and yet it was quiet. Nothing moved--not a bird, not a lizard, not a bug. It is truly desert--and deserted. Eerie...

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