Whitsunday Lookout, Hayman Island

Posted on
May 14, 2013

Years ago, when Rand and I were much younger and less squishy than we are now, we would go hiking. A lot.

Nearly every weekend in the spring and summer, we’d jump into my KIA Spectra (and before that, my Dodge Neon, because I am very discerning about the vehicles I choose. I demand that they be crappy and underpowered, damn it), and drive out of Seattle towards the mountains and hills that lie just north and east of our little city.

We were flat broke, and so hiking was a perfect activity. We’d pack snacks, and the day would usually only cost us what we spent on gas and admission to whatever park we were visiting.

Once we got to wherever it was we were headed, we would just walk. For hours. Sometimes we’d talk, or we’d invite friends to go along with us. But most of the time, it would be just me and Rand, saying little as we followed trails and paused to look at the trees and the plants and the bugs. I never realized it back then, but I think it was our way of finding peace in the crazy, confusing time that follows college.

We didn’t know where the hell we were going with our lives (or our relationship) but out there, we did. We had trails and markers and maps and signs telling us where to go. For a little while, there was nothing to worry about – no rent, no debt, no clients (or lack thereof), no bills. It was just us, roaming around a quiet and calm little chunk of the planet.

It went on like that, almost every Saturday and Sunday, for months. When things got really stressful, Rand would play hooky (his company was struggling so much, and he had so little work coming in, it didn’t really matter if he was in the office or not) and go hiking without me in the middle of the week. Our friends joked that he needed an intervention. Ever the enabler, I bought him an annual National Park pass, instead.

Time passed, and slowly, life began to sort itself out. Our paths became clearer: his company found more stable footing, and I found work that I actually enjoyed. We could pay the rent without having minor panic attacks. Our schedules began to fill, and we started traveling. Somewhere along the line, we stopped going on hikes.

But on Hayman Island, for the first time in years, we wandered out onto a trail.

Behind the resort, a rocky hill crested up; if you followed it to the top, you’d get an excellent vantage point of the resort and the ocean beyond. We figured it would give us a better perspective on the geography of the island, along with some killer views, and we were, I’m pleased to say, right about that.

What I didn’t anticipate was that, like so many years ago, the perspective we got might have extended to existence itself.

Our hike was part of our mission to relax and get a lay of the land on our first day on Hayman. We’d spend the next week snorkeling and canoeing in the neighboring islands, getting better acquainted with sea turtles and schools of rainbow-colored fish, and learning that the jellyfish that usually sting aren’t necessarily the ones you can see. But on that day, we were just going to follow the trails, and see where they led us.

They started out easy – in parts, the path was even paved.

It was beautiful and shady and distinctly tropical – not something we encountered on our hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

Slowly we trekked up, until we cleared the treetops below us, and could see the water and the resort peeking out.

We’d reached the Marina Lookout. We still were unclear of where we were going to end up, but we had options. We could summit the hill and reach the Whitsunday Lookout (which had supposedly even better views), or we could follow the path all the way back down to the other side of the island, to Blue Pearl Bay. The latter option, of course, meant that we’d have to hike all the way back up.

I suggested we head to the Whitsunday lookout (I learned long ago not to let Rand pick hiking trails, because he tends to overestimate our stamina and underestimate how much water we need. A dozen or so dehydrated fights later, I now choose).

The path began to grow more rocky, the views more lovely. The overhang of trees and the shade they provided had now disappeared. I whined a little, quietly and to myself (but just loud enough for Rand to hear. Because if a gal whines in the woods and no one hears it, then really, what’s the point?). It had been a very long time since I had done anything resembling physical exertion, and the heat was intense. We’d left early in the day, but already the sun was beating down on us.

Rand didn’t mumble a word of complaint, but quietly walked on. Sometimes his sense of inner peace can be so annoying.

Eventually, as we neared the Whitsunday lookout, the path became easier. The terrain became smoother, the grade less steep. The hazy marine layer that crept over the island every night and into the morning had by now burned off, revealing an unbelievably blue sky. Suddenly, life looked like it had been photoshopped:


As promised, the views were pretty damn incredible.

We stayed up there for a while, passing time in the usual fashion.

Oh, don’t look so surprised.

High on that hill, I got all introspective and heavy, as I tend to do whenever I’m someplace beautiful (or, you know, just after I’ve finished eating a really, really good pastry). I started thinking about our constantly moving planet: how it was, at that very moment, rotating on its axis, and revolving around the sun, and our entire solar system (and us along with it) was hurtling through the universe as it expanded towards infinity.

All while we were standing up there, looking at the water, and feeling perfectly still.

Doesn’t that sort of blow your mind? It certainly did mine. It made me realize how many of our problems are small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. And it totally helped me ignore the fact that I forgot to pack snacks. For a little while, at least.

I told Rand that my stomach and I wanted to go back to the resort, with its overpriced smoothies and miniature burgers. He nodded, and we headed back down the hill.

We arrived back down close to the noon. The resort was barely stirring when we left, but now it was wide awake. Toddlers ran naked around the pool, couples strolled in the surf, and boats and seaplanes left the harbor, taking people to and from the island.

Life was in motion. I guess it always is. Which was why the stillness of just a few moments before was so remarkable to me.

Though I was delighted by the sounds of people having fun, of the beautiful chaos that surrounds families on vacation, I found myself logging for peace and perspective once again. I understood why Rand left the city to go hiking again and again all those years before. He wasn’t running from something. He was running towards something.

I looked up at him, and threw an arm around his waist.

“We should go hiking again,” I said. “Soon.”

I’m such an enabler.


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