For my evening run I had run up the farming road to Nena's old tangerine and breadfruit farm, nestled up at the cul-de-sac end of a ravine. On either side steep volcanic ridges climbed towards the sky. The grass was long on the untended farm. The bush was reasserting control over the neglected land. I punched through some tall grass to the left and found an old Japanese road. The road was many years overgrown by a tangle of vines, weeds, and bush.
A wild pig had clambered up the uphill embankment on the uphill side of the road. I followed the pig's path onto a steep slope. The pig had lateralled the slope. I could see light that was either a ridge top or a positive curvature in the face of the slope.
I clambered and crawled up the slope, using roots and runners to pull myself up. I had to check each hand hold - two of three hand holds were rotten piece of old vegetation. I occasionally dislodged rocks as I crawled up the face of the mud mountain.
I eventually reached the light, which turned out to be the top of the razorback ridge. I had hoped to drop down the other side, but my plans were dashed by the sheer cliff that fell away in front of me.
The remnants of an old hunting trail ran along the razorback, and I followed it down. Here and there were the remnants of trenches and caves dug by the Japanese during world war II>
I trotted down past a giant banyan tree. The sun was headed into Mount Ohma, and my light was the sideways light of evening on a ridgeline. A light that filters flickeringly through the forest. The shifting light suddenly lit up a brilliant crimson and red flame of the forest in full bloom. At that instant a dove burst out into a warning cry, "Who? Who?"
I stopped momentarily shaken, remembering the Kosraen legend that a calling dove above a flame of the forest plant is a warning of impending doom.
I continued down the ridgeline and reached a stand of bamboo, but it was uncut. No one had been up this way in years. Still, I knew that the bamboo stand must have once been a destination. Yet I could not make out the next leg of the trail.
The razorback had given way to the type of broadly rounded, steep slope that often marks the base of a ridgeline here. I opted to head down the middle, unsure of exactly where I was headed relative to any external references.
The slope ended in an old taro patch swamp. Very old. The patch was completely overgrown by decades of wild hibiscus trees. A few giant taro plants still grew in the shadows of the tangle overhead. Darkness was settling into the valley, and the swamp mud was too deep to forge across. I had hoped I would bottom out at a stream, as streams have rock beds one can walk down, but an attempt to explore the bog for a stream left me half way up my calf in mud. I could hear no running water, there might be no stream.
I attempted to move leftwards along the base of the ridge at the edge of the swamp, but there was no way to move through the thicket of downfall and swamp grass. Downfallen trees, tall razor grass, and no actual edge on which to walk, just an embankment that dropped straight into the mud, stymied any progress.
After flailing a short distance, I tried again to cross the swamp - I knew geometrically that there was a farming road somewhere across the swamp. I wound up in the thicket of razor grass, half crawling on bent reeds of Phragmites karka. I was getting nice and cut up, but not making any progress.
I could see further to the left another slope, I tried to head that way in the hope that a trail might be at the base of the slope. I thought the slope might be the other side of the original valley I had run up. I could not make headway in any direction, although I was sure I had to be not far from a farming trail or road.
With the light fading, I realized I might get caught by darkness and have to wait for daylight to extricate myself. I was thirsty and tired, and certain that only a small, short piece of swamp lay between me and the way out. Despite this I made the difficult decision to turn my back on the direction towards home and to head back up onto the mountain.
I was feeling dehydrated, and the slope was steep, so I climbed slowly but steadily back into the dusky forest. I moved laterally along the east slope above the valley I had tried to cross.
As I passed a small gap in the trees I paused. Looking down through the gap I thought I saw recently cut tall grass. I knew it could be wishful thinking. I tried to get a better view, but the gap was a keyhole in the trees offering only a single glimpse downwards.
Despite the gathering gloom, I paused to evaluate my options. If I went down, I would likely be too tired and it would be too dark to reascend the ridgeline. I could be in the swamp for the night.
I could not return the way I came - it was a long way back and going down a steep slope is far more difficult than coming up one. That slope was on the dark side of the ridge, there would be no way to see the necessary purchases to get down the slope.
Continuing to lateral the slope in hopes of hitting a trail coming down from the bamboo stand probably had a low chance of success, but at worst I would be up on the ridge for the night.
I opted to go down, although it was unclear I could even reach the place that appeared to have cut grass. The slope was steep, but open as slopes go. Shade trees kept it clear of entangling vegetation. The slope steepened up and I took to skitching down the slope. I landed in a tumble when a vine caught my foot. Laying on my back I looked up. I was laying on cut grass under a banana tree. Grass cut within the past three days.
I followed the cut grass path down and out of what turned out to be a pocket valley between the one I originally ascended and the valley I had hoped to descend into. I wound up on the alternate farming road after following the farming trail down out of the valley. I reached home just as darkness completely enveloped the road.
As I sat sipping coffee I realized that there are times when one is on a path to a goal and may be quite near that goal when the going gets really tough. There is a tendency to push ahead despite the difficulties due to the perceived nearness of the goal. Sometimes the best choice, however, is to turn one's back on that goal and take a harder, longer route, but a route that will ultimately lead to the same goal. There are times when the long way around is the only way.