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Spots on the Rock

Gaining the moral high ground

A humbling hike story

I hate to burst your bubble, but there's no hike this weekend. However, in an attempt to provide you with a hike, life quite literally directed me to an important hiking topic that needs to be discussed sooner rather than later.

Last week I planned to go hiking with a couple of friends, you probably know of them – the famous Paolo Cruz (drummer for The John Dank Show) and beauty Gloria Nelson (Miss Earth Guam 2016).

We plan hikes almost every week but probably pull through once every two months. Between a musician, pageant winner and reporter, it's not unlikely, so if there ever isn't a hike for Spots on the Rock, you know who to blame (just kidding).

Anyhow, last Tuesday we set out to conquer the Lonfit Valley river system. This is not a familiar hike to most, but it will be forthcoming here on Spots sometime before the end of the year.

Paolo and I conquered it about two years ago, and in an effort to provide it to you – my loyal readers – we set out for it again, so I could supplement better photos and updated hiking directions.

Sword grass suffering

We set out to conquer Lonfit, assured we knew the way. Pretty avid hikers, Paolo and I at least, we were headstrong and confident that it would be a breeze. Spoiler alert: We were wrong.

From the high hills of Nimitz, we trekked through leveled dirt trails and paved access roads for the first 15 minutes or so. Everything was familiar because the central valley hills of Guam are home to a majority of the island's waterfall hikes.

It's the same starting point to San Carlos Falls, if that rings a bell. With all of that in mind, we were at ease.

It wasn't until we accidentally stumbled upon the turnoff into the river system that we were doomed.

I say "accidentally" because, although we knew the way, due to Guam's rainy season the whole valley was just completely overcome by growing greenery. I'm talking about 6- to 8-foot walls of sword grass and other plants just ... all over the place.

Still, we somehow recognized the turnoff through a thicket, but we first pondered pulling through. The trail looked like Guam's take on the "Labyrinth" or "Maze Runner" movies, meaning the sword grass – again, walling off the sides – barely allowed passage for one person at a time and sloped downhill.

"Hiking masters," we deemed ourselves. We forged on, determined to check another hike off the list. One by one, Paolo led us through, fielding through the sword grass in his long-sleeved, quick-dry shirt, leggings and hat.

Meanwhile, Gloria and I took our steps a little more gingerly because we foolishly decided to wear shorts and a T-shirt. It's safe to say we practically forged on through what felt like a cheese grater.

Although the day maintained its overcast skies, the night before had rainclouds that drenched the island. So of course the hillsides were muddy and loose. Let alone, we were going downhill!

It wasn't a super steep descent, but one misstep would have definitely sent us all tumbling over one another. I laugh now because I was at the back of the pack, so, if I – the largest member – were to have fallen, it definitely would have been a sight to see.

A literal breakthrough

We were a good 10 minutes into the miserable downhill trek when we finally took a break. At this point, Gloria and I inspected our cuts. You can never really see how sword grass thinly slices your skin, but oh boy, you can feel it.

I already had a sizable gash across my right knee and Gloria said she'd been cut on her lip. What a bummer, but it was typical. It wasn't the end of the world. Sometimes nature has a price for its passersby.

We all gathered and quietly asked each other if we should move forward. The sword grass path was only getting thicker, and the ground more steep and wet. We were basically asking for injury if we were to move forward, but we did. Only God knows why.

After walking just a few feet forward, I finally had what was coming to me – that God-awful slip that makes every hike a memorable one. With my camera in hand, the slick ground before me gave in and I tumbled onto my butt.

Paolo and Gloria were a few feet in front of me, and due to the incredibly thick shrubs, they couldn't hear or see me, which I was thankful for at the moment. I wasn't gravely injured at all. It didn't even hurt, really.

So, I lay there on my back, peeking through the sword-grass shelter above to see the emerging blue sky and sunshine streaming. It was a nice day, I noticed. Why are we being so stubborn?

We weren't really enjoying ourselves fighting the greenery and tippy-toeing downhill. We enjoyed each other's company, but we could do that anywhere.

I took a deep breath, got my muddy self up from the ground and called out to my hiking friends to wait up. We regrouped and they chuckled over my newly earned dirt. The first one to bite the ground is usually the laughing stock. I'm usually that person. Go figure.

Pick your priorities

With fresh eyes after falling, I saw my friends, who looked tired and miserable. "It's admirable to be determined," I thought to myself, but stubbornness is a bad attitude to have. Stubbornness doesn't get you anywhere worth being.

We were definitely more stubborn than determined to complete the hike. It wasn't worth the beautiful day we'd suddenly been graced with.

Facing what would probably be an even harder hike ahead, we all agreed to turn back. It was the smartest decision we'd made all day.

Carefully, we made our way back to my truck and each took deep breaths after conquering our stubbornness. It was a win in its own right.

Sometimes the moral mountains within us are harder to climb and conquer than physical ones. We accomplished the more difficult one that day, so I'm still proud.

As a consolation, we decided to adjourn to Ypao Beach in Tumon. It was Tuesday afternoon, so there were a few tourists around, but overall a pretty blank beach. The sun was beaming, the water was just right and the sky was clear. What a contrast to where we were just half an hour ago.

Best of all, we soaked in a good time together. It had been months since I've seen my hiking buddies, so I cherished the time spent. It was much more enjoyable than screaming through a sword grass jungle while trekking downhill over muddy dips. What a day!

Moral of the story

The moral of the story? Have morals. Be mindful of the bigger picture regarding life and happiness, rather than sticking to small-minded determination – or stubbornness – in an attempt to achieve something in the short term.

In the end, we do remember the struggles that led to rewards, but even more, we value the moral choices that benefited the whole.

Wise up and be humble when hiking. Nature always wins, and if anything, it's always there. Let's prioritize safety and a genuinely good time over checking an item off the list.


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