Nature is not always kind

A while back, some friends told us about some strong tides they had encountered unexpectedly off Spreckelsville. It reminded us again of something an old colleague wrote about being lured into dangerous situations by forgetting that Maui’s beauty is a force of nature and, as such, can contain some hidden dangers.

It seemed like a good time to rerun a piece written almost a decade ago by our late Opinion Page editor, Ron Youngblood. He warned that Maui’s beautiful environment can be unforgiving, if not respected.

Youngblood wrote:

“A mild climate, an inviting ocean and land that appears gentle have a way of deluding Maui tourists — and some residents.

“A friend who gets involved in open-ocean swimming races says he frequently gets friends of friends from the Mainland asking if the ocean is safe. Like most water enthusiasts, his answer is yes, if you use some sense.

“Sharks aren’t a problem. Surf can be, particularly in places such as Oneloa (Big) Beach at Makena State Park. The wide inviting beach is notorious for strong shore breaks that can slam the unsuspecting into the bottom with potentially disastrous consequences. Then there are shoreline rocks and coral reefs, which shouldn’t be touched and if they are can inflict painful wounds.

“Kayaking can be a fun way to enjoy the ocean but only if there’s no wind driving the paddler out to sea. In recent times, one woman died while kayaking on a day and in a location that made paddling dangerous.

“Considering the number of individuals who enjoy the ocean around Maui, it is remarkable that so few get into trouble. It’s up to those who know the dangers, including currents, to keep those who don’t out of harm’s way.

“For some, hiking Maui’s backcountry can be a treat, particularly in Haleakala National Park. The crater and the park’s Kipahulu Division at Oheo are technically and practically wild areas. Last weekend, a newcomer to the island attempted to climb over a boulder near a waterfall in Alele Stream. The rock, some 4 feet across, rolled over the man, killing him.

“One of the others in the hiking party got it right when he said anyone visiting Maui should respect the land. It would be hard to anticipate a large boulder suddenly rolling, but it did.

“Every winter, when heavy rains hit the upper slopes of Haleakala and the West Maui mountains, hikers get stranded, or worse, by flash floods. Other intrepid, or ignorant, hikers — some lured by ill-conceived guidebooks — wander off trails and find themselves trapped in gulches or falling off cliffs.

“Hundreds of thousands of tourists enjoy Maui’s natural wonders each year without incident. But, it’s good to keep in mind that Maui is not a theme park and Mother Nature isn’t always a benevolent host.”

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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